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Oscar wilde the picture of dorian grey

  1. Shit, even poor old Lord Henry Wotton!
  2. As a rule, he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club arm in arm, or sit in the studio and talk of a thousand things.
  3. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it.

Share via Email Mirror, mirror: The reviews were dreadful, the sales poor, and it was not until many years after Wilde's death that this remarkable work of imagination was recognised as a classic. Its gestation was troubled, too. First commissioned in the summer of 1889 by an American editor for Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, Wilde initially submitted a fairy tale "The Fisherman and his Soul", which was rejected.

Eventually, his typescript for The Picture of Dorian Gray was delivered in April 1890, whereupon Lippincott's editor declared that "in its present condition there are a number of things an innocent woman would make an exception to".

In the light of several subsequent reviews, this was a comparatively mild critique. Wilde himself was steadfast in defending his author's vision. He always maintained that the Faustian idea of Dorian Gray, "the idea of a young man selling his soul in exchange for eternal youth", was "old in the history of literature".

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

But when he gave an archetypal story a striking contemporary spin, with strong homoerotic undertones, he stirred up a furore of hostility. Dorian Gray is the impossibly beautiful young man who becomes the subject of a portrait by the fashionable society painter, Basil Hallward.

Among the influences that shaped the book, I would argue that Disraeli No 11 in this series is a ghostly godfather to the novel. Wilde tips his hat not only to Disraeli's Sybil, but also to Vivian Grey, his first novel.

There was something about the literary alter ego that held a peculiar fascination for late Victorians. Under the malign influence of Lord Henry — "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it", is one of many Wildean epigrams scattered through the text — Dorian Gray plunges into a decadent and sinister milieu, becoming a slave to drugs and debauchery.

His fatal love affair with the actress Sybil Vane alerts him to the secret of his eternal youth: Eventually despairing, the young man blames the artist Hallward for his fate, and murders him. But Dorian Gray can never "be at peace". Finally, in a horrifying climax, he takes a knife to his own portrait. When his servants find him, the picture depicts their youthful master as they had once known him.

The corpse next to it is as "withered, wrinkled and loathsome of visage" as the portrait had been. Oscar wilde the picture of dorian grey and life are back in harmony, as Wilde intended, and his brilliantly allusive moral tale is complete. When the magazine version of Dorian Gray was published, there were howls of protest.

Some reviewers declared that, far from exposing immorality, Wilde wanted to promote it.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Elsewhere, the story was greeted with outrage by British reviewers, some of whom suggested that Wilde should be prosecuted on moral grounds, leading Wilde to defend his novel in letters to the press. One reviewer for a newspaper which declared that Lippincott's should be "ashamed to circulate" such filth, refused to describe the contents of the novel because he did not wish to "advertise the developments of an esoteric prurience".

As well as talk of prosecution, there was a strong hint of Francophobia against the decadent "yellow book" Lord Henry gives Dorian to recruit him to his belief in "Art". The Daily Chronicle found the novel to be "a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French decadents".

  1. That is the reason why I want you to be fine. It was all wrong and foolish.
  2. What do you think of it all?
  3. Your name happened to come up in conversation, in connection with the miniatures you have lent to the exhibition at the Dudley. Although these articles may currently differ in style from others on the site, they allow us to provide wider coverage of topics sought by our readers, through a diverse range of trusted voices.
  4. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.

More dangerous were the attempts of some reviewers to link the novel to the Cleveland Street affair of 1889. This scandal, centred on a male brothel frequented by an upper-class clientele that included members of the British political elite, was an eerie forerunner, in its exposure of the demi-monde, of the Queensberry libel case that would eventually destroy Wilde in 1895.

A note on the text The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde's only novel, was published on 20 June 1890 in the July edition of Lippincott's, as a novella of 13 chapters, and was the leading contribution to the magazine.

The 100 best novels: No 27 – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

Several British reviewers condemned the book for immorality. The novel became so controversial that WH Smith withdrew that month's edition of Lippincott's from its railway station bookstalls.

  • England is bad enough I know, and English society is all wrong;
  • But Dorian Gray can never "be at peace";
  • We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it.

In fact, the magazine's editors, fearful of charges of "indecency" had already cut some 500 words, without Wilde's knowledge, before publication. Deletions to Wilde's typescript included the elimination of several passages alluding to homosexual desire, and the deletion of three references to Gray's female lovers Sibyl Vane and Hetty Merton as his "mistresses".

Wilde, it must be said, conducted himself during this campaign, with impressive dignity and composure. Later, Wilde himself further revised the story for book publication, making significant alterations, cutting the most controversial passages, adding new chapters, and including a preface that has since become famous in its own right as his defence of art for art's sake.

This is now the standard version of the text.