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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Oscar Wilde





The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal

the artist is art's aim. 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. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical

sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.

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. When critics disagree,

the artist is in accord with himself. 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.







The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when

the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden,

there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac,

or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.


From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which

he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes,

Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and

honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed

hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs;

and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted

across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front

of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect,

and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who,

through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile,

seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur

of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass,

or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of

the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive.

The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.


In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length

portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it,

some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward,

whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public

excitement and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.


As the painter looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully

mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed

about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and closing his eyes,

placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his

brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.


"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done,"

said Lord Henry languidly. "You must certainly send it next year

to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar.

Whenever I have gone there, there have been either so many people that I

have not been able to see the pictures, which was dreadful, or so many

pictures that I have not been able to see the people, which was worse.

The Grosvenor is really the only place."


"I don't think I shall send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head

back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford.

"No, I won't send it anywhere."


Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows and looked at him in amazement through

the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls

from his heavy, opium-tainted cigarette. "Not send it anywhere?

My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you

painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation.

As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away.

It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse

than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

A portrait like this would set you far above 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 exhibit it.

I have put too much of myself into it."


Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed.


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


"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil,

I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance

between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair,

and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory

and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you--

well, of course you have an intellectual expression and all that.

But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.

Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys

the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think,

one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid.

Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions.

How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church.

But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at

the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen,

and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful.

Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me,

but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite

sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature who should be

always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always

here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence.

Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like



"You don't understand me, Harry," answered the artist. "Of course I am

not like him. I know that perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry

to look like him. You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth.

There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction,

the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering

steps of kings. It is better not to be different from one's fellows.

The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit

at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory,

they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we

all should live--undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.

They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands.

Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are--my art, whatever it

may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks--we shall all suffer for what the gods

have given us, suffer terribly."


"Dorian Gray? Is that his name?" asked Lord Henry, walking across

the studio 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

their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them.

I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing

that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us.

The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.

When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going.

If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit,

I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance

into one's life. I suppose you think me awfully foolish

about it?"


"Not at all," answered Lord Henry, "not at all, my dear Basil.

You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is

that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.

I never know where my wife is, and my wife never 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 each other the most absurd stories with the most

serious faces. My wife is very good at it--much better, in fact, than I am.

She never gets confused over her dates, and I always do. But when she

does find me out, she makes no row at all. I sometimes wish she would;

but she merely laughs at me."


"I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry,"

said Basil Hallward, strolling towards the door that led into

the garden. "I believe that you are really a very good husband,

but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues.

You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing,

and you never do a wrong 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 the garden

together and ensconced themselves on a long bamboo seat that stood in the

shade of a tall laurel bush. The sunlight slipped over the polished leaves.

In the grass, white daisies were tremulous.


After a pause, Lord Henry pulled out his watch. "I am afraid I

must be going, Basil," he murmured, "and before I go, I insist

on your answering a question I put to you some time ago."


"What is that?" said the painter, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.


"You know quite well."


"I do not, Harry."


"Well, I will tell you what it is. I want you to explain to me why you

won't exhibit Dorian Gray'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

of yourself in it. Now, that is childish."


"Harry," said Basil Hallward, looking him straight in the face,

"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. The reason I will not exhibit

this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my

own soul."


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


"I will tell you," said Hallward; but an expression of perplexity

came over his face.


"I am all expectation, Basil," continued his companion,

glancing at him.


"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the painter;

"and I am afraid you will hardly understand it. Perhaps you will hardly

believe it."


Lord Henry smiled, and leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisy from

the grass and examined it. "I am quite sure I shall understand it,"

he replied, gazing intently at the little golden, white-feathered disk,

"and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is

quite incredible."


The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy lilac-blooms,

with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the languid air.

A grasshopper began to chirrup by the wall, and like a blue thread

a long thin dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze wings.

Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart beating,

and wondered what was coming.


"The story is simply this," said the painter after some time.

"Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's. You know

we poor artists have to show ourselves in society from 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 huge overdressed dowagers and tedious academicians,

I suddenly became conscious 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 that I was growing pale.

