The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray was the only novel written by Oscar Wilde.

The Picture of Dorian Gray first appeared as the lead story in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine.

The magazine’s editors feared the story was indecent as submitted, so they censored roughly 500 words, without the knowledge of Oscar Wilde. But even with censorship, the story was still greeted with outrage by British reviewers, some of whom suggested that Wilde should be prosecuted on moral grounds, leading Wilde to defend the novel aggressively in letters to the British press.

Oscar Wilde later revised the story for book publication, making substantial alterations, deleting controversial passages, adding new chapters and including an aphoristic Preface which has since become famous in its own right. The amended version was published by Ward, Lock and Company in April 1891.

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. 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 (whimsically) expresses a desire to do anything to keep his beauty, including selling his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than he. Dorian’s wish is fulfilled, and when he subsequently pursues a life of debauchery, 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.

Synchronicity: A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my lovely friend Annie, or maybe she to me, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and another book. A few days or so later, I walked past a bookshop and both were displayed in the window. Last week, I wanted The Diary of Anne Franks, and found it. Yesterday, sitting in the Castle grounds in Guildford, I was disturbed by rehearsals for The Importance of Being Ernest. Today in Farnham, I find Dorian Gray, which I assume is based on the book.

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