Manuscript draft of Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde


This manuscript is the first draft of Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan, which was first performed at St James’s Theatre, 20 February 1892.

Part of the play was written whilst staying in the Lake District, and Wilde borrowed names from the places around for the names of his characters, including the Duchess of Berwick and Lady Windermere herself, although he had used this name once before for a character in his short story ‘Lord Arthur Savile's Crime’.

What are the differences between this draft and the finished play?

This manuscript differs greatly from later drafts, and from the version of the script published in 1893. There are fewer characters and a lot of dialogue is either missing, or lacks the polish of that in later versions. Some of the names of the characters are also different: The butler, Parker, is here known as Barker, and Lady Windermere’s first name is Violet, rather than Margaret as in the finished play.

In this draft of the play, the revelations about Mrs Erlynne’s past, and the true nature of her relationship with Lady Windermere, are revealed at the end of the play in Act IV. The manager of the theatre, George Alexander, was unhappy with the timing of this, and suggested this be moved to earlier in the play. After a great deal of discussion, the first night of the play went ahead with Wilde’s original plan. However, after the first night Wilde agreed with George Alexander, and Mrs Erlynne’s secrets were revealed during Act II.

Full title:
Oscar Wilde, autograph draft of Lady Windermere's Fan: Acts I-IV
Manuscript / Draft / Playscript
Oscar Wilde
© Estate of Oscar Wilde
Held by
British Library
Add MS 37943

Full catalogue details

Related articles

An introduction to Lady Windermere's Fan

Article by:
Andrew Dickson
Fin de siècle, Popular culture

Andrew Dickson explores some of complexities of Oscar Wilde’s first hit play, Lady Windermere’s Fan.

An introduction to Oscar Wilde’s play An Ideal Husband

Article by:
Catherine Angerson
Fin de siècle, Popular culture, Power and politics

Catherine Angerson explores the serious questions Oscar Wilde raises in An Ideal Husband under the guise of a frivolous society play.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Lady Windermere’s Fan

Created by: Oscar Wilde

Lady Windermere’s Fan was first performed at St James’s Theatre on 20 February 1892 to rave reviews, and ...