What is Wilde’s  attitude toward the Victorian preoccupation with philanthropy?

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In The Importance of Being Earnest, philanthropy is mentioned once: when Gwendolen Fairfax goes to the country estate of Jack Worthing, who she believes is really called Ernest, because she wants to marry him. When Miss Fairfax is announced by the butler, Merriman, to Cecily Cardew, Jack's pretty, eighteen-year-old ward, Cecily says,

Miss Fairfax! I suppose one of the many good elderly women who are associated with Uncle Jack in some of his philanthropic work in London. I don't quite like women who are interested in philanthropic work. I think it is so forward of them.

There are a couple of interesting aspects to this quotation. First, "Uncle Jack" does not go to London to engage in philanthropic work; this must be part of the story he tells Cecily and her tutor, Miss Prism, about why he goes to the city, so as to raise himself in their eyes (this story is in addition to his made-up brother, whom he supposedly goes to check in on). When he does go to town, he actually pretends to be this...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 538 words.)

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