The Picture of Dorian Gray: Wikis


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The Picture of Dorian Gray  
Lippincott doriangray.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Oscar Wilde
Country Ireland
Language English
Genre(s) Gothic fiction
Publisher Lippincott's Monthly Magazine
Publication date 1890
Media type Print
ISBN ISBN 0-14-143957-2 (Modern paperback edition)
OCLC Number 53071567
Dewey Decimal 823/.8 22
LC Classification PR5819.A2 M543 2003

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine.[1] Wilde later revised this edition, making several alterations, and adding new chapters; the amended version was published by Ward, Lock, and Company in April 1891.[2] The story is often mistitled The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Talking in Basil's garden, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, expressing his desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.[3]

The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered a work of classic gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme.[4]


Plot summary

The novel begins with Lord Henry Wotton observing the artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of a handsome young man named Dorian Gray. Dorian arrives later and meets Wotton. After hearing Lord Henry's world view, Dorian begins to think beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life, the only thing left to pursue. He wishes that the portrait Basil is painting would grow old in his place. Under the influence of Lord Henry, Dorian begins to explore his senses. He discovers actress Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare in a dingy theatre. Dorian approaches her and soon proposes marriage. Sibyl, who refers to him as "Prince Charming," rushes home to tell her skeptical mother and brother. Her protective brother James tells her that if "Prince Charming" harms her, he will certainly kill him.

Dorian invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. Sibyl, whose only knowledge of love was love of theatre, loses her acting abilities through the experience of true love with Dorian. Dorian rejects her, saying her beauty was in her art, and he is no longer interested in her if she can no longer act. When he returns home he notices that his portrait has changed. Dorian realizes his wish has come true – the portrait now bears a subtle sneer and will age with each sin he commits, whilst his own appearance remains unchanged. He decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but Lord Henry arrives in the morning to say Sibyl has killed herself by swallowing prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide). With the persuasion and encouragement of Lord Henry, Dorian realizes that lust and looks are where his life is headed and he needs nothing else. That marks the end of Dorian's last and only true love affair. Over the next 18 years, Dorian experiments with every vice, mostly under the influence of a "poisonous" French novel, a present from Lord Henry. Wilde never reveals the title, but his inspiration was possibly drawn from Joris-Karl Huysmans's À rebours (Against Nature) due to the likenesses that exist between the two novels.[5]

Dorian faces his portrait in the 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray

One night, before he leaves for Paris, Basil arrives to question Dorian about rumours of his indulgences. Dorian does not deny his debauchery. He takes Basil to the portrait, which is as hideous as Dorian's sins. In anger, Dorian blames the artist for his fate and stabs Basil to death. He then blackmails an old friend named Alan Campbell, who is a chemist, into destroying Basil's body. Wishing to escape his crime, Dorian travels to an opium den. James Vane is nearby and hears someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming." He follows Dorian outside and attempts to shoot him, but he is deceived when Dorian asks James to look at him in the light, saying he is too young to have been involved with Sibyl 18 years earlier. James releases Dorian but is approached by a woman from the opium den who chastises him for not killing Dorian and tells him Dorian has not aged for 18 years.

While at dinner, Dorian sees James stalking the grounds and fears for his life. However, during a game-shooting party a few days later, a lurking James is accidentally shot and killed by one of the hunters. After returning to London, Dorian informs Lord Henry that he will be good from now on, and has started by not breaking the heart of his latest innocent conquest, a vicar's daughter in a country town, named Hetty Merton. At his apartment, Dorian wonders if the portrait has begun to change back, losing its senile, sinful appearance now that he has given up his immoral ways. He unveils the portrait to find it has become worse. Seeing this, he questions the motives behind his "mercy," whether it was merely vanity, curiosity, or the quest for new emotional excess. Deciding that only full confession will absolve him, but lacking feelings of guilt and fearing the consequences, he decides to destroy the last vestige of his conscience. In a rage, he picks up the knife that killed Basil Hallward and plunges it into the painting. His servants hear a cry from inside the locked room and send for the police. They find Dorian's body, stabbed in the heart and suddenly aged, withered and horrible. It is only through the rings on his hand that the corpse can be identified. Beside him, however, the portrait has reverted to its original form.


