Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
The Picture of Dorian Gray.
by Oscar Wilde.
The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and
conceal the artist is art's aim. The critic is he who can translate
into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful
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
As the painter looked at the gracious and comely form he had so
skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his
face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up,
and closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he
sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he
feared he might awake.
"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said
Lord Henry languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to the
Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. Whenever I have
gone there, there have been either so many people that I have not been
able to see the pictures, which was dreadful, or so many pictures that
I have not been able to see the people, which was worse. The Grosvenor
is really the only place."
"I don't think I shall send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head
back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at
Oxford. "No, I won't send it anywhere."
Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows and looked at him in amazement through
the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls
from his heavy, opium-tainted cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My
dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters
are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as
you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you,
for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about,
and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you
far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite
jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion."
"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit
it. I have put too much of myself into it."
Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed.
"Yes, I knew you would; but it is quite true, all the same."
"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you
were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with
your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young
Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves. Why,
my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you--well, of course you have an
intellectual expression and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends
where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode
of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one
sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something
horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions.
How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But
then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the
age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen,
and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful.
Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but
whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of
that. He is some brainless beautiful creature who should be always
here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in
summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter
yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him."
"You don't understand me, Harry," answered the artist. "Of course I am
not like him. I know that perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry
to look like him. You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the
truth. There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual
distinction, the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the
faltering steps of kings. It is better not to be different from one's
fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world.
They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing
of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They
live as we all should live--undisturbed, indifferent, and without
disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it
from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they
are--my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks--we
shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly."
"Dorian Gray? Is that his name?" asked Lord Henry, walking across the
studio towards Basil Hallward.
"Yes, that is his name. I didn't intend to tell it to you."
"But why not?"
"Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely, I never tell their
names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have
grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make
modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is
delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell my
people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It
is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great
deal of romance into one's life. I suppose you think me awfully
foolish about it?"
"Not at all," answered Lord Henry, "not at all, my dear Basil. You
seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that
it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. I
never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing.
When we meet--we do meet occasionally, when we dine out together, or go
down to the Duke's--we tell each other the most absurd stories with the
most serious faces. My wife is very good at it--much better, in fact,
than I am. She never gets confused over her dates, and I always do.
But when she does find me out, she makes no row at all. I sometimes
wish she would; but she merely laughs at me."
"I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said Basil
Hallward, strolling towards the door that led into the garden. "I
believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are
thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary
fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing.
Your cynicism is simply a pose."
"Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know,"
cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out into the
garden together and ensconced themselves on a long bamboo seat that
stood in the shade of a tall laurel bush. The sunlight slipped over
the polished leaves. In the grass, white daisies were tremulous.
After a pause, Lord Henry pulled out his watch. "I am afraid I must be
going, Basil," he murmured, "and before I go, I insist on your
answering a question I put to you some time ago."
"What is that?" said the painter, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.
"You know quite well."
"I do not, Harry."
"Well, I will tell you what it is. I want you to explain to me why you
won't exhibit Dorian Gray's picture. I want the real reason."
"I told you the real reason."
"No, you did not. You said it was because there was too much of
yourself in it. Now, that is childish."
"Harry," said Basil Hallward, looking him straight in the face, "every
portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not
of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is
not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on
the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit
this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of
my own soul."
Lord Henry laughed. "And what is that?" he asked.
"I will tell you," said Hallward; but an expression of perplexity came
over his face.
"I am all expectation, Basil," continued his companion, glancing at him.
"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the painter;
"and I am afraid you will hardly understand it. Perhaps you will
hardly believe it."
Lord Henry smiled, and leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisy from
the grass and examined it. "I am quite sure I shall understand it," he
replied, gazing intently at the little golden, white-feathered disk,
"and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it
is quite incredible."
The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy
lilac-blooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the
languid air. A grasshopper began to chirrup by the wall, and like a
blue thread a long thin dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze
wings. Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart
beating, and wondered what was coming.
"The story is simply this," said the painter after some time. "Two
months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's. You know we poor
artists have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to
remind the public that we are not savages. With an evening coat and a
white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain
a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the room
about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and tedious
academicians, I suddenly became conscious that some one was looking at
me. I turned half-way round and saw Dorian Gray for the first time.
When our eyes met, I felt that I was growing pale. A curious sensation
of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some
one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to
do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art
itself. I did not want any external influence in my life. You know
yourself, Harry, how independent I am by nature. I have always been my
own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray.
Then--but I don't know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to
tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had
a strange feeling that fate had in store for me exquisite joys and
exquisite sorrows. I grew afraid and turned to quit the room. It was
not conscience that made me do so: it was a sort of cowardice. I take
no credit to myself for trying to escape."
"Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil.
Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all."
"I don't believe that, Harry, and I don't believe you do either.
However, whatever was my motive--and it may have been pride, for I used
to be very proud--I certainly struggled to the door. There, of course,
I stumbled against Lady Brandon. 'You are not going to run away so
soon, Mr. Hallward?' she screamed out. You know her curiously shrill
"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
"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
"Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far
the best ending for one," said the young lord, plucking another daisy.
Hallward shook his head. "You don't understand what friendship is,
Harry," he murmured--"or what enmity is, for that matter. You like
every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one."
"How horribly unjust of you!" cried Lord Henry, tilting his hat back
and looking up at the little clouds that, like ravelled skeins of
glossy white silk, were drifting across the hollowed turquoise of the
summer sky. "Yes; horribly unjust of you. I make a great difference
between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my
acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good
intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some
intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that
very vain of me? I think it is rather vain."
"I should think it was, Harry. But according to your category I must
be merely an acquaintance."
"My dear old Basil, you are much more than an acquaintance."
"And much less than a friend. A sort of brother, I suppose?"
"Oh, brothers! I don't care for brothers. My elder brother won't die,
and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else."
"Harry!" exclaimed Hallward, frowning.
"My dear fellow, I am not quite serious. But I can't help detesting my
relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand
other people having the same faults as ourselves. I quite sympathize
with the rage of the English democracy against what they call the vices
of the upper orders. The masses feel that drunkenness, stupidity, and
immorality should be their own special property, and that if any one of
us makes an ass of himself, he is poaching on their preserves. When
poor Southwark got into the divorce court, their indignation was quite
magnificent. And yet I don't suppose that ten per cent of the
proletariat live correctly."
"I don't agree with a single word that you have said, and, what is
more, Harry, I feel sure you don't either."
Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard and tapped the toe of his
patent-leather boot with a tasselled ebony cane. "How English you are
Basil! That is the second time you have made that observation. If one
puts forward an idea to a true Englishman--always a rash thing to
do--he never dreams of considering whether the idea is right or wrong.
The only thing he considers of any importance is whether one believes
it oneself. Now, the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do
with the sincerity of the man who expresses it. Indeed, the
probabilities are that the more insincere the man is, the more purely
intellectual will the idea be, as in that case it will not be coloured
by either his wants, his desires, or his prejudices. However, I don't
propose to discuss politics, sociology, or metaphysics with you. I
like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no
principles better than anything else in the world. Tell me more about
Mr. Dorian Gray. How often do you see him?"
"Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. He is
absolutely necessary to me."
"How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything but
"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 missed."
"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 so unromantic."
"Harry, don't talk like that. As long as I live, the personality of
Dorian Gray will dominate me. You can't feel what I feel. You change
"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
"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
"You must introduce me now," cried Lord Henry, laughing.
The painter turned to his servant, who stood blinking in the sunlight.
"Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I shall be in in a few moments." The
man bowed and went up the walk.
Then he looked at Lord Henry. "Dorian Gray is my dearest friend," he
said. "He has a simple and a beautiful nature. Your aunt was quite
right in what she said of him. Don't spoil him. Don't try to
influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and
has many marvellous people in it. Don't take away from me the one
person who gives to my art whatever charm it possesses: my life as an
artist depends on him. Mind, Harry, I trust you." He spoke very
slowly, and the words seemed wrung out of him almost against his will.
"What nonsense you talk!" said Lord Henry, smiling, and taking Hallward
by the arm, he almost led him into the house.
As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with
his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann's
"Forest Scenes." "You must lend me these, Basil," he cried. "I want
to learn them. They are perfectly charming."
"That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian."
"Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don't want a life-sized portrait of
myself," answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool in a
wilful, petulant manner. When he caught sight of Lord Henry, a faint
blush coloured his cheeks for a moment, and he started up. "I beg your
pardon, Basil, but I didn't know you had any one with you."
"This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian, an old Oxford friend of mine. I
have just been telling him what a capital sitter you were, and now you
have spoiled everything."
"You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr. Gray," said Lord
Henry, stepping forward and extending his hand. "My aunt has often
spoken to me about you. You are one of her favourites, and, I am
afraid, one of her victims also."
"I am in Lady Agatha's black books at present," answered Dorian with a
funny look of penitence. "I promised to go to a club in Whitechapel
with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it. We were to
have played a duet together--three duets, I believe. I don't know what
she will say to me. I am far too frightened to call."
"Oh, I will make your peace with my aunt. She is quite devoted to you.
And I don't think it really matters about your not being there. The
audience probably thought it was a duet. When Aunt Agatha sits down to
the piano, she makes quite enough noise for two people."
"That is very horrid to her, and not very nice to me," answered Dorian,
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
The painter had been busy mixing his colours and getting his brushes
ready. He was looking worried, and when he heard Lord Henry's last
remark, he glanced at him, hesitated for a moment, and then said,
"Harry, I want to finish this picture to-day. Would you think it
awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?"
Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray. "Am I to go, Mr. Gray?"
"Oh, please don't, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky
moods, and I can't bear him when he sulks. Besides, I want you to tell
me why I should not go in for philanthropy."
"I don't know that I shall tell you that, Mr. Gray. It is so tedious a
subject that one would have to talk seriously about it. But I
certainly shall not run away, now that you have asked me to stop. You
don't really mind, Basil, do you? You have often told me that you
liked your sitters to have some one to chat to."
Hallward bit his lip. "If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay.
Dorian's whims are laws to everybody, except himself."
Lord Henry took up his hat and gloves. "You are very pressing, Basil,
but I am afraid I must go. I have promised to meet a man at the
Orleans. Good-bye, Mr. Gray. Come and see me some afternoon in Curzon
Street. I am nearly always at home at five o'clock. Write to me when
you are coming. I should be sorry to miss you."
"Basil," cried Dorian Gray, "if Lord Henry Wotton goes, I shall go,
too. You never open your lips while you are painting, and it is
horribly dull standing on a platform and trying to look pleasant. Ask
him to stay. I insist upon it."
"Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me," said Hallward,
gazing intently at his picture. "It is quite true, I never talk when I
am working, and never listen either, and it must be dreadfully tedious
for my unfortunate sitters. I beg you to stay."
"But what about my man at the Orleans?"
The painter laughed. "I don't think there will be any difficulty about
that. Sit down again, Harry. And now, Dorian, get up on the platform,
and don't move about too much, or pay any attention to what Lord Henry
says. He has a very bad influence over all his friends, with the
single exception of myself."
Dorian Gray stepped up on the dais with the air of a young Greek
martyr, and made a little moue of discontent to Lord Henry, to whom he
had rather taken a fancy. He was so unlike Basil. They made a
delightful contrast. And he had such a beautiful voice. After a few
moments he said to him, "Have you really a very bad influence, Lord
Henry? As bad as Basil says?"
"There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence
is immoral--immoral from the scientific point of view."
"Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does
not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His
virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as
sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an
actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is
self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what each
of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They
have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to
one's self. Of course, they are charitable. They feed the hungry and
clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage
has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror
of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is
the secret of religion--these are the two things that govern us. And
"Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good
boy," said the painter, deep in his work and conscious only that a look
had come into the lad's face that he had never seen there before.
"And yet," continued Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice, and with
that graceful wave of the hand that was always so characteristic of
him, and that he had even in his Eton days, "I believe that if one man
were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to
every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I
believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we
would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the
Hellenic ideal--to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it
may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The
mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial
that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse
that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body
sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of
purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure,
or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is
to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for
the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its
monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that
the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the
brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place
also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your
rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid,
thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping
dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame--"
"Stop!" faltered Dorian Gray, "stop! you bewilder me. I don't know
what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don't
speak. Let me think. Or, rather, let me try not to think."
For nearly ten minutes he stood there, motionless, with parted lips and
eyes strangely bright. He was dimly conscious that entirely fresh
influences were at work within him. Yet they seemed to him to have
come really from himself. The few words that Basil's friend had said
to him--words spoken by chance, no doubt, and with wilful paradox in
them--had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before,
but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious pulses.
Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times.
But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather
another chaos, that it created in us. Words! Mere words! How
terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not
escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They
seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to
have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere
words! Was there anything so real as words?
Yes; there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood.
He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-coloured to him.
It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not
With his subtle smile, Lord Henry watched him. He knew the precise
psychological moment when to say nothing. He felt intensely
interested. He was amazed at the sudden impression that his words had
produced, and, remembering a book that he had read when he was sixteen,
a book which had revealed to him much that he had not known before, he
wondered whether Dorian Gray was passing through a similar experience.
He had merely shot an arrow into the air. Had it hit the mark? How
fascinating the lad was!
Hallward painted away with that marvellous bold touch of his, that had
the true refinement and perfect delicacy that in art, at any rate comes
only from strength. He was unconscious of the silence.
"Basil, I am tired of standing," cried Dorian Gray suddenly. "I must
go out and sit in the garden. The air is stifling here."
"My dear fellow, I am so sorry. When I am painting, I can't think of
anything else. But you never sat better. You were perfectly still.
And I have caught the effect I wanted--the half-parted lips and the
bright look in the eyes. I don't know what Harry has been saying to
you, but he has certainly made you have the most wonderful expression.
I suppose he has been paying you compliments. You mustn't believe a
word that he says."
"He has certainly not been paying me compliments. Perhaps that is the
reason that I don't believe anything he has told me."
"You know you believe it all," said Lord Henry, looking at him with his
dreamy languorous eyes. "I will go out to the garden with you. It is
horribly hot in the studio. Basil, let us have something iced to
drink, something with strawberries in it."
"Certainly, Harry. Just touch the bell, and when Parker comes I will
tell him what you want. I have got to work up this background, so I
will join you later on. Don't keep Dorian too long. I have never been
in better form for painting than I am to-day. This is going to be my
masterpiece. It is my masterpiece as it stands."
Lord Henry went out to the garden and found Dorian Gray burying his
face in the great cool lilac-blossoms, feverishly drinking in their
perfume as if it had been wine. He came close to him and put his hand
upon his shoulder. "You are quite right to do that," he murmured.
"Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the
senses but the soul."
The lad started and drew back. He was bareheaded, and the leaves had
tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads.
There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they are
suddenly awakened. His finely chiselled nostrils quivered, and some
hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left them trembling.
"Yes," continued Lord Henry, "that is one of the great secrets of
life--to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means
of the soul. You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you
think you know, just as you know less than you want to know."
Dorian Gray frowned and turned his head away. He could not help liking
the tall, graceful young man who was standing by him. His romantic,
olive-coloured face and worn expression interested him. There was
something in his low languid voice that was absolutely fascinating.
His cool, white, flowerlike hands, even, had a curious charm. They
moved, as he spoke, like music, and seemed to have a language of their
own. But he felt afraid of him, and ashamed of being afraid. Why had
it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself? He had known
Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them had never
altered him. Suddenly there had come some one across his life who
seemed to have disclosed to him life's mystery. And, yet, what was
there to be afraid of? He was not a schoolboy or a girl. It was
absurd to be frightened.
"Let us go and sit in the shade," said Lord Henry. "Parker has brought
out the drinks, and if you stay any longer in this glare, you will be
quite spoiled, and Basil will never paint you again. You really must
not allow yourself to become sunburnt. It would be unbecoming."
"What can it matter?" cried Dorian Gray, laughing, as he sat down on
the seat at the end of the garden.
"It should matter everything to you, Mr. Gray."
"Because you have the most marvellous youth, and youth is the one thing
"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 youth!"
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
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
"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
"Yes, I am glad now. I wonder shall I always be glad?"
"Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it.
Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to
make it last for ever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only
difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice
lasts a little longer."
As they entered the studio, Dorian Gray put his hand upon Lord Henry's
arm. "In that case, let our friendship be a caprice," he murmured,
flushing at his own boldness, then stepped up on the platform and
resumed his pose.
Lord Henry flung himself into a large wicker arm-chair and watched him.
The sweep and dash of the brush on the canvas made the only sound that
broke the stillness, except when, now and then, Hallward stepped back
to look at his work from a distance. In the slanting beams that
streamed through the open doorway the dust danced and was golden. The
heavy scent of the roses seemed to brood over everything.
After about a quarter of an hour Hallward stopped painting, looked for
a long time at Dorian Gray, and then for a long time at the picture,
biting the end of one of his huge brushes and frowning. "It is quite
finished," he cried at last, and stooping down he wrote his name in
long vermilion letters on the left-hand corner of the canvas.
Lord Henry came over and examined the picture. It was certainly a
wonderful work of art, and a wonderful likeness as well.
"My dear fellow, I congratulate you most warmly," he said. "It is the
finest portrait of modern times. Mr. Gray, come over and look at
The lad started, as if awakened from some dream.
"Is it really finished?" he murmured, stepping down from the platform.
"Quite finished," said the painter. "And you have sat splendidly
to-day. I am awfully obliged to you."
"That is entirely due to me," broke in Lord Henry. "Isn't it, Mr.
Dorian made no answer, but passed listlessly in front of his picture
and turned towards it. When he saw it he drew back, and his cheeks
flushed for a moment with pleasure. A look of joy came into his eyes,
as if he had recognized himself for the first time. He stood there
motionless and in wonder, dimly conscious that Hallward was speaking to
him, but not catching the meaning of his words. The sense of his own
beauty came on him like a revelation. He had never felt it before.
Basil Hallward's compliments had seemed to him to be merely the
charming exaggeration of friendship. He had listened to them, laughed
at them, forgotten them. They had not influenced his nature. Then had
come Lord Henry Wotton with his strange panegyric on youth, his
terrible warning of its brevity. That had stirred him at the time, and
now, as he stood gazing at the shadow of his own loveliness, the full
reality of the description flashed across him. Yes, there would be a
day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim and
colourless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed. The scarlet
would pass away from his lips and the gold steal from his hair. The
life that was to make his soul would mar his body. He would become
dreadful, hideous, and uncouth.
As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck through him like a
knife and made each delicate fibre of his nature quiver. His eyes
deepened into amethyst, and across them came a mist of tears. He felt
as if a hand of ice had been laid upon his heart.
"Don't you like it?" cried Hallward at last, stung a little by the
lad's silence, not understanding what it meant.
"Of course he likes it," said Lord Henry. "Who wouldn't like it? It
is one of the greatest things in modern art. I will give you anything
you like to ask for it. I must have it."
"It is not my property, Harry."
"Whose property is it?"
"Dorian's, of course," answered the painter.
"He is a very lucky fellow."
"How sad it is!" murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon
his own portrait. "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and
dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be
older than this particular day of June.... If it were only the other
way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was
to grow old! For that--for that--I would give everything! Yes, there
is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul
"You would hardly care for such an arrangement, Basil," cried Lord
Henry, laughing. "It would be rather hard lines on your work."
"I should object very strongly, Harry," said Hallward.
Dorian Gray turned and looked at him. "I believe you would, Basil.
You like your art better than your friends. I am no more to you than a
green bronze figure. Hardly as much, I dare say."
The painter stared in amazement. It was so unlike Dorian to speak like
that. What had happened? He seemed quite angry. His face was flushed
and his cheeks burning.
"Yes," he continued, "I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your
silver Faun. You will like them always. How long will you like me?
Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose. I know, now, that when one
loses one's good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything.
Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry Wotton is perfectly right.
Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing
old, I 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 was praying.
"This is your doing, Harry," said the painter bitterly.
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "It is the real Dorian Gray--that
"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 the canvas.
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
"Appreciate it? I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself. I
"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
"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
"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
"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 his prejudices.
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 till
"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; useless information."
"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 for him."
"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 met him."
"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 the jarvies."
"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
"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, after
"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
"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 death.
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
"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 most unfair."
"Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered," said Mr.
Erskine; "I myself would say that it had merely been detected."
"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 cast-off clothes.
"Really! And where do bad Americans go to when they die?" inquired the
"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, the better."
"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?" he asked.
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
"But we have such grave responsibilities," ventured Mrs. Vandeleur
"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."
"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
"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
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 darkening eyes.
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
"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
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 of literature."
"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 at lunch?"
"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 of Letters."
Lord Henry laughed and rose. "I am going to the park," he cried.
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
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. I
"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 of them."
"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 to church.
"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 paper-knife.
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 him."
"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
"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
"Never marry a woman with straw-coloured hair, Dorian," he said after a
"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
"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 known
"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 you!"
"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
the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity,
I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination.
Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life
of the intellect--simply a confession of failure. Faithfulness! I
must analyse it some day. The passion for property is in it. There
are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that
others might pick them up. But I don't want to interrupt you. Go on
with your story."
"Well, I found myself seated in a horrid little private box, with a
vulgar drop-scene staring me in the face. I looked out from behind the
curtain and surveyed the house. It was a tawdry affair, all Cupids and
cornucopias, like a third-rate wedding-cake. The gallery and pit were
fairly full, but the two rows of dingy stalls were quite empty, and
there was hardly a person in what I suppose they called the
dress-circle. Women went about with oranges and ginger-beer, and there
was a terrible consumption of nuts going on."
"It must have been just like the palmy days of the British drama."
"Just like, I should fancy, and very depressing. I began to wonder
what on earth I should do when I caught sight of the play-bill. What
do you think the play was, Harry?"
"I should think 'The Idiot Boy', or 'Dumb but Innocent'. Our fathers
used to like that sort of piece, I believe. The longer I live, Dorian,
the more keenly I feel that whatever was good enough for our fathers is
not good enough for us. In art, as in politics, les grandperes ont
"This play was good enough for us, Harry. It was Romeo and Juliet. I
must admit that I was rather annoyed at the idea of seeing Shakespeare
done in such a wretched hole of a place. Still, I felt interested, in
a sort of way. At any rate, I determined to wait for the first act.
