Lady Windermere’s Fan

by

Oscar Wilde

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Mrs. Erlynne is a mysterious woman who is new to London society. Though the play implies that she’s probably in her late thirties, she looks much younger and is admired by all the men in London society, even though she lacks respectable family relations and there are all kinds of scandalous rumors about her past. She gains social acceptance when she attends Lady Windermere’s party and charms the guests, and she eventually becomes engaged to Augustus. Toward the end of the play, the audience learns that she is actually Lady Windermere’s mother, and that she abandoned her child to pursue a lover, who eventually abandoned Mrs. Erlynne herself. When she found out that her daughter had married the wealthy Lord Windermere, she began demanding money from him since she knew that he wouldn’t want to hurt Lady Windermere by revealing Mrs. Erlynne’s true identity. In the end, she succeeds in using this connection to Lord Windermere to regain entrance into polite society. Mrs. Erlynne is the play’s starkest example of moral ambiguity, since she acts selflessly at times while also refusing to apologize for her past mistakes and opportunistic behavior. She keeps Lady Windermere’s fan at the end of the play, which shows symbolically how she ultimately masters using femininity and gender roles to create the reality she wants.

Mrs. Erlynne Quotes in Lady Windermere’s Fan

The Lady Windermere’s Fan quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Erlynne or refer to Mrs. Erlynne. 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:
Morality and Ambiguity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Lady Windermere’s Fan published in 2008.
Act I Quotes

LADY WINDERMERE: It is very kind of you, Duchess, to come and tell me all this. But I can’t believe that my husband is untrue to me.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK: Pretty child! I was like that once. Now I know that all men are monsters. (Lady Windermere rings bell) The only thing to do is feed the wretches well. A good cook does wonders, and that I know you have. My dear Margaret, you are not going to cry?

LADY WINDERMERE: You needn’t be afraid, Duchess, I never cry.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK: That’s quite right, dear. Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones.

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), The Duchess of Berwick (speaker), Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

LADY WINDERMERE: I did not spy on you. I never knew of this woman’s existence till half an hour ago. Someone who pitied me was kind enough to tell me what everyone in London knows already—your daily visits to Curzon Street, your mad infatuation, the monstrous sums of money you squander on this infamous woman! (Crossing L.)

LORD WINDERMERE: Margaret! don’t talk like that of Mrs. Erlynne, you don’t know how unjust it is!

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 16-17
Explanation and Analysis:

LORD WINDERMERE: Ah, Margaret, do this for my sake; it is her last chance.

LADY WINDERMERE: What has that to do with me?

LORD WINDERMERE: How hard good women are!

LADY WINDERMERE: How weak bad men are!

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

LADY WINDERMERE: There is not a good woman in London who would not applaud me. We have been too lax. We must make an example, I propose to begin tonight. (Picking up fan) Yes, you gave me this fan today; it was your birthday present. If that woman crosses my threshold, I shall strike her across the face with it. (Rings bell)

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne
Related Symbols: Lady Windermere’s Fan
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Act II Quotes

LORD AUGUSTUS: (coming up to Lord Windermere) Want to speak to you particularly, dear boy. I’m worn to a shadow. Know I don’t look it. None of us men do look what we really are. Demmed good thing, too. What I want to know is this. Who is she? Where does she come from? Why hasn’t she got any demmed relations? Demmed nuisance, relations! But they make one so demmed respectable.

Related Characters: Augustus (speaker), Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

DUMBY: What a mystery you are!

LADY PLYMDALE: (looking at him) I wish you were!

DUMBY: I am—to myself. I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly; but I don’t see any chance of it just at present.

Related Characters: Dumby (speaker), Lady Plymdale (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

LORD DARLINGTON: Wrong? What is wrong? It’s wrong for a man to abandon his wife for a shameless woman. It is wrong for a wife to remain with a man who so dishonours her. You said once you would make no compromise with things. Make none now. Be brave! Be yourself!

LADY WINDERMERE: I am afraid of being myself. Let me think. Let me wait! My husband may return to me. (Sits down on sofa)

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Darlington (speaker), Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

MRS. ERLYNNE: (laughing) Then we will talk of it on the terrace. Even business should have a picturesque background. Should it not, Windermere? With a proper background women can do anything.

Related Characters: Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lord Windermere, Augustus
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Act III Quotes

LADY WINDERMERE: Go back to my husband, Mrs. Erlynne. He belongs to you and not to me. I suppose he is afraid of a scandal. Men are such cowards. They outrage every law of the world, and are afraid of the world’s tongue. But he had better prepare himself. He shall have a scandal. He shall have the worst scandal there has been in London for years. He shall see his name in every vile paper, mine on every hideous placard.

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

MRS. ERLYNNE: […] Back to your house, Lady Windermere—your husband loves you! He has never swerved for a moment from the love he bears you. But even if he had a thousand loves, you must stay with your child. If he was harsh to you, you must stay with your child. If he ill-treated you, you must stay with your child. If he abandoned you, your place is with your child.