Basil and Lord Henry survey the portrait of Dorian

In a letter, Wilde said the main characters were reflections of himself: "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps"[6].

The main characters are:

  • Dorian Gray – a handsome young man who becomes enthralled with Lord Henry's idea of a new hedonism. He begins to indulge in every kind of pleasure, moral and immoral.
  • Basil Hallward – an artist who becomes infatuated with Dorian's beauty. Dorian helps Basil to realise his artistic potential, as Basil's portrait of Dorian proves to be his finest work.
  • Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton – a nobleman who is a friend to Basil initially, but later becomes more intrigued with Dorian's beauty and naivete. Extremely witty, Lord Henry is seen as a critique of Victorian culture at the end of the century, espousing a view of indulgent hedonism. He conveys to Dorian his world view, and Dorian becomes corrupted as he attempts to emulate him.

The other characters are:

  • Sibyl Vane – An exceptionally talented and beautiful (though extremely poor) actress with whom Dorian falls in love. Her love for Dorian destroys her acting ability, as she no longer finds pleasure in portraying fictional love when she is experiencing love in reality.
  • James Vane – Sibyl's brother who is to become a sailor and leave for Australia. He is extremely protective of his sister, especially as his mother is useless and concerned only with Dorian's money. He is hesitant to leave his sister, believing Dorian will harm her and promises to be vengeful if any harm should come to her.
  • Alan Campbell – a chemist and once a good friend of Dorian; he ended their friendship when Dorian's reputation began to come into question.
  • Lord Fermor – Lord Henry's uncle. He informs Lord Henry about Dorian's lineage.
  • Victoria, Lady Henry Wotton – Lord Henry's wife, who only appears once in the novel while Dorian waits for Lord Henry; she later divorces Lord Henry in exchange for a pianist.


Aestheticism and duplicity

Aestheticism is a strong motif and is tied in with the concept of the double life. A major theme is that aestheticism is merely an absurd abstract that only serves to disillusion rather than dignify the concept of beauty. Although Dorian is hedonistic, when Basil accuses him of making Lord Henry's sister's name a "by-word," Dorian replies "Take care, Basil. You go too far"[7] suggesting Dorian still cares about his outward image and standing within Victorian society. Wilde highlights Dorian's pleasure of living a double life,[8] Not only does Dorian enjoy this sensation in private, but he also feels "keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life" when attending a society gathering just 24 hours after committing a murder.

This duplicity and indulgence is most evident in Dorian's visit to the opium dens of London. Wilde conflates the images of the upper class and lower class by having the supposedly upright Dorian visit the impoverished districts of London. Lord Henry asserts that "crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders... I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations", which suggests that Dorian is both the criminal and the aesthete combined in one man. This is perhaps linked to Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which Wilde admired.[1] The division that was witnessed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, although extreme, is evident in Dorian Gray, who attempts to contain the two divergent parts of his personality. This is a recurring theme in many Gothic novels.

Allusions to other works

The Republic

Glaucon and Adeimantus present the myth of Gyges' ring, by which Gyges made himself invisible. They ask Socrates, if one came into possession of such a ring, why should he act justly? Socrates replies that even if no one can see one's physical appearance, the soul is disfigured by the evils one commits. This disfigured (the antithesis of beautiful) and corrupt soul is imbalanced and disordered, and in itself undesirable regardless of other advantages of acting unjustly. Dorian Gray's portrait is the means by which other individuals, such as Dorian's friend Basil, may see Dorian's distorted soul.


At one point, Dorian Gray attends a performance of Richard Wagner's opera, Tannhäuser, and is explicitly said to personally identify with the work. Indeed, the opera bears some striking resemblances with the novel, and, in short, tells the story of a medieval (and historically real) singer, whose art is so beautiful that he causes Venus, the goddess of love herself, to fall in love with him, and to offer him eternal life with her in the Venusberg. Tannhäuser becomes dissatisfied with his life there, however, and elects to return to the harsh world of reality, where, after taking part in a song-contest, he is sternly censured for his sensuality, and eventually dies in his search for repentance and the love of a good woman.