There was a dreadful orchestra, presided over by a young Hebrew who sat
at a cracked piano, that nearly drove me away, but at last the
drop-scene was drawn up and the play began. Romeo was a stout elderly
gentleman, with corked eyebrows, a husky tragedy voice, and a figure
like a beer-barrel. Mercutio was almost as bad. He was played by the
low-comedian, who had introduced gags of his own and was on most
friendly terms with the pit. They were both as grotesque as the
scenery, and that looked as if it had come out of a country-booth. But
Juliet! Harry, imagine a girl, hardly seventeen years of age, with a
little, flowerlike face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of
dark-brown hair, eyes that were violet wells of passion, lips that were
like the petals of a rose. She was the loveliest thing I had ever seen
in my life. You said to me once that pathos left you unmoved, but that
beauty, mere beauty, could fill your eyes with tears. I tell you,
Harry, I could hardly see this girl for the mist of tears that came
across me. And her voice--I never heard such a voice. It was very low
at first, with deep mellow notes that seemed to fall singly upon one's
ear. Then it became a little louder, and sounded like a flute or a
distant hautboy. In the garden-scene it had all the tremulous ecstasy
that one hears just before dawn when nightingales are singing. There
were moments, later on, when it had the wild passion of violins. You
know how a voice can stir one. Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane
are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear
them, and each of them says something different. I don't know which to
follow. Why should I not love her? Harry, I do love her. She is
everything to me in life. Night after night I go to see her play. One
evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I have
seen her die in the gloom of an Italian tomb, sucking the poison from
her lover's lips. I have watched her wandering through the forest of
Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and dainty cap.
She has been mad, and has come into the presence of a guilty king, and
given him rue to wear and bitter herbs to taste of. She has been
innocent, and the black hands of jealousy have crushed her reedlike
throat. I have seen her in every age and in every costume. Ordinary
women never appeal to one's imagination. They are limited to their
century. No glamour ever transfigures them. One knows their minds as
easily as one knows their bonnets. One can always find them. There is
no mystery in any of them. They ride in the park in the morning and
chatter at tea-parties in the afternoon. They have their stereotyped
smile and their fashionable manner. They are quite obvious. But an
actress! How different an actress is! Harry! why didn't you tell me
that the only thing worth loving is an actress?"
"Because I have loved so many of them, Dorian."
"Oh, yes, horrid people with dyed hair and painted faces."
"Don't run down dyed hair and painted faces. There is an extraordinary
charm in them, sometimes," said Lord Henry.
"I wish now I had not told you about Sibyl Vane."
"You could not have helped telling me, Dorian. All through your life
you will tell me everything you do."
"Yes, Harry, I believe that is true. I cannot help telling you things.
You have a curious influence over me. If I ever did a crime, I would
come and confess it to you. You would understand me."
"People like you--the wilful sunbeams of life--don't commit crimes,
Dorian. But I am much obliged for the compliment, all the same. And
now tell me--reach me the matches, like a good boy--thanks--what are
your actual relations with Sibyl Vane?"
Dorian Gray leaped to his feet, with flushed cheeks and burning eyes.
"Harry! Sibyl Vane is sacred!"
"It is only the sacred things that are worth touching, Dorian," said
Lord Henry, with a strange touch of pathos in his voice. "But why
should you be annoyed? I suppose she will belong to you some day.
When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one
always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a
romance. You know her, at any rate, I suppose?"
"Of course I know her. On the first night I was at the theatre, the
horrid old Jew came round to the box after the performance was over and
offered to take me behind the scenes and introduce me to her. I was
furious with him, and told him that Juliet had been dead for hundreds
of years and that her body was lying in a marble tomb in Verona. I
think, from his blank look of amazement, that he was under the
impression that I had taken too much champagne, or something."
"I am not surprised."
"Then he asked me if I wrote for any of the newspapers. I told him I
never even read them. He seemed terribly disappointed at that, and
confided to me that all the dramatic critics were in a conspiracy
against him, and that they were every one of them to be bought."
"I should not wonder if he was quite right there. But, on the other
hand, judging from their appearance, most of them cannot be at all
"Well, he seemed to think they were beyond his means," laughed Dorian.
"By this time, however, the lights were being put out in the theatre,
and I had to go. He wanted me to try some cigars that he strongly
recommended. I declined. The next night, of course, I arrived at the
place again. When he saw me, he made me a low bow and assured me that
I was a munificent patron of art. He was a most offensive brute,
though he had an extraordinary passion for Shakespeare. He told me
once, with an air of pride, that his five bankruptcies were entirely
due to 'The Bard,' as he insisted on calling him. He seemed to think
it a distinction."
"It was a distinction, my dear Dorian--a great distinction. Most
people become bankrupt through having invested too heavily in the prose
of life. To have ruined one's self over poetry is an honour. But when
did you first speak to Miss Sibyl Vane?"
"The third night. She had been playing Rosalind. I could not help
going round. I had thrown her some flowers, and she had looked at
me--at least I fancied that she had. The old Jew was persistent. He
seemed determined to take me behind, so I consented. It was curious my
not wanting to know her, wasn't it?"
"No; I don't think so."
"My dear Harry, why?"
"I will tell you some other time. Now I want to know about the girl."
"Sibyl? Oh, she was so shy and so gentle. There is something of a
child about her. Her eyes opened wide in exquisite wonder when I told
her what I thought of her performance, and she seemed quite unconscious
of her power. I think we were both rather nervous. The old Jew stood
grinning at the doorway of the dusty greenroom, making elaborate
speeches about us both, while we stood looking at each other like
children. He would insist on calling me 'My Lord,' so I had to assure
Sibyl that I was not anything of the kind. She said quite simply to
me, 'You look more like a prince. I must call you Prince Charming.'"
"Upon my word, Dorian, Miss Sibyl knows how to pay compliments."
"You don't understand her, Harry. She regarded me merely as a person
in a play. She knows nothing of life. She lives with her mother, a
faded tired woman who played Lady Capulet in a sort of magenta
dressing-wrapper on the first night, and looks as if she had seen
"I know that look. It depresses me," murmured Lord Henry, examining
"The Jew wanted to tell me her history, but I said it did not interest
"You were quite right. There is always something infinitely mean about
other people's tragedies."
"Sibyl is the only thing I care about. What is it to me where she came
from? From her little head to her little feet, she is absolutely and
entirely divine. Every night of my life I go to see her act, and every
night she is more marvellous."
"That is the reason, I suppose, that you never dine with me now. I
thought you must have some curious romance on hand. You have; but it
is not quite what I expected."
"My dear Harry, we either lunch or sup together every day, and I have
been to the opera with you several times," said Dorian, opening his
blue eyes in wonder.
"You always come dreadfully late."
"Well, I can't help going to see Sibyl play," he cried, "even if it is
only for a single act. I get hungry for her presence; and when I think
of the wonderful soul that is hidden away in that little ivory body, I
am filled with awe."
"You can dine with me to-night, Dorian, can't you?"
He shook his head. "To-night she is Imogen," he answered, "and
to-morrow night she will be Juliet."
"When is she Sibyl Vane?"
"I congratulate you."
"How horrid you are! She is all the great heroines of the world in
one. She is more than an individual. You laugh, but I tell you she
has genius. I love her, and I must make her love me. You, who know
all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me! I
want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to
hear our laughter and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir
their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain. My God,
Harry, how I worship her!" He was walking up and down the room as he
spoke. Hectic spots of red burned on his cheeks. He was terribly
Lord Henry watched him with a subtle sense of pleasure. How different
he was now from the shy frightened boy he had met in Basil Hallward's
studio! His nature had developed like a flower, had borne blossoms of
scarlet flame. Out of its secret hiding-place had crept his soul, and
desire had come to meet it on the way.
"And what do you propose to do?" said Lord Henry at last.
"I want you and Basil to come with me some night and see her act. I
have not the slightest fear of the result. You are certain to
acknowledge her genius. Then we must get her out of the Jew's hands.
She is bound to him for three years--at least for two years and eight
months--from the present time. I shall have to pay him something, of
course. When all that is settled, I shall take a West End theatre and
bring her out properly. She will make the world as mad as she has made
"That would be impossible, my dear boy."
"Yes, she will. She has not merely art, consummate art-instinct, in
her, but she has personality also; and you have often told me that it
is personalities, not principles, that move the age."
"Well, what night shall we go?"
"Let me see. To-day is Tuesday. Let us fix to-morrow. She plays
"All right. The Bristol at eight o'clock; and I will get Basil."
"Not eight, Harry, please. Half-past six. We must be there before the
curtain rises. You must see her in the first act, where she meets
"Half-past six! What an hour! It will be like having a meat-tea, or
reading an English novel. It must be seven. No gentleman dines before
seven. Shall you see Basil between this and then? Or shall I write to
"Dear Basil! I have not laid eyes on him for a week. It is rather
horrid of me, as he has sent me my portrait in the most wonderful
frame, specially designed by himself, and, though I am a little jealous
of the picture for being a whole month younger than I am, I must admit
that I delight in it. Perhaps you had better write to him. I don't
want to see him alone. He says things that annoy me. He gives me good
Lord Henry smiled. "People are very fond of giving away what they need
most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity."
"Oh, Basil is the best of fellows, but he seems to me to be just a bit
of a Philistine. Since I have known you, Harry, I have discovered
"Basil, my dear boy, puts everything that is charming in him into his
work. The consequence is that he has nothing left for life but his
prejudices, his principles, and his common sense. The only artists I
have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists. Good
artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly
uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is
the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are
absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more
picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of
second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the
poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they
dare not realize."
"I wonder is that really so, Harry?" said Dorian Gray, putting some
perfume on his handkerchief out of a large, gold-topped bottle that
stood on the table. "It must be, if you say it. And now I am off.
Imogen is waiting for me. Don't forget about to-morrow. Good-bye."
As he left the room, Lord Henry's heavy eyelids drooped, and he began
to think. Certainly few people had ever interested him so much as
Dorian Gray, and yet the lad's mad adoration of some one else caused
him not the slightest pang of annoyance or jealousy. He was pleased by
it. It made him a more interesting study. He had been always
enthralled by the methods of natural science, but the ordinary
subject-matter of that science had seemed to him trivial and of no
import. And so he had begun by vivisecting himself, as he had ended by
vivisecting others. Human life--that appeared to him the one thing
worth investigating. Compared to it there was nothing else of any
value. It was true that as one watched life in its curious crucible of
pain and pleasure, one could not wear over one's face a mask of glass,
nor keep the sulphurous fumes from troubling the brain and making the
imagination turbid with monstrous fancies and misshapen dreams. There
were poisons so subtle that to know their properties one had to sicken
of them. There were maladies so strange that one had to pass through
them if one sought to understand their nature. And, yet, what a great
reward one received! How wonderful the whole world became to one! To
note the curious hard logic of passion, and the emotional coloured life
of the intellect--to observe where they met, and where they separated,
at what point they were in unison, and at what point they were at
discord--there was a delight in that! What matter what the cost was?
One could never pay too high a price for any sensation.
He was conscious--and the thought brought a gleam of pleasure into his
brown agate eyes--that it was through certain words of his, musical
words said with musical utterance, that Dorian Gray's soul had turned
to this white girl and bowed in worship before her. To a large extent
the lad was his own creation. He had made him premature. That was
something. Ordinary people waited till life disclosed to them its
secrets, but to the few, to the elect, the mysteries of life were
revealed before the veil was drawn away. Sometimes this was the effect
of art, and chiefly of the art of literature, which dealt immediately
with the passions and the intellect. But now and then a complex
personality took the place and assumed the office of art, was indeed,
in its way, a real work of art, life having its elaborate masterpieces,
just as poetry has, or sculpture, or painting.
Yes, the lad was premature. He was gathering his harvest while it was
yet spring. The pulse and passion of youth were in him, but he was
becoming self-conscious. It was delightful to watch him. With his
beautiful face, and his beautiful soul, he was a thing to wonder at.
It was no matter how it all ended, or was destined to end. He was like
one of those gracious figures in a pageant or a play, whose joys seem
to be remote from one, but whose sorrows stir one's sense of beauty,
and whose wounds are like red roses.
Soul and body, body and soul--how mysterious they were! There was
animalism in the soul, and the body had its moments of spirituality.
The senses could refine, and the intellect could degrade. Who could
say where the fleshly impulse ceased, or the psychical impulse began?
How shallow were the arbitrary definitions of ordinary psychologists!
And yet how difficult to decide between the claims of the various
schools! Was the soul a shadow seated in the house of sin? Or was the
body really in the soul, as Giordano Bruno thought? The separation of
spirit from matter was a mystery, and the union of spirit with matter
was a mystery also.
He began to wonder whether we could ever make psychology so absolute a
science that each little spring of life would be revealed to us. As it
was, we always misunderstood ourselves and rarely understood others.
Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to
their mistakes. Moralists had, as a rule, regarded it as a mode of
warning, had claimed for it a certain ethical efficacy in the formation
of character, had praised it as something that taught us what to follow
and showed us what to avoid. But there was no motive power in
experience. It was as little of an active cause as conscience itself.
All that it really demonstrated was that our future would be the same
as our past, and that the sin we had done once, and with loathing, we
would do many times, and with joy.
It was clear to him that the experimental method was the only method by
which one could arrive at any scientific analysis of the passions; and
certainly Dorian Gray was a subject made to his hand, and seemed to
promise rich and fruitful results. His sudden mad love for Sibyl Vane
was a psychological phenomenon of no small interest. There was no
doubt that curiosity had much to do with it, curiosity and the desire
for new experiences, yet it was not a simple, but rather a very complex
passion. What there was in it of the purely sensuous instinct of
boyhood had been transformed by the workings of the imagination,
changed into something that seemed to the lad himself to be remote from
sense, and was for that very reason all the more dangerous. It was the
passions about whose origin we deceived ourselves that tyrannized most
strongly over us. Our weakest motives were those of whose nature we
were conscious. It often happened that when we thought we were
experimenting on others we were really experimenting on ourselves.
While Lord Henry sat dreaming on these things, a knock came to the
door, and his valet entered and reminded him it was time to dress for
dinner. He got up and looked out into the street. The sunset had
smitten into scarlet gold the upper windows of the houses opposite.
The panes glowed like plates of heated metal. The sky above was like a
faded rose. He thought of his friend's young fiery-coloured life and
wondered how it was all going to end.
When he arrived home, about half-past twelve o'clock, he saw a telegram
lying on the hall table. He opened it and found it was from Dorian
Gray. It was to tell him that he was engaged to be married to Sibyl
"Mother, Mother, I am so happy!" whispered the girl, burying her face
in the lap of the faded, tired-looking woman who, with back turned to
the shrill intrusive light, was sitting in the one arm-chair that their
dingy sitting-room contained. "I am so happy!" she repeated, "and you
must be happy, too!"
Mrs. Vane winced and put her thin, bismuth-whitened hands on her
daughter's head. "Happy!" she echoed, "I am only happy, Sibyl, when I
see you act. You must not think of anything but your acting. Mr.
Isaacs has been very good to us, and we owe him money."
The girl looked up and pouted. "Money, Mother?" she cried, "what does
money matter? Love is more than money."
"Mr. Isaacs has advanced us fifty pounds to pay off our debts and to
get a proper outfit for James. You must not forget that, Sibyl. Fifty
pounds is a very large sum. Mr. Isaacs has been most considerate."
"He is not a gentleman, Mother, and I hate the way he talks to me,"
said the girl, rising to her feet and going over to the window.
"I don't know how we could manage without him," answered the elder
Sibyl Vane tossed her head and laughed. "We don't want him any more,
Mother. Prince Charming rules life for us now." Then she paused. A
rose shook in her blood and shadowed her cheeks. Quick breath parted
the petals of her lips. They trembled. Some southern wind of passion
swept over her and stirred the dainty folds of her dress. "I love
him," she said simply.
"Foolish child! foolish child!" was the parrot-phrase flung in answer.
The waving of crooked, false-jewelled fingers gave grotesqueness to the
The girl laughed again. The joy of a caged bird was in her voice. Her
eyes caught the melody and echoed it in radiance, then closed for a
moment, as though to hide their secret. When they opened, the mist of
a dream had passed across them.
Thin-lipped wisdom spoke at her from the worn chair, hinted at
prudence, quoted from that book of cowardice whose author apes the name
of common sense. She did not listen. She was free in her prison of
passion. Her prince, Prince Charming, was with her. She had called on
memory to remake him. She had sent her soul to search for him, and it
had brought him back. His kiss burned again upon her mouth. Her
eyelids were warm with his breath.
Then wisdom altered its method and spoke of espial and discovery. This
young man might be rich. If so, marriage should be thought of.
Against the shell of her ear broke the waves of worldly cunning. The
arrows of craft shot by her. She saw the thin lips moving, and smiled.
Suddenly she felt the need to speak. The wordy silence troubled her.
"Mother, Mother," she cried, "why does he love me so much? I know why
I love him. I love him because he is like what love himself should be.
But what does he see in me? I am not worthy of him. And yet--why, I
cannot tell--though I feel so much beneath him, I don't feel humble. I
feel proud, terribly proud. Mother, did you love my father as I love
The elder woman grew pale beneath the coarse powder that daubed her
cheeks, and her dry lips twitched with a spasm of pain. Sybil rushed
to her, flung her arms round her neck, and kissed her. "Forgive me,
Mother. I know it pains you to talk about our father. But it only
pains you because you loved him so much. Don't look so sad. I am as
happy to-day as you were twenty years ago. Ah! let me be happy for
"My child, you are far too young to think of falling in love. Besides,
what do you know of this young man? You don't even know his name. The
whole thing is most inconvenient, and really, when James is going away
to Australia, and I have so much to think of, I must say that you
should have shown more consideration. However, as I said before, if he
is rich ..."
"Ah! Mother, Mother, let me be happy!"
Mrs. Vane glanced at her, and with one of those false theatrical
gestures that so often become a mode of second nature to a
stage-player, clasped her in her arms. At this moment, the door opened
and a young lad with rough brown hair came into the room. He was
thick-set of figure, and his hands and feet were large and somewhat
clumsy in movement. He was not so finely bred as his sister. One
would hardly have guessed the close relationship that existed between
them. Mrs. Vane fixed her eyes on him and intensified her smile. She
mentally elevated her son to the dignity of an audience. She felt sure
that the tableau was interesting.
"You might keep some of your kisses for me, Sibyl, I think," said the
lad with a good-natured grumble.
"Ah! but you don't like being kissed, Jim," she cried. "You are a
dreadful old bear." And she ran across the room and hugged him.
James Vane looked into his sister's face with tenderness. "I want you
to come out with me for a walk, Sibyl. I don't suppose I shall ever
see this horrid London again. I am sure I don't want to."
"My son, don't say such dreadful things," murmured Mrs. Vane, taking up
a tawdry theatrical dress, with a sigh, and beginning to patch it. She
felt a little disappointed that he had not joined the group. It would
have increased the theatrical picturesqueness of the situation.
"Why not, Mother? I mean it."
"You pain me, my son. I trust you will return from Australia in a
position of affluence. I believe there is no society of any kind in
the Colonies--nothing that I would call society--so when you have made
your fortune, you must come back and assert yourself in London."
"Society!" muttered the lad. "I don't want to know anything about
that. I should like to make some money to take you and Sibyl off the
stage. I hate it."
"Oh, Jim!" said Sibyl, laughing, "how unkind of you! But are you
really going for a walk with me? That will be nice! I was afraid you
were going to say good-bye to some of your friends--to Tom Hardy, who
gave you that hideous pipe, or Ned Langton, who makes fun of you for
smoking it. It is very sweet of you to let me have your last
afternoon. Where shall we go? Let us go to the park."
"I am too shabby," he answered, frowning. "Only swell people go to the
"Nonsense, Jim," she whispered, stroking the sleeve of his coat.
He hesitated for a moment. "Very well," he said at last, "but don't be
too long dressing." She danced out of the door. One could hear her
singing as she ran upstairs. Her little feet pattered overhead.
He walked up and down the room two or three times. Then he turned to
the still figure in the chair. "Mother, are my things ready?" he asked.
"Quite ready, James," she answered, keeping her eyes on her work. For
some months past she had felt ill at ease when she was alone with this
rough stern son of hers. Her shallow secret nature was troubled when
their eyes met. She used to wonder if he suspected anything. The
silence, for he made no other observation, became intolerable to her.
She began to complain. Women defend themselves by attacking, just as
they attack by sudden and strange surrenders. "I hope you will be
contented, James, with your sea-faring life," she said. "You must
remember that it is your own choice. You might have entered a
solicitor's office. Solicitors are a very respectable class, and in
the country often dine with the best families."
"I hate offices, and I hate clerks," he replied. "But you are quite
right. I have chosen my own life. All I say is, watch over Sibyl.
Don't let her come to any harm. Mother, you must watch over her."
"James, you really talk very strangely. Of course I watch over Sibyl."
"I hear a gentleman comes every night to the theatre and goes behind to
talk to her. Is that right? What about that?"
"You are speaking about things you don't understand, James. In the
profession we are accustomed to receive a great deal of most gratifying
attention. I myself used to receive many bouquets at one time. That
was when acting was really understood. As for Sibyl, I do not know at
present whether her attachment is serious or not. But there is no
doubt that the young man in question is a perfect gentleman. He is
always most polite to me. Besides, he has the appearance of being
rich, and the flowers he sends are lovely."
"You don't know his name, though," said the lad harshly.
"No," answered his mother with a placid expression in her face. "He
has not yet revealed his real name. I think it is quite romantic of
him. He is probably a member of the aristocracy."
James Vane bit his lip. "Watch over Sibyl, Mother," he cried, "watch
"My son, you distress me very much. Sibyl is always under my special
care. Of course, if this gentleman is wealthy, there is no reason why
she should not contract an alliance with him. I trust he is one of the
aristocracy. He has all the appearance of it, I must say. It might be
a most brilliant marriage for Sibyl. They would make a charming
couple. His good looks are really quite remarkable; everybody notices
The lad muttered something to himself and drummed on the window-pane
with his coarse fingers. He had just turned round to say something
when the door opened and Sibyl ran in.
"How serious you both are!" she cried. "What is the matter?"
"Nothing," he answered. "I suppose one must be serious sometimes.
Good-bye, Mother; I will have my dinner at five o'clock. Everything is
packed, except my shirts, so you need not trouble."
"Good-bye, my son," she answered with a bow of strained stateliness.
She was extremely annoyed at the tone he had adopted with her, and
there was something in his look that had made her feel afraid.
"Kiss me, Mother," said the girl. Her flowerlike lips touched the
withered cheek and warmed its frost.
"My child! my child!" cried Mrs. Vane, looking up to the ceiling in
search of an imaginary gallery.
"Come, Sibyl," said her brother impatiently. He hated his mother's
They went out into the flickering, wind-blown sunlight and strolled
down the dreary Euston Road. The passersby glanced in wonder at the
sullen heavy youth who, in coarse, ill-fitting clothes, was in the
company of such a graceful, refined-looking girl. He was like a common
gardener walking with a rose.
