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

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Woman of No Importanceand nearly every work of Oscar Wilde there is a point to be made on the matter of philanthropy.

The attitude of Wilde is that Victorians use philanthropy as an excuse to make themselves "holier than thou"and to elevate their rank, position, and reputation in a shallow society that is also over-preoccupied with climbing the social ladder and appearing to be what they are not.

In Dorian Gray, for example, Dorian asked Lord Henry why should he re-consider philanthropy to which Lord Henry replies that Dorian is "way too charming" to go into philanthropy and:

"I don't know that I shall tell you that, Mr. Gray. It is so tedious a subject that one would have to talk seriously about it.

 Wilde himself was not a known philanthropist, but after prison he was known to try his best to help children celebrate the Queen's Jubilee in France. However, he was always known as someone who detested the double dealings of Victorians and the hypocritical nature of their society.