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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

  Produced by Alfred J. Drake. HTML version by Al Haines.



  Oscar Wilde



  Chapter I: 3-12 Chapter II: 12-22 Chapter III: 22-32 Chapter IV: 32-36 Chapter V: 36-43 Chapter VI: 43-52 Chapter VII: 52-58 Chapter VIII: 58-64 Chapter IX: 65-77 Chapter X: 77-81 Chapter XI: 81-86 Chapter XII: 86-93 Chapter XIII: 94-100


  [3] The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when thelight summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there camethrough the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the moredelicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

  From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he waslying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wottoncould just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloredblossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly ableto bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now andthen the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the longtussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window,producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think ofthose pallid jade-faced painters who, in an art that is necessarilyimmobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullenmurmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass,or circling with monotonous insistence round the black-crocketed spiresof the early June hollyhocks, seemed to make the stillness moreoppressive, and the dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of adistant organ.

  In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood thefull-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty,and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artisthimself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years agocaused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so manystrange conjectures.

  As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfullymirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, andseemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing[4] his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought toimprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared hemight awake.

  "It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," saidLord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to theGrosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor isthe only place."

  "I don't think I will send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his headback in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him atOxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."

  Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazementthrough the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fancifulwhorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette. "Not send it anywhere?My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you paintersare! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as youhave one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, forthere is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, andthat is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you farabove all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous,if old men are ever capable of any emotion."

  "I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibitit. I have put too much of myself into it."

  Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook withlaughter.

  "Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same."

  "Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know youwere so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, withyour rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this youngAdonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, mydear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you--well, of course you have anintellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, endswhere an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself anexaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment onesits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or somethinghorrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions.How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. Butthen in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at theage of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen,and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful. Yourmysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whosepicture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that.He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who should be always here in winterwhen we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when wewant something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter yourself,Basil: you are not in the least like him."

  "You don't understand me, Harry. Of course I am not like him. I knowthat perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry to look like him. Youshrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth. There is a fatalityabout all physical and intellectual distinction, the sort of fatalitythat [5] seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings. Itis better not to be different from one's fellows. The ugly and thestupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit quietly andgape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at leastspared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live,undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruinupon others nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank andwealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are,--my fame, whatever it maybe worth; Dorian Gray's good looks,--we will all suffer for what thegods have given us, suffer terribly."

  "Dorian Gray? is that his name?" said Lord Henry, walking across thestudio towards Basil Hallward.

  "Yes; that is his name. I didn't intend to tell it to you."

  "But why not?"

  "Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely I never tell theirnames to any one. It seems like surrendering a part of them. You knowhow I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make modern lifewonderful or mysterious to us. The commonest thing is delightful ifone only hides it. When I leave town I never tell my people where I amgoing. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit, Idare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance intoone's life. I suppose you think me awfully foolish about it?"

  "Not at all," answered Lord Henry, laying his hand upon his shoulder;"not at all, my dear Basil. You seem to forget that I am married, andthe one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deceptionnecessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wifenever knows what I am doing. When we meet,--we do meet occasionally,when we dine out together, or go down to the duke's,--we tell eachother the most absurd stories with the most serious faces. My wife isvery good at it,--much better, in fact, than I am. She never getsconfused over her dates, and I always do. But when she does find meout, she makes no row at all. I sometimes wish she would; but shemerely laughs at me."

  "I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said BasilHallward, shaking his hand off, and strolling towards the door that ledinto the garden. "I believe that you are really a very good husband,but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are anextraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do awrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose."

  "Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know,"cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out into thegarden together, and for a time they did not speak.

  After a long pause Lord Henry pulled out his watch. "I am afraid Imust be going, Basil," he murmured, "and before I go I insist on youranswering a question I put to you some time ago."

  "What is that?" asked Basil Hallwa
rd, keeping his eyes fixed on theground.

  "You know quite well."

  "I do not, Harry."

  [6] "Well, I will tell you what it is."

  "Please don't."

  "I must. I want you to explain to me why you won't exhibit DorianGray's picture. I want the real reason."

  "I told you the real reason."

  "No, you did not. You said it was because there was too much ofyourself in it. Now, that is childish."

  "Harry," said Basil Hallward, looking him straight in the face, "everyportrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, notof the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It isnot he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, onthe colored canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibitthis picture is that I am afraid that I have shown with it the secretof my own soul."

  Lord Harry laughed. "And what is that?" he asked.

