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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPicture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter I: 3-12
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Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter I: 3-12 Post by :ladyfaith Category :Long Stories Author :Oscar Wilde Date :June 2011 Read :3826

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Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter I: 3-12

Chapter I: 3-12

(3) The studio was filled with the rich odor 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 usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton
could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored
blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able
to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like 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 who, in 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 black-crocketed spires of the early June hollyhocks, seemed to
make the stillness more oppressive, and the dim roar of London was
like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the
full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty,
and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist
himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago
caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many
strange conjectures.

As he 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 (4) 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. The
Grosvenor is the only place."

"I don't think I will 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

"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 his long legs out on the divan and shook with

"Yes, I knew you would laugh; 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 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
an 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 consequently 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 a brainless, beautiful thing, 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. 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 (5) 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 quietly 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
fame, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks,--we will
all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly."

"Dorian Gray? is that his name?" said 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 seems like surrendering a part of them.
You know how I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make
modern life wonderful or mysterious to us. The commonest thing is
delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town 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, laying his hand upon his shoulder;
"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
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, shaking his hand off, and 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 for a time they did not speak.

After a long 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?" asked Basil Hallward, keeping his eyes fixed on the

"You know quite well."

"I do not, Harry."

(6) "Well, I will tell you what it is."

"Please don't."

"I must. 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 colored canvas, reveals himself. The reason
I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown
with it the secret of my own soul."

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

"I will tell you," said Hallward; and an expression of perplexity
came over his face.

"I am all expectation, Basil," murmured his companion, looking at

"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the young
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 I can believe anything, provided that it is 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 in the grass, and a long thin
dragon-fly floated by on its brown gauze wings. Lord Henry felt as
if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart beating, and he wondered what
was coming.

"Well, this is incredible," repeated Hallward, rather bitterly,--
"incredible to me at times. I don't know what it means. The story
is simply this. Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's.
You know we poor painters 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 instinct 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. My father destined me for the army. I
insisted on (7) going to Oxford. Then he made me enter my name at
the Middle Temple. Before I had eaten half a dozen dinners I gave up
the Bar, and announced my intention of becoming a painter. 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 knew that if I spoke
to Dorian I would become absolutely devoted to him, and that I ought
not to speak to him. I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. It
was not conscience that made me do so: it was 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. 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 shrill horrid voice?"

"Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty," said Lord Henry,
pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fingers.

"I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to Royalties, and
people with Stars and Garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic
tiaras and hooked 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 mad of me, but I asked Lady
Brandon to introduce me to him. Perhaps it was not so mad, 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? I know
she goes in for giving a rapid precis of all her guests. I remember
her bringing me up to a most 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, something like 'Sir Humpty Dumpty--you know--Afghan
frontier--Russian intrigues: very successful man--wife killed by an
elephant--quite inconsolable--wants to marry a beautiful American
widow--everybody does nowadays--hates Mr. Gladstone--but very much
interested in beetles: ask him what he thinks of Schouvaloff.' I
simply fled. I like to find out people for myself. But poor Lady
Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods.
She either explains them entirely away, or tells one everything about
them except what one wants to know. But what did she say about Mr.
Dorian Gray?"

(8) "Oh, she murmured, 'Charming boy--poor dear mother and I quite
inseparable--engaged to be married to the same man--I mean married on
the same day--how very silly of me! Quite forget what he does--
afraid he--doesn't do anything--oh, yes, plays the piano--or is it
the violin, dear Mr. Gray?' We could neither of us help laughing,
and we became friends at once."

"Laughter is not a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is the best
ending for one," said Lord Henry, plucking another daisy.

Hallward buried his face in his hands. "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 were drifting across the
hollowed turquoise of the summer sky, like ravelled skeins of glossy
white silk. "Yes; horribly unjust of you. I make a great difference
between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my
acquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains.
A man can't 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."


"My dear fellow, I am not quite serious. But I can't help detesting
my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that we can't 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 classes. They 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
lower orders live correctly."