Wilde is reputed to have stated that "in every first novel the hero is the author as Christ or Faust."[9] As in Faust, a temptation is placed before the lead character Dorian, the potential for ageless beauty; Dorian indulges in this temptation. In both stories, the lead character entices a beautiful woman to love them and kills not only her, but also that woman's brother, who seeks revenge.[10] Wilde went on to say that the notion behind The Picture of Dorian Gray is "old in the history of literature" but was something to which he had "given a new form".[11]

Unlike Faust, there is no point at which Dorian makes a deal with the devil. However, Lord Henry's cynical outlook on life, and hedonistic nature seems to be in keeping with the idea of the devil's role, that of the temptation of the pure and innocent, qualities which Dorian exemplifies at the beginning of the book. Although Lord Henry takes an interest in Dorian, it does not seem that he is aware of the effect of his actions. However, Lord Henry advises Dorian that "the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing";[12] in this sense, Lord Henry can be seen to represent the Devil, "leading Dorian into an unholy pact by manipulating his innocence and insecurity."[13]


In his preface, Wilde writes about Caliban, a character from Shakespeare's play The Tempest. When Dorian is telling Lord Henry Wotton about his new 'love', Sibyl Vane, he refers to all of the Shakespearean plays she has been in, referring to her as the heroine of each play. At a later time, he speaks of his life by quoting Hamlet, who has similarly driven his girlfriend to suicide and her brother to swear revenge.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

Dorian Gray's "poisonous French novel" that leads to his downfall is believed to be Joris-Karl Huysmans' novel À rebours. Literary critic Richard Ellmann writes:

Wilde does not name the book but at his trial he conceded that it was, or almost, Huysmans's A Rebours...To a correspondent he wrote that he had played a 'fantastic variation' upon A Rebours and some day must write it down. The references in Dorian Gray to specific chapters are deliberately inaccurate.[14]

Literary significance

The publication details of the Ward, Lock & Co. edition

The Picture of Dorian Gray began as a short novel submitted to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. In 1889, J. M. Stoddart, a proprietor for Lippincott, was in London to solicit short novels for the magazine. Wilde submitted the first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was published on 20 June 1890 in the July edition of Lippincott's. There was a delay in getting Wilde's work to press while numerous changes were made to the novel (several manuscripts of which survive). Some of these changes were made at Wilde's instigation, and some at Stoddart's. Wilde removed all references to the fictitious book "Le Secret de Raoul", and to its fictitious author, Catulle Sarrazin. The book and its author are still referred to in the published versions of the novel, but are unnamed.

Wilde also attempted to moderate some of the more homoerotic instances in the book, or instances whereby the intentions of the characters may be misconstrued. In the 1890 edition, Basil tells Henry how he "worships" Dorian, and begs him not to "take away the one person that makes my life absolutely lovely to me." The focus for Basil in the 1890 edition seems to be more towards love, whereas the Basil of the 1891 edition cares more for his art, saying "the one person who gives my art whatever charm it may possess: my life as an artist depends on him." The book was also extended greatly: the original thirteen chapters became twenty, and the final chapter was divided into two new chapters. The additions involved the "fleshing out of Dorian as a character" and also provided details about his ancestry, which helped to make his "psychological collapse more prolonged and more convincing."[15] The character of James Vane was also introduced, which helped to elaborate upon Sibyl Vane's character and background; the addition of the character helped to emphasise and foreshadow Dorian's selfish ways, as James sees through Dorian's character, and guesses upon his future dishonourable actions (the inclusion of James Vane's sub-plot also gives the novel a more typically Victorian tinge, part of Wilde's attempts to decrease the controversy surrounding the book). Another notable change is that in the latter half of the novel events were specified as taking place around Dorian Gray's 32nd birthday, on 7 November. After the changes, they were specified as taking place around Dorian Gray's 38th birthday, on 9 November, thereby extending the period of time over which the story occurs. The former date is also significant in that it coincides with the year in Wilde's life during which he was introduced to homosexual practices.


The preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray was added, along with other amendments, after the edition published in Lippincott's was criticised. Wilde used it to address the criticism and defend the novel's reputation.[16] It consists of a collection of statements about the role of the artist, art itself, and the value of beauty, and serves as an indicator of the way in which Wilde intends the novel to be read, as well as traces of Wilde's exposure to Daoism and the writings of the Chinese Daoist philosopher Chuang Tsu. Shortly before writing the preface, Wilde reviewed Herbert A. Giles's translation of the writings of Chuang Tsu.[17] In it he writes:

The honest ratepayer and his healthy family have no doubt often mocked at the dome-like forehead of the philosopher, and laughed over the strange perspective of the landscape that lies beneath him. If they really knew who he was, they would tremble. For Chuang Tsǔ spent his life in preaching the great creed of Inaction, and in pointing out the uselessness of all things.[18]


Overall, initial critical reception of the book was poor, with the book gaining "certain notoriety for being 'mawkish and nauseous,' 'unclean,' 'effeminate,' and 'contaminating.'"[19] This had much to do with the novel's homoerotic overtones, which caused something of a sensation amongst Victorian critics when first published. A large portion of the criticism was levelled at Wilde's perceived hedonism, and its distorted views of conventional morality. The Daily Chronicle of 30 June 1890 suggests that Wilde's novel contains "one element...which will taint every young mind that comes in contact with it." The Scots Observer of 5 July 1890 asks why Wilde must "go grubbing in muck-heaps?” Wilde responded to such criticisms by curtailing some of the homoerotic overtones, and by adding six chapters to the book in an effort to add background.[20]

Major changes in the 1891 version from the 1890 first edition

The 1891 version was expanded from 13 to 20 chapters, but also toned down, particularly in some of its too overtly homoerotic aspects. Also, chapters 3, 5, and 15 to 18 are entirely new in the 1891 version, and chapter 13 from the first edition is split in two (becoming chapters 19 and 20).[1]

At his 1895 trials Wilde testified that some of these changes were because of letters sent to him by Walter Pater.[21]

Deleted or moved passages

  • (Basil about Dorian) He has stood as Paris in dainty armor, and as Adonis with huntsman's cloak and polished boar-spear. Crowned with heavy lotus-blossoms, he has sat on the prow of Adrian's barge, looking into the green, turbid Nile. He has leaned over the still pool of some Greek woodland, and seen in the water's silent silver the wonder of his own beauty. (This passage turns up in Basil's speech to Dorian in the 1891 version.)
  • (Lord Henry about fidelity) It has nothing to do with our own will. It is either an unfortunate accident, or an unpleasant result of temperament.
  • "You don't mean to say that Basil has got any passion or any romance in him?" / "I don't know whether he has any passion, but he certainly has romance," said Lord Henry, with an amused look in his eyes. / "Has he never let you know that?" / "Never. I must ask him about it. I am rather surprised to hear it.
  • (describing Basil Hallward) Rugged and straightforward as he was, there was something in his nature that was purely feminine in its tenderness.
  • (Basil to Dorian) It is quite true that I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man usually gives to a friend. Somehow, I had never loved a woman. I suppose I never had time. Perhaps, as Harry says, a really grande passion is the privilege of those who have nothing to do, and that is the use of the idle classes in a country. (the latter remark being part of Lord Henry's dialogue in the 1891 version)
  • Some dialogue between Mrs Leaf and Dorian has been cut, which mentions Dorian's fondness for "jam" (which might have been used metaphorically for his sexuality).
  • When Basil confronts Dorian: Dorian, Dorian, your reputation is infamous. I know you and Harry are great friends. I say nothing about that now, but surely you need not have made his sister's name a by-word. (That part has been deleted in the 1891 version, and the passage after that has been added.)

Added passages

  • Each class would have preached the importance of those virtues, for whose exercise there was no necessity in their own lives. The rich would have spoken on the value of thrift, and the idle grown eloquent over the dignity of labour.
  • A grande passion is the privilege of people who have nothing to do. That is the one use of the idle classes of a country. Don't be afraid.
  • Faithfulness! I must analyze it some day. The passion for property is in it. There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.

Adaptations and allusions

The Picture of Dorian Gray has been the subject of a great number of adaptations on television, film, and the stage. In addition to full adaptations, it has also been the subject of a number of other allusions.