  "I will tell you," said Hallward; and an expression of perplexity cameover his face.

  "I am all expectation, Basil," murmured his companion, looking at him.

  "Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the youngpainter; "and I am afraid you will hardly understand it. Perhaps youwill hardly believe it."

  Lord Henry smiled, and, leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisyfrom the grass, and examined it. "I am quite sure I shall understandit," he replied, gazing intently at the little golden white-feathereddisk, "and I can believe anything, provided that it is incredible."

  The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy lilacblooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the languidair. A grasshopper began to chirrup in the grass, and a long thindragon-fly floated by on its brown gauze wings. Lord Henry felt as ifhe could hear Basil Hallward's heart beating, and he wondered what wascoming.

  "Well, this is incredible," repeated Hallward, ratherbitterly,--"incredible to me at times. I don't know what it means.The story is simply this. Two months ago I went to a crush at LadyBrandon's. You know we poor painters have to show ourselves in societyfrom time to time, just to remind the public that we are not savages.With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody,even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized. Well,after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to hugeoverdressed dowagers and tedious Academicians, I suddenly becameconscious that some one was looking at me. I turned half-way round,and saw Dorian Gray for the first time. When our eyes met, I felt thatI was growing pale. A curious instinct of terror came over me. I knewthat I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality wasso fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my wholenature, my whole soul, my very art itself. I did not want any externalinfluence in my life. You know yourself, Harry, how independent I amby nature. My father destined me for the army. I insisted on [7]going to Oxford. Then he made me enter my name at the Middle Temple.Before I had eaten half a dozen dinners I gave up the Bar, andannounced my intention of becoming a painter. I have always been myown master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray.Then--But I don't know how to explain it to you. Something seemed totell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I hada strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys andexquisite sorrows. I knew that if I spoke to Dorian I would becomeabsolutely devoted to him, and that I ought not to speak to him. Igrew afraid, and turned to quit the room. It was not conscience thatmade me do so: it was cowardice. I take no credit to myself for tryingto escape."

  "Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscienceis the trade-name of the firm. That is all."

  "I don't believe that, Harry. However, whatever was my motive,--and itmay have been pride, for I used to be very proud,--I certainlystruggled to the door. There, of course, I stumbled against LadyBrandon. 'You are not going to run away so soon, Mr. Hallward?' shescreamed out. You know her shrill horrid voice?"

  "Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty," said Lord Henry,pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fingers.

  "I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to Royalties, andpeople with Stars and Garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic tiarasand hooked noses. She spoke of me as her dearest friend. I had onlymet her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize me. Ibelieve some picture of mine had made a great success at the time, atleast had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is thenineteenth-century standard of immortality. Suddenly I found myselfface to face with the young man whose personality had so strangelystirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes met again.It was mad of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce me to him.Perhaps it was not so mad, after all. It was simply inevitable. Wewould have spoken to each other without any introduction. I am sure ofthat. Dorian told me so afterwards. He, too, felt that we weredestined to know each other."

  "And how did Lady Brandon describe this wonderful young man? I knowshe goes in for giving a rapid precis of all her guests. I rememberher bringing me up to a most truculent and red-faced old gentlemancovered all over with orders and ribbons, and hissing into my ear, in atragic whisper which must have been perfectly audible to everybody inthe room, something like 'Sir Humpty Dumpty--you know--Afghanfrontier--Russian intrigues: very successful man--wife killed by anelephant--quite inconsolable--wants to marry a beautiful Americanwidow--everybody does nowadays--hates Mr. Gladstone--but very muchinterested in beetles: ask him what he thinks of Schouvaloff.' Isimply fled. I like to find out people for myself. But poor LadyBrandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods.She either explains them entirely away, or tells one everything aboutthem except what one wants to know. But what did she say about Mr.Dorian Gray?"

  [8] "Oh, she murmured, 'Charming boy--poor dear mother and I quiteinseparable--engaged to be married to the same man--I mean married onthe same day--how very silly of me! Quite forget what he does--afraidhe--doesn't do anything--oh, yes, plays the piano--or is it the violin,dear Mr. Gray?' We could neither of us help laughing, and we becamefriends at once."

  "Laughter is not a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is the bestending for one," said Lord Henry, plucking another daisy.

  Hallward buried his face in his hands. "You don't understand whatfriendship is, Harry," he murmured,--"or what enmity is, for thatmatter. You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent toevery one."

