Writing an article! That is not very consistent after what you have just said.
VIVIAN. Who wants to be consistent? The dullard and the doctrinaire, the tedious people who carry out their principles to the bitter end of action, to the reductio ad absurdum of practice. Not I. Like Emerson, I write over the door of my library the word ‘Whim.’ Besides, my article is really a most salutary and valuable warning. If it is attended to, there may be a new Renaissance of Art.
CYRIL. What is the subject?
VIVIAN. I intend to call it ‘The Decay of Lying: A Protest.’
CYRIL. Lying! I should have thought that our politicians kept up that habit.
VIVIAN. I assure you that they do not. They never rise beyond the level of misrepresentation, and actually condescend to prove, to discuss, to argue. How different from the temper of the true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind! After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence. If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once. No, the politicians won’t do. Something may, perhaps, be urged on behalf of the Bar. The mantle of the Sophist has fallen on its members. Their feigned ardours and unreal rhetoric are delightful. They can make the worse appear the better cause, as though they were fresh from Leontine schools, and have been known to wrest from reluctant juries triumphant verdicts of acquittal for their clients, even when those clients, as often happens, were clearly and unmistakeably innocent. But they are briefed by the prosaic, and are not ashamed to appeal to precedent. In spite of their endeavours, the truth will out. Newspapers, even, have degenerated. They may now be absolutely relied upon. One feels it as one wades through their columns. It is always the unreadable that occurs. I am afraid that there is not much to be said in favour of either the lawyer or the journalist. Besides, what I am pleading for is Lying in art. Shall I read you what I have written? It might do you a great deal of good.
CYRIL. Certainly, if you give me a cigarette. Thanks. By the way, what magazine do you intend it for?
VIVIAN. For the Retrospective Review. I think I told you that the elect had revived it.
CYRIL. Whom do you mean by ‘the elect’?
VIVIAN. Oh, The Tired Hedonists, of course. It is a club to which I belong. We are supposed to wear faded roses in our button-holes when we meet, and to have a sort of cult for Domitian. I am afraid you are not eligible. You are too fond of simple pleasures.
CYRIL. I should be black-balled on the ground of animal spirits, I suppose?
VIVIAN. Probably. Besides, you are a little too old. We don’t admit anybody who is of the usual age.
CYRIL. Well, I should fancy you are all a good deal bored with each other.
VIVIAN. We are. This is one of the objects of the club. Now, if you promise not to interrupt too often, I will read you my article.
CYRIL. You will find me all attention.
VIVIAN (reading in a very clear, musical voice). THE DECAY OF LYING: A PROTEST.—One of the chief causes that can be assigned for the curiously commonplace character of most of the literature of our age is undoubtedly the decay of Lying as an art, a science, and a social pleasure.