Jim frowned from time to time when he caught the inquisitive glance of
some stranger. He had that dislike of being stared at, which comes on
geniuses late in life and never leaves the commonplace. Sibyl,
however, was quite unconscious of the effect she was producing. Her
love was trembling in laughter on her lips. She was thinking of Prince
Charming, and, that she might think of him all the more, she did not
talk of him, but prattled on about the ship in which Jim was going to
sail, about the gold he was certain to find, about the wonderful
heiress whose life he was to save from the wicked, red-shirted
bushrangers. For he was not to remain a sailor, or a supercargo, or
whatever he was going to be. Oh, no! A sailor's existence was
dreadful. Fancy being cooped up in a horrid ship, with the hoarse,
hump-backed waves trying to get in, and a black wind blowing the masts
down and tearing the sails into long screaming ribands! He was to
leave the vessel at Melbourne, bid a polite good-bye to the captain,
and go off at once to the gold-fields. Before a week was over he was to
come across a large nugget of pure gold, the largest nugget that had
ever been discovered, and bring it down to the coast in a waggon
guarded by six mounted policemen. The bushrangers were to attack them
three times, and be defeated with immense slaughter. Or, no. He was
not to go to the gold-fields at all. They were horrid places, where
men got intoxicated, and shot each other in bar-rooms, and used bad
language. He was to be a nice sheep-farmer, and one evening, as he was
riding home, he was to see the beautiful heiress being carried off by a
robber on a black horse, and give chase, and rescue her. Of course,
she would fall in love with him, and he with her, and they would get
married, and come home, and live in an immense house in London. Yes,
there were delightful things in store for him. But he must be very
good, and not lose his temper, or spend his money foolishly. She was
only a year older than he was, but she knew so much more of life. He
must be sure, also, to write to her by every mail, and to say his
prayers each night before he went to sleep. God was very good, and
would watch over him. She would pray for him, too, and in a few years
he would come back quite rich and happy.
The lad listened sulkily to her and made no answer. He was heart-sick
at leaving home.
Yet it was not this alone that made him gloomy and morose.
Inexperienced though he was, he had still a strong sense of the danger
of Sibyl's position. This young dandy who was making love to her could
mean her no good. He was a gentleman, and he hated him for that, hated
him through some curious race-instinct for which he could not account,
and which for that reason was all the more dominant within him. He was
conscious also of the shallowness and vanity of his mother's nature,
and in that saw infinite peril for Sibyl and Sibyl's happiness.
Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge
them; sometimes they forgive them.
His mother! He had something on his mind to ask of her, something that
he had brooded on for many months of silence. A chance phrase that he
had heard at the theatre, a whispered sneer that had reached his ears
one night as he waited at the stage-door, had set loose a train of
horrible thoughts. He remembered it as if it had been the lash of a
hunting-crop across his face. His brows knit together into a wedgelike
furrow, and with a twitch of pain he bit his underlip.
"You are not listening to a word I am saying, Jim," cried Sibyl, "and I
am making the most delightful plans for your future. Do say something."
"What do you want me to say?"
"Oh! that you will be a good boy and not forget us," she answered,
smiling at him.
He shrugged his shoulders. "You are more likely to forget me than I am
to forget you, Sibyl."
She flushed. "What do you mean, Jim?" she asked.
"You have a new friend, I hear. Who is he? Why have you not told me
about him? He means you no good."
"Stop, Jim!" she exclaimed. "You must not say anything against him. I
"Why, you don't even know his name," answered the lad. "Who is he? I
have a right to know."
"He is called Prince Charming. Don't you like the name. Oh! you silly
boy! you should never forget it. If you only saw him, you would think
him the most wonderful person in the world. Some day you will meet
him--when you come back from Australia. You will like him so much.
Everybody likes him, and I ... love him. I wish you could come to the
theatre to-night. He is going to be there, and I am to play Juliet.
Oh! how I shall play it! Fancy, Jim, to be in love and play Juliet!
To have him sitting there! To play for his delight! I am afraid I may
frighten the company, frighten or enthrall them. To be in love is to
surpass one's self. Poor dreadful Mr. Isaacs will be shouting 'genius'
to his loafers at the bar. He has preached me as a dogma; to-night he
will announce me as a revelation. I feel it. And it is all his, his
only, Prince Charming, my wonderful lover, my god of graces. But I am
poor beside him. Poor? What does that matter? When poverty creeps in
at the door, love flies in through the window. Our proverbs want
rewriting. They were made in winter, and it is summer now; spring-time
for me, I think, a very dance of blossoms in blue skies."
"He is a gentleman," said the lad sullenly.
"A prince!" she cried musically. "What more do you want?"
"He wants to enslave you."
"I shudder at the thought of being free."
"I want you to beware of him."
"To see him is to worship him; to know him is to trust him."
"Sibyl, you are mad about him."
She laughed and took his arm. "You dear old Jim, you talk as if you
were a hundred. Some day you will be in love yourself. Then you will
know what it is. Don't look so sulky. Surely you should be glad to
think that, though you are going away, you leave me happier than I have
ever been before. Life has been hard for us both, terribly hard and
difficult. But it will be different now. You are going to a new
world, and I have found one. Here are two chairs; let us sit down and
see the smart people go by."
They took their seats amidst a crowd of watchers. The tulip-beds
across the road flamed like throbbing rings of fire. A white
dust--tremulous cloud of orris-root it seemed--hung in the panting air.
The brightly coloured parasols danced and dipped like monstrous
She made her brother talk of himself, his hopes, his prospects. He
spoke slowly and with effort. They passed words to each other as
players at a game pass counters. Sibyl felt oppressed. She could not
communicate her joy. A faint smile curving that sullen mouth was all
the echo she could win. After some time she became silent. Suddenly
she caught a glimpse of golden hair and laughing lips, and in an open
carriage with two ladies Dorian Gray drove past.
She started to her feet. "There he is!" she cried.
"Who?" said Jim Vane.
"Prince Charming," she answered, looking after the victoria.
He jumped up and seized her roughly by the arm. "Show him to me.
Which is he? Point him out. I must see him!" he exclaimed; but at
that moment the Duke of Berwick's four-in-hand came between, and when
it had left the space clear, the carriage had swept out of the park.
"He is gone," murmured Sibyl sadly. "I wish you had seen him."
"I wish I had, for as sure as there is a God in heaven, if he ever does
you any wrong, I shall kill him."
She looked at him in horror. He repeated his words. They cut the air
like a dagger. The people round began to gape. A lady standing close
to her tittered.
"Come away, Jim; come away," she whispered. He followed her doggedly
as she passed through the crowd. He felt glad at what he had said.
When they reached the Achilles Statue, she turned round. There was
pity in her eyes that became laughter on her lips. She shook her head
at him. "You are foolish, Jim, utterly foolish; a bad-tempered boy,
that is all. How can you say such horrible things? You don't know
what you are talking about. You are simply jealous and unkind. Ah! I
wish you would fall in love. Love makes people good, and what you said
"I am sixteen," he answered, "and I know what I am about. Mother is no
help to you. She doesn't understand how to look after you. I wish now
that I was not going to Australia at all. I have a great mind to chuck
the whole thing up. I would, if my articles hadn't been signed."
"Oh, don't be so serious, Jim. You are like one of the heroes of those
silly melodramas Mother used to be so fond of acting in. I am not
going to quarrel with you. I have seen him, and oh! to see him is
perfect happiness. We won't quarrel. I know you would never harm any
one I love, would you?"
"Not as long as you love him, I suppose," was the sullen answer.
"I shall love him for ever!" she cried.
"For ever, too!"
"He had better."
She shrank from him. Then she laughed and put her hand on his arm. He
was merely a boy.
At the Marble Arch they hailed an omnibus, which left them close to
their shabby home in the Euston Road. It was after five o'clock, and
Sibyl had to lie down for a couple of hours before acting. Jim
insisted that she should do so. He said that he would sooner part with
her when their mother was not present. She would be sure to make a
scene, and he detested scenes of every kind.
In Sybil's own room they parted. There was jealousy in the lad's
heart, and a fierce murderous hatred of the stranger who, as it seemed
to him, had come between them. Yet, when her arms were flung round his
neck, and her fingers strayed through his hair, he softened and kissed
her with real affection. There were tears in his eyes as he went
His mother was waiting for him below. She grumbled at his
unpunctuality, as he entered. He made no answer, but sat down to his
meagre meal. The flies buzzed round the table and crawled over the
stained cloth. Through the rumble of omnibuses, and the clatter of
street-cabs, he could hear the droning voice devouring each minute that
was left to him.
After some time, he thrust away his plate and put his head in his
hands. He felt that he had a right to know. It should have been told
to him before, if it was as he suspected. Leaden with fear, his mother
watched him. Words dropped mechanically from her lips. A tattered
lace handkerchief twitched in her fingers. When the clock struck six,
he got up and went to the door. Then he turned back and looked at her.
Their eyes met. In hers he saw a wild appeal for mercy. It enraged
"Mother, I have something to ask you," he said. Her eyes wandered
vaguely about the room. She made no answer. "Tell me the truth. I
have a right to know. Were you married to my father?"
She heaved a deep sigh. It was a sigh of relief. The terrible moment,
the moment that night and day, for weeks and months, she had dreaded,
had come at last, and yet she felt no terror. Indeed, in some measure
it was a disappointment to her. The vulgar directness of the question
called for a direct answer. The situation had not been gradually led
up to. It was crude. It reminded her of a bad rehearsal.
"No," she answered, wondering at the harsh simplicity of life.
"My father was a scoundrel then!" cried the lad, clenching his fists.
She shook her head. "I knew he was not free. We loved each other very
much. If he had lived, he would have made provision for us. Don't
speak against him, my son. He was your father, and a gentleman.
Indeed, he was highly connected."
An oath broke from his lips. "I don't care for myself," he exclaimed,
"but don't let Sibyl.... It is a gentleman, isn't it, who is in love
with her, or says he is? Highly connected, too, I suppose."
For a moment a hideous sense of humiliation came over the woman. Her
head drooped. She wiped her eyes with shaking hands. "Sibyl has a
mother," she murmured; "I had none."
The lad was touched. He went towards her, and stooping down, he kissed
her. "I am sorry if I have pained you by asking about my father," he
said, "but I could not help it. I must go now. Good-bye. Don't forget
that you will have only one child now to look after, and believe me
that if this man wrongs my sister, I will find out who he is, track him
down, and kill him like a dog. I swear it."
The exaggerated folly of the threat, the passionate gesture that
accompanied it, the mad melodramatic words, made life seem more vivid
to her. She was familiar with the atmosphere. She breathed more
freely, and for the first time for many months she really admired her
son. She would have liked to have continued the scene on the same
emotional scale, but he cut her short. Trunks had to be carried down
and mufflers looked for. The lodging-house drudge bustled in and out.
There was the bargaining with the cabman. The moment was lost in
vulgar details. It was with a renewed feeling of disappointment that
she waved the tattered lace handkerchief from the window, as her son
drove away. She was conscious that a great opportunity had been
wasted. She consoled herself by telling Sibyl how desolate she felt
her life would be, now that she had only one child to look after. She
remembered the phrase. It had pleased her. Of the threat she said
nothing. It was vividly and dramatically expressed. She felt that
they would all laugh at it some day.
"I suppose you have heard the news, Basil?" said Lord Henry that
evening as Hallward was shown into a little private room at the Bristol
where dinner had been laid for three.
"No, Harry," answered the artist, giving his hat and coat to the bowing
waiter. "What is it? Nothing about politics, I hope! They don't
interest me. There is hardly a single person in the House of Commons
worth painting, though many of them would be the better for a little
"Dorian Gray is engaged to be married," said Lord Henry, watching him
as he spoke.
Hallward started and then frowned. "Dorian engaged to be married!" he
"It is perfectly true."
"To some little actress or other."
"I can't believe it. Dorian is far too sensible."
"Dorian is far too wise not to do foolish things now and then, my dear
"Marriage is hardly a thing that one can do now and then, Harry."
"Except in America," rejoined Lord Henry languidly. "But I didn't say
he was married. I said he was engaged to be married. There is a great
difference. I have a distinct remembrance of being married, but I have
no recollection at all of being engaged. I am inclined to think that I
never was engaged."
"But think of Dorian's birth, and position, and wealth. It would be
absurd for him to marry so much beneath him."
"If you want to make him marry this girl, tell him that, Basil. He is
sure to do it, then. Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it
is always from the noblest motives."
"I hope the girl is good, Harry. I don't want to see Dorian tied to
some vile creature, who might degrade his nature and ruin his
"Oh, she is better than good--she is beautiful," murmured Lord Henry,
sipping a glass of vermouth and orange-bitters. "Dorian says she is
beautiful, and he is not often wrong about things of that kind. Your
portrait of him has quickened his appreciation of the personal
appearance of other people. It has had that excellent effect, amongst
others. We are to see her to-night, if that boy doesn't forget his
"Are you serious?"
"Quite serious, Basil. I should be miserable if I thought I should
ever be more serious than I am at the present moment."
"But do you approve of it, Harry?" asked the painter, walking up and
down the room and biting his lip. "You can't approve of it, possibly.
It is some silly infatuation."
"I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd
attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air
our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people
say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a
personality fascinates me, whatever mode of expression that personality
selects is absolutely delightful to me. Dorian Gray falls in love with
a beautiful girl who acts Juliet, and proposes to marry her. Why not?
If he wedded Messalina, he would be none the less interesting. You
know I am not a champion of marriage. The real drawback to marriage is
that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless.
They lack individuality. Still, there are certain temperaments that
marriage makes more complex. They retain their egotism, and add to it
many other egos. They are forced to have more than one life. They
become more highly organized, and to be highly organized is, I should
fancy, the object of man's existence. Besides, every experience is of
value, and whatever one may say against marriage, it is certainly an
experience. I hope that Dorian Gray will make this girl his wife,
passionately adore her for six months, and then suddenly become
fascinated by some one else. He would be a wonderful study."
"You don't mean a single word of all that, Harry; you know you don't.
If Dorian Gray's life were spoiled, no one would be sorrier than
yourself. You are much better than you pretend to be."
Lord Henry laughed. "The reason we all like to think so well of others
is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is
sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we credit our
neighbour with the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a
benefit to us. We praise the banker that we may overdraw our account,
and find good qualities in the highwayman in the hope that he may spare
our pockets. I mean everything that I have said. I have the greatest
contempt for optimism. As for a spoiled life, no life is spoiled but
one whose growth is arrested. If you want to mar a nature, you have
merely to reform it. As for marriage, of course that would be silly,
but there are other and more interesting bonds between men and women.
I will certainly encourage them. They have the charm of being
fashionable. But here is Dorian himself. He will tell you more than I
"My dear Harry, my dear Basil, you must both congratulate me!" said the
lad, throwing off his evening cape with its satin-lined wings and
shaking each of his friends by the hand in turn. "I have never been so
happy. Of course, it is sudden--all really delightful things are. And
yet it seems to me to be the one thing I have been looking for all my
life." He was flushed with excitement and pleasure, and looked
"I hope you will always be very happy, Dorian," said Hallward, "but I
don't quite forgive you for not having let me know of your engagement.
You let Harry know."
"And I don't forgive you for being late for dinner," broke in Lord
Henry, putting his hand on the lad's shoulder and smiling as he spoke.
"Come, let us sit down and try what the new chef here is like, and then
you will tell us how it all came about."
"There is really not much to tell," cried Dorian as they took their
seats at the small round table. "What happened was simply this. After
I left you yesterday evening, Harry, I dressed, had some dinner at that
little Italian restaurant in Rupert Street you introduced me to, and
went down at eight o'clock to the theatre. Sibyl was playing Rosalind.
Of course, the scenery was dreadful and the Orlando absurd. But Sibyl!
You should have seen her! When she came on in her boy's clothes, she
was perfectly wonderful. She wore a moss-coloured velvet jerkin with
cinnamon sleeves, slim, brown, cross-gartered hose, a dainty little
green cap with a hawk's feather caught in a jewel, and a hooded cloak
lined with dull red. She had never seemed to me more exquisite. She
had all the delicate grace of that Tanagra figurine that you have in
your studio, Basil. Her hair clustered round her face like dark leaves
round a pale rose. As for her acting--well, you shall see her
to-night. She is simply a born artist. I sat in the dingy box
absolutely enthralled. I forgot that I was in London and in the
nineteenth century. I was away with my love in a forest that no man
had ever seen. After the performance was over, I went behind and spoke
to her. As we were sitting together, suddenly there came into her eyes
a look that I had never seen there before. My lips moved towards hers.
We kissed each other. I can't describe to you what I felt at that
moment. It seemed to me that all my life had been narrowed to one
perfect point of rose-coloured joy. She trembled all over and shook
like a white narcissus. Then she flung herself on her knees and kissed
my hands. I feel that I should not tell you all this, but I can't help
it. Of course, our engagement is a dead secret. She has not even told
her own mother. I don't know what my guardians will say. Lord Radley
is sure to be furious. I don't care. I shall be of age in less than a
year, and then I can do what I like. I have been right, Basil, haven't
I, to take my love out of poetry and to find my wife in Shakespeare's
plays? Lips that Shakespeare taught to speak have whispered their
secret in my ear. I have had the arms of Rosalind around me, and
kissed Juliet on the mouth."
"Yes, Dorian, I suppose you were right," said Hallward slowly.
"Have you seen her to-day?" asked Lord Henry.
Dorian Gray shook his head. "I left her in the forest of Arden; I
shall find her in an orchard in Verona."
Lord Henry sipped his champagne in a meditative manner. "At what
particular point did you mention the word marriage, Dorian? And what
did she say in answer? Perhaps you forgot all about it."
"My dear Harry, I did not treat it as a business transaction, and I did
not make any formal proposal. I told her that I loved her, and she
said she was not worthy to be my wife. Not worthy! Why, the whole
world is nothing to me compared with her."
"Women are wonderfully practical," murmured Lord Henry, "much more
practical than we are. In situations of that kind we often forget to
say anything about marriage, and they always remind us."
Hallward laid his hand upon his arm. "Don't, Harry. You have annoyed
Dorian. He is not like other men. He would never bring misery upon
any one. His nature is too fine for that."
Lord Henry looked across the table. "Dorian is never annoyed with me,"
he answered. "I asked the question for the best reason possible, for
the only reason, indeed, that excuses one for asking any
question--simple curiosity. I have a theory that it is always the
women who propose to us, and not we who propose to the women. Except,
of course, in middle-class life. But then the middle classes are not
Dorian Gray laughed, and tossed his head. "You are quite incorrigible,
Harry; but I don't mind. It is impossible to be angry with you. When
you see Sibyl Vane, you will feel that the man who could wrong her
would be a beast, a beast without a heart. I cannot understand how any
one can wish to shame the thing he loves. I love Sibyl Vane. I want
to place her on a pedestal of gold and to see the world worship the
woman who is mine. What is marriage? An irrevocable vow. You mock at
it for that. Ah! don't mock. It is an irrevocable vow that I want to
take. Her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good. When I
am with her, I regret all that you have taught me. I become different
from what you have known me to be. I am changed, and the mere touch of
Sibyl Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating,
poisonous, delightful theories."
"And those are ...?" asked Lord Henry, helping himself to some salad.
"Oh, your theories about life, your theories about love, your theories
about pleasure. All your theories, in fact, Harry."
"Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about," he answered
in his slow melodious voice. "But I am afraid I cannot claim my theory
as my own. It belongs to Nature, not to me. Pleasure is Nature's
test, her sign of approval. When we are happy, we are always good, but
when we are good, we are not always happy."
"Ah! but what do you mean by good?" cried Basil Hallward.
"Yes," echoed Dorian, leaning back in his chair and looking at Lord
Henry over the heavy clusters of purple-lipped irises that stood in the
centre of the table, "what do you mean by good, Harry?"
"To be good is to be in harmony with one's self," he replied, touching
the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine-pointed fingers.
"Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One's own
life--that is the important thing. As for the lives of one's
neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt
one's moral views about them, but they are not one's concern. Besides,
individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in
accepting the standard of one's age. I consider that for any man of
culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest
"But, surely, if one lives merely for one's self, Harry, one pays a
terrible price for doing so?" suggested the painter.
"Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy that
the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but
self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege
of the rich."
"One has to pay in other ways but money."
"What sort of ways, Basil?"
"Oh! I should fancy in remorse, in suffering, in ... well, in the
consciousness of degradation."
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "My dear fellow, mediaeval art is
charming, but mediaeval emotions are out of date. One can use them in
fiction, of course. But then the only things that one can use in
fiction are the things that one has ceased to use in fact. Believe me,
no civilized man ever regrets a pleasure, and no uncivilized man ever
knows what a pleasure is."
"I know what pleasure is," cried Dorian Gray. "It is to adore some
"That is certainly better than being adored," he answered, toying with
some fruits. "Being adored is a nuisance. Women treat us just as
humanity treats its gods. They worship us, and are always bothering us
to do something for them."
"I should have said that whatever they ask for they had first given to
us," murmured the lad gravely. "They create love in our natures. They
have a right to demand it back."
"That is quite true, Dorian," cried Hallward.
"Nothing is ever quite true," said Lord Henry.
"This is," interrupted Dorian. "You must admit, Harry, that women give
to men the very gold of their lives."
"Possibly," he sighed, "but they invariably want it back in such very
small change. That is the worry. Women, as some witty Frenchman once
put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces and always
prevent us from carrying them out."
"Harry, you are dreadful! I don't know why I like you so much."
"You will always like me, Dorian," he replied. "Will you have some
coffee, you fellows? Waiter, bring coffee, and fine-champagne, and
some cigarettes. No, don't mind the cigarettes--I have some. Basil, I
can't allow you to smoke cigars. You must have a cigarette. A
cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite,
and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want? Yes, Dorian,
you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you
have never had the courage to commit."
"What nonsense you talk, Harry!" cried the lad, taking a light from a
fire-breathing silver dragon that the waiter had placed on the table.
"Let us go down to the theatre. When Sibyl comes on the stage you will
have a new ideal of life. She will represent something to you that you
have never known."
"I have known everything," said Lord Henry, with a tired look in his
eyes, "but I am always ready for a new emotion. I am afraid, however,
that, for me at any rate, there is no such thing. Still, your
wonderful girl may thrill me. I love acting. It is so much more real
than life. Let us go. Dorian, you will come with me. I am so sorry,
Basil, but there is only room for two in the brougham. You must follow
us in a hansom."
They got up and put on their coats, sipping their coffee standing. The
painter was silent and preoccupied. There was a gloom over him. He
could not bear this marriage, and yet it seemed to him to be better
than many other things that might have happened. After a few minutes,
they all passed downstairs. He drove off by himself, as had been
arranged, and watched the flashing lights of the little brougham in
front of him. A strange sense of loss came over him. He felt that
Dorian Gray would never again be to him all that he had been in the
past. Life had come between them.... His eyes darkened, and the
crowded flaring streets became blurred to his eyes. When the cab drew
up at the theatre, it seemed to him that he had grown years older.
