An Infelicitious Question

An Infelicitious Question. From English Society. Sketched by George du Maurier. Click on image to enlarge it.

Æsthetic Youth.— “I hope by degrees to have this room filled with nothing but the most perfectly beautiful things. . . ."

Simple-Minded Guardsman.—“And what are you going to do with these, then?”

du Maurier, who is here probably parodying Oscar Wilde, also mocks the simple-minded Guardsman, one of those wealthy, generally idle young, members of the upper classes with a philistine knowledge of the arts who joined one of the prestigious military units based in London, such as the Horse Guards at Buckingham Palace. The Guardsman is probably a young son (and hence unlikely to inherit great wealth or title), or someone like Trollope's Sir Felix Carbury, who has inherited title but not wealth, and is in search of a wealthy wife.

An Infelicitious Question thus mocks two extreme attitudes or positions toward the arts -- the ignorant upper class sportsman and the aesthete. Like many of du Maurier's works, it provides an accurate record of both costume and furnishings of the period. Note in particular the pottery and ceramics pieces, some of which undoubtedly would be Rossetti's and Whistler's beloved "blue china" -- ceramics created by the Chinese for export -- or works by British artists, such as de Morgan. Other details characteristic of the Aesthetic Movement include the large ceramic jugs sitting beneath the tables, the screen, the small glass or china vases near the large plant on the table at right, and the Persian carpet on which the three guests stand.

Life with the Aesthetes

Scanned image and text by George P. Landow [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


English Society. Sketched by George du Maurier. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1897.

Created 1 July 2001

Last modified 1 May 2020