A curious sensation of terror came over me. I knew that I

had come face to face with some one whose mere personality

was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would

absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself.

I did not want any external influence in my life.

You know yourself, Harry, how independent I am by nature.

I have always been my own 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 to tell me that I was on the verge

of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that

fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.

I grew afraid and turned to quit the room. It was not conscience

that made me do so: it was a sort of cowardice. I take no

credit to myself for trying to escape."


"Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil.

Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all."


"I don't believe that, Harry, and I don't believe you do either.

However, whatever was my motive--and it may have been pride,

for I used to be very proud--I certainly struggled to the door.

There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon. 'You are not

going to run away so soon, Mr. Hallward?' she screamed out.

You know her curiously shrill 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,

and people with stars and garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic

tiaras and parrot noses. She spoke of me as her dearest friend.

I had only met her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize me.

I believe some picture of mine had made a great success at the time,

at least had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is

the nineteenth-century standard of immortality. Suddenly I found myself

face to face with the young man whose personality had so strangely

stirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes met again.

It was reckless of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce me to him.

Perhaps it was not so reckless, after all. It was simply inevitable.

We would have spoken to each other without any introduction.

I am sure of that. Dorian told me so afterwards. He, too, felt that we

were destined to know each other."


"And how did Lady Brandon describe this wonderful young man?"

asked his companion. "I know she goes in for giving

a rapid precis of all her guests. I remember her bringing

me up to a truculent and red-faced old gentleman covered

all over with orders and ribbons, and hissing into my ear,

in a tragic whisper which must have been perfectly audible

to everybody in the room, the most astounding details.

I simply fled. I like to find out people for myself.

But Lady Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer

treats his goods. She either explains them entirely away,

or tells one everything about them except what one wants

to know."


"Poor Lady Brandon! You are hard on her, Harry!" said Hallward listlessly.


"My dear fellow, she tried to found a salon, and only succeeded

in opening a restaurant. How could I admire her? But tell me,

what did she say about Mr. Dorian Gray?"


"Oh, something like, 'Charming boy--poor dear mother and I

absolutely inseparable. Quite forget what he does--afraid he--

doesn't do anything--oh, yes, plays the piano--or is it

the violin, dear Mr. Gray?' Neither of us could help laughing,

and we became friends at once."


"Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship,

and it is far the best ending for one," said the young lord,

plucking another daisy.


Hallward shook his head. "You don't understand what friendship is, Harry,"

he murmured--"or what enmity is, for that matter. You like every one;

that is to say, you are indifferent to every one."


"How horribly unjust of you!" cried Lord Henry, tilting his hat back

and looking up at the little clouds that, like ravelled skeins of glossy

white silk, were drifting across the hollowed turquoise of the summer sky.

"Yes; horribly unjust of you. I make a great difference between people.

I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for

their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.

A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not

got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power,

and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me?

I think it is rather vain."


"I should think it was, Harry. But according to your category I

must be 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."


"Harry!" exclaimed Hallward, frowning.


"My dear fellow, I am not quite serious. But I can't help detesting

my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us

can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.

I quite sympathize with the rage of the English democracy against

what they call the vices of the upper orders. The masses feel

that drunkenness, stupidity, and immorality should be their own

special property, and that if any one of us makes an ass of himself,

he is poaching on their preserves. When poor Southwark got

into the divorce court, their indignation was quite magnificent.

And yet I don't suppose that ten per cent of the proletariat

live correctly."


"I don't agree with a single word that you have said, and, what is more,

Harry, I feel sure you don't either."


Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard and tapped the toe

of his patent-leather boot with a tasselled ebony cane.

"How English you are Basil! That is the second time you

have made that observation. If one puts forward an idea

to a true Englishman--always a rash thing to do--he never

dreams of considering whether the idea is right or wrong.

The only thing he considers of any importance is whether one

believes it oneself. 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. However, I don't propose

to discuss politics, sociology, or metaphysics with you.

I like persons better than principles, and I like persons

with no principles better than anything else in the world.

Tell me more about Mr. Dorian Gray. How often do you

see him?"


"Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day.

He is absolutely necessary to me."


"How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything

but your art."


"He is all my art to me now," said the painter gravely.