For some reason or other, the house was crowded that night, and the fat
Jew manager who met them at the door was beaming from ear to ear with
an oily tremulous smile. He escorted them to their box with a sort of
pompous humility, waving his fat jewelled hands and talking at the top
of his voice. Dorian Gray loathed him more than ever. He felt as if
he had come to look for Miranda and had been met by Caliban. Lord
Henry, upon the other hand, rather liked him. At least he declared he
did, and insisted on shaking him by the hand and assuring him that he
was proud to meet a man who had discovered a real genius and gone
bankrupt over a poet. Hallward amused himself with watching the faces
in the pit. The heat was terribly oppressive, and the huge sunlight
flamed like a monstrous dahlia with petals of yellow fire. The youths
in the gallery had taken off their coats and waistcoats and hung them
over the side. They talked to each other across the theatre and shared
their oranges with the tawdry girls who sat beside them. Some women
were laughing in the pit. Their voices were horribly shrill and
discordant. The sound of the popping of corks came from the bar.
"What a place to find one's divinity in!" said Lord Henry.
"Yes!" answered Dorian Gray. "It was here I found her, and she is
divine beyond all living things. When she acts, you will forget
everything. These common rough people, with their coarse faces and
brutal gestures, become quite different when she is on the stage. They
sit silently and watch her. They weep and laugh as she wills them to
do. She makes them as responsive as a violin. She spiritualizes them,
and one feels that they are of the same flesh and blood as one's self."
"The same flesh and blood as one's self! Oh, I hope not!" exclaimed
Lord Henry, who was scanning the occupants of the gallery through his
"Don't pay any attention to him, Dorian," said the painter. "I
understand what you mean, and I believe in this girl. Any one you love
must be marvellous, and any girl who has the effect you describe must
be fine and noble. To spiritualize one's age--that is something worth
doing. If this girl can give a soul to those who have lived without
one, if she can create the sense of beauty in people whose lives have
been sordid and ugly, if she can strip them of their selfishness and
lend them tears for sorrows that are not their own, she is worthy of
all your adoration, worthy of the adoration of the world. This
marriage is quite right. I did not think so at first, but I admit it
now. The gods made Sibyl Vane for you. Without her you would have
"Thanks, Basil," answered Dorian Gray, pressing his hand. "I knew that
you would understand me. Harry is so cynical, he terrifies me. But
here is the orchestra. It is quite dreadful, but it only lasts for
about five minutes. Then the curtain rises, and you will see the girl
to whom I am going to give all my life, to whom I have given everything
that is good in me."
A quarter of an hour afterwards, amidst an extraordinary turmoil of
applause, Sibyl Vane stepped on to the stage. Yes, she was certainly
lovely to look at--one of the loveliest creatures, Lord Henry thought,
that he had ever seen. There was something of the fawn in her shy
grace and startled eyes. A faint blush, like the shadow of a rose in a
mirror of silver, came to her cheeks as she glanced at the crowded
enthusiastic house. She stepped back a few paces and her lips seemed
to tremble. Basil Hallward leaped to his feet and began to applaud.
Motionless, and as one in a dream, sat Dorian Gray, gazing at her.
Lord Henry peered through his glasses, murmuring, "Charming! charming!"
The scene was the hall of Capulet's house, and Romeo in his pilgrim's
dress had entered with Mercutio and his other friends. The band, such
as it was, struck up a few bars of music, and the dance began. Through
the crowd of ungainly, shabbily dressed actors, Sibyl Vane moved like a
creature from a finer world. Her body swayed, while she danced, as a
plant sways in the water. The curves of her throat were the curves of
a white lily. Her hands seemed to be made of cool ivory.
Yet she was curiously listless. She showed no sign of joy when her
eyes rested on Romeo. The few words she had to speak--
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss--
with the brief dialogue that follows, were spoken in a thoroughly
artificial manner. The voice was exquisite, but from the point of view
of tone it was absolutely false. It was wrong in colour. It took away
all the life from the verse. It made the passion unreal.
Dorian Gray grew pale as he watched her. He was puzzled and anxious.
Neither of his friends dared to say anything to him. She seemed to
them to be absolutely incompetent. They were horribly disappointed.
Yet they felt that the true test of any Juliet is the balcony scene of
the second act. They waited for that. If she failed there, there was
nothing in her.
She looked charming as she came out in the moonlight. That could not
be denied. But the staginess of her acting was unbearable, and grew
worse as she went on. Her gestures became absurdly artificial. She
overemphasized everything that she had to say. The beautiful passage--
Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night--
was declaimed with the painful precision of a schoolgirl who has been
taught to recite by some second-rate professor of elocution. When she
leaned over the balcony and came to those wonderful lines--
Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say, "It lightens." Sweet, good-night!
This bud of love by summer's ripening breath
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet--
she spoke the words as though they conveyed no meaning to her. It was
not nervousness. Indeed, so far from being nervous, she was absolutely
self-contained. It was simply bad art. She was a complete failure.
Even the common uneducated audience of the pit and gallery lost their
interest in the play. They got restless, and began to talk loudly and
to whistle. The Jew manager, who was standing at the back of the
dress-circle, stamped and swore with rage. The only person unmoved was
the girl herself.
When the second act was over, there came a storm of hisses, and Lord
Henry got up from his chair and put on his coat. "She is quite
beautiful, Dorian," he said, "but she can't act. Let us go."
"I am going to see the play through," answered the lad, in a hard
bitter voice. "I am awfully sorry that I have made you waste an
evening, Harry. I apologize to you both."
"My dear Dorian, I should think Miss Vane was ill," interrupted
Hallward. "We will come some other night."
"I wish she were ill," he rejoined. "But she seems to me to be simply
callous and cold. She has entirely altered. Last night she was a
great artist. This evening she is merely a commonplace mediocre
"Don't talk like that about any one you love, Dorian. Love is a more
wonderful thing than art."
"They are both simply forms of imitation," remarked Lord Henry. "But
do let us go. Dorian, you must not stay here any longer. It is not
good for one's morals to see bad acting. Besides, I don't suppose you
will want your wife to act, so what does it matter if she plays Juliet
like a wooden doll? She is very lovely, and if she knows as little
about life as she does about acting, she will be a delightful
experience. There are only two kinds of people who are really
fascinating--people who know absolutely everything, and people who know
absolutely nothing. Good heavens, my dear boy, don't look so tragic!
The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is
unbecoming. Come to the club with Basil and myself. We will smoke
cigarettes and drink to the beauty of Sibyl Vane. She is beautiful.
What more can you want?"
"Go away, Harry," cried the lad. "I want to be alone. Basil, you must
go. Ah! can't you see that my heart is breaking?" The hot tears came
to his eyes. His lips trembled, and rushing to the back of the box, he
leaned up against the wall, hiding his face in his hands.
"Let us go, Basil," said Lord Henry with a strange tenderness in his
voice, and the two young men passed out together.
A few moments afterwards the footlights flared up and the curtain rose
on the third act. Dorian Gray went back to his seat. He looked pale,
and proud, and indifferent. The play dragged on, and seemed
interminable. Half of the audience went out, tramping in heavy boots
and laughing. The whole thing was a fiasco. The last act was played
to almost empty benches. The curtain went down on a titter and some
As soon as it was over, Dorian Gray rushed behind the scenes into the
greenroom. The girl was standing there alone, with a look of triumph
on her face. Her eyes were lit with an exquisite fire. There was a
radiance about her. Her parted lips were smiling over some secret of
When he entered, she looked at him, and an expression of infinite joy
came over her. "How badly I acted to-night, Dorian!" she cried.
"Horribly!" he answered, gazing at her in amazement. "Horribly! It
was dreadful. Are you ill? You have no idea what it was. You have no
idea what I suffered."
The girl smiled. "Dorian," she answered, lingering over his name with
long-drawn music in her voice, as though it were sweeter than honey to
the red petals of her mouth. "Dorian, you should have understood. But
you understand now, don't you?"
"Understand what?" he asked, angrily.
"Why I was so bad to-night. Why I shall always be bad. Why I shall
never act well again."
He shrugged his shoulders. "You are ill, I suppose. When you are ill
you shouldn't act. You make yourself ridiculous. My friends were
bored. I was bored."
She seemed not to listen to him. She was transfigured with joy. An
ecstasy of happiness dominated her.
"Dorian, Dorian," she cried, "before I knew you, acting was the one
reality of my life. It was only in the theatre that I lived. I
thought that it was all true. I was Rosalind one night and Portia the
other. The joy of Beatrice was my joy, and the sorrows of Cordelia
were mine also. I believed in everything. The common people who acted
with me seemed to me to be godlike. The painted scenes were my world.
I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them real. You came--oh, my
beautiful love!--and you freed my soul from prison. You taught me what
reality really is. To-night, for the first time in my life, I saw
through the hollowness, the sham, the silliness of the empty pageant in
which I had always played. To-night, for the first time, I became
conscious that the Romeo was hideous, and old, and painted, that the
moonlight in the orchard was false, that the scenery was vulgar, and
that the words I had to speak were unreal, were not my words, were not
what I wanted to say. You had brought me something higher, something
of which all art is but a reflection. You had made me understand what
love really is. My love! My love! Prince Charming! Prince of life!
I have grown sick of shadows. You are more to me than all art can ever
be. What have I to do with the puppets of a play? When I came on
to-night, I could not understand how it was that everything had gone
from me. I thought that I was going to be wonderful. I found that I
could do nothing. Suddenly it dawned on my soul what it all meant.
The knowledge was exquisite to me. I heard them hissing, and I smiled.
What could they know of love such as ours? Take me away, Dorian--take
me away with you, where we can be quite alone. I hate the stage. I
might mimic a passion that I do not feel, but I cannot mimic one that
burns me like fire. Oh, Dorian, Dorian, you understand now what it
signifies? Even if I could do it, it would be profanation for me to
play at being in love. You have made me see that."
He flung himself down on the sofa and turned away his face. "You have
killed my love," he muttered.
She looked at him in wonder and laughed. He made no answer. She came
across to him, and with her little fingers stroked his hair. She knelt
down and pressed his hands to her lips. He drew them away, and a
shudder ran through him.
Then he leaped up and went to the door. "Yes," he cried, "you have
killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don't even
stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because
you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you
realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the
shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and
stupid. My God! how mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been!
You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again. I will never
think of you. I will never mention your name. You don't know what you
were to me, once. Why, once ... Oh, I can't bear to think of it! I
wish I had never laid eyes upon you! You have spoiled the romance of
my life. How little you can know of love, if you say it mars your art!
Without your art, you are nothing. I would have made you famous,
splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, and you
would have borne my name. What are you now? A third-rate actress with
a pretty face."
The girl grew white, and trembled. She clenched her hands together,
and her voice seemed to catch in her throat. "You are not serious,
Dorian?" she murmured. "You are acting."
"Acting! I leave that to you. You do it so well," he answered
She rose from her knees and, with a piteous expression of pain in her
face, came across the room to him. She put her hand upon his arm and
looked into his eyes. He thrust her back. "Don't touch me!" he cried.
A low moan broke from her, and she flung herself at his feet and lay
there like a trampled flower. "Dorian, Dorian, don't leave me!" she
whispered. "I am so sorry I didn't act well. I was thinking of you
all the time. But I will try--indeed, I will try. It came so suddenly
across me, my love for you. I think I should never have known it if
you had not kissed me--if we had not kissed each other. Kiss me again,
my love. Don't go away from me. I couldn't bear it. Oh! don't go
away from me. My brother ... No; never mind. He didn't mean it. He
was in jest.... But you, oh! can't you forgive me for to-night? I will
work so hard and try to improve. Don't be cruel to me, because I love
you better than anything in the world. After all, it is only once that
I have not pleased you. But you are quite right, Dorian. I should
have shown myself more of an artist. It was foolish of me, and yet I
couldn't help it. Oh, don't leave me, don't leave me." A fit of
passionate sobbing choked her. She crouched on the floor like a
wounded thing, and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down at
her, and his chiselled lips curled in exquisite disdain. There is
always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has
ceased to love. Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic.
Her tears and sobs annoyed him.
"I am going," he said at last in his calm clear voice. "I don't wish
to be unkind, but I can't see you again. You have disappointed me."
She wept silently, and made no answer, but crept nearer. Her little
hands stretched blindly out, and appeared to be seeking for him. He
turned on his heel and left the room. In a few moments he was out of
Where he went to he hardly knew. He remembered wandering through dimly
lit streets, past gaunt, black-shadowed archways and evil-looking
houses. Women with hoarse voices and harsh laughter had called after
him. Drunkards had reeled by, cursing and chattering to themselves
like monstrous apes. He had seen grotesque children huddled upon
door-steps, and heard shrieks and oaths from gloomy courts.
As the dawn was just breaking, he found himself close to Covent Garden.
The darkness lifted, and, flushed with faint fires, the sky hollowed
itself into a perfect pearl. Huge carts filled with nodding lilies
rumbled slowly down the polished empty street. The air was heavy with
the perfume of the flowers, and their beauty seemed to bring him an
anodyne for his pain. He followed into the market and watched the men
unloading their waggons. A white-smocked carter offered him some
cherries. He thanked him, wondered why he refused to accept any money
for them, and began to eat them listlessly. They had been plucked at
midnight, and the coldness of the moon had entered into them. A long
line of boys carrying crates of striped tulips, and of yellow and red
roses, defiled in front of him, threading their way through the huge,
jade-green piles of vegetables. Under the portico, with its grey,
sun-bleached pillars, loitered a troop of draggled bareheaded girls,
waiting for the auction to be over. Others crowded round the swinging
doors of the coffee-house in the piazza. The heavy cart-horses slipped
and stamped upon the rough stones, shaking their bells and trappings.
Some of the drivers were lying asleep on a pile of sacks. Iris-necked
and pink-footed, the pigeons ran about picking up seeds.
After a little while, he hailed a hansom and drove home. For a few
moments he loitered upon the doorstep, looking round at the silent
square, with its blank, close-shuttered windows and its staring blinds.
The sky was pure opal now, and the roofs of the houses glistened like
silver against it. From some chimney opposite a thin wreath of smoke
was rising. It curled, a violet riband, through the nacre-coloured air.
In the huge gilt Venetian lantern, spoil of some Doge's barge, that
hung from the ceiling of the great, oak-panelled hall of entrance,
lights were still burning from three flickering jets: thin blue petals
of flame they seemed, rimmed with white fire. He turned them out and,
having thrown his hat and cape on the table, passed through the library
towards the door of his bedroom, a large octagonal chamber on the
ground floor that, in his new-born feeling for luxury, he had just had
decorated for himself and hung with some curious Renaissance tapestries
that had been discovered stored in a disused attic at Selby Royal. As
he was turning the handle of the door, his eye fell upon the portrait
Basil Hallward had painted of him. He started back as if in surprise.
Then he went on into his own room, looking somewhat puzzled. After he
had taken the button-hole out of his coat, he seemed to hesitate.
Finally, he came back, went over to the picture, and examined it. In
the dim arrested light that struggled through the cream-coloured silk
blinds, the face appeared to him to be a little changed. The
expression looked different. One would have said that there was a
touch of cruelty in the mouth. It was certainly strange.
He turned round and, walking to the window, drew up the blind. The
bright dawn flooded the room and swept the fantastic shadows into dusky
corners, where they lay shuddering. But the strange expression that he
had noticed in the face of the portrait seemed to linger there, to be
more intensified even. The quivering ardent sunlight showed him the
lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly as if he had been looking
into a mirror after he had done some dreadful thing.
He winced and, taking up from the table an oval glass framed in ivory
Cupids, one of Lord Henry's many presents to him, glanced hurriedly
into its polished depths. No line like that warped his red lips. What
did it mean?
He rubbed his eyes, and came close to the picture, and examined it
again. There were no signs of any change when he looked into the
actual painting, and yet there was no doubt that the whole expression
had altered. It was not a mere fancy of his own. The thing was
He threw himself into a chair and began to think. Suddenly there
flashed across his mind what he had said in Basil Hallward's studio the
day the picture had been finished. Yes, he remembered it perfectly.
He had uttered a mad wish that he himself might remain young, and the
portrait grow old; that his own beauty might be untarnished, and the
face on the canvas bear the burden of his passions and his sins; that
the painted image might be seared with the lines of suffering and
thought, and that he might keep all the delicate bloom and loveliness
of his then just conscious boyhood. Surely his wish had not been
fulfilled? Such things were impossible. It seemed monstrous even to
think of them. And, yet, there was the picture before him, with the
touch of cruelty in the mouth.
Cruelty! Had he been cruel? It was the girl's fault, not his. He had
dreamed of her as a great artist, had given his love to her because he
had thought her great. Then she had disappointed him. She had been
shallow and unworthy. And, yet, a feeling of infinite regret came over
him, as he thought of her lying at his feet sobbing like a little
child. He remembered with what callousness he had watched her. Why
had he been made like that? Why had such a soul been given to him?
But he had suffered also. During the three terrible hours that the
play had lasted, he had lived centuries of pain, aeon upon aeon of
torture. His life was well worth hers. She had marred him for a
moment, if he had wounded her for an age. Besides, women were better
suited to bear sorrow than men. They lived on their emotions. They
only thought of their emotions. When they took lovers, it was merely
to have some one with whom they could have scenes. Lord Henry had told
him that, and Lord Henry knew what women were. Why should he trouble
about Sibyl Vane? She was nothing to him now.
But the picture? What was he to say of that? It held the secret of
his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own
beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul? Would he ever look
at it again?
No; it was merely an illusion wrought on the troubled senses. The
horrible night that he had passed had left phantoms behind it.
Suddenly there had fallen upon his brain that tiny scarlet speck that
makes men mad. The picture had not changed. It was folly to think so.
Yet it was watching him, with its beautiful marred face and its cruel
smile. Its bright hair gleamed in the early sunlight. Its blue eyes
met his own. A sense of infinite pity, not for himself, but for the
painted image of himself, came over him. It had altered already, and
would alter more. Its gold would wither into grey. Its red and white
roses would die. For every sin that he committed, a stain would fleck
and wreck its fairness. But he would not sin. The picture, changed or
unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience. He would
resist temptation. He would not see Lord Henry any more--would not, at
any rate, listen to those subtle poisonous theories that in Basil
Hallward's garden had first stirred within him the passion for
impossible things. He would go back to Sibyl Vane, make her amends,
marry her, try to love her again. Yes, it was his duty to do so. She
must have suffered more than he had. Poor child! He had been selfish
and cruel to her. The fascination that she had exercised over him
would return. They would be happy together. His life with her would
be beautiful and pure.
He got up from his chair and drew a large screen right in front of the
portrait, shuddering as he glanced at it. "How horrible!" he murmured
to himself, and he walked across to the window and opened it. When he
stepped out on to the grass, he drew a deep breath. The fresh morning
air seemed to drive away all his sombre passions. He thought only of
Sibyl. A faint echo of his love came back to him. He repeated her
name over and over again. The birds that were singing in the
dew-drenched garden seemed to be telling the flowers about her.
It was long past noon when he awoke. His valet had crept several times
on tiptoe into the room to see if he was stirring, and had wondered
what made his young master sleep so late. Finally his bell sounded,
and Victor came in softly with a cup of tea, and a pile of letters, on
a small tray of old Sevres china, and drew back the olive-satin
curtains, with their shimmering blue lining, that hung in front of the
three tall windows.
"Monsieur has well slept this morning," he said, smiling.
"What o'clock is it, Victor?" asked Dorian Gray drowsily.
"One hour and a quarter, Monsieur."
How late it was! He sat up, and having sipped some tea, turned over
his letters. One of them was from Lord Henry, and had been brought by
hand that morning. He hesitated for a moment, and then put it aside.
The others he opened listlessly. They contained the usual collection
of cards, invitations to dinner, tickets for private views, programmes
of charity concerts, and the like that are showered on fashionable
young men every morning during the season. There was a rather heavy
bill for a chased silver Louis-Quinze toilet-set that he had not yet
had the courage to send on to his guardians, who were extremely
old-fashioned people and did not realize that we live in an age when
unnecessary things are our only necessities; and there were several
very courteously worded communications from Jermyn Street money-lenders
offering to advance any sum of money at a moment's notice and at the
most reasonable rates of interest.
After about ten minutes he got up, and throwing on an elaborate
dressing-gown of silk-embroidered cashmere wool, passed into the
onyx-paved bathroom. The cool water refreshed him after his long
sleep. He seemed to have forgotten all that he had gone through. A
dim sense of having taken part in some strange tragedy came to him once
or twice, but there was the unreality of a dream about it.
As soon as he was dressed, he went into the library and sat down to a
light French breakfast that had been laid out for him on a small round
table close to the open window. It was an exquisite day. The warm air
seemed laden with spices. A bee flew in and buzzed round the
blue-dragon bowl that, filled with sulphur-yellow roses, stood before
him. He felt perfectly happy.
Suddenly his eye fell on the screen that he had placed in front of the
portrait, and he started.
"Too cold for Monsieur?" asked his valet, putting an omelette on the
table. "I shut the window?"
Dorian shook his head. "I am not cold," he murmured.
Was it all true? Had the portrait really changed? Or had it been
simply his own imagination that had made him see a look of evil where
there had been a look of joy? Surely a painted canvas could not alter?
The thing was absurd. It would serve as a tale to tell Basil some day.
It would make him smile.
And, yet, how vivid was his recollection of the whole thing! First in
the dim twilight, and then in the bright dawn, he had seen the touch of
cruelty round the warped lips. He almost dreaded his valet leaving the
room. He knew that when he was alone he would have to examine the
portrait. He was afraid of certainty. When the coffee and cigarettes
had been brought and the man turned to go, he felt a wild desire to
tell him to remain. As the door was closing behind him, he called him
back. The man stood waiting for his orders. Dorian looked at him for
a moment. "I am not at home to any one, Victor," he said with a sigh.
The man bowed and retired.
Then he rose from the table, lit a cigarette, and flung himself down on
a luxuriously cushioned couch that stood facing the screen. The screen
was an old one, of gilt Spanish leather, stamped and wrought with a
rather florid Louis-Quatorze pattern. He scanned it curiously,
wondering if ever before it had concealed the secret of a man's life.
Should he move it aside, after all? Why not let it stay there? What
was the use of knowing? If the thing was true, it was terrible. If it
was not true, why trouble about it? But what if, by some fate or
deadlier chance, eyes other than his spied behind and saw the horrible
change? What should he do if Basil Hallward came and asked to look at
his own picture? Basil would be sure to do that. No; the thing had to
be examined, and at once. Anything would be better than this dreadful
state of doubt.
He got up and locked both doors. At least he would be alone when he
looked upon the mask of his shame. Then he drew the screen aside and
saw himself face to face. It was perfectly true. The portrait had
As he often remembered afterwards, and always with no small wonder, he
found himself at first gazing at the portrait with a feeling of almost
scientific interest. That such a change should have taken place was
incredible to him. And yet it was a fact. Was there some subtle
affinity between the chemical atoms that shaped themselves into form
and colour on the canvas and the soul that was within him? Could it be
that what that soul thought, they realized?--that what it dreamed, they
made true? Or was there some other, more terrible reason? He
shuddered, and felt afraid, and, going back to the couch, lay there,
gazing at the picture in sickened horror.
