Dispatches

Dispatches is a space where authors from around the world build a collective archive of the present, responding to fast-moving current events. Initially written as a short piece in May 2020 in the aftermath of British political advisor Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown restrictions in England and Wales, in this extended essay Paul Rae considers the ensuing political fall-out and the entanglement of art and life in ways that point both to the limitations of theatre and performance studies and to its capacity for making sense of a present moment that seems increasingly unbelievable, even fictional. The piece shows how Oscar Wilde’s satirical wit and instinct for the ludicrous circulate in unpredictable ways to provide models, even scripts, for political acts at a time where Victorian exclusions, inequalities, and ideas of contagion are once again in the air.

14 December 2020

The Importance of Being Dominic: Viral Wilde and the Cummings Effect

Paul Rae

In late May 2020 it was revealed that Dominic Cummings, chief aide to conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had flouted strict Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that he had himself played a role in implementing. In March, suspecting he was infected, Cummings had driven his already-infected wife and their child to see out the virus at his parents’ estate in County Durham, 420 kilometres north of London. If Cummings were a run-of-the-mill government factotum, the story could have been passed off as the kind of everyday political hypocrisy with which we are all too familiar. But Cummings is notorious. Abrasive and occasionally brilliant, he played an instrumental role in persuading Britain to vote to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum – a striking feat of political imagination, campaigning brio and data and message manipulation, recently recounted in the feature film Brexit: The Uncivil War (2019), where he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cummings went on to strategise a general election landslide for Johnson in 2019. When Covid-19 hit, he became active in shaping policy on the virus, controversially sitting in on meetings of the government’s public health advisory committee, and allegedly seeking to influence the decision to impose lockdown restrictions.1 Cummings’ lockdown breach was therefore a big story, and in this essay I want to explore how it became entangled with another, ostensibly unrelated, story – a theatrical story. In so doing, I trace how extraordinary circumstances can cause life and art to resonate in ways that provide, together, the resources for grasping novel and sometimes outlandish situations in ways that separately, they cannot.2

One of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.

As the Cummings story broke, I was preparing a lecture on Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Wilde’s play opens with two dandies, Jack and Algernon, exchanging notes about the alter-egos they have invented as pretexts for traveling between city and country with impunity. Algernon calls such subterfuge ‘Bunburying’, named after his fictional companion, a ‘permanent invalid’ who lives in the country. When Jack reveals the invention of a younger brother, Ernest, under which pseudonym he visits the city from his country pile, Algernon is impressed, pronouncing Jack ‘one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know’.3 Cue an image of Cummings gunning his Land Rover and beetling his way across the detailed infographic map the Daily Mail used to plot his cross-country indiscretions. Among the more period-specific aspects of Wilde’s play, the scandal of someone absconding to the country when they are supposed to be in the city was relitigated under lockdown, as vulnerable rural communities sought to protect themselves from super-spreading celebrities and bolthole-seeking elites. The double standards that fuelled so much public anger at Cummings are mercilessly sent up in Wilde’s play. As Algernon puts it in an aside to the audience: ‘Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?’4 

So far, so whimsical. And then Act II began. ‘Produce your explanation, and pray make it improbable,’ says Algernon to Jack at one point, and at a Downing Street press conference held in a rose garden of the sort where the second act of the play is set, Cummings did not resile from the task.5 The over-emphatic denials of impropriety (‘We had no interactions with anybody’; ‘we had no other interaction’; ‘at no point did we…’; ‘at no point’) echoed one of the most persistent rhetorical tics of Earnest – multiple variations on the belaboured tautology ‘not even of any kind’.6 But it was in what little Cummings offered by way of positive explanation that he really rose to the occasion. While in the country, he made an additional trip to the market town of Barnard Castle. His wife, he claimed, was worried his eyesight had been adversely affected by his illness, impeding his ability to drive safely back to London. He needed to drive the 100 kilometre round trip to test it. As one, a nation choked on its cucumber sandwich. ‘His eyesight?’ was collectively uttered with the same octave-busting incredulity as Lady Bracknell’s immortal ejaculation: ‘a handbag?’ Except, that is, by cabinet minister Michael Gove, who sprang to Cummings’ aid by announcing that he too had driven to test his eyesight in the past. Pressed further by his interviewer, Gove replied he could offer no further comment: he was ‘not an authority on driving,’ having failed his driving test seven times.7 As Lady Bracknell observes in response to Jack’s admission that he smokes, a man should always have an occupation of some kind.