  • Dorian Gray was featured as a villainous character in the 2003 film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In original comic he never appears, but his distorted portrait appears in MI5 headquarters. Seemingly reluctant to join the League in the beginning, he violently reveals himself as a treasonous henchman for the film's antagonist('The Fantom'). In the end, Gray is destroyed by another seemingly immortal League member, Mina Harker, who reveals his portrait to him, which breaks the spell. Gray screams as he ages hundreds of years in a matter of moments, crumbling to a skeleton as his likeness in the painting is restored.
  • The Television Personalities produced a song titled "A Picture of Dorian Gray" as part of their debut album "And Don't the Kids Just Love It", recorded in 1980.
  • Referenced in the song "Sing for the Day" by the 1980's progressive rock band Styx, the lead singer is speaking to a girl named Hannah, and compares her with the line " ageless and timeless as Dorian Grey..."
  • The character of Dorian Gray is referenced by Mötley Crüe in the song "New Tattoo" on the album of the same name.
  • Dorian Gray is mentioned in the song "Narcissist" by The Libertines.
  • The song "Dorian" by power metal band Demons & Wizards is based on the book.
  • Dorian Gray was mentioned in the chorus of the song "Tears and Rain" by singer/songwriter James Blunt.
  • In the song "The Future Holds A Lion's Heart" by Darren Hayes, from the album, This Delicate Thing We've Made; there is a direct reference to the picture of Dorian Gray being placed in the attic. "When my heart was in the attic

Like the picture of Dorian Gray"

  • The 1994–2001 DC Comics series Starman featured a storyline based on Dorian Gray, in which the origins of the Oscar Wilde story are discussed, and Wilde is portrayed in flashbacks.
  • Gary Larson has made reference to the novel in The Far Side, including the captions "The Picture of Dorian Cow" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray and his dog."
  • In the Family Guy episode, "When You Wish Upon A Weinstein", Meg Griffin asks Stewie Griffin how she looks and he replies, "In an attic somewhere, there's a portrait of you getting prettier."
  • A long time joke about the youthful appearance of Dick Clark was that he doesn't appear to age while a painted velvet portrait of Elvis in his attic ages instead.
  • The computer game Fable 2 includes the character of Reaver, a bisexual mayor who has sold his soul to the Shadow Court for eternal youth. The character is first met having his portrait painted in a direct allusion to Dorian Gray. The character was voiced by Stephen Fry.
Plot borrowings
  • The British show Blake's 7 featured a plot loosely based on the novel in the episode "Rescue".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation used the novel as inspiration for its 129th episode "Man of the People", featuring a Dorian Gray-esque diplomat who exorcises his own negative feelings by transferring them into others, placing crewmember Deanna Troi in perilous danger.
  • Get Smart episode "Age Before Duty," features a plot to murder agents by applying "Dorian Gray Paint" on their photographs.
  • The Warhammer 40k novel Fulgrim featured a plot loosely based on the novel.

Contemporary attention

The Picture of Dorian Gray has been chosen as the book of 2010 for Dublin City's "One City, One Book" Festival in its fifth year. [22] Cultural events related to the book and Oscar Wilde will be hosted in Dublin during April 2010.


  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oneworld Classics 2008, ISBN 978-1-84749-018-6
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Penguin Classics 2006, ISBN 978-0141442037
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oxford World's Classics 2006, ISBN 978-0192807298
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Barnes and Noble Classics 2003, ISBN 978-1-59308-025-9
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Tor 1999, ISBN 0-812-56711-0
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wordsworth Classics 1992, ISBN 1853260150
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Modern Library 1992, ISBN 978-0-679-60001-5
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Penguin Classics 1988, ISBN 978-0140433187-X
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Books, Inc. 1944