"I sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any

importance in the world's history. The first is the appearance

of a new medium for art, and the second is the appearance

of a new personality for art also. What the invention

of oil-painting was to the Venetians, the face of Antinous

was to late Greek 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, sketch from him. Of course, I have done all that.

But he is much more to me than a model or a sitter.

I won't tell you that I am dissatisfied with what I have done

of him, or that his beauty is such that art cannot express it.

There is nothing that art cannot express, and I know that

the work I have done, since I met Dorian Gray, is good work,

is the best work of my life. But in some curious way--I wonder

will you understand me?--his personality has suggested to me

an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode of style.

I see things differently, I think of them differently.

I can now recreate life in a way that was hidden from me before.

'A dream of form in days of thought'--who is it who says that?

I forget; but it is what Dorian Gray has been to me.

The merely visible presence of this lad--for he seems to me

little more than a lad, though he is really over twenty--

his merely visible presence--ah! I wonder can you realize

all that that means? Unconsciously he defines for me

the lines of a fresh school, a school that is to have in it

all the passion of the romantic spirit, all the perfection

of the spirit that is Greek. The harmony of soul and body--

how much that is! We in our madness have separated the two,

and have invented a realism that is vulgar, an ideality that

is void. Harry! if you only knew what Dorian Gray is to me!

You remember that landscape of mine, for which Agnew offered

me such a huge price but which I would not part with?

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. Some subtle influence passed from him to me,

and for the first time in my life I saw in the plain

woodland the wonder I had always looked for and always



"Basil, this is extraordinary! I must see Dorian Gray."


Hallward got up from the seat and walked up and down the garden.

After some time he came back. "Harry," he said, "Dorian Gray

is to me simply a motive in art. You might see nothing in him.

I see everything in him. He is never more present in my work than

when no image of him is there. He is a suggestion, as I have said,

of a new manner. I find him in the curves of certain lines,

in the loveliness and subtleties of certain colours.

That is all."


"Then why won't you exhibit his portrait?" asked Lord Henry.


"Because, without intending it, I have put into it some expression

of all this curious artistic idolatry, of which, of course,

I have never cared to speak to him. He knows nothing about it.

He shall never know anything about it. But the world might guess it,

and I will not bare my soul to their shallow prying eyes.

My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much

of myself in the thing, Harry--too much of myself!"


"Poets are not so scrupulous as you are. They know how useful passion

is for publication. Nowadays a broken heart will run to many editions."


"I hate them for it," cried Hallward. "An artist should create

beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.

We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form

of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty.

Some day I will show the world what it is; and for that reason the world

shall never see my portrait of Dorian Gray."


"I think you are wrong, Basil, but I won't argue with you.

It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue. Tell me,

is Dorian Gray very fond of you?"


The painter considered for a few moments. "He likes me,"

he answered after a pause; "I know he likes me. Of course I

flatter him dreadfully. I find a strange pleasure in saying

things to him that I know I shall be sorry for having said.

As a rule, he is charming to me, and we sit in the studio and talk

of a thousand things. Now and then, however, he is horribly

thoughtless, and seems to take a real delight in giving me pain.

Then I feel, Harry, that I have given away my whole soul to some

one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat,

a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for a

summer's day."


"Days in summer, Basil, are apt to linger," murmured Lord Henry.

"Perhaps you will tire sooner than he will. It is a sad thing to think of,

but there is no doubt that genius lasts longer than beauty. That accounts

for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves.

In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures,

and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping

our place. The thoroughly well-informed man--that is the modern ideal.

And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing.

It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything

priced above its proper value. I think you will tire first, all the same.

Some day you will look at your friend, and he will seem to you to be a little

out of drawing, or you won't like his tone of colour, or something. You will

bitterly reproach him in your own heart, and seriously think that he has

behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly

cold and indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you.

What you have told me is quite a romance, a romance of art one might call it,

and the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one

so unromantic."


"Harry, don't talk like that. As long as I live, the personality

of Dorian Gray will dominate me. You can't feel what I feel.

You change too often."


"Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it.

Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love:

it is the faithless who know love's tragedies." And Lord

Henry struck a light on a dainty silver case and began

to smoke a cigarette with a self-conscious and satisfied air,

as if he had summed up the world in a phrase. There was

a rustle of chirruping sparrows in the green lacquer leaves

of the ivy, and the blue cloud-shadows chased themselves across

the grass like swallows. How pleasant it was in the garden!

And how delightful other people's emotions were!--

much more delightful than their ideas, it seemed to him.

One's own soul, and the passions of one's friends--those were

the fascinating things in life. He pictured to himself

with silent amusement the tedious luncheon that he had missed

by staying so long with Basil Hallward. Had he gone to his

aunt's, he would have been sure to have met Lord Goodbody there,

and the whole conversation would have been about the feeding

of the poor and the necessity for model lodging-houses. 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.

It was charming to have escaped all that! As he thought of his aunt,

an idea seemed to strike him. He turned 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.


"Don't look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt, Lady Agatha's.

She told me she had discovered a wonderful young man who was going

to help her in the East End, and that his name was Dorian Gray.

I am bound to state that she never told me he was good-looking. Women

have no appreciation of good looks; at least, good women have not.

She said that he was very earnest and had a beautiful nature.

I at once pictured to myself a creature with spectacles and lank hair,

horribly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known it

was your friend."


"I am very glad you didn't, Harry."




"I don't want you to meet him."


"You don't want me to meet him?"




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

coming into the garden.


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


The painter turned to his servant, who stood blinking in the sunlight.

"Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I shall be in in a few moments."

The man bowed and went up the walk.


Then he looked at Lord Henry. "Dorian Gray is my dearest friend,"

he said. "He has a simple and a beautiful nature. Your aunt

was quite right in what she said of him. Don't spoil him.

Don't try to influence him. Your influence would be bad.

The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it.

Don't take away from me the one person who gives to my art

whatever charm it possesses: my life as an artist depends

on him. Mind, Harry, I trust you." He spoke very slowly,

and the words seemed wrung out of him almost against

his will.


"What nonsense you talk!" said Lord Henry, smiling, and taking Hallward

by the arm, he almost led him into the house.





As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano,

with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann's

"Forest Scenes." "You must lend me these, Basil," he cried.

"I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming."


"That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian."


"Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don't want a life-sized portrait

of myself," answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool

in a wilful, petulant manner. When he caught sight of Lord Henry,

a faint blush coloured his cheeks for a moment, and he started up.

"I beg your pardon, Basil, but I didn't know you had any one

with you."


"This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian, an old Oxford friend of mine.

I have just been telling him what a capital sitter you were,

and now you have spoiled everything."


"You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr. Gray,"

said Lord Henry, stepping forward and extending his hand.

"My aunt has often spoken to me about you. You are one of

her favourites, and, I am afraid, one of her victims also."


"I am in Lady Agatha's black books at present," answered Dorian

with a funny look of penitence. "I promised to go to a club in

Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it.

We were to have played a duet together--three duets, I believe.

I don't know what she will say to me. I am far too frightened

to call."


"Oh, I will make your peace with my aunt. She is quite devoted to you.

And I don't think it really matters about your not being there. The audience

probably thought it was a duet. When Aunt Agatha sits down to the piano,

she makes quite enough noise for two people."


"That is very horrid to her, and not very nice to me,"

answered Dorian, laughing.


Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome,

with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp

gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once.

All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth's passionate purity.

One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil

Hallward worshipped him.


"You are too charming to go in for philanthropy, Mr. Gray--far too charming."

And Lord Henry flung himself down on the divan and opened his cigarette-case.


The painter had been busy mixing his colours and getting his brushes ready.

He was looking worried, and when he heard Lord Henry's last remark, he glanced

at him, hesitated for a moment, and then said, "Harry, I want to finish this

picture to-day. Would you think it awfully rude of me if I asked you to

go away?"


Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray. "Am I to go, Mr. Gray?"

he asked.


"Oh, please don't, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky moods,

and I can't bear him when he sulks. Besides, I want you to tell me why I

should not go in for philanthropy."


"I don't know that I shall tell you that, Mr. Gray. It is so

tedious a subject that one would have to talk seriously about it.

But I certainly shall not run away, now that you have asked me to stop.

