Poster for an amateur dramatic performance based on Wilde's short story.

"Lord Arthur Savile's Crime: A Study of Duty" is a darkly comic short story by the Irish author Oscar Wilde. It was first published in the British literary magazine The Court and Society Review in 1887 and was reprinted in the anthology Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories in 1891.

The title character and protagonist is a young British aristocrat who is soon to be married. Mr. Podgers, a man who appears to have a gift for discovering people's secrets and for telling their fortunes by examining their hands, tells Lord Arthur that he is going to commit murder. Lord Arthur firmly believes the prediction and, fearing the strain that living with it would place on his marriage, decides that he cannot go through with the wedding until he has killed someone. However, committing murder proves to be more difficult than Lord Arthur had imagined.

The story was adapted as a Hungarian silent movie in 1920 and formed the basis for the second segment in the 1943 American anthology film Flesh and Fantasy. In 1968, it was also made into a Czechoslovakian TV drama Zločin Lorda Savila. "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime" was loosely adapted as "The Saxon Curse", an episode of the American radio series The CBS Radio Mystery Theater which was first broadcast on March 29, 1976.


Chart of the Hand

A chart of the hand, as used by chiromantists.

At a party held by Lady Windemere, the hostess introduces all of her guests to a man named Mr. Podgers, a chiromantist who claims to be able to accurately describe people's personalities and to predict their futures by examining the palms of their hands. Many guests are startled by how accurate Podgers' statements are, especially when he reveals embarrassing secrets which they would prefer that the other guests did not know. When Podgers comes to examine the hand of Lord Arthur Savile, the chiromantist is visibly frightened. He eventually says that Lord Arthur is a charming young man, he will soon go on a voyage and he will soon lose a distant relative. Lord Arthur confronts Podgers later, asking to know what else he saw in his palm and promising to pay him one hundred pounds for the information. Podgers tells Lord Arthur to come to his business address the following day.

Lord Arthur leaves Podgers' residence having received the distressing news that he will murder somebody. He is particularly unhappy to hear this because he is soon to marry Sybil Merton and feels that living with the knowledge that he will kill someone will put a strain on his marriage. He decides that the only solution is to murder somebody before he gets married. Having no enemies, Lord Arthur decides to kill his elderly distant relative Lady Clementina Beauchamp. Wanting to avoid a scandal and wanting to avoid going to prison for his crime, Lord Arthur comes up with a plan to quietly poison Lady Clementina.


Lord Arthur fails to poison Lady Clementina.

Having obtained a poison capsule from a pharmacist, claiming that he needs it to destroy a large dog which is showing signs of rabies, Lord Arthur presents it to Lady Clementina. He tells her that it is a cure for heartburn. He adds that she should not take the capsule immediately but should wait until her next attack of heartburn. Lord Arthur tells Sybil Merton that he must reluctantly postpone their marriage and leaves for Italy.

After a few weeks, Lord Arthur receives the news that Lady Clementina has died and that he has inherited her London home and most of her property. Lord Arthur believes that he is now free to marry and returns to England. However, while Lord Arthur and Sybil are going through Lady Clementina's possessions, Lord Arthur discovers the poison capsule untouched. He realizes that he did not cause Lady Clementina's death and has to postpone his wedding yet again.

Dynamite clipart

Lord Arthur fails to blow up his uncle with dynamite.

Having failed to poison Lady Clementina, Lord Arthur decides to use dynamite to murder his uncle, the Dean of Chichester and a collector of clocks. Lord Arthur approaches a Russian revolutionary whom he met at one of Lady Windemere's parties. The Russian introduces Lord Arthur to an exiled German explosives expert. The German shows Lord Arthur a time-bomb, which consists of a small amount of dynamite placed in a clock which has a statuette of Liberty trampling on a monster which represents despotism on top of it. The clock is sent to the Dean anonymously. When Lord Arthur sees nothing about the Dean's death in the newspaper, he concludes that his second murder attempt has also failed. He later discovers, through a letter which his cousin, the Dean's daughter, sent to his mother, what happened to the bomb which he sent. The bomb explodes but the explosion is small and completely harmless, consisting of nothing but a puff of smoke and the statuette of Liberty falling off the top of the clock. The Dean and all of his family find it very amusing. When they work out how the clock works, they add small amounts of gunpowder to it themselves and make it explode again.

Lord Arthur fears that he will have to cancel his wedding. However, by coincidence he happens to see Podgers looking over the side of a bridge. He throws the man into the river. For several days, Lord Arthur is afraid that Podgers may turn up alive but he eventually reads a newspaper report which says that the chiromantist probably committed suicide. Lord Arthur marries Sybil Merton immediately afterwards.

Some time later, after Lord Arthur and Sybil have been married for many years and have two children, Lady Windemere comes to visit them. Lady Windermere states that Mr. Podgers, her former lover who often borrowed money from her, was a fraud and that she has lost interest in chiromancy, much preferring telepathy. She is surprised to hear that Lord Arthur still believes in chiromancy but Lord Arthur insists that he owes all of his happiness to it.

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