  "How horribly unjust of you!" cried Lord Henry, tilting his hat back,and looking up at the little clouds that were drifting across thehollowed turquoise of the summer sky, like ravelled skeins of glossywhite silk. "Yes; horribly unjust of you. I make a great differencebetween people. I choose my friends for their good looks, myacquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains. Aman can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not gotone who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, andconsequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me? I thinkit is rather vain."

  "I should think it was, Harry. But according to your category I mustbe merely an acquaintance."

  "My dear old Basil, you are much more than an acquaintance."

  "And much less than a friend. A sort of brother, I suppose?"

  "Oh, brothers! I don't care for brothers. My elder brother won't die,and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else."


  "My dear fellow, I am not quite serious. But I can't help detesting myrelations. I suppose it comes from the fact that we can't stand otherpeople having the same faults as ourselves. I quite sympathize withthe rage of the English democracy against what they call the vices ofthe upper classes. They feel that drunkenness, stupidity, andimmorality should be their own special property, and that if any one ofus makes an ass of himself he is poaching on their preserves. When poorSouthwark got into the Divorce Court, their indignation was quitemagnificent. And yet I don't suppose that ten per cent of the lowerorde
rs live correctly."

  "I don't agree with a single word that you have said, and, what ismore, Harry, I don't believe you do either."

  Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard, and tapped the toe of hispatent-leather boot with a tasselled malacca cane. "How English youare, Basil! If one puts forward an idea to a real Englishman,--alwaysa rash thing to do,--he never dreams of considering whether the idea isright or wrong. The only thing he considers of any importance iswhether one believes it one's self. Now, the value of an idea hasnothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expressesit. Indeed, the probabilities are that the more insincere the man is,the more purely intellectual will the idea be, as in that case it [9]will not be colored by either his wants, his desires, or hisprejudices. However, I don't propose to discuss politics, sociology,or metaphysics with you. I like persons better than principles. Tellme more about Dorian Gray. How often do you see him?"

  "Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. Ofcourse sometimes it is only for a few minutes. But a few minutes withsomebody one worships mean a great deal."

  "But you don't really worship him?"

  "I do."

  "How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything butyour painting,--your art, I should say. Art sounds better, doesn't it?"

  "He is all my art to me now. I sometimes think, Harry, that there areonly two eras of any importance in the history of the world. The firstis the appearance of a new medium for art, and the second is theappearance of a new personality for art also. What the invention ofoil-painting was to the Venetians, the face of Antinoues was to lateGreek sculpture, and the face of Dorian Gray will some day be to me.It is not merely that I paint from him, draw from him, model from him.Of course I have done all that. He has stood as Paris in dainty armor,and as Adonis with huntsman's cloak and polished boar-spear. Crownedwith 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 poolof some Greek woodland, and seen in the water's silent silver thewonder of his own beauty. But he is much more to me than that. Iwon't tell you that I am dissatisfied with what I have done of him, orthat his beauty is such that art cannot express it. There is nothingthat art cannot express, and I know that the work I have done since Imet Dorian Gray is good work, is the best work of my life. But in somecurious way--I wonder will you understand me?--his personality hassuggested to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode ofstyle. I see things differently, I think of them differently. I cannow re-create life in a way that was hidden from me before. 'A dreamof form in days of thought,'--who is it who says that? I forget; butit is what Dorian Gray has been to me. The merely visible presence ofthis lad,--for he seems to me little more than a lad, though he isreally over twenty,--his merely visible presence,--ah! I wonder canyou realize all that that means? Unconsciously he defines for me thelines of a fresh school, a school that is to have in itself all thepassion of the romantic spirit, all the perfection of the spirit thatis Greek. The harmony of soul and body,--how much that is! We in ourmadness have separated the two, and have invented a realism that isbestial, an ideality that is void. Harry! Harry! if you only knewwhat Dorian Gray is to me! You remember that landscape of mine, forwhich Agnew offered me such a huge price, but which I would not partwith? It is one of the best things I have ever done. And why is it so?Because, while I was painting it, Dorian Gray sat beside me."

  "Basil, this is quite wonderful! I must see Dorian Gray." Hallwardgot up from the seat, and walked up and down the [10] garden. Aftersome time he came back. "You don't understand, Harry," he said."Dorian Gray is merely to me a motive in art. He is never more presentin my work than when no image of him is there. He is simply asuggestion, as I have said, of a new manner. I see him in the curvesof certain lines, in the loveliness and the subtleties of certaincolors. That is all."

  "Then why won't you exhibit his portrait?"

