Part 1 out of 5
The Picture of Dorian Gray
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray. "Am I to go, Mr. Gray?"
"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
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
"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.
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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,
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
"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
"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
"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
shall kill myself."
Hallward turned pale and caught his hand. "Dorian! Dorian!" he cried,
"don't talk like that. I have never had such a friend as you, and I shall
never have such another. You are not jealous of material things, are you?--
you who are finer than any of them!"
"I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die.
I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me.
Why should it keep what I must lose? Every moment that passes
takes something from me and gives something to it. Oh, if it
were only the other way! If the picture could change,
and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it?
It will mock me some day--mock me horribly!" The hot tears
welled into his eyes; he tore his hand away and, flinging himself
on the divan, he buried his face in the cushions, as though he
"This is your doing, Harry," said the painter bitterly.
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "It is the real Dorian Gray--
that is all."
"It is not."
"If it is not, what have I to do with it?"
"You should have gone away when I asked you," he muttered.
"I stayed when you asked me," was Lord Henry's answer.
"Harry, I can't quarrel with my two best friends at once,
but between you both you have made me hate the finest
piece of work I have ever done, and I will destroy it.
What is it but canvas and colour? I will not let it come across
our three lives and mar them."
Dorian Gray lifted his golden head from the pillow, and with pallid face and
tear-stained eyes, looked at him as he walked over to the deal painting-table
that was set beneath the high curtained window. What was he doing there?
His fingers were straying about among the litter of tin tubes and dry brushes,
seeking for something. Yes, it was for the long palette-knife, with its thin
blade of lithe steel. He had found it at last. He was going to rip up
With a stifled sob the lad leaped from the couch, and, rushing over
to Hallward, tore the knife out of his hand, and flung it to the end
of the studio. "Don't, Basil, don't!" he cried. "It would be murder!"
"I am glad you appreciate my work at last, Dorian," said the painter coldly
when he had recovered from his surprise. "I never thought you would."
"Appreciate it? I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself.
I feel that."
"Well, as soon as you are dry, you shall be varnished, and framed,
and sent home. Then you can do what you like with yourself."
And he walked across the room and rang the bell for tea.
"You will have tea, of course, Dorian? And so will you, Harry?
Or do you object to such simple pleasures?"
"I adore simple pleasures," said Lord Henry. "They are
the last refuge of the complex. But I don't like scenes,
except on the stage. What absurd fellows you are, both of you!
I wonder who it was defined man as a rational animal.
It was the most premature definition ever given. Man is many things,
but he is not rational. I am glad he is not, after all--
though I wish you chaps would not squabble over the picture.
You had much better let me have it, Basil. This silly boy doesn't
really want it, and I really do."
"If you let any one have it but me, Basil, I shall never forgive you!"
cried Dorian Gray; "and I don't allow people to call me a silly boy."
"You know the picture is yours, Dorian. I gave it to you before it existed."
"And you know you have been a little silly, Mr. Gray, and that you
don't really object to being reminded that you are extremely young."
"I should have objected very strongly this morning, Lord Henry."
"Ah! this morning! You have lived since then."
There came a knock at the door, and the butler entered with a
laden tea-tray and set it down upon a small Japanese table.
There was a rattle of cups and saucers and the hissing of a fluted
Georgian urn. Two globe-shaped china dishes were brought
in by a page. Dorian Gray went over and poured out the tea.
The two men sauntered languidly to the table and examined what was
under the covers.
"Let us go to the theatre to-night," said Lord Henry.
"There is sure to be something on, somewhere. I have promised
to dine at White's, but it is only with an old friend,
so I can send him a wire to say that I am ill, or that I am
prevented from coming in consequence of a subsequent engagement.
I think that would be a rather nice excuse: it would have all
the surprise of candour."
"It is such a bore putting on one's dress-clothes," muttered Hallward.
"And, when one has them on, they are so horrid."
"Yes," answered Lord Henry dreamily, "the costume of the nineteenth
century is detestable. It is so sombre, so depressing. Sin is the only
real colour-element left in modern life."
"You really must not say things like that before Dorian, Harry."
"Before which Dorian? The one who is pouring out tea for us,
or the one in the picture?"
"I should like to come to the theatre with you, Lord Henry,"
said the lad.
"Then you shall come; and you will come, too, Basil, won't you?"
"I can't, really. I would sooner not. I have a lot of work to do."