Footnotes and references

  1. ^ a b The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) – Introduction
  2. ^ Notes on The Picture of Dorian Gray – An overview of the text, sources, influences, themes and a summary of The Picture of Dorian Gray
  3. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Project Gutenberg 20-chapter version), line 3479 et seq in plain text (chapter VII).
  4. ^ Ghost and Horror Fiction – a website which discusses ghost and horror fiction from the 19th century onwards (retrieved 30 July 2006)
  5. ^ "Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray". Highbeam Research. Retrieved 26 April 2007. 
  6. ^ The Modern Library – a synopsis of the book coupled with a short biography of Oscar Wilde (retrieved 3 November 2009)
  7. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) – Chapter XII
  8. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) – Chapter XI
  9. ^ The Wikiquote Oscar Wilde page classifies this quotation as Unsourced.
  10. ^ Oscar Wilde Quotes – a quote from Oscar Wilde about The Picture of Dorian Gray and its likeness to Faust (retrieved 7 July 2006)
  11. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) – Preface
  12. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) – Chapter II
  13. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray – a summary and commentary of Chapter II of The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 29 July 2006)
  14. ^ Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (Vintage, 1988) p.316
  15. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) – A Note on the Text
  16. ^ GraderSave: ClassicNote – a summary and analysis of the book and its preface (retrieved 5 July 2006)
  17. ^ The Preface first appeared with the publication of the novel in 1891. But by June of 1890 Wilde was defending his book (see The Letters of Oscar Wilde, Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis eds., Henry Holt (2000), ISBN 0-8050-5915-6 and The Artist as Critic, ed. Richard Ellmann, University of Chicago (1968), ISBN 0-226-89764-8 – where Wilde's review of Giles's translation is reprinted and Chuang Tsŭ is incorrectly identified with Confucius.) Wilde's review of Giles's translation was published in The Speaker of 8 February 1890.
  18. ^ Ellmann, The Artist as Critic, 222.
  19. ^ The Modern Library – a synopsis of the book coupled with a short biography of Oscar Wilde (retrieved 6 July 2006)
  20. ^ CliffsNotes:The Picture of Dorian Gray – an introduction and overview the book (retrieved 5 July 2006)
  21. ^ Lawler, Donald L., "An Inquiry into Oscar Wilde's Revisions of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'" (New York: Garland, 1988)
  22. ^ Official website of Dublin: One City, One initiative of Dublin City Public Libraries.

See also

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Lippincott doriangray.jpg

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel written by Oscar Wilde, first appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890. Wilde later revised this edition, making several alterations, and adding new chapters; the amended version was published by Ward, Lock, and Company in April 1891. The story is often miscalled The Portrait of Dorian Gray. The basic theme is of a man whose portrait ages while he remains young, leading him to debauchery.



  • The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
    To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.
    • These sayings were originally published as a defense of his work in The Fortnightly Review (1 March 1891), and published as the work's Preface in subsequent editions.
  • The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
    The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.
  • Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
    Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
    They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
  • There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
  • The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
    The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.
  • The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.
  • No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.
  • From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type.
  • All art is at once surface and symbol.
    Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
    Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
    It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
    Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
  • We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
    All art is quite useless.
  • All bad art is the result of good intentions.

Chapter 1

  • There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
  • Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.
  • A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
  • Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.
  • Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love; it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.
  • When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them.
  • The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.
  • We shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.
  • The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
  • Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.
  • Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.
  • Now, the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it. Indeed, the probabilities are that the more insincere the man is, the more purely intellectual will the idea be, as in that case it will not be coloured by either his wants, his desires, or his prejudices.
  • Genius lasts longer than beauty.
  • If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.
  • I think you are wrong, but I won't argue with you. It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.

Chapter 2

  • The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
  • He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing.
  • The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.
  • It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
  • Beauty is a form of genius - is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.

Chapter 3

  • Examinations, sir, are pure humbug from beginning to end. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.
  • I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones.
  • The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray…
  • Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.

Chapter 4

  • Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.
  • Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly.
  • When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one always ends by deceiving others.
  • People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves.
  • Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.
  • The people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect - simply a confession of failure.
  • Punctuality is the thief of time.
  • There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.
  • Most people become bankrupt through having invested too heavily in the prose of life. To have ruined oneself over poetry is an honour.

Chapter 5

  • Then she paused. A rose shook in her blood and shadowed her cheeks. Quick breath parted the petals of her lips. They trembled. A southern wind of passion swept over her and stirred the dainty folds of her dress. "I love him", she said simply.
  • Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
  • Her eyes caught the melody and echoed it in radiance, then closed for a moment, as though to hide their secret. When they opened, the mist of a dream had passed across them.
  • To be in love is to surpass one's self.