What are we to make of these unedifying correspondences between Wilde’s ‘trivial comedy for serious people’, and the Cummings saga, which was quite the opposite? At the denouement of the play, Jack discovers his real name is Ernest after all, confessing that ‘it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth’.8 Quite in spite of himself, his double-dealing has resolved into a single truth; the preceding convolutions of speech and plot turn out to be the midwives of earnestness. By contrast, the terrible thing about Cummings’ absurd excuses and rank double standard was for the rest of us to find out that all his life he had been expressing nothing but the truth of an enduring and unvarnished contempt for a long-suffering British public. 

The temptation of performance studies is a studied obliviousness to such tawdry goings-on – to recuperate in the energising affirmation of the play’s relevance, the indignity of discovering such Wildean excesses to be alive and well at the heart of government. Tempting, but wrong. Too many people are dead. This sorry tale offers no consolation. Not even of any kind.

The Cummings Effect

Or so I thought when I wrote the section above in May, and put it to one side. Then, in mid-November 2020, Dominic Cummings resigned. The proximate cause was factional infighting among Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s inner circle. Apparently with the support of his fiancée Carrie Symonds, Johnson had appointed a new press secretary, Allegra Stratton, who then blocked the promotion of Cummings’ close ally Lee Cain from director of communications to chief of staff. Cain resigned, and Cummings followed soon after, allegedly after a showdown with Johnson over his briefing against the Prime Minister and Symonds. Cummings’ antics in March and May were not the reason for his departure, though no doubt the lingering shadow they cast over his credibility and judgment had crucially undermined his political stock.

Did Wilde have anything to say about the matter this time around? We could look to his play An Ideal Husband (1895), whose plot turns on the question of whether or not a high profile political figure, Sir Robert Chiltern, should resign following a threat from the scheming Mrs Cheveley to expose a compromising secret from his past. Certainly, some of the play’s barbs about the political process strike near the mark of the UK’s current situation. The complaint by Chiltern’s friend Lady Markby that ‘now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm’ seems particularly on the nose considering the political dysfunction birthed by the instrumentalist promises of Cummings’ Brexit-winning slogan ‘Take Back Control’ and the follow-up ‘Get Brexit Done’, which earned Johnson an electoral landslide.9 The hyperbole of ‘harm’ on which the quip turns seems all too apt in light of the current British government’s record on asylum seekers, the legitimisation of racism following the Brexit referendum, and the grotesquely uneven toll taken on ethnic minority populations under Britain’s mismanaged Covid-19 response. Meanwhile, Chiltern’s friend Lord Goring, who himself avers that he prefers prejudices to principles, could be offering a glimpse into Cummings’ psychology when he notes of Chiltern that ‘power is his passion’10 on account of having risen from a humbler background than his peers, a perspective borne out by Chiltern’s own self-aggrandising claim – which might readily do double duty in a trailer for the Brexit film – that ‘[t]o stake one’s life on a single moment…whether the stake be power or pleasure…There is a horrible, a terrible courage’.11 

But throwing Wildean epigrams at a public health crisis produces rapidly diminishing returns of the kind we find among the more bumptious characters in the set-piece soirées of Wilde’s own plays. If Wilde has anything to add to the conversation, it must concern what these too-ready allusions are pointing to: that without knowledge of scenarios as outlandish, narratives as tragi-farcical and characters as self-satirising as Wilde’s, we are ill-equipped to make sense of the behaviour of those at the very heart of British political power in a plague year. As Elisha Cohn has argued, there may be distinctive reasons for the ways in which Wilde’s aesthetics and worldview continue to circulate through and suffuse wider culture and society. Cohn focuses in particular on imitation as a model of sociability whereby art influences social life, arguing that while there has been a tendency to dismiss the power of mimesis in Wilde’s oeuvre relative to that of performative identity formation, in fact Wilde’s writings disclose ‘an intersubjective concept of imitative authorship, and a distributive rather than atomistic model of thought’.12 In light of Wilde’s claim that ‘Life imitates art far more than Art imitates life’13 Cohn concludes: ‘The notion that words and thoughts replicate themselves, without particular living subjects bearing their truths, establishes conditions of possibility for the transmission of Wilde’s ideas in a culture unable to forget his fascinating influence, which moved among them all’.14 The ‘culture’ Cohn was referring to is that of the 1920s, but if anything the intervening century has only extended Wilde’s influence, and further entangled his perennially popular plays and novels in the warp and weft of British culture, especially in the rarefied locations where its social and political elites intersect, and occasionally together bump up against reality.

