In The Importance of Being Earnest, when Lady Bracknell asks Jack about his politics, he answers "Liberal Unionist". Here's the exchange:

Lady Bracknell: What are your politics?

Jack: Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.

LB: Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate.

I understand (from here; first paragraph) that the Liberal Unionists were allied with the Tories (hence "they dine with us"), but what does she mean by "or come in the evening"?

1 Answer 1


It is a reference to the English class system.

Lady Bracknell, a stickler for propriety, is suggesting that the Liberals are lower class than herself. The lower classes don't dine in the evening, they merely eat a meal.

Dinner was as much an institution as a simple meal. One dresses for dinner, is summoned by one's butler and is served by one's footmen. She would regard the Liberal Unionists as of a class such as mere trade who don't bother with such things.

So, the Liberal Unionists don't dine - don't follow the process of dinner - but they do visit around dinner time.

Lady Bracknell is a snob, there are many instances of her snobbery in the play. Also, the works of Oscar Wilde, an Irishman, contain several jibes at the English class system as he saw it at the time.

  • I don't think this is about the Unionists' own attitude to dining - I think the Bracknells invite them to evening parties but don't include them in the smaller circle of friends who get invitations to dinner. Jun 30, 2023 at 9:18

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