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The Importance of Being Earnest - Nigel Havers reads from first edition

Nigel Havers with the book. Photo credit: Mary McCartney.

Theatre news

IN PREPARATION for his performance in a new production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Nigel Havers gave a complete rendition of the script reading from a specially printed first edition.

An audience assembled in room 118 of The Cadogan Hotel, where Oscar Wilde was infamously arrested on the grounds of gross indecency in 1895, to hear Havers’ touching and emotional performance.

Mary McCartney was present to photograph the event (see image) and following the reading the audience retired to the dining room at The Cadogan Hotel for cucumber sandwiches.

The book, which Oscar Wilde personally inscribed and gave to Major James Nelson, the Governor of Reading Gaol during the writer’s term of imprisonment there, is estimated at £40,000 – £60,000 and is to be sold at Bonhams Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in London on Wednesday, June 18.

The book is number 13 of 100 special copies published in 1899, the year before Wilde’s death. The inscription by Wilde reads “To Major Nelson: from the author. A trivial recognition of a great and noble kindness. Feb, 99.” Elsewhere, Wilde was to describe Nelson as: “The most Christlike man I ever met.”

The new production of Wilde’s brilliant comic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Lucy Bailey and starring Nigel Havers and Siân Phillips, runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre from June 27 to September 20, 2014.

Dubbed by Oscar Wilde ‘a trivial comedy for serious people’, the production takes this sentiment to heart and delivers an entirely faithful, but nonetheless unique, setting to one of the greatest theatrical comedies.