Take, for instance, Cummings’ distinctive self-fashioning. Visually, he affects an anti-style of untucked shirts, crumpled collars, misshapen beanies and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of mismatched gilets, fleeces and puffa jackets. The look suggests a distracted genius too absorbed in policy detail to notice what he is wearing and too powerful to care. A walking middle finger to his political masters, whose sensitivities he famously disdains, nothing could be further from the figure of the dapper and witty Wildean dandy. Except that, as Baudelaire put it in ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ (1863), ‘[d]andyism does not…consist…in an immoderate taste for the toilet and material elegance’, but ‘the burning need to create for oneself a personal originality, bounded only by the limits of the proprieties’.15 He is a transitional figure who emerges at the intersection of old and new social orders, aligned with neither. ‘In the disorder of these times,’ writes Baudelaire, ‘certain men who are socially, politically and financially ill at ease, but are all rich in native energy, may conceive the idea of establishing a new kind of aristocracy, all the more difficult to shatter as it will be based on the most precious, the most enduring faculties, and on the divine gifts which work and money are unable to bestow’.16 Modern Britain is not Second Empire France, but it is certainly in a period of transition. And petit-bourgeois Cummings, who, as a 2014 conservative website profile put it, was ‘not a gilded member of the patrician circle’ surrounding then Prime Minister David Cameron, and who boasts an impressive portfolio of condescending characterizations from the lips of his social betters — ‘career psychopath’, ‘jumped-up oik’, ‘foul-moathed oaf’ — appears to see himself in the thick of it, leading a normcore army of meritocratic wonks against an entrenched civil service mandarinate and entitled ruling class. ‘His fans praise him as a truly original figure,’ continues the profile: ‘They admit he possesses extreme energy, but deny he is an extremist’.17 In January 2020, Cummings published a notorious blog post calling for wild cards, artists and ‘super-talented weirdos’ to join him in bringing ‘genuine cognitive diversity’ to a civil service weighed down by the groupthink of ‘Oxbridge humanities graduates.’18 Singing the praises of predictive analytics, high performance management and digital communications, Cummings styled himself a 21st century intellectual dandy; one for whom, in Baudelaire’s phrase, ‘the love of distinction above all things’ prevails, but now finds its basis in big data rather than aesthetic taste.19

As such, Cummings’ self-presentation as Uniqlo Bloke is in its own way consistent with Amanda Anderson’s description of the Wildean dandy as ‘a significant and charismatic social critic, challenging moral pieties, disrupting the smooth surface of unthinking custom, inducing reflective distance and heightened self-consciousness it engenders’.20 Perhaps it is this self-conception that led Cummings to believe he could Bunbury with impunity, his anti-establishment posture amplifying his dandyish pretensions into what, after Cohn, we might call the transmission of Wildean ‘social mimesis’.21 In late May, one senior Police figure reported that officers were receiving ‘pushback’ from members of the public breaching lockdown, who were arguing that ‘If it’s OK for Cummings, it’s OK for us.’22 A British Medical Journal report summarised the outpouring of criticism from medical experts over the government’s handling of the case, which had ‘undermined the public health messaging and [in the words of one member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours] “trashed” behavioural advice on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures needed to control the virus’.23 A YouGov poll in early June showed that one in five Britons were now following lockdown rules less strictly than before, with a third citing the Cummings story as the main reason.24 And in August, medical journal The Lancet carried an article demonstrating what the authors called ‘The Cummings Effect’. Surveying over 40 000 individuals and controlling for other variables that might cause a decline in public trust in government health advice, the authors demonstrated that the influence of Cummings’ actions and of his failure to apologise or resign had been specific and lasting. They concluded: ‘Trust in government decisions and actions relating to the management of COVID-19 is a major challenge worldwide, and these data show the negative and lasting consequences that political decisions can have for public trust and the risks to behaviours’.25 For Cohn, the conditions of possibility of what she tellingly calls the ‘transmission’ of Wilde’s ideas reside in the complex and diffuse interplay of words and thoughts over time, ‘without particular living subjects bearing their truths’.26 In the Cummings case, trust itself is at issue: to alter one’s own attitudes, behaviours and social interactions in response is to betray a lack of trust in the institution he supposedly represents but dandyishly disavows. And at scale, ‘transmission’ all too readily concatenates into infection.