One thing, however, he felt that it had done for him. It had made him
conscious how unjust, how cruel, he had been to Sibyl Vane. It was not
too late to make reparation for that. She could still be his wife.
His unreal and selfish love would yield to some higher influence, would
be transformed into some nobler passion, and the portrait that Basil
Hallward had painted of him would be a guide to him through life, would
be to him what holiness is to some, and conscience to others, and the
fear of God to us all. There were opiates for remorse, drugs that
could lull the moral sense to sleep. But here was a visible symbol of
the degradation of sin. Here was an ever-present sign of the ruin men
brought upon their souls.
Three o'clock struck, and four, and the half-hour rang its double
chime, but Dorian Gray did not stir. He was trying to gather up the
scarlet threads of life and to weave them into a pattern; to find his
way through the sanguine labyrinth of passion through which he was
wandering. He did not know what to do, or what to think. Finally, he
went over to the table and wrote a passionate letter to the girl he had
loved, imploring her forgiveness and accusing himself of madness. He
covered page after page with wild words of sorrow and wilder words of
pain. There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we
feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession,
not the priest, that gives us absolution. When Dorian had finished the
letter, he felt that he had been forgiven.
Suddenly there came a knock to the door, and he heard Lord Henry's
voice outside. "My dear boy, I must see you. Let me in at once. I
can't bear your shutting yourself up like this."
He made no answer at first, but remained quite still. The knocking
still continued and grew louder. Yes, it was better to let Lord Henry
in, and to explain to him the new life he was going to lead, to quarrel
with him if it became necessary to quarrel, to part if parting was
inevitable. He jumped up, drew the screen hastily across the picture,
and unlocked the door.
"I am so sorry for it all, Dorian," said Lord Henry as he entered.
"But you must not think too much about it."
"Do you mean about Sibyl Vane?" asked the lad.
"Yes, of course," answered Lord Henry, sinking into a chair and slowly
pulling off his yellow gloves. "It is dreadful, from one point of
view, but it was not your fault. Tell me, did you go behind and see
her, after the play was over?"
"I felt sure you had. Did you make a scene with her?"
"I was brutal, Harry--perfectly brutal. But it is all right now. I am
not sorry for anything that has happened. It has taught me to know
"Ah, Dorian, I am so glad you take it in that way! I was afraid I
would find you plunged in remorse and tearing that nice curly hair of
"I have got through all that," said Dorian, shaking his head and
smiling. "I am perfectly happy now. I know what conscience is, to
begin with. It is not what you told me it was. It is the divinest
thing in us. Don't sneer at it, Harry, any more--at least not before
me. I want to be good. I can't bear the idea of my soul being
"A very charming artistic basis for ethics, Dorian! I congratulate you
on it. But how are you going to begin?"
"By marrying Sibyl Vane."
"Marrying Sibyl Vane!" cried Lord Henry, standing up and looking at him
in perplexed amazement. "But, my dear Dorian--"
"Yes, Harry, I know what you are going to say. Something dreadful
about marriage. Don't say it. Don't ever say things of that kind to
me again. Two days ago I asked Sibyl to marry me. I am not going to
break my word to her. She is to be my wife."
"Your wife! Dorian! ... Didn't you get my letter? I wrote to you this
morning, and sent the note down by my own man."
"Your letter? Oh, yes, I remember. I have not read it yet, Harry. I
was afraid there might be something in it that I wouldn't like. You
cut life to pieces with your epigrams."
"You know nothing then?"
"What do you mean?"
Lord Henry walked across the room, and sitting down by Dorian Gray,
took both his hands in his own and held them tightly. "Dorian," he
said, "my letter--don't be frightened--was to tell you that Sibyl Vane
A cry of pain broke from the lad's lips, and he leaped to his feet,
tearing his hands away from Lord Henry's grasp. "Dead! Sibyl dead!
It is not true! It is a horrible lie! How dare you say it?"
"It is quite true, Dorian," said Lord Henry, gravely. "It is in all
the morning papers. I wrote down to you to ask you not to see any one
till I came. There will have to be an inquest, of course, and you must
not be mixed up in it. Things like that make a man fashionable in
Paris. But in London people are so prejudiced. Here, one should never
make one's debut with a scandal. One should reserve that to give an
interest to one's old age. I suppose they don't know your name at the
theatre? If they don't, it is all right. Did any one see you going
round to her room? That is an important point."
Dorian did not answer for a few moments. He was dazed with horror.
Finally he stammered, in a stifled voice, "Harry, did you say an
inquest? What did you mean by that? Did Sibyl--? Oh, Harry, I can't
bear it! But be quick. Tell me everything at once."
"I have no doubt it was not an accident, Dorian, though it must be put
in that way to the public. It seems that as she was leaving the
theatre with her mother, about half-past twelve or so, she said she had
forgotten something upstairs. They waited some time for her, but she
did not come down again. They ultimately found her lying dead on the
floor of her dressing-room. She had swallowed something by mistake,
some dreadful thing they use at theatres. I don't know what it was,
but it had either prussic acid or white lead in it. I should fancy it
was prussic acid, as she seems to have died instantaneously."
"Harry, Harry, it is terrible!" cried the lad.
"Yes; it is very tragic, of course, but you must not get yourself mixed
up in it. I see by The Standard that she was seventeen. I should have
thought she was almost younger than that. She looked such a child, and
seemed to know so little about acting. Dorian, you mustn't let this
thing get on your nerves. You must come and dine with me, and
afterwards we will look in at the opera. It is a Patti night, and
everybody will be there. You can come to my sister's box. She has got
some smart women with her."
"So I have murdered Sibyl Vane," said Dorian Gray, half to himself,
"murdered her as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife.
Yet the roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as
happily in my garden. And to-night I am to dine with you, and then go
on to the opera, and sup somewhere, I suppose, afterwards. How
extraordinarily dramatic life is! If I had read all this in a book,
Harry, I think I would have wept over it. Somehow, now that it has
happened actually, and to me, it seems far too wonderful for tears.
Here is the first passionate love-letter I have ever written in my
life. Strange, that my first passionate love-letter should have been
addressed to a dead girl. Can they feel, I wonder, those white silent
people we call the dead? Sibyl! Can she feel, or know, or listen?
Oh, Harry, how I loved her once! It seems years ago to me now. She
was everything to me. Then came that dreadful night--was it really
only last night?--when she played so badly, and my heart almost broke.
She explained it all to me. It was terribly pathetic. But I was not
moved a bit. I thought her shallow. Suddenly something happened that
made me afraid. I can't tell you what it was, but it was terrible. I
said I would go back to her. I felt I had done wrong. And now she is
dead. My God! My God! Harry, what shall I do? You don't know the
danger I am in, and there is nothing to keep me straight. She would
have done that for me. She had no right to kill herself. It was
selfish of her."
"My dear Dorian," answered Lord Henry, taking a cigarette from his case
and producing a gold-latten matchbox, "the only way a woman can ever
reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible
interest in life. If you had married this girl, you would have been
wretched. Of course, you would have treated her kindly. One can
always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing. But she would
have soon found out that you were absolutely indifferent to her. And
when a woman finds that out about her husband, she either becomes
dreadfully dowdy, or wears very smart bonnets that some other woman's
husband has to pay for. I say nothing about the social mistake, which
would have been abject--which, of course, I would not have allowed--but
I assure you that in any case the whole thing would have been an
"I suppose it would," muttered the lad, walking up and down the room
and looking horribly pale. "But I thought it was my duty. It is not
my fault that this terrible tragedy has prevented my doing what was
right. I remember your saying once that there is a fatality about good
resolutions--that they are always made too late. Mine certainly were."
"Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific
laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.
They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions
that have a certain charm for the weak. That is all that can be said
for them. They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they
have no account."
"Harry," cried Dorian Gray, coming over and sitting down beside him,
"why is it that I cannot feel this tragedy as much as I want to? I
don't think I am heartless. Do you?"
"You have done too many foolish things during the last fortnight to be
entitled to give yourself that name, Dorian," answered Lord Henry with
his sweet melancholy smile.
The lad frowned. "I don't like that explanation, Harry," he rejoined,
"but I am glad you don't think I am heartless. I am nothing of the
kind. I know I am not. And yet I must admit that this thing that has
happened does not affect me as it should. It seems to me to be simply
like a wonderful ending to a wonderful play. It has all the terrible
beauty of a Greek tragedy, a tragedy in which I took a great part, but
by which I have not been wounded."
"It is an interesting question," said Lord Henry, who found an
exquisite pleasure in playing on the lad's unconscious egotism, "an
extremely interesting question. I fancy that the true explanation is
this: It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such
an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their
absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack
of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us
an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that.
Sometimes, however, a tragedy that possesses artistic elements of
beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the
whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly
we find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the
play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder
of the spectacle enthralls us. In the present case, what is it that
has really happened? Some one has killed herself for love of you. I
wish that I had ever had such an experience. It would have made me in
love with love for the rest of my life. The people who have adored
me--there have not been very many, but there have been some--have
always insisted on living on, long after I had ceased to care for them,
or they to care for me. They have become stout and tedious, and when I
meet them, they go in at once for reminiscences. That awful memory of
woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual
stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the colour of life, but one
should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar."
"I must sow poppies in my garden," sighed Dorian.
"There is no necessity," rejoined his companion. "Life has always
poppies in her hands. Of course, now and then things linger. I once
wore nothing but violets all through one season, as a form of artistic
mourning for a romance that would not die. Ultimately, however, it did
die. I forget what killed it. I think it was her proposing to
sacrifice the whole world for me. That is always a dreadful moment.
It fills one with the terror of eternity. Well--would you believe
it?--a week ago, at Lady Hampshire's, I found myself seated at dinner
next the lady in question, and she insisted on going over the whole
thing again, and digging up the past, and raking up the future. I had
buried my romance in a bed of asphodel. She dragged it out again and
assured me that I had spoiled her life. I am bound to state that she
ate an enormous dinner, so I did not feel any anxiety. But what a lack
of taste she showed! The one charm of the past is that it is the past.
But women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a
sixth act, and as soon as the interest of the play is entirely over,
they propose to continue it. If they were allowed their own way, every
comedy would have a tragic ending, and every tragedy would culminate in
a farce. They are charmingly artificial, but they have no sense of
art. You are more fortunate than I am. I assure you, Dorian, that not
one of the women I have known would have done for me what Sibyl Vane
did for you. Ordinary women always console themselves. Some of them
do it by going in for sentimental colours. Never trust a woman who
wears mauve, whatever her age may be, or a woman over thirty-five who
is fond of pink ribbons. It always means that they have a history.
Others find a great consolation in suddenly discovering the good
qualities of their husbands. They flaunt their conjugal felicity in
one's face, as if it were the most fascinating of sins. Religion
consoles some. Its mysteries have all the charm of a flirtation, a
woman once told me, and I can quite understand it. Besides, nothing
makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner. Conscience makes
egotists of us all. Yes; there is really no end to the consolations
that women find in modern life. Indeed, I have not mentioned the most
"What is that, Harry?" said the lad listlessly.
"Oh, the obvious consolation. Taking some one else's admirer when one
loses one's own. In good society that always whitewashes a woman. But
really, Dorian, how different Sibyl Vane must have been from all the
women one meets! There is something to me quite beautiful about her
death. I am glad I am living in a century when such wonders happen.
They make one believe in the reality of the things we all play with,
such as romance, passion, and love."
"I was terribly cruel to her. You forget that."
"I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more
than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We
have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their
masters, all the same. They love being dominated. I am sure you were
splendid. I have never seen you really and absolutely angry, but I can
fancy how delightful you looked. And, after all, you said something to
me the day before yesterday that seemed to me at the time to be merely
fanciful, but that I see now was absolutely true, and it holds the key
"What was that, Harry?"
"You said to me that Sibyl Vane represented to you all the heroines of
romance--that she was Desdemona one night, and Ophelia the other; that
if she died as Juliet, she came to life as Imogen."
"She will never come to life again now," muttered the lad, burying his
face in his hands.
"No, she will never come to life. She has played her last part. But
you must think of that lonely death in the tawdry dressing-room simply
as a strange lurid fragment from some Jacobean tragedy, as a wonderful
scene from Webster, or Ford, or Cyril Tourneur. The girl never really
lived, and so she has never really died. To you at least she was
always a dream, a phantom that flitted through Shakespeare's plays and
left them lovelier for its presence, a reed through which Shakespeare's
music sounded richer and more full of joy. The moment she touched
actual life, she marred it, and it marred her, and so she passed away.
Mourn for Ophelia, if you like. Put ashes on your head because
Cordelia was strangled. Cry out against Heaven because the daughter of
Brabantio died. But don't waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was
less real than they are."
There was a silence. The evening darkened in the room. Noiselessly,
and with silver feet, the shadows crept in from the garden. The
colours faded wearily out of things.
After some time Dorian Gray looked up. "You have explained me to
myself, Harry," he murmured with something of a sigh of relief. "I
felt all that you have said, but somehow I was afraid of it, and I
could not express it to myself. How well you know me! But we will not
talk again of what has happened. It has been a marvellous experience.
That is all. I wonder if life has still in store for me anything as
"Life has everything in store for you, Dorian. There is nothing that
you, with your extraordinary good looks, will not be able to do."
"But suppose, Harry, I became haggard, and old, and wrinkled? What
"Ah, then," said Lord Henry, rising to go, "then, my dear Dorian, you
would have to fight for your victories. As it is, they are brought to
you. No, you must keep your good looks. We live in an age that reads
too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful. We
cannot spare you. And now you had better dress and drive down to the
club. We are rather late, as it is."
"I think I shall join you at the opera, Harry. I feel too tired to eat
anything. What is the number of your sister's box?"
"Twenty-seven, I believe. It is on the grand tier. You will see her
name on the door. But I am sorry you won't come and dine."
"I don't feel up to it," said Dorian listlessly. "But I am awfully
obliged to you for all that you have said to me. You are certainly my
best friend. No one has ever understood me as you have."
"We are only at the beginning of our friendship, Dorian," answered Lord
Henry, shaking him by the hand. "Good-bye. I shall see you before
nine-thirty, I hope. Remember, Patti is singing."
As he closed the door behind him, Dorian Gray touched the bell, and in
a few minutes Victor appeared with the lamps and drew the blinds down.
He waited impatiently for him to go. The man seemed to take an
interminable time over everything.
As soon as he had left, he rushed to the screen and drew it back. No;
there was no further change in the picture. It had received the news
of Sibyl Vane's death before he had known of it himself. It was
conscious of the events of life as they occurred. The vicious cruelty
that marred the fine lines of the mouth had, no doubt, appeared at the
very moment that the girl had drunk the poison, whatever it was. Or
was it indifferent to results? Did it merely take cognizance of what
passed within the soul? He wondered, and hoped that some day he would
see the change taking place before his very eyes, shuddering as he
Poor Sibyl! What a romance it had all been! She had often mimicked
death on the stage. Then Death himself had touched her and taken her
with him. How had she played that dreadful last scene? Had she cursed
him, as she died? No; she had died for love of him, and love would
always be a sacrament to him now. She had atoned for everything by the
sacrifice she had made of her life. He would not think any more of
what she had made him go through, on that horrible night at the
theatre. When he thought of her, it would be as a wonderful tragic
figure sent on to the world's stage to show the supreme reality of
love. A wonderful tragic figure? Tears came to his eyes as he
remembered her childlike look, and winsome fanciful ways, and shy
tremulous grace. He brushed them away hastily and looked again at the
He felt that the time had really come for making his choice. Or had
his choice already been made? Yes, life had decided that for
him--life, and his own infinite curiosity about life. Eternal youth,
infinite passion, pleasures subtle and secret, wild joys and wilder
sins--he was to have all these things. The portrait was to bear the
burden of his shame: that was all.
A feeling of pain crept over him as he thought of the desecration that
was in store for the fair face on the canvas. Once, in boyish mockery
of Narcissus, he had kissed, or feigned to kiss, those painted lips
that now smiled so cruelly at him. Morning after morning he had sat
before the portrait wondering at its beauty, almost enamoured of it, as
it seemed to him at times. Was it to alter now with every mood to
which he yielded? Was it to become a monstrous and loathsome thing, to
be hidden away in a locked room, to be shut out from the sunlight that
had so often touched to brighter gold the waving wonder of its hair?
The pity of it! the pity of it!
For a moment, he thought of praying that the horrible sympathy that
existed between him and the picture might cease. It had changed in
answer to a prayer; perhaps in answer to a prayer it might remain
unchanged. And yet, who, that knew anything about life, would
surrender the chance of remaining always young, however fantastic that
chance might be, or with what fateful consequences it might be fraught?
Besides, was it really under his control? Had it indeed been prayer
that had produced the substitution? Might there not be some curious
scientific reason for it all? If thought could exercise its influence
upon a living organism, might not thought exercise an influence upon
dead and inorganic things? Nay, without thought or conscious desire,
might not things external to ourselves vibrate in unison with our moods
and passions, atom calling to atom in secret love or strange affinity?
But the reason was of no importance. He would never again tempt by a
prayer any terrible power. If the picture was to alter, it was to
alter. That was all. Why inquire too closely into it?
For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be able to
follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would be to him
the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body,
so it would reveal to him his own soul. And when winter came upon it,
he would still be standing where spring trembles on the verge of
summer. When the blood crept from its face, and left behind a pallid
mask of chalk with leaden eyes, he would keep the glamour of boyhood.
Not one blossom of his loveliness would ever fade. Not one pulse of
his life would ever weaken. Like the gods of the Greeks, he would be
strong, and fleet, and joyous. What did it matter what happened to the
coloured image on the canvas? He would be safe. That was everything.
He drew the screen back into its former place in front of the picture,
smiling as he did so, and passed into his bedroom, where his valet was
already waiting for him. An hour later he was at the opera, and Lord
Henry was leaning over his chair.
As he was sitting at breakfast next morning, Basil Hallward was shown
into the room.
"I am so glad I have found you, Dorian," he said gravely. "I called
last night, and they told me you were at the opera. Of course, I knew
that was impossible. But I wish you had left word where you had really
gone to. I passed a dreadful evening, half afraid that one tragedy
might be followed by another. I think you might have telegraphed for
me when you heard of it first. I read of it quite by chance in a late
edition of The Globe that I picked up at the club. I came here at once
and was miserable at not finding you. I can't tell you how
heart-broken I am about the whole thing. I know what you must suffer.
But where were you? Did you go down and see the girl's mother? For a
moment I thought of following you there. They gave the address in the
paper. Somewhere in the Euston Road, isn't it? But I was afraid of
intruding upon a sorrow that I could not lighten. Poor woman! What a
state she must be in! And her only child, too! What did she say about
"My dear Basil, how do I know?" murmured Dorian Gray, sipping some
pale-yellow wine from a delicate, gold-beaded bubble of Venetian glass
and looking dreadfully bored. "I was at the opera. You should have
come on there. I met Lady Gwendolen, Harry's sister, for the first
time. We were in her box. She is perfectly charming; and Patti sang
divinely. Don't talk about horrid subjects. If one doesn't talk about
a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression, as Harry
says, that gives reality to things. I may mention that she was not the
woman's only child. There is a son, a charming fellow, I believe. But
he is not on the stage. He is a sailor, or something. And now, tell
me about yourself and what you are painting."
"You went to the opera?" said Hallward, speaking very slowly and with a
strained touch of pain in his voice. "You went to the opera while
Sibyl Vane was lying dead in some sordid lodging? You can talk to me
of other women being charming, and of Patti singing divinely, before
the girl you loved has even the quiet of a grave to sleep in? Why,
man, there are horrors in store for that little white body of hers!"
"Stop, Basil! I won't hear it!" cried Dorian, leaping to his feet.
"You must not tell me about things. What is done is done. What is
past is past."
"You call yesterday the past?"
"What has the actual lapse of time got to do with it? It is only
shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who
is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a
pleasure. I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to
use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them."
"Dorian, this is horrible! Something has changed you completely. You
look exactly the same wonderful boy who, day after day, used to come
down to my studio to sit for his picture. But you were simple,
natural, and affectionate then. You were the most unspoiled creature
in the whole world. Now, I don't know what has come over you. You
talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you. It is all Harry's
influence. I see that."
The lad flushed up and, going to the window, looked out for a few
moments on the green, flickering, sun-lashed garden. "I owe a great
deal to Harry, Basil," he said at last, "more than I owe to you. You
only taught me to be vain."
"Well, I am punished for that, Dorian--or shall be some day."
"I don't know what you mean, Basil," he exclaimed, turning round. "I
don't know what you want. What do you want?"
"I want the Dorian Gray I used to paint," said the artist sadly.
"Basil," said the lad, going over to him and putting his hand on his
shoulder, "you have come too late. Yesterday, when I heard that Sibyl
Vane had killed herself--"
"Killed herself! Good heavens! is there no doubt about that?" cried
Hallward, looking up at him with an expression of horror.
"My dear Basil! Surely you don't think it was a vulgar accident? Of
course she killed herself."
The elder man buried his face in his hands. "How fearful," he
muttered, and a shudder ran through him.
"No," said Dorian Gray, "there is nothing fearful about it. It is one
of the great romantic tragedies of the age. As a rule, people who act
lead the most commonplace lives. They are good husbands, or faithful
wives, or something tedious. You know what I mean--middle-class virtue
and all that kind of thing. How different Sibyl was! She lived her
finest tragedy. She was always a heroine. The last night she
played--the night you saw her--she acted badly because she had known
the reality of love. When she knew its unreality, she died, as Juliet
might have died. She passed again into the sphere of art. There is
something of the martyr about her. Her death has all the pathetic
uselessness of martyrdom, all its wasted beauty. But, as I was saying,
you must not think I have not suffered. If you had come in yesterday
at a particular moment--about half-past five, perhaps, or a quarter to
six--you would have found me in tears. Even Harry, who was here, who
brought me the news, in fact, had no idea what I was going through. I
suffered immensely. Then it passed away. I cannot repeat an emotion.
No one can, except sentimentalists. And you are awfully unjust, Basil.
You come down here to console me. That is charming of you. You find
me consoled, and you are furious. How like a sympathetic person! You
remind me of a story Harry told me about a certain philanthropist who
spent twenty years of his life in trying to get some grievance
redressed, or some unjust law altered--I forget exactly what it was.
