Hello, could you please clarify the meaning of the underline idiom?
LORD ILLINGWORTH: The intellect is not a serious thing, and never has been. It is an instrument on which one plays, that is all. The only serious form of intellect I know is the British intellect. And on the British intellect the illiterates play the drum.
in A Woman of No Importance [I act], Oscar Wilde.
First, you do understand that he is using a musical metaphor? Each intellect, in m'Lord's opinion, is an instrument, and combined, perhaps, you may have an orchcestra. First he gives credit to the British as being the better part of that orchesta, or would be a better orchestra on their own, but then suggests that the illiterate (uneducated) among the British, play a drum. I think he feels that the drum is not much of an instrument (I know many drummers who would disagree!), that you simply pound on it. He acknowledges that an orchestra needs a drum, but that it is the lowest (most bass? pun!) of the instruments.