  "Because I have put into it all the extraordinary romance of which, ofcourse, I have never dared to speak to him. He knows nothing about it.He will never know anything about it. But the world might guess it;and I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heartshall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myselfin the thing, Harry,--too much of myself!"

  "Poets are not so scrupulous as you are. They know how useful passionis for publication. Nowadays a broken heart will run to many editions."

  "I hate them for it. An artist should create beautiful things, butshould put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age whenmen treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. Wehave lost the abstract sense of beauty. If I live, I will show theworld what it is; and for that reason the world shall never see myportrait of Dorian Gray."

  "I think you are wrong, Basil, but I won't argue with you. It is onlythe intellectually lost who ever argue. Tell me, is Dorian Gray veryfond of you?"

  Hallward considered for a few moments. "He likes me," he answered,after a pause; "I know he likes me. Of course I flatter himdreadfully. I find a strange pleasure in saying things to him that Iknow I shall be sorry for having said. I give myself away. As a rule,he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club arm inarm, or sit in the studio and talk of a thousand things. Now and then,however, he is horribly thoughtless, and seems to take a real delightin giving me pain. Then I feel, Harry, that I have given away my wholesoul to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in hiscoat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for asummer's day."

  "Days in summer, Basil, are apt to linger. Perhaps you will tiresooner than he will. It is a sad thing to think of, but there is nodoubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the factthat we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wildstruggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and sowe fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keepingour place. The thoroughly well informed man,--that is the modernideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well informed man is a dreadfulthing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, andeverything priced above its proper value. I think you will tire first,all the same. Some day you will look at Gray, and he will seem to youto be a little out of drawing, or you won't like his tone of color, orsomething. You will bitterly reproach him in your own heart, andseriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time hecalls, you will be [11] perfectly cold and indifferent. It will be agreat pity, for it will alter you. The worst of having a romance isthat it leaves one so unromantic."

  "Harry, don't talk like that. As long as I live, the personality ofDorian Gray will dominate me. You can't feel what I feel. You changetoo often."

  "Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it. Those who arefaithful know only the pleasures of love: it is the faithless who knowlove's tragedies." And Lord Henry struck a light on a dainty silvercase, and began to smoke a cigarette with a self-conscious andself-satisfied air, as if he had summed up life in a phrase. There wasa rustle of chirruping sparrows in the ivy, and the blue cloud-shadowschased themselves across the grass like swallows. How pleasant it wasin the garden! And how delightful other people's emotions were!--muchmore delightful than their ideas, it seemed to him. One's own soul,and the passions of one's friends,--those were the fascinating thingsin life. He thought with pleasure of the tedious luncheon that he hadmissed by staying so long with Basil Hallward. Had he gone to hisaunt's, he would have been sure to meet Lord Goodbody there, and thewhole conversation would have been about the housing of the poor, andthe necessity for model lodging-houses. It was charming to have escapedall that! As he thought of his aunt, an idea seemed to strike him. Heturned to Hallward, and said, "My dear fellow, I have just remembered."

  "Remembered what, Harry?"

  "Where I heard the name of Dorian Gray."

  "Where was it?" asked Hallward, with a slight frown.

sp; "Don't look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt's, Lady Agatha's. Shetold me she had discovered a wonderful young man, who was going to helpher in the East End, and that his name was Dorian Gray. I am bound tostate that she never told me he was good-looking. Women have noappreciation of good looks. At least, good women have not. She saidthat he was very earnest, and had a beautiful nature. I at oncepictured to myself a creature with spectacles and lank hair, horridlyfreckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known it wasyour friend."

  "I am very glad you didn't, Harry."


  "I don't want you to meet him."

  "Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio, sir," said the butler, coming intothe garden.

  "You must introduce me now," cried Lord Henry, laughing.

  Basil Hallward turned to the servant, who stood blinking in thesunlight. "Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I will be in in a fewmoments." The man bowed, and went up the walk.

  Then he looked at Lord Henry. "Dorian Gray is my dearest friend," hesaid. "He has a simple and a beautiful nature. Your aunt was quiteright in what she said of him. Don't spoil him for me. Don't try toinfluence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, andhas many marvellous people in it. Don't take [12] away from me the oneperson that makes life absolutely lovely to me, and that gives to myart whatever wonder or charm it possesses. Mind, Harry, I trust you."He spoke very slowly, and the words seemed wrung out of him almostagainst his will.

  "What nonsense you talk!" said Lord Henry, smiling, and, takingHallward by the arm, he almost led him into the house.