A File Box?

It is both the pleasure and puzzle of Wilde’s worlds that such paradoxes of morality and conduct can be spun out seemingly indefinitely, and without social consequence or collapse into hypocrisy. By contrast, Cummings’ attempt at ‘establishing a new kind of aristocracy’ (in Baudelaire’s phrase), which combined insurgent disdain for political mores with obliviousness to its own privilege (after all, he is himself an Oxbridge humanities graduate), was bound to come unstuck. Considering the scale of the outcry and public impact of Cummings’ actions, Johnson spent extraordinary amounts of political capital protecting him. It is perversely inevitable that his dismissal would crystallize, as the British press all too gleefully reported, around a risible detail: Johnson was apparently incensed that Cummings and his circle had taken to referring to Carrie Symonds in text messages as ‘Princess Nut Nut’.27

Anachronistically referred to by the press as Johnson’s ‘consort,’ Symonds holds no formal position in the Prime Minister’s office, and the sobriquet represented a misogynistic slur on what Cummings and colleagues saw as the intensity of Symonds’ behind-the-scenes efforts to influence Downing Street policy and personnel. It is hardly a Wildean humdinger, and as sharper wits than Cummings took the phrase and ran with it, the nationwide maelstrom of ‘social mimesis’ that Cummings had previously conjoured now eddied about his ankles in one last individual drama.28

Mere hours after announcing that ‘rumours of me threatening to resign are invented,’ Cummings quit, making a primetime exit through the front door of 10, Downing Street, carrying a cardboard file box.29 It was a shameless, brilliant coup de théâtre that the British press rewarded with blanket coverage, but minimal reflection on how effortlessly they were being played.

As Sarah Balkin writes in a discussion of The Importance of Being Earnest, ‘Wilde’s props, solidly mimetic yet loaded with generic conventions and meanings that signified differently for different audience members, identify characters even as they show that identification is contingent on genre and reception’.30 Cummings’ apparently nondescript box was pregnant with just such nuances, and he was no doubt aware of some of them, if not all. As the images of sacked employees abruptly leaving Lehman Brothers investment bank at the top of the 2008 Financial Crisis iconically demonstrated, the box is a common signifier for the abruptly terminated office worker, escorted peremptorily to the door by grim-faced security. Cummings’ deployment of the box tapped into this convention, signalling as he did so the extent to which his ‘resignation’ could be read as a firing. The fact that the convention may be more commonly filmic than actual not only emphasised Cummings’ canny deployment of genre to amplify the meanings and associations of his act, but also a very specific reference to his own mythos. At the end of Brexit: The Uncivil War, ‘Cummings’ packs up just such a file box and slips away from a triumphant post-Brexit party at Vote Leave HQ. Walking across London’s Lambeth Bridge, he pauses to gaze reflectively upon the Houses of Parliament. Only he, the film suggests, humble box in hand, grasps the unsettling magnitude of what he has wrought.

It is impossible to know how deliberately Cummings was citing his own representation in Brexit (or indeed, in a minor case of intermedial Bunburying, citing Cumberbatch playing him). But the reference only underscores the evocative power of the box. For Balkin, the unstable character and identity of Ernest is distributed across the props in Wilde’s play; the cigarette case and Miss Prism’s handbag carry names and other clues that advance the plot. But the handbag, in particular, which is the source of a mix-up between the infant Ernest and, in Lady Bracknell’s words, ‘the manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality’31 serves, as Balkin puts it, to parody Ibsenite interiority.32