You don't really mind, Basil, do you? You have often told me that you

liked your sitters to have some one to chat to."


Hallward bit his lip. "If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay.

Dorian's whims are laws to everybody, except himself."


Lord Henry took up his hat and gloves. "You are very pressing, Basil, but I

am afraid I must go. I have promised to meet a man at the Orleans.

Good-bye, Mr. Gray. Come and see me some afternoon in Curzon Street.

I am nearly always at home at five o'clock. Write to me when you are coming.

I should be sorry to miss you."


"Basil," cried Dorian Gray, "if Lord Henry Wotton goes, I shall go, too.

You never open your lips while you are painting, and it is horribly dull

standing on a platform and trying to look pleasant. Ask him to stay.

I insist upon it."


"Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me," said Hallward,

gazing intently at his picture. "It is quite true, I never talk

when I am working, and never listen either, and it must be dreadfully

tedious for my unfortunate sitters. I beg you to stay."


"But what about my man at the Orleans?"


The painter laughed. "I don't think there will be any difficulty about that.

Sit down again, Harry. And now, Dorian, get up on the platform, and don't

move about too much, or pay any attention to what Lord Henry says.

He has a very bad influence over all his friends, with the single exception

of myself."


Dorian Gray stepped up on the dais with the air of a young Greek martyr,

and made a little moue of discontent to Lord Henry, to whom he had rather

taken a fancy. He was so unlike Basil. They made a delightful contrast.

And he had such a beautiful voice. After a few moments he said to him,

"Have you really a very bad influence, Lord Henry? As bad as Basil says?"


"There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray.

All influence is immoral--immoral from the scientific point

of view."




"Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul.

He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions.

His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things

as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music,

an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life

is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what

each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays.

They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes

to one's self. Of course, they are charitable. They feed the hungry

and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked.

Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it.

The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God,

which is the secret of religion--these are the two things that govern us.

And yet--"


"Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy,"

said the painter, deep in his work and conscious only that a look had come

into the lad's face that he had never seen there before.


"And yet," continued Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice,

and with that graceful wave of the hand that was always so

characteristic of him, and that he had even in his Eton days,

"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully

and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to

every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world

would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all

the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal--

to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be.

But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself.

The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the

self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals.

Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind

and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin,

for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then

but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things

it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous

laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said

that the great events of the world take place in the brain.

It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins

of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself,

with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had

passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you

with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might

stain your cheek with shame--"


"Stop!" faltered Dorian Gray, "stop! you bewilder me.

I don't know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I

cannot find it. Don't speak. Let me think. Or, rather, let me

try not to think."


For nearly ten minutes he stood there, motionless, with parted

lips and eyes strangely bright. He was dimly conscious

that entirely fresh influences were at work within him.

Yet they seemed to him to have come really from himself.

The few words that Basil's friend had said to him--words spoken

by chance, no doubt, and with wilful paradox in them--

had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before,

but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to

curious pulses.


Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times.

But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather

another chaos, that it created in us. Words! Mere words!

How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could

not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them!

They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things,

and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute.

Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?


Yes; there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood.

He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-coloured to him.

It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not

known it?


With his subtle smile, Lord Henry watched him. He knew the precise

psychological moment when to say nothing. He felt intensely interested.

He was amazed at the sudden impression that his words had produced,

and, remembering a book that he had read when he was sixteen,

a book which had revealed to him much that he had not known before,

he wondered whether Dorian Gray was passing through a similar experience.

He had merely shot an arrow into the air. Had it hit the mark?

How fascinating the lad was!


Hallward painted away with that marvellous bold touch of his,

that had the true refinement and perfect delicacy that in art,

at any rate comes only from strength. He was unconscious of

the silence.


"Basil, I am tired of standing," cried Dorian Gray suddenly.

"I must go out and sit in the garden. The air is stifling here."


"My dear fellow, I am so sorry. When I am painting,

I can't think of anything else. But you never sat better.

You were perfectly still. And I have caught the effect I wanted--

the half-parted lips and the bright look in the eyes.

I don't know what Harry has been saying to you, but he has

certainly made you have the most wonderful expression.

I suppose he has been paying you compliments. You mustn't believe

a word that he says."