Related Characters: Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lady Windermere, Lord Windermere
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

LORD AUGUSTUS: You want to make her out a wicked woman. She is not!

CECIL GRAHAM: Oh! Wicked women bother one. Good women bore one. That is the only difference between them.

LORD AUGUSTUS: (puffing a cigar) Mrs. Erlynne has a future before her.

DUMBY: Mrs. Erlynne has a past before her.

LORD AUGUSTUS: I prefer women with a past. They’re always so demmed amusing to talk to.

Related Characters: Augustus (speaker), Cecil Graham (speaker), Dumby (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

CECIL GRAHAM: Now, my dear Tuppy, don’t be led astray into the paths of virtue. Reformed, you would be perfectly tedious. That is the worst of women. They always want one to be good. And if we are good, when they meet us, they don’t love us at all. They like to find us quite irretrievably bad, and to leave us quite unattractively good.

Related Characters: Cecil Graham (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne, Augustus
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:
Act IV Quotes

LADY WINDERMERE: […] Perhaps she told them the true reason of her being there, and the real meaning of that—fatal fan of mine. Oh, if he knows—how can I look him in the face again? He would never forgive me. (Touches bell) How securely one thinks one lives—out of reach of temptation, sin, folly. And then suddenly—Oh! Life is terrible. It rules us, we do not rule it.

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne
Related Symbols: Lady Windermere’s Fan
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

LORD WINDERMERE: I wish that at the same time she would give you a miniature she kisses every night before she prays—It’s the miniature of a young innocent-looking girl with beautiful dark hair.

MRS. ERLYNNE: Ah yes, I remember. How long ago that seems. (Goes to a sofa and sits down) It was done before I was married. Dark hair and an innocent expression were the fashion then, Windermere!

Related Characters: Lord Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lady Windermere
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

MRS. ERLYNNE: (rising) I suppose, Windermere, you would like me to retire into a convent, or become a hospital nurse, or something of that kind, as people do in silly modern novels. That is stupid of you, Arthur; in real life we don’t do such things—not so long as we have any good looks left, at any rate. No—what consoles one now is not repentance, but pleasure. Repentance is quite out of date. And besides, if a woman really repents, she has to go to a bad dressmaker, otherwise no one believes her. And nothing in the world will induce me to do that.

Related Characters: Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lord Windermere
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

MRS. ERLYNNE: Yes. (Pause) You are devoted to your mother’s memory, Lady Windermere, your husband tells me.

LADY WINDERMERE: We all have ideals in life. At least we all should. Mine is my mother.

MRS. ERLYNNE: Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better.

LADY WINDERMERE: (shaking her head) If I lost my ideals, I should lose everything.

MRS. ERLYNNE: Everything?

LADY WINDERMERE: Yes.

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lord Windermere
Related Symbols: The Miniature
Page Number: 55-56
Explanation and Analysis:

LORD WINDERMERE: (gravely) She is better than one thought her.

LADY WINDERMERE: She is better than I am.

LORD WINDERMERE: (smiling as he strokes her hair) Child, you and she belong to different worlds. Into your world evil has never entered.

LADY WINDERMERE: Don’t say that, Arthur. There is the same world for all of us, and good and evil, sin and innocence, go through it hand in hand. To shut one’s eyes to half of life that one may live securely is as though one blinded oneself that one might walk with more safety in a land of pit and precipice.

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Lord Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Lady Windermere’s Fan LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lady Windermere’s Fan PDF

