[WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900)]. The Importance of Being Earnest. A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by the Author of Lady Windermere's Fan. London: Leonard Smithers & Co., 1899.
4o (220 x 176 mm). (Very slight occasional foxing.) Publisher's pale rose-violet cloth gilt, covers with repeated leaf spray design by Charles Shannon, spine with leaf sprays and gilt-blocked title, uncut (soiled, cloth slightly cockled, spine faded).
FIRST EDITION of Wilde's last and most characteristic play. LIMITED EDITION, no.11 of 100 Large-Paper copies signed by Wilde ("Oscar Wilde") on verso of the leaf listing the characters. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED TO REGINALD TURNER in ink on blank verso of the half title (facing the title): "To Reginald Turner: from his friend the author. Feby. '99. Pignus Amicitae." Provenance: Reginald Turner, inscription and engraved bookplate by A. Wyon ("Ex Libris R T") -- with Maxwell Hunley, Beverly Hills -- A West coast collector's estate.
An exceptionally important association copy, inscribed some ten months before his death to one of Wilde's most trusted and supportive friends, Reginald Turner (also a friend of Max Beerbohm), who nursed Wilde in his last illness. The exact date of publication is unrecorded, but Wilde, inscribed a handful of copies of the book in February (for example, the copy inscribed to Rowland Strong, in the Rechler Collection, sold here 11 October 2002, lot 340, $28,000). The Hyde Collection contains Wilde's letter which originally accompanied the gift. In it, Wilde reported that "life goes on pleasantly here," although he confesses that Frank Harris, who was also staying in Naples, was "exhausting." He adds, "I am sending you, of course, a copy of my book. It was extraordinary reading the play over. How I used to toy with that tiger Life! I hope you will find a place for me amongst your nicest books, not near anything by Hichens or George Moore. I should like it to be within speaking distance of Dorian Gray..." (Letters, ed. Holland and Hart-Davis, pp.1121-1122). For Turner's account to Beerbohm of Wilde's decline and death see Letters, pp.1224-1225). Mason 381.