Finally he succeeded, and nothing could exceed his disappointment. He
had absolutely nothing to do, almost died of ennui, and became a
confirmed misanthrope. And besides, my dear old Basil, if you really
want to console me, teach me rather to forget what has happened, or to
see it from a proper artistic point of view. Was it not Gautier who
used to write about la consolation des arts? I remember picking up a
little vellum-covered book in your studio one day and chancing on that
delightful phrase. Well, I am not like that young man you told me of
when we were down at Marlow together, the young man who used to say
that yellow satin could console one for all the miseries of life. I
love beautiful things that one can touch and handle. Old brocades,
green bronzes, lacquer-work, carved ivories, exquisite surroundings,
luxury, pomp--there is much to be got from all these. But the artistic
temperament that they create, or at any rate reveal, is still more to
me. To become the spectator of one's own life, as Harry says, is to
escape the suffering of life. I know you are surprised at my talking
to you like this. You have not realized how I have developed. I was a
schoolboy when you knew me. I am a man now. I have new passions, new
thoughts, new ideas. I am different, but you must not like me less. I
am changed, but you must always be my friend. Of course, I am very
fond of Harry. But I know that you are better than he is. You are not
stronger--you are too much afraid of life--but you are better. And how
happy we used to be together! Don't leave me, Basil, and don't quarrel
with me. I am what I am. There is nothing more to be said."
The painter felt strangely moved. The lad was infinitely dear to him,
and his personality had been the great turning point in his art. He
could not bear the idea of reproaching him any more. After all, his
indifference was probably merely a mood that would pass away. There
was so much in him that was good, so much in him that was noble.
"Well, Dorian," he said at length, with a sad smile, "I won't speak to
you again about this horrible thing, after to-day. I only trust your
name won't be mentioned in connection with it. The inquest is to take
place this afternoon. Have they summoned you?"
Dorian shook his head, and a look of annoyance passed over his face at
the mention of the word "inquest." There was something so crude and
vulgar about everything of the kind. "They don't know my name," he
"But surely she did?"
"Only my Christian name, and that I am quite sure she never mentioned
to any one. She told me once that they were all rather curious to
learn who I was, and that she invariably told them my name was Prince
Charming. It was pretty of her. You must do me a drawing of Sibyl,
Basil. I should like to have something more of her than the memory of
a few kisses and some broken pathetic words."
"I will try and do something, Dorian, if it would please you. But you
must come and sit to me yourself again. I can't get on without you."
"I can never sit to you again, Basil. It is impossible!" he exclaimed,
The painter stared at him. "My dear boy, what nonsense!" he cried.
"Do you mean to say you don't like what I did of you? Where is it?
Why have you pulled the screen in front of it? Let me look at it. It
is the best thing I have ever done. Do take the screen away, Dorian.
It is simply disgraceful of your servant hiding my work like that. I
felt the room looked different as I came in."
"My servant has nothing to do with it, Basil. You don't imagine I let
him arrange my room for me? He settles my flowers for me
sometimes--that is all. No; I did it myself. The light was too strong
on the portrait."
"Too strong! Surely not, my dear fellow? It is an admirable place for
it. Let me see it." And Hallward walked towards the corner of the
A cry of terror broke from Dorian Gray's lips, and he rushed between
the painter and the screen. "Basil," he said, looking very pale, "you
must not look at it. I don't wish you to."
"Not look at my own work! You are not serious. Why shouldn't I look
at it?" exclaimed Hallward, laughing.
"If you try to look at it, Basil, on my word of honour I will never
speak to you again as long as I live. I am quite serious. I don't
offer any explanation, and you are not to ask for any. But, remember,
if you touch this screen, everything is over between us."
Hallward was thunderstruck. He looked at Dorian Gray in absolute
amazement. He had never seen him like this before. The lad was
actually pallid with rage. His hands were clenched, and the pupils of
his eyes were like disks of blue fire. He was trembling all over.
"But what is the matter? Of course I won't look at it if you don't
want me to," he said, rather coldly, turning on his heel and going over
towards the window. "But, really, it seems rather absurd that I
shouldn't see my own work, especially as I am going to exhibit it in
Paris in the autumn. I shall probably have to give it another coat of
varnish before that, so I must see it some day, and why not to-day?"
"To exhibit it! You want to exhibit it?" exclaimed Dorian Gray, a
strange sense of terror creeping over him. Was the world going to be
shown his secret? Were people to gape at the mystery of his life?
That was impossible. Something--he did not know what--had to be done
"Yes; I don't suppose you will object to that. Georges Petit is going
to collect all my best pictures for a special exhibition in the Rue de
Seze, which will open the first week in October. The portrait will
only be away a month. I should think you could easily spare it for
that time. In fact, you are sure to be out of town. And if you keep
it always behind a screen, you can't care much about it."
Dorian Gray passed his hand over his forehead. There were beads of
perspiration there. He felt that he was on the brink of a horrible
danger. "You told me a month ago that you would never exhibit it," he
cried. "Why have you changed your mind? You people who go in for
being consistent have just as many moods as others have. The only
difference is that your moods are rather meaningless. You can't have
forgotten that you assured me most solemnly that nothing in the world
would induce you to send it to any exhibition. You told Harry exactly
the same thing." He stopped suddenly, and a gleam of light came into
his eyes. He remembered that Lord Henry had said to him once, half
seriously and half in jest, "If you want to have a strange quarter of
an hour, get Basil to tell you why he won't exhibit your picture. He
told me why he wouldn't, and it was a revelation to me." Yes, perhaps
Basil, too, had his secret. He would ask him and try.
"Basil," he said, coming over quite close and looking him straight in
the face, "we have each of us a secret. Let me know yours, and I shall
tell you mine. What was your reason for refusing to exhibit my
The painter shuddered in spite of himself. "Dorian, if I told you, you
might like me less than you do, and you would certainly laugh at me. I
could not bear your doing either of those two things. If you wish me
never to look at your picture again, I am content. I have always you
to look at. If you wish the best work I have ever done to be hidden
from the world, I am satisfied. Your friendship is dearer to me than
any fame or reputation."
"No, Basil, you must tell me," insisted Dorian Gray. "I think I have a
right to know." His feeling of terror had passed away, and curiosity
had taken its place. He was determined to find out Basil Hallward's
"Let us sit down, Dorian," said the painter, looking troubled. "Let us
sit down. And just answer me one question. Have you noticed in the
picture something curious?--something that probably at first did not
strike you, but that revealed itself to you suddenly?"
"Basil!" cried the lad, clutching the arms of his chair with trembling
hands and gazing at him with wild startled eyes.
"I see you did. Don't speak. Wait till you hear what I have to say.
Dorian, from the moment I met you, your personality had the most
extraordinary influence over me. I was dominated, soul, brain, and
power, by you. You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen
ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream. I
worshipped you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I
wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with
you. When you were away from me, you were still present in my art....
Of course, I never let you know anything about this. It would have
been impossible. You would not have understood it. I hardly
understood it myself. I only knew that I had seen perfection face to
face, and that the world had become wonderful to my eyes--too
wonderful, perhaps, for in such mad worships there is peril, the peril
of losing them, no less than the peril of keeping them.... Weeks and
weeks went on, and I grew more and more absorbed in you. Then came a
new development. I had drawn you as Paris in dainty armour, and as
Adonis with huntsman's cloak and polished boar-spear. Crowned with
heavy lotus-blossoms you had sat on the prow of Adrian's barge, gazing
across the green turbid Nile. You had leaned over the still pool of
some Greek woodland and seen in the water's silent silver the marvel of
your own face. And it had all been what art should be--unconscious,
ideal, and remote. One day, a fatal day I sometimes think, I
determined to paint a wonderful portrait of you as you actually are,
not in the costume of dead ages, but in your own dress and in your own
time. Whether it was the realism of the method, or the mere wonder of
your own personality, thus directly presented to me without mist or
veil, I cannot tell. But I know that as I worked at it, every flake
and film of colour seemed to me to reveal my secret. I grew afraid
that others would know of my idolatry. I felt, Dorian, that I had told
too much, that I had put too much of myself into it. Then it was that
I resolved never to allow the picture to be exhibited. You were a
little annoyed; but then you did not realize all that it meant to me.
Harry, to whom I talked about it, laughed at me. But I did not mind
that. When the picture was finished, and I sat alone with it, I felt
that I was right.... Well, after a few days the thing left my studio,
and as soon as I had got rid of the intolerable fascination of its
presence, it seemed to me that I had been foolish in imagining that I
had seen anything in it, more than that you were extremely good-looking
and that I could paint. Even now I cannot help feeling that it is a
mistake to think that the passion one feels in creation is ever really
shown in the work one creates. Art is always more abstract than we
fancy. Form and colour tell us of form and colour--that is all. It
often seems to me that art conceals the artist far more completely than
it ever reveals him. And so when I got this offer from Paris, I
determined to make your portrait the principal thing in my exhibition.
It never occurred to me that you would refuse. I see now that you were
right. The picture cannot be shown. You must not be angry with me,
Dorian, for what I have told you. As I said to Harry, once, you are
made to be worshipped."
Dorian Gray drew a long breath. The colour came back to his cheeks,
and a smile played about his lips. The peril was over. He was safe
for the time. Yet he could not help feeling infinite pity for the
painter who had just made this strange confession to him, and wondered
if he himself would ever be so dominated by the personality of a
friend. Lord Henry had the charm of being very dangerous. But that
was all. He was too clever and too cynical to be really fond of.
Would there ever be some one who would fill him with a strange
idolatry? Was that one of the things that life had in store?
"It is extraordinary to me, Dorian," said Hallward, "that you should
have seen this in the portrait. Did you really see it?"
"I saw something in it," he answered, "something that seemed to me very
"Well, you don't mind my looking at the thing now?"
Dorian shook his head. "You must not ask me that, Basil. I could not
possibly let you stand in front of that picture."
"You will some day, surely?"
"Well, perhaps you are right. And now good-bye, Dorian. You have been
the one person in my life who has really influenced my art. Whatever I
have done that is good, I owe to you. Ah! you don't know what it cost
me to tell you all that I have told you."
"My dear Basil," said Dorian, "what have you told me? Simply that you
felt that you admired me too much. That is not even a compliment."
"It was not intended as a compliment. It was a confession. Now that I
have made it, something seems to have gone out of me. Perhaps one
should never put one's worship into words."
"It was a very disappointing confession."
"Why, what did you expect, Dorian? You didn't see anything else in the
picture, did you? There was nothing else to see?"
"No; there was nothing else to see. Why do you ask? But you mustn't
talk about worship. It is foolish. You and I are friends, Basil, and
we must always remain so."
"You have got Harry," said the painter sadly.
"Oh, Harry!" cried the lad, with a ripple of laughter. "Harry spends
his days in saying what is incredible and his evenings in doing what is
improbable. Just the sort of life I would like to lead. But still I
don't think I would go to Harry if I were in trouble. I would sooner
go to you, Basil."
"You will sit to me again?"
"You spoil my life as an artist by refusing, Dorian. No man comes
across two ideal things. Few come across one."
"I can't explain it to you, Basil, but I must never sit to you again.
There is something fatal about a portrait. It has a life of its own.
I will come and have tea with you. That will be just as pleasant."
"Pleasanter for you, I am afraid," murmured Hallward regretfully. "And
now good-bye. I am sorry you won't let me look at the picture once
again. But that can't be helped. I quite understand what you feel
As he left the room, Dorian Gray smiled to himself. Poor Basil! How
little he knew of the true reason! And how strange it was that,
instead of having been forced to reveal his own secret, he had
succeeded, almost by chance, in wresting a secret from his friend! How
much that strange confession explained to him! The painter's absurd
fits of jealousy, his wild devotion, his extravagant panegyrics, his
curious reticences--he understood them all now, and he felt sorry.
There seemed to him to be something tragic in a friendship so coloured
He sighed and touched the bell. The portrait must be hidden away at
all costs. He could not run such a risk of discovery again. It had
been mad of him to have allowed the thing to remain, even for an hour,
in a room to which any of his friends had access.
When his servant entered, he looked at him steadfastly and wondered if
he had thought of peering behind the screen. The man was quite
impassive and waited for his orders. Dorian lit a cigarette and walked
over to the glass and glanced into it. He could see the reflection of
Victor's face perfectly. It was like a placid mask of servility.
There was nothing to be afraid of, there. Yet he thought it best to be
on his guard.
Speaking very slowly, he told him to tell the house-keeper that he
wanted to see her, and then to go to the frame-maker and ask him to
send two of his men round at once. It seemed to him that as the man
left the room his eyes wandered in the direction of the screen. Or was
that merely his own fancy?
After a few moments, in her black silk dress, with old-fashioned thread
mittens on her wrinkled hands, Mrs. Leaf bustled into the library. He
asked her for the key of the schoolroom.
"The old schoolroom, Mr. Dorian?" she exclaimed. "Why, it is full of
dust. I must get it arranged and put straight before you go into it.
It is not fit for you to see, sir. It is not, indeed."
"I don't want it put straight, Leaf. I only want the key."
"Well, sir, you'll be covered with cobwebs if you go into it. Why, it
hasn't been opened for nearly five years--not since his lordship died."
He winced at the mention of his grandfather. He had hateful memories
of him. "That does not matter," he answered. "I simply want to see
the place--that is all. Give me the key."
"And here is the key, sir," said the old lady, going over the contents
of her bunch with tremulously uncertain hands. "Here is the key. I'll
have it off the bunch in a moment. But you don't think of living up
there, sir, and you so comfortable here?"
"No, no," he cried petulantly. "Thank you, Leaf. That will do."
She lingered for a few moments, and was garrulous over some detail of
the household. He sighed and told her to manage things as she thought
best. She left the room, wreathed in smiles.
As the door closed, Dorian put the key in his pocket and looked round
the room. His eye fell on a large, purple satin coverlet heavily
embroidered with gold, a splendid piece of late seventeenth-century
Venetian work that his grandfather had found in a convent near Bologna.
Yes, that would serve to wrap the dreadful thing in. It had perhaps
served often as a pall for the dead. Now it was to hide something that
had a corruption of its own, worse than the corruption of death
itself--something that would breed horrors and yet would never die.
What the worm was to the corpse, his sins would be to the painted image
on the canvas. They would mar its beauty and eat away its grace. They
would defile it and make it shameful. And yet the thing would still
live on. It would be always alive.
He shuddered, and for a moment he regretted that he had not told Basil
the true reason why he had wished to hide the picture away. Basil
would have helped him to resist Lord Henry's influence, and the still
more poisonous influences that came from his own temperament. The love
that he bore him--for it was really love--had nothing in it that was
not noble and intellectual. It was not that mere physical admiration
of beauty that is born of the senses and that dies when the senses
tire. It was such love as Michelangelo had known, and Montaigne, and
Winckelmann, and Shakespeare himself. Yes, Basil could have saved him.
But it was too late now. The past could always be annihilated.
Regret, denial, or forgetfulness could do that. But the future was
inevitable. There were passions in him that would find their terrible
outlet, dreams that would make the shadow of their evil real.
He took up from the couch the great purple-and-gold texture that
covered it, and, holding it in his hands, passed behind the screen.
Was the face on the canvas viler than before? It seemed to him that it
was unchanged, and yet his loathing of it was intensified. Gold hair,
blue eyes, and rose-red lips--they all were there. It was simply the
expression that had altered. That was horrible in its cruelty.
Compared to what he saw in it of censure or rebuke, how shallow Basil's
reproaches about Sibyl Vane had been!--how shallow, and of what little
account! His own soul was looking out at him from the canvas and
calling him to judgement. A look of pain came across him, and he flung
the rich pall over the picture. As he did so, a knock came to the
door. He passed out as his servant entered.
"The persons are here, Monsieur."
He felt that the man must be got rid of at once. He must not be
allowed to know where the picture was being taken to. There was
something sly about him, and he had thoughtful, treacherous eyes.
Sitting down at the writing-table he scribbled a note to Lord Henry,
asking him to send him round something to read and reminding him that
they were to meet at eight-fifteen that evening.
"Wait for an answer," he said, handing it to him, "and show the men in
In two or three minutes there was another knock, and Mr. Hubbard
himself, the celebrated frame-maker of South Audley Street, came in
with a somewhat rough-looking young assistant. Mr. Hubbard was a
florid, red-whiskered little man, whose admiration for art was
considerably tempered by the inveterate impecuniosity of most of the
artists who dealt with him. As a rule, he never left his shop. He
waited for people to come to him. But he always made an exception in
favour of Dorian Gray. There was something about Dorian that charmed
everybody. It was a pleasure even to see him.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Gray?" he said, rubbing his fat freckled
hands. "I thought I would do myself the honour of coming round in
person. I have just got a beauty of a frame, sir. Picked it up at a
sale. Old Florentine. Came from Fonthill, I believe. Admirably
suited for a religious subject, Mr. Gray."
"I am so sorry you have given yourself the trouble of coming round, Mr.
Hubbard. I shall certainly drop in and look at the frame--though I
don't go in much at present for religious art--but to-day I only want a
picture carried to the top of the house for me. It is rather heavy, so
I thought I would ask you to lend me a couple of your men."
"No trouble at all, Mr. Gray. I am delighted to be of any service to
you. Which is the work of art, sir?"
"This," replied Dorian, moving the screen back. "Can you move it,
covering and all, just as it is? I don't want it to get scratched
"There will be no difficulty, sir," said the genial frame-maker,
beginning, with the aid of his assistant, to unhook the picture from
the long brass chains by which it was suspended. "And, now, where
shall we carry it to, Mr. Gray?"
"I will show you the way, Mr. Hubbard, if you will kindly follow me.
Or perhaps you had better go in front. I am afraid it is right at the
top of the house. We will go up by the front staircase, as it is
He held the door open for them, and they passed out into the hall and
began the ascent. The elaborate character of the frame had made the
picture extremely bulky, and now and then, in spite of the obsequious
protests of Mr. Hubbard, who had the true tradesman's spirited dislike
of seeing a gentleman doing anything useful, Dorian put his hand to it
so as to help them.
"Something of a load to carry, sir," gasped the little man when they
reached the top landing. And he wiped his shiny forehead.
"I am afraid it is rather heavy," murmured Dorian as he unlocked the
door that opened into the room that was to keep for him the curious
secret of his life and hide his soul from the eyes of men.
He had not entered the place for more than four years--not, indeed,
since he had used it first as a play-room when he was a child, and then
as a study when he grew somewhat older. It was a large,
well-proportioned room, which had been specially built by the last Lord
Kelso for the use of the little grandson whom, for his strange likeness
to his mother, and also for other reasons, he had always hated and
desired to keep at a distance. It appeared to Dorian to have but
little changed. There was the huge Italian cassone, with its
fantastically painted panels and its tarnished gilt mouldings, in which
he had so often hidden himself as a boy. There the satinwood book-case
filled with his dog-eared schoolbooks. On the wall behind it was
hanging the same ragged Flemish tapestry where a faded king and queen
were playing chess in a garden, while a company of hawkers rode by,
carrying hooded birds on their gauntleted wrists. How well he
remembered it all! Every moment of his lonely childhood came back to
him as he looked round. He recalled the stainless purity of his boyish
life, and it seemed horrible to him that it was here the fatal portrait
was to be hidden away. How little he had thought, in those dead days,
of all that was in store for him!
But there was no other place in the house so secure from prying eyes as
this. He had the key, and no one else could enter it. Beneath its
purple pall, the face painted on the canvas could grow bestial, sodden,
and unclean. What did it matter? No one could see it. He himself
would not see it. Why should he watch the hideous corruption of his
soul? He kept his youth--that was enough. And, besides, might not
his nature grow finer, after all? There was no reason that the future
should be so full of shame. Some love might come across his life, and
purify him, and shield him from those sins that seemed to be already
stirring in spirit and in flesh--those curious unpictured sins whose
very mystery lent them their subtlety and their charm. Perhaps, some
day, the cruel look would have passed away from the scarlet sensitive
mouth, and he might show to the world Basil Hallward's masterpiece.
No; that was impossible. Hour by hour, and week by week, the thing
upon the canvas was growing old. It might escape the hideousness of
sin, but the hideousness of age was in store for it. The cheeks would
become hollow or flaccid. Yellow crow's feet would creep round the
fading eyes and make them horrible. The hair would lose its
brightness, the mouth would gape or droop, would be foolish or gross,
as the mouths of old men are. There would be the wrinkled throat, the
cold, blue-veined hands, the twisted body, that he remembered in the
grandfather who had been so stern to him in his boyhood. The picture
had to be concealed. There was no help for it.
"Bring it in, Mr. Hubbard, please," he said, wearily, turning round.
"I am sorry I kept you so long. I was thinking of something else."
"Always glad to have a rest, Mr. Gray," answered the frame-maker, who
was still gasping for breath. "Where shall we put it, sir?"
"Oh, anywhere. Here: this will do. I don't want to have it hung up.
Just lean it against the wall. Thanks."
"Might one look at the work of art, sir?"
Dorian started. "It would not interest you, Mr. Hubbard," he said,
keeping his eye on the man. He felt ready to leap upon him and fling
him to the ground if he dared to lift the gorgeous hanging that
concealed the secret of his life. "I shan't trouble you any more now.
I am much obliged for your kindness in coming round."
"Not at all, not at all, Mr. Gray. Ever ready to do anything for you,
sir." And Mr. Hubbard tramped downstairs, followed by the assistant,
who glanced back at Dorian with a look of shy wonder in his rough
uncomely face. He had never seen any one so marvellous.
When the sound of their footsteps had died away, Dorian locked the door
and put the key in his pocket. He felt safe now. No one would ever
look upon the horrible thing. No eye but his would ever see his shame.
On reaching the library, he found that it was just after five o'clock
and that the tea had been already brought up. On a little table of
dark perfumed wood thickly incrusted with nacre, a present from Lady
Radley, his guardian's wife, a pretty professional invalid who had
spent the preceding winter in Cairo, was lying a note from Lord Henry,
and beside it was a book bound in yellow paper, the cover slightly torn
and the edges soiled. A copy of the third edition of The St. James's
Gazette had been placed on the tea-tray. It was evident that Victor had
returned. He wondered if he had met the men in the hall as they were
leaving the house and had wormed out of them what they had been doing.
He would be sure to miss the picture--had no doubt missed it already,
while he had been laying the tea-things. The screen had not been set
back, and a blank space was visible on the wall. Perhaps some night he
might find him creeping upstairs and trying to force the door of the
room. It was a horrible thing to have a spy in one's house. He had
heard of rich men who had been blackmailed all their lives by some
servant who had read a letter, or overheard a conversation, or picked
up a card with an address, or found beneath a pillow a withered flower
or a shred of crumpled lace.
He sighed, and having poured himself out some tea, opened Lord Henry's
note. It was simply to say that he sent him round the evening paper,
and a book that might interest him, and that he would be at the club at
eight-fifteen. He opened The St. James's languidly, and looked through
it. A red pencil-mark on the fifth page caught his eye. It drew
attention to the following paragraph:
INQUEST ON AN ACTRESS.--An inquest was held this morning at the Bell
Tavern, Hoxton Road, by Mr. Danby, the District Coroner, on the body of
Sibyl Vane, a young actress recently engaged at the Royal Theatre,
Holborn. A verdict of death by misadventure was returned.