"Well, then, you and I will go alone, Mr. Gray."
"I should like that awfully."
The painter bit his lip and walked over, cup in hand, to the picture.
"I shall stay with the real Dorian," he said, sadly.
"Is it the real Dorian?" cried the original of the portrait,
strolling across to him. "Am I really like that?"
"Yes; you are just like that."
"How wonderful, Basil!"
"At least you are like it in appearance. But it will never alter,"
sighed Hallward. "That is something."
"What a fuss people make about fidelity!" exclaimed Lord Henry.
"Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiology.
It has nothing to do with our own will. Young men want to
be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot:
that is all one can say."
"Don't go to the theatre to-night, Dorian," said Hallward.
"Stop and dine with me."
"I can't, Basil."
"Because I have promised Lord Henry Wotton to go with him."
"He won't like you the better for keeping your promises.
He always breaks his own. I beg you not to go."
Dorian Gray laughed and shook his head.
"I entreat you."
The lad hesitated, and looked over at Lord Henry, who was watching
them from the tea-table with an amused smile.
"I must go, Basil," he answered.
"Very well," said Hallward, and he went over and laid down his
cup on the tray. "It is rather late, and, as you have to dress,
you had better lose no time. Good-bye, Harry. Good-bye, Dorian.
Come and see me soon. Come to-morrow."
"You won't forget?"
"No, of course not," cried Dorian.
"And ... Harry!"
"Remember what I asked you, when we were in the garden this morning."
"I have forgotten it."
"I trust you."
"I wish I could trust myself," said Lord Henry, laughing. "Come, Mr. Gray,
my hansom is outside, and I can drop you at your own place. Good-bye, Basil.
It has been a most interesting afternoon."
As the door closed behind them, the painter flung himself down on a sofa,
and a look of pain came into his face.
At half-past twelve next day Lord Henry Wotton strolled from Curzon
Street over to the Albany to call on his uncle, Lord Fermor,
a genial if somewhat rough-mannered old bachelor, whom the outside
world called selfish because it derived no particular benefit
from him, but who was considered generous by Society as he fed
the people who amused him. His father had been our ambassador
at Madrid when Isabella was young and Prim unthought of,
but had retired from the diplomatic service in a capricious
moment of annoyance on not being offered the Embassy at Paris,
a post to which he considered that he was fully entitled
by reason of his birth, his indolence, the good English
of his dispatches, and his inordinate passion for pleasure.
The son, who had been his father's secretary, had resigned along
with his chief, somewhat foolishly as was thought at the time,
and on succeeding some months later to the title, had set
himself to the serious study of the great aristocratic art
of doing absolutely nothing. He had two large town houses,
but preferred to live in chambers as it was less trouble,
and took most of his meals at his club. He paid some attention
to the management of his collieries in the Midland counties,
excusing himself for this taint of industry on the ground that
the one advantage of having coal was that it enabled a gentleman
to afford the decency of burning wood on his own hearth.
In politics he was a Tory, except when the Tories were in office,
during which period he roundly abused them for being a pack
of Radicals. He was a hero to his valet, who bullied him,
and a terror to most of his relations, whom he bullied in turn.
Only England could have produced him, and he always said
that the country was going to the dogs. His principles
were out of date, but there was a good deal to be said for
When Lord Henry entered the room, he found his uncle sitting in a rough
shooting-coat, smoking a cheroot and grumbling over The Times.
"Well, Harry," said the old gentleman, "what brings you out so early?
I thought you dandies never got up till two, and were not visible
"Pure family affection, I assure you, Uncle George. I want to get
something out of you."
"Money, I suppose," said Lord Fermor, making a wry face.
"Well, sit down and tell me all about it. Young people,
nowadays, imagine that money is everything."
"Yes," murmured Lord Henry, settling his button-hole in his coat;
"and when they grow older they know it. But I don't want money.
It is only people who pay their bills who want that, Uncle George,
and I never pay mine. Credit is the capital of a younger son,
and one lives charmingly upon it. Besides, I always deal with
Dartmoor's tradesmen, and consequently they never bother me.
What I want is information: not useful information, of course;
"Well, I can tell you anything that is in an English Blue Book,
Harry, although those fellows nowadays write a lot of nonsense.
When I was in the Diplomatic, things were much better.
But I hear they let them in now by examination. What can
you expect? 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
"Mr. Dorian Gray does not belong to Blue Books, Uncle George,"
said Lord Henry languidly.