Chapter 6

  • The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we're all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
  • The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish.
  • When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.
  • To be good is to be in harmony with oneself.
  • Nothing is ever quite true.

Chapter 8

  • Conscience makes egotists of us all.
  • It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.
  • You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.
  • Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.
  • I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.

Chapter 11

  • Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.

Chapter 15

  • When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs.
  • Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our intellects.
  • I like men who have a future and woman who have a past.
  • A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.
  • It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely true.
  • Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast.

Chapter 17

  • Each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved.
  • To be popular one must be a mediocrity.
  • To define is to limit.
  • Romance lives by repetition and repetition converts an appetite into an art.

Chapter 18

  • A woman will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are looking on.
  • The only horrible thing in the world is ennui.
  • Destiny doesn't send heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.
  • Women are fond of doing dangerous things.
  • The basis of every scandal is an immoral certainty.
  • It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.
  • All ways end at the same point.

Chapter 19

  • To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
  • The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
  • There are only two ways by which man can reach civilisation. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt.
  • Married life is merely a habit, bad habit.
  • The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a soul in each of us.
  • Anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often.
  • The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true.
  • The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.
  • One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.

Chapter 20

  • The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
WARNING: The following note contains some plot details of this work of fiction

The Picture of Dorian Gray, the only novel by Oscar Wilde, was first published in 1890. A substantially revised and expanded edition was published in April 1891. For the new edition, Wilde revised the content of the novel's existing chapters, divided the final chapter into two chapters, and created six entirely new additional chapters. Whereas the original edition of the novel contains 13 chapters, the revised edition of the novel contains 20 chapters.

The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Dorian is selected for his remarkable physical beauty, and Basil becomes strongly infatuated with Dorian, believing that his beauty is responsible for a new mode of art. Talking in Basil's garden, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new kind of hedonism, Lord Henry suggests that the only thing worth pursuing in life is beauty, and the fulfillment of the senses. Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, wishing that the portrait Basil has painted of him would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, subsequently plunging him into a sequence of debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, each sin being displayed as a new sign of aging on the portrait.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered one of the last works of classic gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme. It deals with the artistic movement of the decadents, and homosexuality, both of which caused some controversy when the book was first published. However, in modern times, the book has been referred to as "one of the modern classics of Western literature."

Excerpted from The Picture of Dorian Gray on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Original manuscript of Chapter 4.
1890 edition 1891 edition
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Simple English

The Picture of Dorian Gray  
Cover of the first edition
Author Oscar Wilde
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Gothic Novel
Publisher Lippincott's Monthly Magazine
Make date 1890
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-14-143957-2 (Modern paperback edition)

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published book written by Oscar Wilde. It was first published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on June 20, 1890. Later, Wilde edited this version, and it was published again in April 1891.[1] The story is often incorrectly called The Portrait of Dorian Gray.


The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a young man named Dorian Gray who has a portrait painted of himself. The artist, Basil Hallward, thinks that Dorian Gray is very beautiful, and becomes obsessed with him. One day in Basil's garden, Dorian Gray meets a man named Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry Wotton makes Dorian Gray believe that the only thing important in life is beauty. However, he realizes that as he grows older, he will become less beautiful. He wishes that the portrait Basil painted would become old in his place. Dorian then sells his soul so that he can be beautiful forever.

Dorian's wish comes true. However, every time he does something bad, mean, or selfish, his picture ages. For 18 years, Dorian does not age. He does many bad things, and his portrait becomes more and more aged. However, one day he decides to stop doing bad things. He hopes that this will make his portrait become beautiful again, but it only makes it worse. Dorian thinks that only a full confession will make the portrait become beautiful again. However, he does not feel guilty for anything he has done. So Dorian picks up a knife and stabs the portrait.

When his servants hear a scream come from Dorian's room, they call the police. The police find Dorian's body on the floor with a stab wound in his heart. His body has become very aged. However, the portrait has returned to the way it was when it was first painted.


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