The Importance of Being Honest: Grandson Says Oscar Wilde’s ‘New’ Play Isn’t His Work

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A theater in London is debuting a never-before-produced play by the esteemed Oscar Wilde. Exciting! One small problem: Wilde’s grandson says his grandfather “never wrote a word of the play.” 

Merlin Holland, the son of Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland, told the Guardian that his grandfather didn’t actually write the play that the The King’s Head Theatre is touting as “a genuine, brand new, Oscar Wilde play.” Instead, according to Holland, Wilde was merely responsible for coming up with the concept of the play, which he then passed on to other writers.

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The play, called Constance, opens Friday in north London and centers on the marriage of wealthy man and his perfect wife. Though it’s billed as a “World Premiere of Oscar Wilde,” the company does mention that others had a hand in the work. According to the website’s description of the play, it was written by Wilde after he was released from prison in 1897 and then sold to actress Cora Brown Potter before changing hands again and being translated into French. (Since translated back into English by writer Charles Osborne.)

However, Wilde’s grandson says that the company isn’t being truthful about the play’s origins in their promotion. (Also, notably, Holland finds the play “a pretty appalling piece of work.”) Holland told the Guardian that in the name of honesty and fair credit, “The play should really have been billed as ‘A play based on an idea by Oscar Wilde, written in French by Guillot de Saix, translated into English and further adapted by Charles Osborne.’”

Sure, that may be more honest, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

Megan Gibson is a reporter at TIME’s London bureau. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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