"Mr. Dorian Gray? Who is he?" asked Lord Fermor, knitting his bushy
"That is what I have come to learn, Uncle George. Or rather,
I know who he is. He is the last Lord Kelso's grandson.
His mother was a Devereux, Lady Margaret Devereaux.
I want you to tell me about his mother. What was she like?
Whom did she marry? You have known nearly everybody
in your time, so you might have known her. I am very much
interested in Mr. Gray at present. I have only just
"Kelso's grandson!" echoed the old gentleman. "Kelso's grandson! ... Of
course.... I knew his mother intimately. I believe I was at her christening.
She was an extraordinarily beautiful girl, Margaret Devereux, and made
all the men frantic by running away with a penniless young fellow--
a mere nobody, sir, a subaltern in a foot regiment, or something
of that kind. Certainly. I remember the whole thing as if it
happened yesterday. The poor chap was killed in a duel at Spa a few
months after the marriage. There was an ugly story about it.
They said Kelso got some rascally adventurer, some Belgian brute,
to insult his son-in-law in public--paid him, sir, to do it, paid him--
and that the fellow spitted his man as if he had been a pigeon.
The thing was hushed up, but, egad, Kelso ate his chop alone at the club
for some time afterwards. He brought his daughter back with him, I was told,
and she never spoke to him again. Oh, yes; it was a bad business.
The girl died, too, died within a year. So she left a son, did she?
I had forgotten that. What sort of boy is he? If he is like his mother,
he must be a good-looking chap."
"He is very good-looking," assented Lord Henry.
"I hope he will fall into proper hands," continued the old man.
"He should have a pot of money waiting for him if Kelso
did the right thing by him. His mother had money, too.
All the Selby property came to her, through her grandfather.
Her grandfather hated Kelso, thought him a mean dog.
He was, too. Came to Madrid once when I was there. Egad, I was
ashamed of him. The Queen used to ask me about the English noble
who was always quarrelling with the cabmen about their fares.
They made quite a story of it. I didn't dare show my face at Court
for a month. I hope he treated his grandson better than he did
"I don't know," answered Lord Henry. "I fancy that the boy will be well off.
He is not of age yet. He has Selby, I know. He told me so. And . . . his
mother was very beautiful?"
"Margaret Devereux was one of the loveliest creatures I ever saw, Harry.
What on earth induced her to behave as she did, I never could understand.
She could have married anybody she chose. Carlington was mad after her.
She was romantic, though. All the women of that family were.
The men were a poor lot, but, egad! the women were wonderful.
Carlington went on his knees to her. Told me so himself. She laughed at him,
and there wasn't a girl in London at the time who wasn't after him.
And by the way, Harry, talking about silly marriages, what is this humbug your
father tells me about Dartmoor wanting to marry an American? Ain't English
girls good enough for him?"
"It is rather fashionable to marry Americans just now, Uncle George."
"I'll back English women against the world, Harry," said Lord Fermor,
striking the table with his fist.
"The betting is on the Americans."
"They don't last, I am told," muttered his uncle.
"A long engagement exhausts them, but they are capital at a steeplechase.
They take things flying. I don't think Dartmoor has a chance."
"Who are her people?" grumbled the old gentleman. "Has she got any?"
Lord Henry shook his head. "American girls are as clever at concealing
their parents, as English women are at concealing their past," he said,
rising to go.
"They are pork-packers, I suppose?"
"I hope so, Uncle George, for Dartmoor's sake. I am told
that pork-packing is the most lucrative profession in America,
"Is she pretty?"
"She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do.
It is the secret of their charm."
"Why can't these American women stay in their own country?
They are always telling us that it is the paradise for women."
"It is. That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively
anxious to get out of it," said Lord Henry. "Good-bye, Uncle George.
I shall be late for lunch, if I stop any longer. Thanks for giving me
the information I wanted. I always like to know everything about my
new friends, and nothing about my old ones."
"Where are you lunching, Harry?"
"At Aunt Agatha's. I have asked myself and Mr. Gray.
He is her latest protege."
"Humph! tell your Aunt Agatha, Harry, not to bother me any more with
her charity appeals. I am sick of them. Why, the good woman thinks
that I have nothing to do but to write cheques for her silly fads."
"All right, Uncle George, I'll tell her, but it won't have any effect.
Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their
The old gentleman growled approvingly and rang the bell for his servant.
Lord Henry passed up the low arcade into Burlington Street and turned his
steps in the direction of Berkeley Square.
So that was the story of Dorian Gray's parentage.
Crudely as it had been told to him, it had yet stirred him
by its suggestion of a strange, almost modern romance.
A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion.
A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous,
treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, and then
a child born in pain. The mother snatched away by death,
the boy left to solitude and the tyranny of an old and
loveless man. Yes; it was an interesting background.
It posed the lad, made him more perfect, as it were. Behind every
exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.
Worlds had to be in travail, that the meanest flower might blow.
. . . And how charming he had been at dinner the night before,
as with startled eyes and lips parted in frightened pleasure
he had sat opposite to him at the club, the red candleshades
staining to a richer rose the wakening wonder of his face.
Talking to him was like playing upon an exquisite violin.
He answered to every touch and thrill of the bow. . . . There
was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence.
No other activity was like it. To project one's soul into some
gracious form, and let it tarry there for a moment; to hear one's
own intellectual views echoed back to one with all the added
music of passion and youth; to convey one's temperament into
another as though it were a subtle fluid or a strange perfume:
there was a real joy in that--perhaps the most satisfying
joy left to us in an age so limited and vulgar as our own,
an age grossly carnal in its pleasures, and grossly common
in its aims.... He was a marvellous type, too, this lad,
whom by so curious a chance he had met in Basil's studio,
or could be fashioned into a marvellous type, at any rate.
Grace was his, and the white purity of boyhood, and beauty such
as old Greek marbles kept for us. There was nothing that one
could not do with him. He could be made a Titan or a toy.
What a pity it was that such beauty was destined to fade!
. . . And Basil? From a psychological point of view,
how interesting he was! The new manner in art, the fresh
mode of looking at life, suggested so strangely by the merely
visible presence of one who was unconscious of it all;
the silent spirit that dwelt in dim woodland, and walked unseen
in open field, suddenly showing herself, Dryadlike and not afraid,
because in his soul who sought for her there had been wakened
that wonderful vision to which alone are wonderful things revealed;
the mere shapes and patterns of things becoming, as it were,
refined, and gaining a kind of symbolical value, as though
they were themselves patterns of some other and more perfect
form whose shadow they made real: how strange it all was!
He remembered something like it in history. Was it not Plato,
that artist in thought, who had first analyzed it?
Was it not Buonarotti who had carved it in the coloured marbles
of a sonnet-sequence? But in our own century it was strange.
. . . Yes; he would try to be to Dorian Gray what, without knowing it,
the lad was to the painter who had fashioned the wonderful portrait.
He would seek to dominate him--had already, indeed,
half done so. He would make that wonderful spirit his own.
There was something fascinating in this son of love and
Suddenly he stopped and glanced up at the houses. He found that he had
passed his aunt's some distance, and, smiling to himself, turned back.
When he entered the somewhat sombre hall, the butler told him that they
had gone in to lunch. He gave one of the footmen his hat and stick
and passed into the dining-room.
"Late as usual, Harry," cried his aunt, shaking her head at him.
He invented a facile excuse, and having taken the vacant seat
next to her, looked round to see who was there. Dorian bowed
to him shyly from the end of the table, a flush of pleasure
stealing into his cheek. Opposite was the Duchess of Harley,
a lady of admirable good-nature and good temper, much liked
by every one who knew her, and of those ample architectural
proportions that in women who are not duchesses are described
by contemporary historians as stoutness. Next to her sat,
on her right, Sir Thomas Burdon, a Radical member of Parliament,
who followed his leader in public life and in private life
followed the best cooks, dining with the Tories and thinking
with the Liberals, in accordance with a wise and well-known rule.
The post on her left was occupied by Mr. Erskine of Treadley,
an old gentleman of considerable charm and culture, who had fallen,
however, into bad habits of silence, having, as he explained
once to Lady Agatha, said everything that he had to say
before he was thirty. His own neighbour was Mrs. Vandeleur,
one of his aunt's oldest friends, a perfect saint amongst women,
but so dreadfully dowdy that she reminded one of a badly
bound hymn-book. Fortunately for him she had on the other
side Lord Faudel, a most intelligent middle-aged mediocrity,
as bald as a ministerial statement in the House of Commons,
with whom she was conversing in that intensely earnest manner
which is the one unpardonable error, as he remarked once himself,
that all really good people fall into, and from which none of them
ever quite escape.