We find a neat inversion of this dynamic in Brexit: The Uncivil War, where one of Cummings’ quirks is to isolate himself in a windowless cleaning cupboard so as to commune with the ground bass of British Brexit sentiment. This is a man who thinks so far outside the box, we are invited to believe, that he has to secrete himself within one in order to do so. Which rather begs the question: what was in the real Cummings’ box, if anything? Could it be print-outs of his notoriously lengthy blog posts, including a 133,000 word essay from 2013 entitled ‘Some thoughts on education and political priorities’ whose bid to synthesise the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities into a world-straddling pedagogy of technocratic problem-solving could well qualify as the three-volume novel of our day?33 Or is it, as in Brexit: The Uncivil War, the non-sequitur of a bike helmet (as he left the office on foot, where did Cumberbatch-Cummings leave his bike?). We cannot know, and it does not matter. Cummings presented the public with an image that cited a well-known genre of white-collar departure while at the same time re-energising his dandyish participation in the circulation of representations and (self-)imitations, and flourishing an object that is at once thoroughly mundane, and a magnificent tease. Just as Miss Prism’s handbag provides narrative resolution to Earnest’s marriage plot by providing the key to Jack’s identity as Ernest, even as the agency it thereby accrues holds open the idea of what an ‘Ernest’ actually is, so Cummings’ box signifies closure while suggesting that there is always more to be known, be that a confrontation with emptiness, or the inventorizing of personal effects.

In this essay, I have enrolled Wilde in a bid to understand some of the effects, personal and otherwise, that Cummings produced as a result of his lockdown breach and subsequent actions. In May, when I wrote the first part of this essay, I was intrigued by the ways Earnest might illuminate some of the more preposterous aspects of the story, but reluctant to suggest it had very much value in the face of the suffering caused by Covid-19, arguably exacerbated by Cummings’ actions. Today, as I write this conclusion, a 90-year-old woman in the English city of Coventry has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. We should be sceptical about artistic discussion in the face of a pandemic. But as we begin to entertain the idea of a post-Covid future, and to stitch the singular events of 2020 into a wider historical canvas, we might not be able to avoid it, either. The anthropologists Arthur Kleinman and James L. Watson underscored the social impact of the SARS epidemic of 2003, over and above its medical consequences, by describing it as a ‘biosocial event’.34 Might the Cummings saga and the broader political attitudes and behaviours it disclosed key us into Covid-19 as a bio-aesthetic event, where extant aesthetic forms and sensibilities find themselves reactivated at times of medical crisis by the sociopolitical responses they provoke? Within specific cultural milieux, novel events and actions seem to draw into alignment with those mapped out by formally inventive artists such as Wilde, and the means by which the most popular and distinctive of such forms and sensibilities circulate are now taken up in uncanny homage, reverberating through diverse media and affective registers. The longer-term fate of such phenomena remains to be seen. For now, however, we are informed Cummings spent December serving out his notice on ‘gardening leave’.35 Let us hope he did not suffer, as Cecily puts it to Gwendolen in Earnest, from the ‘agricultural depression’ that arises from country life, and which is ‘almost an epidemic’ amongst the aristocracy.36 As for the rest of us, suffice to say that, whether we wished to or not, we now realise for the first time in our lives the viral Importance of Being Dominic.

Paul Rae is Associate Professor of Theatre Studies and Head of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Theatre & Human Rights (Palgrave, 2009) and Real Theatre: Essays in Experience (Cambridge UP, 2019). From 2016-18 he was Senior Editor of Theatre Research International, and he publishes widely on contemporary theatre and on the performance cultures of the Asia-Pacific.

 

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Notes:

