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On its first publication The Picture of Dorian Gray was regarded as dangerously modern in its depiction of fin-de-siècle decadence. In this updated version of the Faust story, the tempter is Lord Henry Wotton, who lives selfishly for amoral pleasure; Dorian's good angel is the portrait painter Basil Hallward, whom Dorian murders. The book highlights the tension between the polished surface of high society and the life of secret vice. Although sin is punished in the end the book has a flavour of the elegantly perverse.
With an Afterword by Peter Harness.
About the Author
Oscar Fingal O'Flaherty Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He studied at Trinity College Dublin and then at Magdalen College Oxford where he started the cult of 'Aestheticism', which involves making an art of life. Following his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, he published several books of stories ostensibly for children and one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891).
Date of Birth:October 16, 1854
Date of Death:November 30, 1900
Place of Birth:Dublin, Ireland
Place of Death:Paris, France
Education:The Royal School in Enniskillen, Dublin, 1864; Trinity College, Dublin, 1871; Magdalen College, Oxford, England, 1874
Read an Excerpt
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 Hallwards's compliments has seemed to him to be merely the charming exaggerations 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 though 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 is a hand of ice had been laid upon his heart.
'Don't you like it?' cried Hallward at last, stung a little by the lad's silence, not understanding what it meant.
'Of course he likes it,' said Lord Henry. 'Who wouldn't like it? It is one of the greatest things in modern art. I will give you anything you like to ask for it. I must have it.'
'It is not my property, Harry.'
'Whose property is it?'
'Dorian's, of course,' answered the painter.
'He's a very lucky fellow.'
'How sad it is!' murmured Dorian Gary, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. 'How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. It will never be older than this particular day of June...If it were only the other way!
Excerpted from "The Picture of Dorian Gray"
Copyright © 2003 Oscar Wilde.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents
The Picture of Dorian GrayAcknowledgements
A Note on the Text
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Appendix 1: Selected Contemporary Reviews of The Picture of Dorian Gray
Appendix 2: Introduction to the First Penguin Classics Edition, by Peter Ackroyd
What People are Saying About This
"Simon Prebble perfectly achieves Lord Henry's 'low, languid voice' and sparkling conversation, while avidly expressing the other characters' more torrid emotions." -AudioFile