"We are talking about poor Dartmoor, Lord Henry," cried the duchess,
nodding pleasantly to him across the table. "Do you think he will really
marry this fascinating young person?"
"I believe she has made up her mind to propose to him, Duchess."
"How dreadful!" exclaimed Lady Agatha. "Really, some one should interfere."
"I am told, on excellent authority, that her father keeps an American
dry-goods store," said Sir Thomas Burdon, looking supercilious.
"My uncle has already suggested pork-packing Sir Thomas."
"Dry-goods! What are American dry-goods?" asked the duchess,
raising her large hands in wonder and accentuating the verb.
"American novels," answered Lord Henry, helping himself to some quail.
The duchess looked puzzled.
"Don't mind him, my dear," whispered Lady Agatha. "He never means anything
that he says."
"When America was discovered," said the Radical member--
and he began to give some wearisome facts. Like all people
who try to exhaust a subject, he exhausted his listeners.
The duchess sighed and exercised her privilege of interruption.
"I wish to goodness it never had been discovered at all!"
she exclaimed. "Really, our girls have no chance nowadays. It is
"Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered,"
said Mr. Erskine; "I myself would say that it had merely
"Oh! but I have seen specimens of the inhabitants," answered the
duchess vaguely. "I must confess that most of them are extremely pretty.
And they dress well, too. They get all their dresses in Paris.
I wish I could afford to do the same."
"They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris,"
chuckled Sir Thomas, who had a large wardrobe of Humour's
"Really! And where do bad Americans go to when they die?"
inquired the duchess.
"They go to America," murmured Lord Henry.
Sir Thomas frowned. "I am afraid that your nephew is prejudiced against
that great country," he said to Lady Agatha. "I have travelled all over it
in cars provided by the directors, who, in such matters, are extremely civil.
I assure you that it is an education to visit it."
"But must we really see Chicago in order to be educated?"
asked Mr. Erskine plaintively. "I don't feel up to the journey."
Sir Thomas waved his hand. "Mr. Erskine of Treadley has the world on
his shelves. We practical men like to see things, not to read about
them. The Americans are an extremely interesting people. They are
absolutely reasonable. I think that is their distinguishing
characteristic. Yes, Mr. Erskine, an absolutely reasonable people. I
assure you there is no nonsense about the Americans."
"How dreadful!" cried Lord Henry. "I can stand brute force, but brute
reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use.
It is hitting below the intellect."
"I do not understand you," said Sir Thomas, growing rather red.
"I do, Lord Henry," murmured Mr. Erskine, with a smile.
"Paradoxes are all very well in their way... ." rejoined the baronet.
"Was that a paradox?" asked Mr. Erskine. "I did not think so.
Perhaps it was. Well, the way of paradoxes is the way of truth.
To test reality we must see it on the tight rope. When the verities
become acrobats, we can judge them."
"Dear me!" said Lady Agatha, "how you men argue! I am sure I never can make
out what you are talking about. Oh! Harry, I am quite vexed with you.
Why do you try to persuade our nice Mr. Dorian Gray to give up the East End?
I assure you he would be quite invaluable. They would love his playing."
"I want him to play to me," cried Lord Henry, smiling, and he looked
down the table and caught a bright answering glance.
"But they are so unhappy in Whitechapel," continued Lady Agatha.
"I can sympathize with everything except suffering,"
said Lord Henry, shrugging his shoulders. "I cannot sympathize
with that. It is too ugly, too horrible, too distressing.
There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy
with pain. One should sympathize with the colour, the beauty,
the joy of life. The less said about life's sores,
"Still, the East End is a very important problem," remarked Sir Thomas
with a grave shake of the head.
"Quite so," answered the young lord. "It is the problem of slavery,
and we try to solve it by amusing the slaves."
The politician looked at him keenly. "What change do you propose, then?"
Lord Henry laughed. "I don't desire to change anything in England
except the weather," he answered. "I am quite content with
philosophic contemplation. But, as the nineteenth century has
gone bankrupt through an over-expenditure of sympathy, I would
suggest that we should appeal to science to put us straight.
The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray,
and the advantage of science is that it is not emotional."
"But we have such grave responsibilities," ventured Mrs. Vandeleur timidly.
