Lady Windermere's Fan

by Oscar Wilde

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"What Is A Cynic?"

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Context: Lord Darlington, trying to save Lady Windermere from a scandal involving her husband and a Mrs. Erlynne, reveals to Lady Windermere his love for her and asks her to go away with him. She refuses. Later in the evening Darlington takes several friends, including Lord Windermere, to his apartment, not realizing that Lady Windermere is waiting there to accept his proposal. Also in the apartment is Mrs. Erlynne, who is actually Lady Windermere's mother and who has come to persuade her daughter not to make the same mistake she herself made twenty years earlier. Just as Darlington's party arrives, Lady Windermere hides behind a curtain, and Mrs. Erlynne leaves through a door. In the conversation that ensues, Darlington reveals his love for a married woman, the only good woman he feels he has ever met. Two of the guests, Dumby and Cecil Graham, jest about good women. Dumby says Darlington is lucky to love a woman who does not love him. Dumby continues that he would like women to leave him alone so that he would have some time, not to educate himself, but to forget what he has learned.

"What cynics you fellows are!"
"What is a cynic?"
"A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing."

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