Comedy of manners in four acts by Oscar Wilde, performed in 1892 and published the following year. Set in London, the play's action is put in motion by Lady Windermere's jealousy over her husband's interest in Mrs. Erlynne, a beautiful older woman with a mysterious past. Unknown to Lady Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne is really her divorced mother who, for the past 20 years, has been presumed dead. Lord Windermere is merely hoping to ease the older woman's reentrance into society, which she attempts under a pseudonym. In a fit of pique, Lady Windermere goes to the rooms of her ardent admirer, Lord Darlington. Mrs. Erlynne follows closely, saving her daughter from scandal by an act of generosity that ruins her own chances. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
About the Author
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, he tried to establish himself as a writer, but with little initial success. However, his three volumes of short fiction, The Happy Prince (1888), Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (1891) and A House of Pomegranates (1891), together with his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), gradually won him a reputation as a modern writer with an original talent, a reputation confirmed and enhanced by the phenomenal success of his Society Comedies -- Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, all performed on the West End stage between 1892 and 1895. Success, however, was short-lived. In 1891 Wilde had met and fallen in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, when his success as a dramatist was at its height, Wilde brought an unsuccessful libel action against Douglas's father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde lost the case and two trials later was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for acts of gross indecency. As a result of this experience he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He was released from prison in 1897 and went into an immediate self-imposed exile on the Continent. He died in Paris in ignominy in 1900.