"Terribly grave," echoed Lady Agatha.
Lord Henry looked over at Mr. Erskine. "Humanity takes itself too seriously.
It is the world's original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh,
history would have been different."
"You are really very comforting," warbled the duchess.
"I have always felt rather guilty when I came to see your
dear aunt, for I take no interest at all in the East End.
For the future I shall be able to look her in the face without
"A blush is very becoming, Duchess," remarked Lord Henry.
"Only when one is young," she answered. "When an old woman
like myself blushes, it is a very bad sign. Ah! Lord Henry,
I wish you would tell me how to become young again."
He thought for a moment. "Can you remember any great error
that you committed in your early days, Duchess?" he asked,
looking at her across the table.
"A great many, I fear," she cried.
"Then commit them over again," he said gravely. "To get back one's youth,
one has merely to repeat one's follies."
"A delightful theory!" she exclaimed. "I must put it into practice."
"A dangerous theory!" came from Sir Thomas's tight lips.
Lady Agatha shook her head, but could not help being amused.
Mr. Erskine listened.
"Yes," he continued, "that is one of the great secrets of life.
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."
A laugh ran round the table.
He played with the idea and grew wilful; tossed it into
the air and transformed it; let it escape and recaptured it;
made it iridescent with fancy and winged it with paradox.
The praise of folly, as he went on, soared into a philosophy,
and philosophy herself became young, and catching the mad
music of pleasure, wearing, one might fancy, her wine-stained
robe and wreath of ivy, danced like a Bacchante over the hills
of life, and mocked the slow Silenus for being sober.
Facts fled before her like frightened forest things.
Her white feet trod the huge press at which wise Omar sits,
till the seething grape-juice rose round her bare limbs in waves
of purple bubbles, or crawled in red foam over the vat's black,
dripping, sloping sides. It was an extraordinary improvisation.
He felt that the eyes of Dorian Gray were fixed on him,
and the consciousness that amongst his audience there was
one whose temperament he wished to fascinate seemed to give
his wit keenness and to lend colour to his imagination.
He was brilliant, fantastic, irresponsible. He charmed
his listeners out of themselves, and they followed
his pipe, laughing. Dorian Gray never took his gaze
off him, but sat like one under a spell, smiles chasing
each other over his lips and wonder growing grave in his
At last, liveried in the costume of the age, reality entered the room in
the shape of a servant to tell the duchess that her carriage was waiting.
She wrung her hands in mock despair. "How annoying!" she cried. "I must go.
I have to call for my husband at the club, to take him to some absurd meeting
at Willis's Rooms, where he is going to be in the chair. If I am late he is
sure to be furious, and I couldn't have a scene in this bonnet. It is far
too fragile. A harsh word would ruin it. No, I must go, dear Agatha.
Good-bye, Lord Henry, you are quite delightful and dreadfully demoralizing.
I am sure I don't know what to say about your views. You must come and dine
with us some night. Tuesday? Are you disengaged Tuesday?"
"For you I would throw over anybody, Duchess," said Lord Henry with a bow.
"Ah! that is very nice, and very wrong of you," she cried; "so mind you come";
and she swept out of the room, followed by Lady Agatha and the other ladies.
When Lord Henry had sat down again, Mr. Erskine moved round,
and taking a chair close to him, placed his hand upon his arm.
"You talk books away," he said; "why don't you write one?"
"I am too fond of reading books to care to write them, Mr. Erskine.
I should like to write a novel certainly, a novel that would be as lovely
as a Persian carpet and as unreal. But there is no literary public
in England for anything except newspapers, primers, and encyclopaedias.
Of all people in the world the English have the least sense of the beauty
"I fear you are right," answered Mr. Erskine. "I myself used
to have literary ambitions, but I gave them up long ago.
And now, my dear young friend, if you will allow me to call
you so, may I ask if you really meant all that you said to us
"I quite forget what I said," smiled Lord Henry. "Was it all very bad?"
"Very bad indeed. In fact I consider you extremely dangerous,
and if anything happens to our good duchess, we shall all look on you
as being primarily responsible. But I should like to talk to you
about life. The generation into which I was born was tedious.
Some day, when you are tired of London, come down to Treadley and expound
to me your philosophy of pleasure over some admirable Burgundy I am
fortunate enough to possess."
"I shall be charmed. A visit to Treadley would be a great privilege.
It has a perfect host, and a perfect library."