Considerable sympathy was expressed for the mother of the deceased, who
was greatly affected during the giving of her own evidence, and that of
Dr. Birrell, who had made the post-mortem examination of the deceased.
He frowned, and tearing the paper in two, went across the room and
flung the pieces away. How ugly it all was! And how horribly real
ugliness made things! He felt a little annoyed with Lord Henry for
having sent him the report. And it was certainly stupid of him to have
marked it with red pencil. Victor might have read it. The man knew
more than enough English for that.
Perhaps he had read it and had begun to suspect something. And, yet,
what did it matter? What had Dorian Gray to do with Sibyl Vane's
death? There was nothing to fear. Dorian Gray had not killed her.
His eye fell on the yellow book that Lord Henry had sent him. What was
it, he wondered. He went towards the little, pearl-coloured octagonal
stand that had always looked to him like the work of some strange
Egyptian bees that wrought in silver, and taking up the volume, flung
himself into an arm-chair and began to turn over the leaves. After a
few minutes he became absorbed. It was the strangest book that he had
ever read. It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the
delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb
show before him. Things that he had dimly dreamed of were suddenly
made real to him. Things of which he had never dreamed were gradually
It was a novel without a plot and with only one character, being,
indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian who
spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the
passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his
own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through
which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their mere
artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called virtue,
as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call sin. The
style in which it was written was that curious jewelled style, vivid
and obscure at once, full of argot and of archaisms, of technical
expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that characterizes the work
of some of the finest artists of the French school of Symbolistes.
There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids and as subtle in
colour. The life of the senses was described in the terms of mystical
philosophy. One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the
spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval saint or the morbid confessions
of a modern sinner. It was a poisonous book. The heavy odour of
incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain. The
mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so
full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated,
produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter,
a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of
the falling day and creeping shadows.
Cloudless, and pierced by one solitary star, a copper-green sky gleamed
through the windows. He read on by its wan light till he could read no
more. Then, after his valet had reminded him several times of the
lateness of the hour, he got up, and going into the next room, placed
the book on the little Florentine table that always stood at his
bedside and began to dress for dinner.
It was almost nine o'clock before he reached the club, where he found
Lord Henry sitting alone, in the morning-room, looking very much bored.
"I am so sorry, Harry," he cried, "but really it is entirely your
fault. That book you sent me so fascinated me that I forgot how the
time was going."
"Yes, I thought you would like it," replied his host, rising from his
"I didn't say I liked it, Harry. I said it fascinated me. There is a
"Ah, you have discovered that?" murmured Lord Henry. And they passed
into the dining-room.
For years, Dorian Gray could not free himself from the influence of
this book. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he never
sought to free himself from it. He procured from Paris no less than
nine large-paper copies of the first edition, and had them bound in
different colours, so that they might suit his various moods and the
changing fancies of a nature over which he seemed, at times, to have
almost entirely lost control. The hero, the wonderful young Parisian
in whom the romantic and the scientific temperaments were so strangely
blended, became to him a kind of prefiguring type of himself. And,
indeed, the whole book seemed to him to contain the story of his own
life, written before he had lived it.
In one point he was more fortunate than the novel's fantastic hero. He
never knew--never, indeed, had any cause to know--that somewhat
grotesque dread of mirrors, and polished metal surfaces, and still
water which came upon the young Parisian so early in his life, and was
occasioned by the sudden decay of a beau that had once, apparently,
been so remarkable. It was with an almost cruel joy--and perhaps in
nearly every joy, as certainly in every pleasure, cruelty has its
place--that he used to read the latter part of the book, with its
really tragic, if somewhat overemphasized, account of the sorrow and
despair of one who had himself lost what in others, and the world, he
had most dearly valued.
For the wonderful beauty that had so fascinated Basil Hallward, and
many others besides him, seemed never to leave him. Even those who had
heard the most evil things against him--and from time to time strange
rumours about his mode of life crept through London and became the
chatter of the clubs--could not believe anything to his dishonour when
they saw him. He had always the look of one who had kept himself
unspotted from the world. Men who talked grossly became silent when
Dorian Gray entered the room. There was something in the purity of his
face that rebuked them. His mere presence seemed to recall to them the
memory of the innocence that they had tarnished. They wondered how one
so charming and graceful as he was could have escaped the stain of an
age that was at once sordid and sensual.
Often, on returning home from one of those mysterious and prolonged
absences that gave rise to such strange conjecture among those who were
his friends, or thought that they were so, he himself would creep
upstairs to the locked room, open the door with the key that never left
him now, and stand, with a mirror, in front of the portrait that Basil
Hallward had painted of him, looking now at the evil and aging face on
the canvas, and now at the fair young face that laughed back at him
from the polished glass. The very sharpness of the contrast used to
quicken his sense of pleasure. He grew more and more enamoured of his
own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul.
He would examine with minute care, and sometimes with a monstrous and
terrible delight, the hideous lines that seared the wrinkling forehead
or crawled around the heavy sensual mouth, wondering sometimes which
were the more horrible, the signs of sin or the signs of age. He would
place his white hands beside the coarse bloated hands of the picture,
and smile. He mocked the misshapen body and the failing limbs.
There were moments, indeed, at night, when, lying sleepless in his own
delicately scented chamber, or in the sordid room of the little
ill-famed tavern near the docks which, under an assumed name and in
disguise, it was his habit to frequent, he would think of the ruin he
had brought upon his soul with a pity that was all the more poignant
because it was purely selfish. But moments such as these were rare.
That curiosity about life which Lord Henry had first stirred in him, as
they sat together in the garden of their friend, seemed to increase
with gratification. The more he knew, the more he desired to know. He
had mad hungers that grew more ravenous as he fed them.
Yet he was not really reckless, at any rate in his relations to
society. Once or twice every month during the winter, and on each
Wednesday evening while the season lasted, he would throw open to the
world his beautiful house and have the most celebrated musicians of the
day to charm his guests with the wonders of their art. His little
dinners, in the settling of which Lord Henry always assisted him, were
noted as much for the careful selection and placing of those invited,
as for the exquisite taste shown in the decoration of the table, with
its subtle symphonic arrangements of exotic flowers, and embroidered
cloths, and antique plate of gold and silver. Indeed, there were many,
especially among the very young men, who saw, or fancied that they saw,
in Dorian Gray the true realization of a type of which they had often
dreamed in Eton or Oxford days, a type that was to combine something of
the real culture of the scholar with all the grace and distinction and
perfect manner of a citizen of the world. To them he seemed to be of
the company of those whom Dante describes as having sought to "make
themselves perfect by the worship of beauty." Like Gautier, he was one
for whom "the visible world existed."
And, certainly, to him life itself was the first, the greatest, of the
arts, and for it all the other arts seemed to be but a preparation.
Fashion, by which what is really fantastic becomes for a moment
universal, and dandyism, which, in its own way, is an attempt to assert
the absolute modernity of beauty, had, of course, their fascination for
him. His mode of dressing, and the particular styles that from time to
time he affected, had their marked influence on the young exquisites of
the Mayfair balls and Pall Mall club windows, who copied him in
everything that he did, and tried to reproduce the accidental charm of
his graceful, though to him only half-serious, fopperies.
For, while he was but too ready to accept the position that was almost
immediately offered to him on his coming of age, and found, indeed, a
subtle pleasure in the thought that he might really become to the
London of his own day what to imperial Neronian Rome the author of the
Satyricon once had been, yet in his inmost heart he desired to be
something more than a mere arbiter elegantiarum, to be consulted on the
wearing of a jewel, or the knotting of a necktie, or the conduct of a
cane. He sought to elaborate some new scheme of life that would have
its reasoned philosophy and its ordered principles, and find in the
spiritualizing of the senses its highest realization.
The worship of the senses has often, and with much justice, been
decried, men feeling a natural instinct of terror about passions and
sensations that seem stronger than themselves, and that they are
conscious of sharing with the less highly organized forms of existence.
But it appeared to Dorian Gray that the true nature of the senses had
never been understood, and that they had remained savage and animal
merely because the world had sought to starve them into submission or
to kill them by pain, instead of aiming at making them elements of a
new spirituality, of which a fine instinct for beauty was to be the
dominant characteristic. As he looked back upon man moving through
history, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been
surrendered! and to such little purpose! There had been mad wilful
rejections, monstrous forms of self-torture and self-denial, whose
origin was fear and whose result was a degradation infinitely more
terrible than that fancied degradation from which, in their ignorance,
they had sought to escape; Nature, in her wonderful irony, driving out
the anchorite to feed with the wild animals of the desert and giving to
the hermit the beasts of the field as his companions.
Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism
that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely
puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was
to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to
accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any
mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience
itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might
be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar
profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to
teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is
itself but a moment.
There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either
after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamoured of
death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through
the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality
itself, and instinct with that vivid life that lurks in all grotesques,
and that lends to Gothic art its enduring vitality, this art being, one
might fancy, especially the art of those whose minds have been troubled
with the malady of reverie. Gradually white fingers creep through the
curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black fantastic shapes, dumb
shadows crawl into the corners of the room and crouch there. Outside,
there is the stirring of birds among the leaves, or the sound of men
going forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down
from the hills and wandering round the silent house, as though it
feared to wake the sleepers and yet must needs call forth sleep from
her purple cave. Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by
degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we
watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan
mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we
had left them, and beside them lies the half-cut book that we had been
studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the
letter that we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often.
Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the night
comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume it where
we had left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of the
necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome round of
stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids
might open some morning upon a world that had been refashioned anew in
the darkness for our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh
shapes and colours, and be changed, or have other secrets, a world in
which the past would have little or no place, or survive, at any rate,
in no conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance even of
joy having its bitterness and the memories of pleasure their pain.
It was the creation of such worlds as these that seemed to Dorian Gray
to be the true object, or amongst the true objects, of life; and in his
search for sensations that would be at once new and delightful, and
possess that element of strangeness that is so essential to romance, he
would often adopt certain modes of thought that he knew to be really
alien to his nature, abandon himself to their subtle influences, and
then, having, as it were, caught their colour and satisfied his
intellectual curiosity, leave them with that curious indifference that
is not incompatible with a real ardour of temperament, and that,
indeed, according to certain modern psychologists, is often a condition
It was rumoured of him once that he was about to join the Roman
Catholic communion, and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great
attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all
the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its superb
rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity
of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it
sought to symbolize. He loved to kneel down on the cold marble
pavement and watch the priest, in his stiff flowered dalmatic, slowly
and with white hands moving aside the veil of the tabernacle, or
raising aloft the jewelled, lantern-shaped monstrance with that pallid
wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed the "panis
caelestis," the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments of the
Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice and smiting his
breast for his sins. The fuming censers that the grave boys, in their
lace and scarlet, tossed into the air like great gilt flowers had their
subtle fascination for him. As he passed out, he used to look with
wonder at the black confessionals and long to sit in the dim shadow of
one of them and listen to men and women whispering through the worn
grating the true story of their lives.
But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual
development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of
mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable
for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which
there are no stars and the moon is in travail. Mysticism, with its
marvellous power of making common things strange to us, and the subtle
antinomianism that always seems to accompany it, moved him for a
season; and for a season he inclined to the materialistic doctrines of
the Darwinismus movement in Germany, and found a curious pleasure in
tracing the thoughts and passions of men to some pearly cell in the
brain, or some white nerve in the body, delighting in the conception of
the absolute dependence of the spirit on certain physical conditions,
morbid or healthy, normal or diseased. Yet, as has been said of him
before, no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance
compared with life itself. He felt keenly conscious of how barren all
intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment.
He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual
mysteries to reveal.
And so he would now study perfumes and the secrets of their
manufacture, distilling heavily scented oils and burning odorous gums
from the East. He saw that there was no mood of the mind that had not
its counterpart in the sensuous life, and set himself to discover their
true relations, wondering what there was in frankincense that made one
mystical, and in ambergris that stirred one's passions, and in violets
that woke the memory of dead romances, and in musk that troubled the
brain, and in champak that stained the imagination; and seeking often
to elaborate a real psychology of perfumes, and to estimate the several
influences of sweet-smelling roots and scented, pollen-laden flowers;
of aromatic balms and of dark and fragrant woods; of spikenard, that
sickens; of hovenia, that makes men mad; and of aloes, that are said to
be able to expel melancholy from the soul.
At another time he devoted himself entirely to music, and in a long
latticed room, with a vermilion-and-gold ceiling and walls of
olive-green lacquer, he used to give curious concerts in which mad
gipsies tore wild music from little zithers, or grave, yellow-shawled
Tunisians plucked at the strained strings of monstrous lutes, while
grinning Negroes beat monotonously upon copper drums and, crouching
upon scarlet mats, slim turbaned Indians blew through long pipes of
reed or brass and charmed--or feigned to charm--great hooded snakes and
horrible horned adders. The harsh intervals and shrill discords of
barbaric music stirred him at times when Schubert's grace, and Chopin's
beautiful sorrows, and the mighty harmonies of Beethoven himself, fell
unheeded on his ear. He collected together from all parts of the world
the strangest instruments that could be found, either in the tombs of
dead nations or among the few savage tribes that have survived contact
with Western civilizations, and loved to touch and try them. He had
the mysterious juruparis of the Rio Negro Indians, that women are not
allowed to look at and that even youths may not see till they have been
subjected to fasting and scourging, and the earthen jars of the
Peruvians that have the shrill cries of birds, and flutes of human
bones such as Alfonso de Ovalle heard in Chile, and the sonorous green
jaspers that are found near Cuzco and give forth a note of singular
sweetness. He had painted gourds filled with pebbles that rattled when
they were shaken; the long clarin of the Mexicans, into which the
performer does not blow, but through which he inhales the air; the
harsh ture of the Amazon tribes, that is sounded by the sentinels who
sit all day long in high trees, and can be heard, it is said, at a
distance of three leagues; the teponaztli, that has two vibrating
tongues of wood and is beaten with sticks that are smeared with an
elastic gum obtained from the milky juice of plants; the yotl-bells of
the Aztecs, that are hung in clusters like grapes; and a huge
cylindrical drum, covered with the skins of great serpents, like the
one that Bernal Diaz saw when he went with Cortes into the Mexican
temple, and of whose doleful sound he has left us so vivid a
description. The fantastic character of these instruments fascinated
him, and he felt a curious delight in the thought that art, like
Nature, has her monsters, things of bestial shape and with hideous
voices. Yet, after some time, he wearied of them, and would sit in his
box at the opera, either alone or with Lord Henry, listening in rapt
pleasure to "Tannhauser" and seeing in the prelude to that great work
of art a presentation of the tragedy of his own soul.
On one occasion he took up the study of jewels, and appeared at a
costume ball as Anne de Joyeuse, Admiral of France, in a dress covered
with five hundred and sixty pearls. This taste enthralled him for
years, and, indeed, may be said never to have left him. He would often
spend a whole day settling and resettling in their cases the various
stones that he had collected, such as the olive-green chrysoberyl that
turns red by lamplight, the cymophane with its wirelike line of silver,
the pistachio-coloured peridot, rose-pink and wine-yellow topazes,
carbuncles of fiery scarlet with tremulous, four-rayed stars, flame-red
cinnamon-stones, orange and violet spinels, and amethysts with their
alternate layers of ruby and sapphire. He loved the red gold of the
sunstone, and the moonstone's pearly whiteness, and the broken rainbow
of the milky opal. He procured from Amsterdam three emeralds of
extraordinary size and richness of colour, and had a turquoise de la
vieille roche that was the envy of all the connoisseurs.
He discovered wonderful stories, also, about jewels. In Alphonso's
Clericalis Disciplina a serpent was mentioned with eyes of real
jacinth, and in the romantic history of Alexander, the Conqueror of
Emathia was said to have found in the vale of Jordan snakes "with
collars of real emeralds growing on their backs." There was a gem in
the brain of the dragon, Philostratus told us, and "by the exhibition
of golden letters and a scarlet robe" the monster could be thrown into
a magical sleep and slain. According to the great alchemist, Pierre de
Boniface, the diamond rendered a man invisible, and the agate of India
made him eloquent. The cornelian appeased anger, and the hyacinth
provoked sleep, and the amethyst drove away the fumes of wine. The
garnet cast out demons, and the hydropicus deprived the moon of her
colour. The selenite waxed and waned with the moon, and the meloceus,
that discovers thieves, could be affected only by the blood of kids.
Leonardus Camillus had seen a white stone taken from the brain of a
newly killed toad, that was a certain antidote against poison. The
bezoar, that was found in the heart of the Arabian deer, was a charm
that could cure the plague. In the nests of Arabian birds was the
aspilates, that, according to Democritus, kept the wearer from any
danger by fire.
The King of Ceilan rode through his city with a large ruby in his hand,
as the ceremony of his coronation. The gates of the palace of John the
Priest were "made of sardius, with the horn of the horned snake
inwrought, so that no man might bring poison within." Over the gable
were "two golden apples, in which were two carbuncles," so that the
gold might shine by day and the carbuncles by night. In Lodge's
strange romance 'A Margarite of America', it was stated that in the
chamber of the queen one could behold "all the chaste ladies of the
world, inchased out of silver, looking through fair mirrours of
chrysolites, carbuncles, sapphires, and greene emeraults." Marco Polo
had seen the inhabitants of Zipangu place rose-coloured pearls in the
mouths of the dead. A sea-monster had been enamoured of the pearl that
the diver brought to King Perozes, and had slain the thief, and mourned
for seven moons over its loss. When the Huns lured the king into the
great pit, he flung it away--Procopius tells the story--nor was it ever
found again, though the Emperor Anastasius offered five hundred-weight
of gold pieces for it. The King of Malabar had shown to a certain
Venetian a rosary of three hundred and four pearls, one for every god
that he worshipped.
When the Duke de Valentinois, son of Alexander VI, visited Louis XII of
France, his horse was loaded with gold leaves, according to Brantome,
and his cap had double rows of rubies that threw out a great light.
Charles of England had ridden in stirrups hung with four hundred and
twenty-one diamonds. Richard II had a coat, valued at thirty thousand
marks, which was covered with balas rubies. Hall described Henry VIII,
on his way to the Tower previous to his coronation, as wearing "a
jacket of raised gold, the placard embroidered with diamonds and other
rich stones, and a great bauderike about his neck of large balasses."
The favourites of James I wore ear-rings of emeralds set in gold
filigrane. Edward II gave to Piers Gaveston a suit of red-gold armour
studded with jacinths, a collar of gold roses set with
turquoise-stones, and a skull-cap parseme with pearls. Henry II wore
jewelled gloves reaching to the elbow, and had a hawk-glove sewn with
twelve rubies and fifty-two great orients. The ducal hat of Charles
the Rash, the last Duke of Burgundy of his race, was hung with
pear-shaped pearls and studded with sapphires.
How exquisite life had once been! How gorgeous in its pomp and
decoration! Even to read of the luxury of the dead was wonderful.
Then he turned his attention to embroideries and to the tapestries that
performed the office of frescoes in the chill rooms of the northern
nations of Europe. As he investigated the subject--and he always had
an extraordinary faculty of becoming absolutely absorbed for the moment
in whatever he took up--he was almost saddened by the reflection of the
ruin that time brought on beautiful and wonderful things. He, at any
rate, had escaped that. Summer followed summer, and the yellow
jonquils bloomed and died many times, and nights of horror repeated the
story of their shame, but he was unchanged. No winter marred his face
or stained his flowerlike bloom. How different it was with material
things! Where had they passed to? Where was the great crocus-coloured
robe, on which the gods fought against the giants, that had been worked
by brown girls for the pleasure of Athena? Where the huge velarium
that Nero had stretched across the Colosseum at Rome, that Titan sail
of purple on which was represented the starry sky, and Apollo driving a
chariot drawn by white, gilt-reined steeds? He longed to see the
curious table-napkins wrought for the Priest of the Sun, on which were
displayed all the dainties and viands that could be wanted for a feast;
the mortuary cloth of King Chilperic, with its three hundred golden
bees; the fantastic robes that excited the indignation of the Bishop of
Pontus and were figured with "lions, panthers, bears, dogs, forests,
rocks, hunters--all, in fact, that a painter can copy from nature"; and
the coat that Charles of Orleans once wore, on the sleeves of which
were embroidered the verses of a song beginning "Madame, je suis tout
joyeux," the musical accompaniment of the words being wrought in gold
thread, and each note, of square shape in those days, formed with four
pearls. He read of the room that was prepared at the palace at Rheims
for the use of Queen Joan of Burgundy and was decorated with "thirteen
hundred and twenty-one parrots, made in broidery, and blazoned with the
king's arms, and five hundred and sixty-one butterflies, whose wings
were similarly ornamented with the arms of the queen, the whole worked
in gold." Catherine de Medicis had a mourning-bed made for her of
black velvet powdered with crescents and suns. Its curtains were of
damask, with leafy wreaths and garlands, figured upon a gold and silver
ground, and fringed along the edges with broideries of pearls, and it
stood in a room hung with rows of the queen's devices in cut black
velvet upon cloth of silver. Louis XIV had gold embroidered caryatides
fifteen feet high in his apartment. The state bed of Sobieski, King of
Poland, was made of Smyrna gold brocade embroidered in turquoises with
verses from the Koran. Its supports were of silver gilt, beautifully
chased, and profusely set with enamelled and jewelled medallions. It
had been taken from the Turkish camp before Vienna, and the standard of
Mohammed had stood beneath the tremulous gilt of its canopy.
And so, for a whole year, he sought to accumulate the most exquisite
specimens that he could find of textile and embroidered work, getting
the dainty Delhi muslins, finely wrought with gold-thread palmates and
stitched over with iridescent beetles' wings; the Dacca gauzes, that
from their transparency are known in the East as "woven air," and
"running water," and "evening dew"; strange figured cloths from Java;
elaborate yellow Chinese hangings; books bound in tawny satins or fair
blue silks and wrought with fleurs-de-lis, birds and images; veils of
lacis worked in Hungary point; Sicilian brocades and stiff Spanish
velvets; Georgian work, with its gilt coins, and Japanese Foukousas,
with their green-toned golds and their marvellously plumaged birds.
He had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments, as indeed
he had for everything connected with the service of the Church. In the
long cedar chests that lined the west gallery of his house, he had
stored away many rare and beautiful specimens of what is really the
raiment of the Bride of Christ, who must wear purple and jewels and
fine linen that she may hide the pallid macerated body that is worn by
the suffering that she seeks for and wounded by self-inflicted pain.