"He has certainly not been paying me compliments. Perhaps that is the reason

that I don't believe anything he has told me."


"You know you believe it all," said Lord Henry, looking at him with

his dreamy languorous eyes. "I will go out to the garden with you.

It is horribly hot in the studio. Basil, let us have something iced

to drink, something with strawberries in it."


"Certainly, Harry. Just touch the bell, and when Parker comes I

will tell him what you want. I have got to work up this background,

so I will join you later on. Don't keep Dorian too long.

I have never been in better form for painting than I am to-day. This

is going to be my masterpiece. It is my masterpiece as it stands."


Lord Henry went out to the garden and found Dorian Gray burying his face in

the great cool lilac-blossoms, feverishly drinking in their perfume as if it

had been wine. He came close to him and put his hand upon his shoulder.

"You are quite right to do that," he murmured. "Nothing can cure the soul

but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul."


The lad started and drew back. He was bareheaded, and the leaves

had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads.

There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they

are suddenly awakened. His finely chiselled nostrils quivered,

and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left

them trembling.


"Yes," continued Lord Henry, "that is one of the great secrets of life--

to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul.

You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as

you know less than you want to know."


Dorian Gray frowned and turned his head away. He could not help

liking the tall, graceful young man who was standing by him.

His romantic, olive-coloured face and worn expression interested him.

There was something in his low languid voice that was absolutely fascinating.

His cool, white, flowerlike hands, even, had a curious charm.

They moved, as he spoke, like music, and seemed to have a language

of their own. But he felt afraid of him, and ashamed of being afraid.

Why had it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself?

He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them

had never altered him. Suddenly there had come some one across his life

who seemed to have disclosed to him life's mystery. And, yet, what was

there to be afraid of? He was not a schoolboy or a girl. It was absurd to

be frightened.


"Let us go and sit in the shade," said Lord Henry. "Parker has

brought out the drinks, and if you stay any longer in this glare,

you will be quite spoiled, and Basil will never paint you again.

You really must not allow yourself to become sunburnt. It would

be unbecoming."


"What can it matter?" cried Dorian Gray, laughing, as he sat

down on the seat at the end of the garden.


"It should matter everything to you, Mr. Gray."




"Because you have the most marvellous youth, and youth is the one thing

worth having."


"I don't feel that, Lord Henry."


"No, you don't feel it now. Some day, when you are old

and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead

with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its

hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.

Now, wherever you go, you charm the world. Will it always

be so? . . . You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray.

Don't frown. You have. And beauty is a form of genius--

is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.

It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight,

or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver

shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine

right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.

You smile? Ah! when you have lost it you won't smile.

. . . People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial.

That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial

as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders.

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

. . . Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you.

But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only

a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully.

When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you

will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you,

or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that

the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats.

Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful.

Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses.

You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed.

You will suffer horribly.... Ah! realize your youth

while you have it. Don't squander the gold of your days,

listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure,

or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common,

and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals,

of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you!

Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for

new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. . . . A new Hedonism--

that is what our century wants. You might be its visible symbol.

With your personality there is nothing you could not do.

The world belongs to you for a season. . . . The moment I met

you I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are,

of what you really might be. There was so much in you that

charmed me that I felt I must tell you something about yourself.

I thought how tragic it would be if you were wasted. For there is

such a little time that your youth will last--such a little time.

The common hill-flowers wither, but they blossom again.

The laburnum will be as yellow next June as it is now.

In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year

after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars.

But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us

at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot.

We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory

of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the

exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.

Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but



Dorian Gray listened, open-eyed and wondering. The spray

of lilac fell from his hand upon the gravel. A furry bee came

and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble

all over the oval stellated globe of the tiny blossoms.

He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things

that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid,

or when we are stirred by some new emotion for which we

cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies

us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield.

After a time the bee flew away. He saw it creeping into the stained

trumpet of a Tyrian convolvulus. The flower seemed to quiver,

and then swayed gently to and fro.


Suddenly the painter appeared at the door of the studio and made staccato

signs for them to come in. They turned to each other and smiled.


"I am waiting," he cried. "Do come in. The light is quite perfect,

and you can bring your drinks."