"You will complete it," answered the old gentleman with a courteous bow.
"And now I must bid good-bye to your excellent aunt. I am due at
the Athenaeum. It is the hour when we sleep there."
"All of you, Mr. Erskine?"
"Forty of us, in forty arm-chairs. We are practising for an English Academy
Lord Henry laughed and rose. "I am going to the park,"
As he was passing out of the door, Dorian Gray touched him on the arm.
"Let me come with you," he murmured.
"But I thought you had promised Basil Hallward to go and see him,"
answered Lord Henry.
"I would sooner come with you; yes, I feel I must come with you.
Do let me. And you will promise to talk to me all the time?
No one talks so wonderfully as you do."
"Ah! I have talked quite enough for to-day," said Lord Henry, smiling.
"All I want now is to look at life. You may come and look at it with me,
if you care to."
One afternoon, a month later, Dorian Gray was reclining in a luxurious
arm-chair, in the little library of Lord Henry's house in Mayfair.
It was, in its way, a very charming room, with its high panelled
wainscoting of olive-stained oak, its cream-coloured frieze and ceiling
of raised plasterwork, and its brickdust felt carpet strewn with silk,
long-fringed Persian rugs. On a tiny satinwood table stood a statuette
by Clodion, and beside it lay a copy of Les Cent Nouvelles, bound for
Margaret of Valois by Clovis Eve and powdered with the gilt daisies
that Queen had selected for her device. Some large blue china jars
and parrot-tulips were ranged on the mantelshelf, and through the small
leaded panes of the window streamed the apricot-coloured light of a summer
day in London.
Lord Henry had not yet come in. He was always late on principle,
his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.
So the lad was looking rather sulky, as with listless fingers
he turned over the pages of an elaborately illustrated edition
of Manon Lescaut that he had found in one of the book-cases. The
formal monotonous ticking of the Louis Quatorze clock annoyed him.
Once or twice he thought of going away.
At last he heard a step outside, and the door opened.
"How late you are, Harry!" he murmured.
"I am afraid it is not Harry, Mr. Gray," answered a shrill voice.
He glanced quickly round and rose to his feet. "I beg your pardon.
"You thought it was my husband. It is only his wife.
You must let me introduce myself. I know you quite well
by your photographs. I think my husband has got seventeen
"Not seventeen, Lady Henry?"
"Well, eighteen, then. And I saw you with him the other
night at the opera." She laughed nervously as she spoke,
and watched him with her vague forget-me-not eyes.
She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if
they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest.
She was usually in love with somebody, and, as her passion
was never returned, she had kept all her illusions.
She tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy.
Her name was Victoria, and she had a perfect mania for going
"That was at Lohengrin, Lady Henry, I think?"
"Yes; it was at dear Lohengrin. I like Wagner's music better than
anybody's. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without
other people hearing what one says. That is a great advantage,
don't you think so, Mr. Gray?"
The same nervous staccato laugh broke from her thin lips,
and her fingers began to play with a long tortoise-shell
Dorian smiled and shook his head: "I am afraid I don't think so,
Lady Henry. I never talk during music--at least, during good music.
If one hears bad music, it is one's duty to drown it in conversation."
"Ah! that is one of Harry's views, isn't it, Mr. Gray?
I always hear Harry's views from his friends. It is the only
way I get to know of them. But you must not think I don't
like good music. I adore it, but I am afraid of it.
It makes me too romantic. I have simply worshipped pianists--
two at a time, sometimes, Harry tells me. I don't know what it
is about them. Perhaps it is that they are foreigners.
They all are, ain't they? Even those that are born
in England become foreigners after a time, don't they?
It is so clever of them, and such a compliment to art.
Makes it quite cosmopolitan, doesn't it? You have never been
to any of my parties, have you, Mr. Gray? You must come.
I can't afford orchids, but I share no expense in foreigners.
They make one's rooms look so picturesque. But here is Harry!
Harry, I came in to look for you, to ask you something--
I forget what it was--and I found Mr. Gray here.
We have had such a pleasant chat about music. We have quite
the same ideas. No; I think our ideas are quite different.
But he has been most pleasant. I am so glad I've seen
"I am charmed, my love, quite charmed," said Lord Henry, elevating his dark,
crescent-shaped eyebrows and looking at them both with an amused smile.