"I don't agree with a single word that you have said, and, what is
more, Harry, I don't believe you do either."

Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard, and tapped the toe of his
patent-leather boot with a tasselled malacca cane. "How English you
are, Basil! If one puts forward an idea to a real 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 one's self. 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 (9) will not be colored 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. Tell me more about Dorian Gray. How often do you
see him?"

"Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. Of
course sometimes it is only for a few minutes. But a few minutes
with somebody one worships mean a great deal."

"But you don't really worship him?"

"I do."

"How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything but
your painting,--your art, I should say. Art sounds better, doesn't

"He is all my art to me now. I sometimes think, Harry, that there
are only two eras of any importance in the history of the world. 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, model
from him. Of course I have done all that. He has stood as Paris in
dainty armor, and as Adonis with huntsman's cloak and polished boar-
spear. Crowned with heavy lotus-blossoms, he has sat on the prow of
Adrian's barge, looking into the green, turbid Nile. He has leaned
over the still pool of some Greek woodland, and seen in the water's
silent silver the wonder of his own beauty. But he is much more to
me than that. 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 re-create 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 itself 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 bestial,
an ideality that is void. Harry! 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."

"Basil, this is quite wonderful! I must see Dorian Gray." Hallward
got up from the seat, and walked up and down the (10) garden. After
some time he came back. "You don't understand, Harry," he said.
"Dorian Gray is merely to me a motive in art. He is never more
present in my work than when no image of him is there. He is simply
a suggestion, as I have said, of a new manner. I see him in the
curves of certain lines, in the loveliness and the subtleties of
certain colors. That is all."

"Then why won't you exhibit his portrait?"

"Because I have put into it all the extraordinary romance of which,
of course, I have never dared to speak to him. He knows nothing
about it. He will 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

"I hate them for it. 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. If I live, 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?"

Hallward 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. I give myself away. As a
rule, he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club
arm in arm, or sit in the studio and talk of a thousand things. Now
and then, however, he is horribly thoughtless, and seems to take a
real delight in giving me pain. Then I feel, Harry, that I have
given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as if it were a
flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity,
an ornament for a summer's day."

"Days in summer, Basil, are apt to linger. 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, and everything priced above its proper value. I think you will
tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at Gray, and he
will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won't like his
tone of color, 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 (11) perfectly cold and
indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you. The
worst of having a romance is that it leaves one so unromantic."

"Harry, don't talk like that. As long as I live, the personality of
Dorian Gray will dominate me. You can't feel what I feel. You
change too often."

"Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it. Those who are
faithful know only the pleasures 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
self-satisfied air, as if he had summed up life in a phrase. There
was a rustle of chirruping sparrows in 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 thought with pleasure of 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 meet
Lord Goodbody there, and the whole conversation would have been about
the housing of the poor, and the necessity for model lodging-houses.
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's, 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,
horridly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had
known it was your friend."

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


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

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

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

Basil Hallward turned to the servant, who stood blinking in the
sunlight. "Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I will 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 for me. 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 (12) away from me the
one person that makes life absolutely lovely to me, and that gives to
my art whatever wonder or charm it possesses. 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.

Content of Chapter I: 3-12 (Oscar Wilde's novel: Picture of Dorian Gray)

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Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter II: 12-22 Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter II: 12-22

Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter II: 12-22
Chapter II: 12-22(...12) As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at thepiano, with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume ofSchumann's "Forest Scenes." "You must lend me these, Basil," hecried. "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 ofmyself," answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool, in awilful, petulant manner. When he caught sight of Lord Henry, a faintblush colored his cheeks for a moment, and he


PART TWELVEIt was when I read the first of the booksI found in my house that I saw the word"I." And when I understood this word,the book fell from my hands, and I wept,I who had never known tears. I wept indeliverance and in pity for all mankind.I understood the blessed thing which Ihad called my curse. I understood why thebest in me had been my sins and my transgressions;and why I had never felt guilt in my sins.I understood that centuries of chainsand lashes will not kill the spirit ofman nor the sense of truth within him.I