An Ideal Husband

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Lord Caversham Character Analysis

Lord Goring’s father, an irritable, stubborn man who frequently commands Lord Goring to grow up. He wants Lord Goring to marry, enter politics, and generally behave in a dignified manner. He is continually perplexed and frustrated by Lord Goring’s behavior, because he fails to realize that he and his son have incompatible ideas of adultness and seriousness. Lord Caversham believes that there is exactly one way to live well, while Lord Goring believes that there are countless ways. The former is conservatism; the latter is dandyism, which makes life into art, and holds that good lives are as rare and various as works of art.

Lord Caversham Quotes in An Ideal Husband

The An Ideal Husband quotes below are all either spoken by Lord Caversham or refer to Lord Caversham. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of An Ideal Husband published in 2000.
Act 1, Part 2 Quotes

LORD CAVERSHAM
You seem to me to be living entirely for pleasure.

LORD GORING
What else is there to live for, father? Nothing ages like happiness.

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker), Lord Caversham (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Lord Goring continues to lightheartedly defend himself from his well-meaning father, who now accuses him of hedonism (a life solely devoted to the pursuit of pleasure). Lord Caversham, out of long habit, firmly believes that serious things are important, and important things are not fun. Lord Goring tries to show him the folly of his reasoning. What remains of these serious things, as we grow older? Of course we may feel proud of our accomplishments, but only if they gave us pleasure in the first place - not immediate gratification, necessarily, but pleasure nonetheless. This sort of pleasure turns into a more long-term happiness: in other words, pleasure and happiness are continuous, as they are in the quote itself. We know from later events in the play that Lord Goring's definition of pleasure and happiness goes beyond fashionable parties - that it also extends to difficult and important moral issues. One can be serious occasionally, but happiness still acts as a moral compass.

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Act 3, Part 1 Quotes

But women who have common sense are so curiously plain, father, aren’t they? 

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker), Lord Caversham
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Lord Caversham has come to visit his son at an inconvenient moment, just as Lord Goring is expecting Lady Chiltern for a serious conversation about her marriage. Lord Caversham urges his son to get married and settled down, like the exemplary Sir Robert. The advice has an ironic sound in this moment of the play, when Sir Robert's integrity, career, reputation, and marriage are all teetering on the edge of collapse. Lord Caversham advises his son to use common sense in the matter of marriage, and Lord Goring responds with the above quote. 

Common sense is commonly understood as a universal quality of basic understanding. It is common sense that salt does not taste good in a cup of tea, for example. Part of what is known as common sense is a basic knowledge of physical and chemical laws and the properties of the human body; in other words, the knowledge we acquire in early childhood. The other part is a nebulous web of beliefs, and, like any belief thought to be universal, is usually a painfully narrow reflection of a certain time and place. Lord Goring is saying that women (and men, presumably, but this quote is also an echo of the sexist undercurrent in the play's society) who embody the deadened conventional aspect of their society instead of the tumult of human nature are "curiously plain" - curious in their apparently complete self-negation, and totally devoid of charm. 

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Lord Caversham Character Timeline in An Ideal Husband

The timeline below shows where the character Lord Caversham appears in An Ideal Husband. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Part 1
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
Romance, Boredom, and Delight Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon
Lord Caversham enters the party and asks after his son, Lord Goring. He complains about his son’s... (full context)
Act 1, Part 2
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon
Lord Caversham walks up to his son, Lord Goring. He chides his son for his idle, pleasure-seeking... (full context)
Act 1, Part 3
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...pleasantly to Mrs. Cheveley about the noble, upstanding character of the Chilterns, then leaves with Lord Caversham . Meanwhile, Lady Chiltern approaches Mrs. Cheveley and asks her what business she had with... (full context)
Act 3, Part 1
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
Romance, Boredom, and Delight Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon
Just then, Lord Caversham enters. For Lord Goring, it is a very inconvenient time. Lord Caversham intends to have... (full context)
Romance, Boredom, and Delight Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Suddenly, Lord Goring and Lord Caversham walk back into the library, and Mrs. Cheveley hides in the drawing-room. Father and son... (full context)
Act 4, Part 1
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...Mabel Chiltern has just come home from a morning outing. The servant also says that Lord Caversham is waiting in the library, and that he is aware of Lord Goring’s visit; Lord... (full context)
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lord Caversham brusquely changes the subject. He informs his son that Lord Chiltern has been highly praised... (full context)
Romance, Boredom, and Delight Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon
Mabel Chiltern comes in. She pointedly ignores Lord Goring, and asks Lord Caversham sympathetically about Lady Caversham’s hats, which she seems to consider a sort of illness. After... (full context)
Act 4, Part 2
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...back into the room, and Robert thanks him effusively. A servant comes in to announce Lord Caversham ’s entrance. Lord Caversham congratulates Robert on his speech and tells him that Robert has... (full context)
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lord Caversham and Mabel Chiltern enter the room. Lord Caversham is shocked and delighted by the news... (full context)