He possessed a gorgeous cope of crimson silk and gold-thread damask,
figured with a repeating pattern of golden pomegranates set in
six-petalled formal blossoms, beyond which on either side was the
pine-apple device wrought in seed-pearls. The orphreys were divided
into panels representing scenes from the life of the Virgin, and the
coronation of the Virgin was figured in coloured silks upon the hood.
This was Italian work of the fifteenth century. Another cope was of
green velvet, embroidered with heart-shaped groups of acanthus-leaves,
from which spread long-stemmed white blossoms, the details of which
were picked out with silver thread and coloured crystals. The morse
bore a seraph's head in gold-thread raised work. The orphreys were
woven in a diaper of red and gold silk, and were starred with
medallions of many saints and martyrs, among whom was St. Sebastian.
He had chasubles, also, of amber-coloured silk, and blue silk and gold
brocade, and yellow silk damask and cloth of gold, figured with
representations of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ, and
embroidered with lions and peacocks and other emblems; dalmatics of
white satin and pink silk damask, decorated with tulips and dolphins
and fleurs-de-lis; altar frontals of crimson velvet and blue linen; and
many corporals, chalice-veils, and sudaria. In the mystic offices to
which such things were put, there was something that quickened his
For these treasures, and everything that he collected in his lovely
house, were to be to him means of forgetfulness, modes by which he
could escape, for a season, from the fear that seemed to him at times
to be almost too great to be borne. Upon the walls of the lonely
locked room where he had spent so much of his boyhood, he had hung with
his own hands the terrible portrait whose changing features showed him
the real degradation of his life, and in front of it had draped the
purple-and-gold pall as a curtain. For weeks he would not go there,
would forget the hideous painted thing, and get back his light heart,
his wonderful joyousness, his passionate absorption in mere existence.
Then, suddenly, some night he would creep out of the house, go down to
dreadful places near Blue Gate Fields, and stay there, day after day,
until he was driven away. On his return he would sit in front of the
her times, with that pride of individualism that is half the
fascination of sin, and smiling with secret pleasure at the misshapen
shadow that had to bear the burden that should have been his own.
After a few years he could not endure to be long out of England, and
gave up the villa that he had shared at Trouville with Lord Henry, as
well as the little white walled-in house at Algiers where they had more
than once spent the winter. He hated to be separated from the picture
that was such a part of his life, and was also afraid that during his
absence some one might gain access to the room, in spite of the
elaborate bars that he had caused to be placed upon the door.
He was quite conscious that this would tell them nothing. It was true
that the portrait still preserved, under all the foulness and ugliness
of the face, its marked likeness to himself; but what could they learn
from that? He would laugh at any one who tried to taunt him. He had
not painted it. What was it to him how vile and full of shame it
looked? Even if he told them, would they believe it?
Yet he was afraid. Sometimes when he was down at his great house in
Nottinghamshire, entertaining the fashionable young men of his own rank
who were his chief companions, and astounding the county by the wanton
luxury and gorgeous splendour of his mode of life, he would suddenly
leave his guests and rush back to town to see that the door had not
been tampered with and that the picture was still there. What if it
should be stolen? The mere thought made him cold with horror. Surely
the world would know his secret then. Perhaps the world already
For, while he fascinated many, there were not a few who distrusted him.
He was very nearly blackballed at a West End club of which his birth
and social position fully entitled him to become a member, and it was
said that on one occasion, when he was brought by a friend into the
smoking-room of the Churchill, the Duke of Berwick and another
gentleman got up in a marked manner and went out. Curious stories
became current about him after he had passed his twenty-fifth year. It
was rumoured that he had been seen brawling with foreign sailors in a
low den in the distant parts of Whitechapel, and that he consorted with
thieves and coiners and knew the mysteries of their trade. His
extraordinary absences became notorious, and, when he used to reappear
again in society, men would whisper to each other in corners, or pass
him with a sneer, or look at him with cold searching eyes, as though
they were determined to discover his secret.
Of such insolences and attempted slights he, of course, took no notice,
and in the opinion of most people his frank debonair manner, his
charming boyish smile, and the infinite grace of that wonderful youth
that seemed never to leave him, were in themselves a sufficient answer
to the calumnies, for so they termed them, that were circulated about
him. It was remarked, however, that some of those who had been most
intimate with him appeared, after a time, to shun him. Women who had
wildly adored him, and for his sake had braved all social censure and
set convention at defiance, were seen to grow pallid with shame or
horror if Dorian Gray entered the room.
Yet these whispered scandals only increased in the eyes of many his
strange and dangerous charm. His great wealth was a certain element of
security. Society--civilized society, at least--is never very ready to
believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and
fascinating. It feels instinctively that manners are of more
importance than morals, and, in its opinion, the highest respectability
is of much less value than the possession of a good chef. And, after
all, it is a very poor consolation to be told that the man who has
given one a bad dinner, or poor wine, is irreproachable in his private
life. Even the cardinal virtues cannot atone for half-cold entrees, as
Lord Henry remarked once, in a discussion on the subject, and there is
possibly a good deal to be said for his view. For the canons of good
society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art. Form is
absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony,
as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of
a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful
to us. Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is
merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.
Such, at any rate, was Dorian Gray's opinion. He used to wonder at the
shallow psychology of those who conceive the ego in man as a thing
simple, permanent, reliable, and of one essence. To him, man was a
being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform
creature that bore within itself strange legacies of thought and
passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies
of the dead. He loved to stroll through the gaunt cold picture-gallery
of his country house and look at the various portraits of those whose
blood flowed in his veins. Here was Philip Herbert, described by
Francis Osborne, in his Memoires on the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and
King James, as one who was "caressed by the Court for his handsome
face, which kept him not long company." Was it young Herbert's life
that he sometimes led? Had some strange poisonous germ crept from body
to body till it had reached his own? Was it some dim sense of that
ruined grace that had made him so suddenly, and almost without cause,
give utterance, in Basil Hallward's studio, to the mad prayer that had
so changed his life? Here, in gold-embroidered red doublet, jewelled
surcoat, and gilt-edged ruff and wristbands, stood Sir Anthony Sherard,
with his silver-and-black armour piled at his feet. What had this
man's legacy been? Had the lover of Giovanna of Naples bequeathed him
some inheritance of sin and shame? Were his own actions merely the
dreams that the dead man had not dared to realize? Here, from the
fading canvas, smiled Lady Elizabeth Devereux, in her gauze hood, pearl
stomacher, and pink slashed sleeves. A flower was in her right hand,
and her left clasped an enamelled collar of white and damask roses. On
a table by her side lay a mandolin and an apple. There were large
green rosettes upon her little pointed shoes. He knew her life, and
the strange stories that were told about her lovers. Had he something
of her temperament in him? These oval, heavy-lidded eyes seemed to
look curiously at him. What of George Willoughby, with his powdered
hair and fantastic patches? How evil he looked! The face was
saturnine and swarthy, and the sensual lips seemed to be twisted with
disdain. Delicate lace ruffles fell over the lean yellow hands that
were so overladen with rings. He had been a macaroni of the eighteenth
century, and the friend, in his youth, of Lord Ferrars. What of the
second Lord Beckenham, the companion of the Prince Regent in his
wildest days, and one of the witnesses at the secret marriage with Mrs.
Fitzherbert? How proud and handsome he was, with his chestnut curls
and insolent pose! What passions had he bequeathed? The world had
looked upon him as infamous. He had led the orgies at Carlton House.
The star of the Garter glittered upon his breast. Beside him hung the
portrait of his wife, a pallid, thin-lipped woman in black. Her blood,
also, stirred within him. How curious it all seemed! And his mother
with her Lady Hamilton face and her moist, wine-dashed lips--he knew
what he had got from her. He had got from her his beauty, and his
passion for the beauty of others. She laughed at him in her loose
Bacchante dress. There were vine leaves in her hair. The purple
spilled from the cup she was holding. The carnations of the painting
had withered, but the eyes were still wonderful in their depth and
brilliancy of colour. They seemed to follow him wherever he went.
Yet one had ancestors in literature as well as in one's own race,
nearer perhaps in type and temperament, many of them, and certainly
with an influence of which one was more absolutely conscious. There
were times when it appeared to Dorian Gray that the whole of history
was merely the record of his own life, not as he had lived it in act
and circumstance, but as his imagination had created it for him, as it
had been in his brain and in his passions. He felt that he had known
them all, those strange terrible figures that had passed across the
stage of the world and made sin so marvellous and evil so full of
subtlety. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had
been his own.
The hero of the wonderful novel that had so influenced his life had
himself known this curious fancy. In the seventh chapter he tells how,
crowned with laurel, lest lightning might strike him, he had sat, as
Tiberius, in a garden at Capri, reading the shameful books of
Elephantis, while dwarfs and peacocks strutted round him and the
flute-player mocked the swinger of the censer; and, as Caligula, had
caroused with the green-shirted jockeys in their stables and supped in
an ivory manger with a jewel-frontleted horse; and, as Domitian, had
wandered through a corridor lined with marble mirrors, looking round
with haggard eyes for the reflection of the dagger that was to end his
days, and sick with that ennui, that terrible taedium vitae, that comes
on those to whom life denies nothing; and had peered through a clear
emerald at the red shambles of the circus and then, in a litter of
pearl and purple drawn by silver-shod mules, been carried through the
Street of Pomegranates to a House of Gold and heard men cry on Nero
Caesar as he passed by; and, as Elagabalus, had painted his face with
colours, and plied the distaff among the women, and brought the Moon
from Carthage and given her in mystic marriage to the Sun.
Over and over again Dorian used to read this fantastic chapter, and the
two chapters immediately following, in which, as in some curious
tapestries or cunningly wrought enamels, were pictured the awful and
beautiful forms of those whom vice and blood and weariness had made
monstrous or mad: Filippo, Duke of Milan, who slew his wife and
painted her lips with a scarlet poison that her lover might suck death
from the dead thing he fondled; Pietro Barbi, the Venetian, known as
Paul the Second, who sought in his vanity to assume the title of
Formosus, and whose tiara, valued at two hundred thousand florins, was
bought at the price of a terrible sin; Gian Maria Visconti, who used
hounds to chase living men and whose murdered body was covered with
roses by a harlot who had loved him; the Borgia on his white horse,
with Fratricide riding beside him and his mantle stained with the blood
of Perotto; Pietro Riario, the young Cardinal Archbishop of Florence,
child and minion of Sixtus IV, whose beauty was equalled only by his
debauchery, and who received Leonora of Aragon in a pavilion of white
and crimson silk, filled with nymphs and centaurs, and gilded a boy
that he might serve at the feast as Ganymede or Hylas; Ezzelin, whose
melancholy could be cured only by the spectacle of death, and who had a
passion for red blood, as other men have for red wine--the son of the
Fiend, as was reported, and one who had cheated his father at dice when
gambling with him for his own soul; Giambattista Cibo, who in mockery
took the name of Innocent and into whose torpid veins the blood of
three lads was infused by a Jewish doctor; Sigismondo Malatesta, the
lover of Isotta and the lord of Rimini, whose effigy was burned at Rome
as the enemy of God and man, who strangled Polyssena with a napkin, and
gave poison to Ginevra d'Este in a cup of emerald, and in honour of a
shameful passion built a pagan church for Christian worship; Charles
VI, who had so wildly adored his brother's wife that a leper had warned
him of the insanity that was coming on him, and who, when his brain had
sickened and grown strange, could only be soothed by Saracen cards
painted with the images of love and death and madness; and, in his
trimmed jerkin and jewelled cap and acanthuslike curls, Grifonetto
Baglioni, who slew Astorre with his bride, and Simonetto with his page,
and whose comeliness was such that, as he lay dying in the yellow
piazza of Perugia, those who had hated him could not choose but weep,
and Atalanta, who had cursed him, blessed him.
There was a horrible fascination in them all. He saw them at night,
and they troubled his imagination in the day. The Renaissance knew of
strange manners of poisoning--poisoning by a helmet and a lighted
torch, by an embroidered glove and a jewelled fan, by a gilded pomander
and by an amber chain. Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There
were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he
could realize his conception of the beautiful.
It was on the ninth of November, the eve of his own thirty-eighth
birthday, as he often remembered afterwards.
He was walking home about eleven o'clock from Lord Henry's, where he
had been dining, and was wrapped in heavy furs, as the night was cold
and foggy. At the corner of Grosvenor Square and South Audley Street,
a man passed him in the mist, walking very fast and with the collar of
his grey ulster turned up. He had a bag in his hand. Dorian
recognized him. It was Basil Hallward. A strange sense of fear, for
which he could not account, came over him. He made no sign of
recognition and went on quickly in the direction of his own house.
But Hallward had seen him. Dorian heard him first stopping on the
pavement and then hurrying after him. In a few moments, his hand was
on his arm.
"Dorian! What an extraordinary piece of luck! I have been waiting for
you in your library ever since nine o'clock. Finally I took pity on
your tired servant and told him to go to bed, as he let me out. I am
off to Paris by the midnight train, and I particularly wanted to see
you before I left. I thought it was you, or rather your fur coat, as
you passed me. But I wasn't quite sure. Didn't you recognize me?"
"In this fog, my dear Basil? Why, I can't even recognize Grosvenor
Square. I believe my house is somewhere about here, but I don't feel
at all certain about it. I am sorry you are going away, as I have not
seen you for ages. But I suppose you will be back soon?"
"No: I am going to be out of England for six months. I intend to take
a studio in Paris and shut myself up till I have finished a great
picture I have in my head. However, it wasn't about myself I wanted to
talk. Here we are at your door. Let me come in for a moment. I have
something to say to you."
"I shall be charmed. But won't you miss your train?" said Dorian Gray
languidly as he passed up the steps and opened the door with his
The lamplight struggled out through the fog, and Hallward looked at his
watch. "I have heaps of time," he answered. "The train doesn't go
till twelve-fifteen, and it is only just eleven. In fact, I was on my
way to the club to look for you, when I met you. You see, I shan't
have any delay about luggage, as I have sent on my heavy things. All I
have with me is in this bag, and I can easily get to Victoria in twenty
Dorian looked at him and smiled. "What a way for a fashionable painter
to travel! A Gladstone bag and an ulster! Come in, or the fog will
get into the house. And mind you don't talk about anything serious.
Nothing is serious nowadays. At least nothing should be."
Hallward shook his head, as he entered, and followed Dorian into the
library. There was a bright wood fire blazing in the large open
hearth. The lamps were lit, and an open Dutch silver spirit-case
stood, with some siphons of soda-water and large cut-glass tumblers, on
a little marqueterie table.
"You see your servant made me quite at home, Dorian. He gave me
everything I wanted, including your best gold-tipped cigarettes. He is
a most hospitable creature. I like him much better than the Frenchman
you used to have. What has become of the Frenchman, by the bye?"
Dorian shrugged his shoulders. "I believe he married Lady Radley's
maid, and has established her in Paris as an English dressmaker.
Anglomania is very fashionable over there now, I hear. It seems silly
of the French, doesn't it? But--do you know?--he was not at all a bad
servant. I never liked him, but I had nothing to complain about. One
often imagines things that are quite absurd. He was really very
devoted to me and seemed quite sorry when he went away. Have another
brandy-and-soda? Or would you like hock-and-seltzer? I always take
hock-and-seltzer myself. There is sure to be some in the next room."
"Thanks, I won't have anything more," said the painter, taking his cap
and coat off and throwing them on the bag that he had placed in the
corner. "And now, my dear fellow, I want to speak to you seriously.
Don't frown like that. You make it so much more difficult for me."
"What is it all about?" cried Dorian in his petulant way, flinging
himself down on the sofa. "I hope it is not about myself. I am tired
of myself to-night. I should like to be somebody else."
"It is about yourself," answered Hallward in his grave deep voice, "and
I must say it to you. I shall only keep you half an hour."
Dorian sighed and lit a cigarette. "Half an hour!" he murmured.
"It is not much to ask of you, Dorian, and it is entirely for your own
sake that I am speaking. I think it right that you should know that
the most dreadful things are being said against you in London."
"I don't wish to know anything about them. I love scandals about other
people, but scandals about myself don't interest me. They have not got
the charm of novelty."
"They must interest you, Dorian. Every gentleman is interested in his
good name. You don't want people to talk of you as something vile and
degraded. Of course, you have your position, and your wealth, and all
that kind of thing. But position and wealth are not everything. Mind
you, I don't believe these rumours at all. At least, I can't believe
them when I see you. Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's
face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices.
There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows
itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the
moulding of his hands even. Somebody--I won't mention his name, but
you know him--came to me last year to have his portrait done. I had
never seen him before, and had never heard anything about him at the
time, though I have heard a good deal since. He offered an extravagant
price. I refused him. There was something in the shape of his fingers
that I hated. I know now that I was quite right in what I fancied
about him. His life is dreadful. But you, Dorian, with your pure,
bright, innocent face, and your marvellous untroubled youth--I can't
believe anything against you. And yet I see you very seldom, and you
never come down to the studio now, and when I am away from you, and I
hear all these hideous things that people are whispering about you, I
don't know what to say. Why is it, Dorian, that a man like the Duke of
Berwick leaves the room of a club when you enter it? Why is it that so
many gentlemen in London will neither go to your house or invite you to
theirs? You used to be a friend of Lord Staveley. I met him at dinner
last week. Your name happened to come up in conversation, in
connection with the miniatures you have lent to the exhibition at the
Dudley. Staveley curled his lip and said that you might have the most
artistic tastes, but that you were a man whom no pure-minded girl
should be allowed to know, and whom no chaste woman should sit in the
same room with. I reminded him that I was a friend of yours, and asked
him what he meant. He told me. He told me right out before everybody.
It was horrible! Why is your friendship so fatal to young men? There
was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were
his great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England
with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. What about Adrian
Singleton and his dreadful end? What about Lord Kent's only son and
his career? I met his father yesterday in St. James's Street. He
seemed broken with shame and sorrow. What about the young Duke of
Perth? What sort of life has he got now? What gentleman would
associate with him?"
"Stop, Basil. You are talking about things of which you know nothing,"
said Dorian Gray, biting his lip, and with a note of infinite contempt
in his voice. "You ask me why Berwick leaves a room when I enter it.
It is because I know everything about his life, not because he knows
anything about mine. With such blood as he has in his veins, how could
his record be clean? You ask me about Henry Ashton and young Perth.
Did I teach the one his vices, and the other his debauchery? If Kent's
silly son takes his wife from the streets, what is that to me? If
Adrian Singleton writes his friend's name across a bill, am I his
keeper? I know how people chatter in England. The middle classes air
their moral prejudices over their gross dinner-tables, and whisper
about what they call the profligacies of their betters in order to try
and pretend that they are in smart society and on intimate terms with
the people they slander. In this country, it is enough for a man to
have distinction and brains for every common tongue to wag against him.
And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead
themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land
of the hypocrite."
"Dorian," cried Hallward, "that is not the question. England is bad
enough I know, and English society is all wrong. That is the reason
why I want you to be fine. You have not been fine. One has a right to
judge of a man by the effect he has over his friends. Yours seem to
lose all sense of honour, of goodness, of purity. You have filled them
with a madness for pleasure. They have gone down into the depths. You
led them there. Yes: you led them there, and yet you can smile, as
you are smiling now. And there is worse behind. I know you and Harry
are inseparable. Surely for that reason, if for none other, you should
not have made his sister's name a by-word."
"Take care, Basil. You go too far."
"I must speak, and you must listen. You shall listen. When you met
Lady Gwendolen, not a breath of scandal had ever touched her. Is there
a single decent woman in London now who would drive with her in the
park? Why, even her children are not allowed to live with her. Then
there are other stories--stories that you have been seen creeping at
dawn out of dreadful houses and slinking in disguise into the foulest
dens in London. Are they true? Can they be true? When I first heard
them, I laughed. I hear them now, and they make me shudder. What
about your country-house and the life that is led there? Dorian, you
don't know what is said about you. I won't tell you that I don't want
to preach to you. I remember Harry saying once that every man who
turned himself into an amateur curate for the moment always began by
saying that, and then proceeded to break his word. I do want to preach
to you. I want you to lead such a life as will make the world respect
you. I want you to have a clean name and a fair record. I want you to
get rid of the dreadful people you associate with. Don't shrug your
shoulders like that. Don't be so indifferent. You have a wonderful
influence. Let it be for good, not for evil. They say that you
corrupt every one with whom you become intimate, and that it is quite
sufficient for you to enter a house for shame of some kind to follow
after. I don't know whether it is so or not. How should I know? But
it is said of you. I am told things that it seems impossible to doubt.
Lord Gloucester was one of my greatest friends at Oxford. He showed me
a letter that his wife had written to him when she was dying alone in
her villa at Mentone. Your name was implicated in the most terrible
confession I ever read. I told him that it was absurd--that I knew you
thoroughly and that you were incapable of anything of the kind. Know
you? I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, I should
have to see your soul."
"To see my soul!" muttered Dorian Gray, starting up from the sofa and
turning almost white from fear.
"Yes," answered Hallward gravely, and with deep-toned sorrow in his
voice, "to see your soul. But only God can do that."
A bitter laugh of mockery broke from the lips of the younger man. "You
shall see it yourself, to-night!" he cried, seizing a lamp from the
table. "Come: it is your own handiwork. Why shouldn't you look at
it? You can tell the world all about it afterwards, if you choose.
Nobody would believe you. If they did believe you, they would like me
all the better for it. I know the age better than you do, though you
will prate about it so tediously. Come, I tell you. You have
chattered enough about corruption. Now you shall look on it face to
There was the madness of pride in every word he uttered. He stamped
his foot upon the ground in his boyish insolent manner. He felt a
terrible joy at the thought that some one else was to share his secret,
and that the man who had painted the portrait that was the origin of
all his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life with the
hideous memory of what he had done.
"Yes," he continued, coming closer to him and looking steadfastly into
his stern eyes, "I shall show you my soul. You shall see the thing
that you fancy only God can see."
Hallward started back. "This is blasphemy, Dorian!" he cried. "You
must not say things like that. They are horrible, and they don't mean
"You think so?" He laughed again.
"I know so. As for what I said to you to-night, I said it for your
good. You know I have been always a stanch friend to you."
"Don't touch me. Finish what you have to say."
A twisted flash of pain shot across the painter's face. He paused for
a moment, and a wild feeling of pity came over him. After all, what
right had he to pry into the life of Dorian Gray? If he had done a
tithe of what was rumoured about him, how much he must have suffered!
Then he straightened himself up, and walked over to the fire-place, and
stood there, looking at the burning logs with their frostlike ashes and
their throbbing cores of flame.
"I am waiting, Basil," said the young man in a hard clear voice.
He turned round. "What I have to say is this," he cried. "You must
give me some answer to these horrible charges that are made against
you. If you tell me that they are absolutely untrue from beginning to
end, I shall believe you. Deny them, Dorian, deny them! Can't you see
what I am going
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