They rose up and sauntered down the walk together. Two green-and-white

butterflies fluttered past them, and in the pear-tree at the corner

of the garden a thrush began to sing.


"You are glad you have met me, Mr. Gray," said Lord Henry,

looking at him.


"Yes, I am glad now. I wonder shall I always be glad?"


"Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it.

Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make

it last for ever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference

between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a

little longer."


As they entered the studio, Dorian Gray put his hand upon Lord Henry's arm.

"In that case, let our friendship be a caprice," he murmured, flushing at his

own boldness, then stepped up on the platform and resumed his pose.


Lord Henry flung himself into a large wicker arm-chair and watched him.

The sweep and dash of the brush on the canvas made the only sound

that broke the stillness, except when, now and then, Hallward stepped

back to look at his work from a distance. In the slanting beams

that streamed through the open doorway the dust danced and was golden.

The heavy scent of the roses seemed to brood over everything.


After about a quarter of an hour Hallward stopped painting,

looked for a long time at Dorian Gray, and then for a long

time at the picture, biting the end of one of his huge brushes

and frowning. "It is quite finished," he cried at last,

and stooping down he wrote his name in long vermilion letters on

the left-hand corner of the canvas.


Lord Henry came over and examined the picture. It was certainly

a wonderful work of art, and a wonderful likeness as well.


"My dear fellow, I congratulate you most warmly," he said.

"It is the finest portrait of modern times. Mr. Gray, come over

and look at yourself."


The lad started, as if awakened from some dream.


"Is it really finished?" he murmured, stepping down from the platform.


"Quite finished," said the painter. "And you have sat splendidly

to-day. I am awfully obliged to you."


"That is entirely due to me," broke in Lord Henry. "Isn't it,

Mr. Gray?"


Dorian made no answer, but passed listlessly in front of his

picture and turned towards it. When he saw it he drew back,

and his cheeks flushed for a moment with pleasure. A look of joy came

into his eyes, as if he had recognized himself for the first time.

He stood there motionless and in wonder, dimly conscious that Hallward

was speaking to him, but not catching the meaning of his words.

The sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation.

He had never felt it before. Basil Hallward's compliments had seemed

to him to be merely the charming exaggeration of friendship.

He had listened to them, laughed at them, forgotten them.

They had not influenced his nature. Then had come Lord Henry

Wotton with his strange panegyric on youth, his terrible warning

of its brevity. That had stirred him at the time, and now,

as he stood gazing at the shadow of his own loveliness, the full

reality of the description flashed across him. Yes, there would

be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim

and colourless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed.

The scarlet would pass away from his lips and the gold steal from

his hair. The life that was to make his soul would mar his body.

He would become dreadful, hideous, and uncouth.


As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck through him

like a knife and made each delicate fibre of his nature quiver.

His eyes deepened into amethyst, and across them came a mist

of tears. He felt as if a hand of ice had been laid upon

his heart.


"Don't you like it?" cried Hallward at last, stung a little

by the lad's silence, not understanding what it meant.


"Of course he likes it," said Lord Henry. "Who wouldn't like it?

It is one of the greatest things in modern art. I will give you

anything you like to ask for it. I must have it."


"It is not my property, Harry."


"Whose property is it?"


"Dorian's, of course," answered the painter.


"He is a very lucky fellow."


"How sad it is!" murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon

his own portrait. "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible,

and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young.

It will never be older than this particular day of June.

. . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was

to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old!

For that--for that--I would give everything! Yes, there is

nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul

for that!"


"You would hardly care for such an arrangement, Basil," cried Lord

Henry, laughing. "It would be rather hard lines on your work."


"I should object very strongly, Harry," said Hallward.


Dorian Gray turned and looked at him. "I believe you would, Basil.

You like your art better than your friends. I am no more to you

than a green bronze figure. Hardly as much, I dare say."


The painter stared in amazement. It was so unlike Dorian to speak like that.

What had happened? He seemed quite angry. His face was flushed and his

cheeks burning.


"Yes," he continued, "I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your

silver Faun. You will like them always. How long will you like me?

Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose. I know, now, that when one

loses one's good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything.

Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry Wotton is perfectly right.

Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I

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