  1. Telegraph Reporters, ‘Dominic Cummings tried to influence lockdown advice, Sage members suggest’, The Daily Telegraph, 29 April 2020. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/04/29/dominic-cummings-tried-influence-lockdown-advice-sage-members/ (Accessed 13 December 2020).
  2. My thanks to James Jiang for reining in my more euphemistic enthusiasms in this essay, and to Sarah Balkin for conversations about genre, identity and props.
  3. Oscar Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in Wilde: The Complete Plays (London: Methuen, 1988), 213-290. (224).
  4. Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, 218.
  5. Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, 223.
  6. The Independent, ‘Dominic Cummings: Full transcript of Boris Johnson aide’s statement from Downing Street.’ 25 May 2020. Available online at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dominic-cummings-statement-speech-transcript-durham-full-text-read-lockdown-a9531856.html (Accessed 27 July 2020).
  7. E.J. Ward, ‘Michael Gove says he has driven ‘on occasion’ to test his eyesight.’ LBC, 26 May 2020. Available online at https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/nick-ferrari/michael-gove-driving-eyesight-cummings-baranard/ (Accessed 27 July 2020).
  8. Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, 288.
  9. Oscar Wilde, ‘An Ideal Husband’ in Wilde: The Complete Plays (London: Methuen, 1988), 105-212. (114).
  10. Wilde, ‘An Ideal Husband’, 208.
  11. Wilde, ‘An Ideal Husband’, 144.
  12. Elisha Cohn, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Ghost: The Play of Imitation’, Victorian Studies, 54: 3 (2012), 474-485 (483).
  13. In Cohn, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Ghost’, 479.
  14. Cohn, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Ghost’, 483.
  15. Charles Baudelaire. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Trans. Jonathan Mayne (London: Phaidon, 1995), 27.
  16. Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 28.
  17. Andrew Gimson, ‘A profile of Dominic Cummings, friend of Gove and enemy of Clegg’. Convervative Home, 15 May 2014. https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2014/05/a-profile-of-dominic-cummings-friend-of-gove-and-enemy-of-clegg.html (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  18. Dominic Cummings, ‘“Two hands are a lot” – we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…’. Dominic Cummings’s Blog, 2 January 2020. https://dominiccummings.com/2020/01/02/two-hands-are-a-lot-were-hiring-data-scientists-project-managers-policy-experts-assorted-weirdos/ (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  19. Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 27.
  20. Cited in Faye Hammill, Sophistication: A Literary and Cultural History (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2010), 71.
  21. Cohn, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Ghost’, 474.
  22. Simon Murphy and Owen Bowcott, ‘Lockdown violators using Cummings as excuse, say police’, The Guardian, 27 May 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/27/lockdown-violators-using-cummings-as-excuse-say-police (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  23. Elisabeth Mahase, ‘Covid-19: UK government’s defence of senior aide has damaged public and NHS confidence, say experts’, The BMJ 2020; 369, 27 May 2020. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2109 (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  24. Chris Curtis, ‘One in five have started breaking lockdown rules more following Cummings saga’, YouGov, 3 June 2020. https://yougov.co.uk/topics/health/articles-reports/2020/06/03/one-five-have-started-breaking-lockdown-rules-more (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  25. Daisy Fancourt, Andrew Steptoe, Liam Wright, ‘The Cummings effect: politics, trust and behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic’, The Lancet396 (2020), 464-465. (465).
  26. Cohn, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Ghost’, 483.
  27. For one of the more sober analyses of the sobriquet, see Jo Ellison, ‘Princess Nut Nut or avenging angel?’, The Financial Times, 20 November 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/af1fe24e-5ea1-4f17-b4d1-89587e4315cf (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  28. See, for instance, The Poke, ‘Simply 8 perfect reactions to Carrie Symonds being nicknames Princess Nut Nuts’, https://www.thepoke.co.uk/2020/11/15/reactions-carrie-symonds-nickname-princess-nut-nuts/ (Accessed 8 December 2020). After some initial uncertainty over whether it was ‘Nut Nut’ or ‘Nut Nuts’, the consensus settled on the former.
  29. BBC, ‘Dominic Cummings to leave Downing Street by Christmas’, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-54925322 (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  30. Sarah Balkin, ‘Realising Personality in The Importance of Being Earnest’, Modern Drama, 59: 1 (2016), 26-48 (40).
  31. Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, 284.
  32. Balkin, ‘Realising Personality’, 41.
  33. Dominic Cummings, ‘Some thoughts on education and political priorities’  https://dominiccummings.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/20130825-some-thoughts-on-education-and-political-priorities-version-2-final.pdf (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  34. Arthur Kleinman and James L. Watson, ‘Introduction: SARS in Social and Historical Context,’ in SARS in China: Prelude to Pandemic?, ed. Arthur Kleinman and James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), 14.
  35.  Steven Swinford and Oliver Wright, ‘Dominic Cummings forced out in purge of Brexiteers’, The Times, 14 November 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dominic-cummings-forced-out-in-purge-of-brexiteers-5tg2cmgqr (Accessed 8 December 2020).
  36. ‘Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, 265.

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