Oscar Wilde? Louise Jopling? Hesketh Pearson? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: After the enormously successful debut of a comedy by Oscar Wilde the audience demanded that the playwright deliver a few words. His speech included a comically self-congratulatory line that was similar to the following:
You think almost as highly of the play as I do myself.
Would you please help me to locate a citation and determine precisely what Wilde said?
Quote Investigator: On February 22, 1892 “The Morning Post” of London printed a review of Oscar Wilde’s new play “Lady Windermere’s Fan” which the paper said “was received with great favour”. The curtain was “thrice raised”, and the theatergoers were eager to hear remarks from Wilde. He began as follows: 1
Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe it is the privilege of an author to allow his words to be reproduced by others while he himself remains silent. But, as you seem to wish to hear me speak, I accept the honour you are kind enough to confer upon me.
Wilde praised George Alexander who produced the show and the performers who brought the story to life. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
I have to thank them one and all for the infinite care they have taken to fill in every detail until the sketch has become a finished picture. I think that you have enjoyed the performance as much as I have, and I am pleased to believe that you like the piece almost as much as I do myself.
The newspaper stated that Wilde’s comments “were received with hearty laughter and applause”. Over the years different versions of Wilde’s speech have been presented, however, QI believes that this contemporaneous account probably provided the most accurate transcription.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1892 February 22, The Morning Post, St. James’s Theatre, Quote Page 2, Column 5, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive) ↩