"So sorry I am late, Dorian. I went to look after a piece of old brocade
in Wardour Street and had to bargain for hours for it. Nowadays people know
the price of everything and the value of nothing."
"I am afraid I must be going," exclaimed Lady Henry,
breaking an awkward silence with her silly sudden laugh.
"I have promised to drive with the duchess. Good-bye, Mr. Gray.
Good-bye, Harry. You are dining out, I suppose? So am I. Perhaps I
shall see you at Lady Thornbury's."
"I dare say, my dear," said Lord Henry, shutting the door behind her as,
looking like a bird of paradise that had been out all night in the rain,
she flitted out of the room, leaving a faint odour of frangipanni.
Then he lit a cigarette and flung himself down on the sofa.
"Never marry a woman with straw-coloured hair, Dorian," he said
after a few puffs.
"Because they are so sentimental."
"But I like sentimental people."
"Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired;
women, because they are curious: both are disappointed."
"I don't think I am likely to marry, Harry. I am too much in love.
That is one of your aphorisms. I am putting it into practice,
as I do everything that you say."
"Who are you in love with?" asked Lord Henry after a pause.
"With an actress," said Dorian Gray, blushing.
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "That is a rather commonplace debut."
"You would not say so if you saw her, Harry."
"Who is she?"
"Her name is Sibyl Vane."
"Never heard of her."
"No one has. People will some day, however. She is a genius."
"My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex.
They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly.
Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men
represent the triumph of mind over morals."
"Harry, how can you?"
"My dear Dorian, it is quite true. I am analysing women at present,
so I ought to know. The subject is not so abstruse as I thought it was.
I find that, ultimately, there are only two kinds of women,
the plain and the coloured. The plain women are very useful.
If you want to gain a reputation for respectability, you have merely
to take them down to supper. The other women are very charming.
They commit one mistake, however. They paint in order to try and look young.
Our grandmothers painted in order to try and talk brilliantly.
Rouge and esprit used to go together. That is all over now.
As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter,
she is perfectly satisfied. As for conversation, there are only five
women in London worth talking to, and two of these can't be admitted into
decent society. However, tell me about your genius. How long have you
"Ah! Harry, your views terrify me."
"Never mind that. How long have you known her?"
"About three weeks."
"And where did you come across her?"
"I will tell you, Harry, but you mustn't be unsympathetic about it.
After all, it never would have happened if I had not met you.
You filled me with a wild desire to know everything about life.
For days after I met you, something seemed to throb in my veins.
As I lounged in the park, or strolled down Piccadilly, I used
to look at every one who passed me and wonder, with a mad curiosity,
what sort of lives they led. Some of them fascinated me.
Others filled me with terror. There was an exquisite poison in the air.
I had a passion for sensations. . . . Well, one evening about seven
o'clock, I determined to go out in search of some adventure.
I felt that this grey monstrous London of ours, with its myriads of people,
its sordid sinners, and its splendid sins, as you once phrased it,
must have something in store for me. I fancied a thousand things.
The mere danger gave me a sense of delight. I remembered what you
had said to me on that wonderful evening when we first dined together,
about the search for beauty being the real secret of life.
I don't know what I expected, but I went out and wandered eastward,
soon losing my way in a labyrinth of grimy streets and black
grassless squares. About half-past eight I passed by an absurd
little theatre, with great flaring gas-jets and gaudy play-bills.
A hideous Jew, in the most amazing waistcoat I ever beheld
in my life, was standing at the entrance, smoking a vile cigar.
He had greasy ringlets, and an enormous diamond blazed in the centre
of a soiled shirt. 'Have a box, my Lord?' he said, when he saw me,
and he took off his hat with an air of gorgeous servility.
There was something about him, Harry, that amused me.
He was such a monster. You will laugh at me, I know, but I
really went in and paid a whole guinea for the stage-box. To
the present day I can't make out why I did so; and yet if I hadn't--
my dear Harry, if I hadn't--I should have missed the greatest
romance of my life. I see you are laughing. It is horrid of
"I am not laughing, Dorian; at least I am not laughing at you.
But you should not say the greatest romance of your life.
You should say the first romance of your life. You will
always be loved, and you will always be in love with love.
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. There are exquisite things in store for you.
This is merely the beginning."
"Do you think my nature so shallow?" cried Dorian Gray angrily.
"No; I think your nature so deep."
"How do you mean?"
"My dear boy, the people who love only once in their lives are really