Mrs. Erlynne Character Timeline in Lady Windermere’s Fan

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Erlynne appears in Lady Windermere’s Fan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act I
Morality and Ambiguity Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...Then, she tells Lady Windermere that she feels sorry for her because of the horrid Mrs. Erlynne . When Lady Windermere says that she doesn't know who Mrs. Erlynne is, the Duchess... (full context)
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...has been seen spending lots of time at the home of a scandalous woman named Mrs. Erlynne . The Duchess claims that many men (including her own brother Augustus) are enamored of... (full context)
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...checking Lord Windermere’s bank book. She sees at first that there are no payments to Mrs. Erlynne , but then she notices a second bank book, this one locked, and breaks it... (full context)
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...Windermere has spied on him, but Lady Windermere immediately confronts him about the rumors of Mrs. Erlynne . Though he swears that she has misunderstood and that he only loves her, she... (full context)
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...but Lord Windermere goes on to say that she can be the one to help Mrs. Erlynne regain social status. He asks her to send Mrs. Erlynne an invitation to the party,... (full context)
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...again says that Lady Windermere doesn’t know the whole situation and begs her to invite Mrs. Erlynne to the party. Lady Windermere refuses again, saying that Mrs. Erlynne’s problems have nothing to... (full context)
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Lady Windermere tells Lord Windermere that if Mrs. Erlynne comes to the party, she will insult her and hit her across the face with... (full context)
Act II
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Augustus, the Duchess’s brother, arrives and takes Lord Windermere aside to discuss Mrs. Erlynne . Augustus is enamored with Mrs. Erlynne and bemoans that fact that she doesn't have... (full context)
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...Windermere’s attention, but he is dismayed when she refuses to reconsider her intention to humiliate Mrs. Erlynne . She moves away, taking her fan from Lord Darlington, who has been holding it... (full context)
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Just then, Mrs. Erlynne enters, looking beautiful and dignified. Lady Windermere drops her fan in shock, then bows to... (full context)
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...replies: “Cowards are always pale!” The two go out to the terrace. On the way, Mrs. Erlynne stops Lady Windermere to compliment her on the beautiful party. Then, Mrs. Erlynne asks Cecil... (full context)
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Mrs. Erlynne dances with Lord Windermere in order to make Augustus jealous, while telling Augustus that she... (full context)
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Lady Windermere and Lord Darlington return from the terrace. Lady Windermere bemoans her humiliation over Mrs. Erlynne , and Darlington tells her that she can’t stay with a husband who treats her... (full context)
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...guests. She announces to Lady Windermere that she and her nieces were completely wrong about Mrs. Erlynne ; she’s actually a lovely person. Mr. Hopper and Agatha then enter and announce their... (full context)
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The rest of the guests exit one by one, many remarking that Mrs. Erlynne is wonderful and commending Lady Windermere for having invited her. As Lady Windermere watches unnoticed,... (full context)
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...Lord Windermere. She writes him a letter and leaves it on the table before exiting. Mrs. Erlynne reenters and asks Parker where Lady Windermere is. He tells her that she has gone... (full context)
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Mrs. Erlynne reads the letter and then crumples it as Lord Windermere enters. She tells him that... (full context)
Act III
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To Lady Windermere’s surprise, Mrs. Erlynne enters and tells her that she must go home immediately because she is “on the... (full context)
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Panicked, Mrs. Erlynne attempts to correct Lady Windermere. She says that Lord Windermere never read the letter and... (full context)
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Mrs. Erlynne continues to insist that Lord Windermere loves Lady Windermere and hasn’t wronged her in any... (full context)
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Lady Windermere bursts into tears and, child-like, asks Mrs. Erlynne to take her home. They’re preparing to leave when they hear voices coming. Mrs. Erlynne... (full context)
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...to talk about. Cecil Graham teases that of course Augustus only wants to talk about Mrs. Erlynne . Lord Windermere chides Cecil that that’s not his business, but Cecil replies that he... (full context)
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Lord Darlington comments that he doesn’t much like Mrs. Erlynne , and Cecil says that he likes her much more now than he did before... (full context)
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...about to pull open the curtain behind which Lady Windermere is hiding, but just then Mrs. Erlynne rushes out of the other room. She apologizes for taking Lady Windermere’s fan accidentally from... (full context)
Act IV
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...day. She debates miserably whether to tell Lord Windermere everything that happened, and wonders whether Mrs. Erlynne already has. Her maid, Rosalie, enters and informs her that Lord Windermere did not come... (full context)
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...her as he used to. He insists again that there is nothing between him and Mrs. Erlynne , and this time she says she knows he is telling the truth. (full context)
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Lord Windermere is relieved, but he nonetheless says that Lady Windermere must never see Mrs. Erlynne again. He explains that she really is bad after all, “as bad as a woman... (full context)
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...as Lady Windermere is about to make her confession, Parker enters and informs them that Mrs. Erlynne has come to return the fan, along with a note. Lady Windermere asks Parker to... (full context)
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Mrs. Erlynne apologizes for accidentally taking the fan the night before and says also that she wants... (full context)
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Lady Windermere goes upstairs to get another photograph. Distraught, Lord Windermere tells Mrs. Erlynne that he can’t stand to see her with his wife after all the trouble she... (full context)
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Lord Windermere goes on to accuse Mrs. Erlynne of blackmailing him, and she agrees that she took her chance when she found out... (full context)
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Mrs. Erlynne tells Lord Windermere that she has come to say goodbye to her daughter, Lady Windermere,... (full context)
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Lord Windermere declares that he’s going to tell his wife the truth about Mrs. Erlynne , but she says that if he does, she will make herself such a bad... (full context)
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Lady Windermere reenters and gives Mrs. Erlynne a photograph of herself and her baby. She says that if the baby had been... (full context)
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With Lord Windermere gone, Lady Windermere effusively thanks Mrs. Erlynne for her sacrifice the night before. Mrs. Erlynne tells her not to speak of it... (full context)
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...announces that the carriage has arrived and that Augustus has come to call. Augustus greets Mrs. Erlynne coldly, but she asks him to see her out and carry her new fan. She... (full context)
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Augustus reenters and says that Mrs. Erlynne explained everything, which startles both Lord Windermere and Lady Windermere. He explains that Mrs. Erlynne... (full context)