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The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in the July 1890 issue of "Lippincott's Monthly Magazine".
|Publisher||Lippincott's Monthly Magazine|
|LC Class||PR5819.A2 M543 2003|
The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in the July 1890 issue of "Lippincott's Monthly Magazine".
|Publisher||Lippincott's Monthly Magazine|
|LC Class||PR5819.A2 M543 2003|
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), by Oscar Wilde, was first published as a serial story in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. As submitted by Wilde to the magazine, the editors feared the story was indecent, and deleted five hundred words before publication — without Wilde’s knowledge. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding the public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press.
Wilde revised and expanded the magazine edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) for publication as a novel; the book edition (1891) featured an aphoristic preface — an apologia about the art of the novel and the reader. The content, style, and presentation of the preface made it famous in its own literary right, as social and cultural criticism. In April 1891, the editorial house Ward, Lock and Company published the revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The only novel written by Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray exists in two versions, the 1890 magazine edition and the 1891 book edition, the story he submitted for serial publication in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. As literature of the 19th century, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an example of Gothic fiction with strong themes interpreted from the legendary Faust.
Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian's beauty; he believes that Dorian’s beauty is responsible for the new mode in his art as a painter. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat's hedonistic worldview: that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life.
Understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied and amoral experiences; all the while his portrait ages and records every soul-corrupting sin.
The Picture of Dorian Gray begins on a beautiful summer day in Victorian era England, where Lord Henry Wotton, an opinionated man, is observing the sensitive artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of Dorian Gray, their host, and the handsome young man who is Basil's ultimate muse. After hearing Lord Henry's hedonistic worldview, Dorian begins to think that beauty is the only aspect of life worth pursuing, and wishes that Basil's portrait of him would age in his stead.
Under the hedonist influence of Lord Henry, Dorian fully explores his sensuality. He discovers the actress Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare plays in a dingy, working-class theatre. Dorian approaches and courts her, and soon proposes marriage. The enamoured Sibyl calls him "Prince Charming", and swoons with the happiness of being loved, but her protective brother, James, a sailor, warns that if “Prince Charming” harms her, he will kill Dorian Gray.
Dorian invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. Sibyl, whose only knowledge of love was love of the theatre, foregoes her acting career for the experience of true love with Dorian Gray. Disheartened at her quitting the stage, Dorian rejects Sybil, telling her that acting was her beauty; without that, she no longer interests him. On returning home, Dorian notices that the portrait has changed; his wish has been realised, and the man in the portrait bears a subtle sneer of cruelty.
Conscience-stricken and lonely, Dorian decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but he is too late, as Lord Henry informs him that Sibyl killed herself by swallowing prussic acid. Dorian then understands that, where his life is headed, lust and good looks shall suffice. In the following eighteen years, Dorian experiments with every vice, influenced by a morally poisonous French novel, a gift received from the decadent Lord Henry Wotton.
One night, before leaving for Paris, Basil goes to Dorian's house to ask him about rumours of his self-indulgent sensualism. Dorian does not deny his debauchery, and takes Basil to a locked room to see the portrait, made hideous by Dorian's corruption. In anger, Dorian blames his fate on Basil, and stabs him dead. Dorian then calmly blackmails an old friend, the chemist Alan Campbell, into destroying the body of Basil Hallward by nitric acid.
To escape the guilt of his crime, Dorian goes to an opium den, where James Vane is unknowingly present. Upon hearing someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming", James seeks out and tries to shoot Dorian dead. In their confrontation, Dorian deceives James into believing that he is too young to have known Sibyl, who killed herself eighteen years earlier, as his face is still that of a young man. James relents and releases Dorian, but is then approached by a woman from the opium den who reproaches James for not killing Dorian. She confirms that the man was Dorian Gray and explains that he has not aged in eighteen years; understanding too late, James runs after Dorian, who has gone.
One evening, during dinner at home, Dorian spies James stalking the grounds of the house. Dorian fears for his life. Days later, during a shooting party, one of the hunters accidentally shoots and kills James Vane who was unknowingly lurking in a thicket. On returning to London, Dorian tells Lord Henry that he will be good from then on; his new probity begins with not breaking the heart of the naïve Hetty Merton, his current romantic interest. Dorian wonders if his new-found goodness has reverted the corruption in the picture, but sees only an uglier image of himself. From that, Dorian understands that his true motives for the self-sacrifice of moral reformation were the vanity and curiosity of his quest for new experiences.
Deciding that only full confession will absolve him of wrongdoing, Dorian decides to destroy the last vestige of his conscience. Enraged, he takes the knife with which he murdered Basil Hallward, and stabs the picture. The servants of the house awaken on hearing a cry from the locked room; on the street, passers-by who also heard the cry fetch the police. On entering the locked room, the servants find an unknown old man, stabbed in the heart, his face and figure withered and decrepit. The servants identify the disfigured corpse by the rings on his fingers to belong to their master; beside him is the picture of Dorian Gray, reverted to its original beauty.
Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps. 
The greatest theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) is Aestheticism and its conceptual relation to living a double life. Throughout the story, the narrative presents aestheticism as an absurd abstraction, which disillusions more than it dignifies the concept of Beauty. Despite Dorian being a hedonist when Basil accuses him of making a “by-word” of the name of Lord Henry's sister, Dorian curtly replies, “Take care, Basil. You go too far. . .”; thus, in Victorian society, public image and social standing do matter to Dorian. Yet, Wilde highlights the protagonist's hedonism: Dorian enjoyed "keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life", by attending a high-society party only twenty-four hours after committing a murder.
Moral duplicity and self-indulgence are evident in Dorian’s patronising the opium dens of London. Wilde conflates the images of the upper-class man and lower-class man in Dorian Gray, a gentleman slumming for strong entertainment in the poor parts of London town. Lord Henry philosophically had earlier said to him that: “Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders . . . I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations” — implying that Dorian is two men, a refined aesthete and a coarse criminal. That authorial observation is a thematic link to the double life recounted in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), by Robert Louis Stevenson, a novella admired by Oscar Wilde.
In Book 2 of Plato's The Republic, Glaucon and Adeimantus present the myth of the Ring of Gyges, by means of which Gyges made himself invisible. They then ask Socrates, “If one came into possession of such a ring, why should he act justly?” Socrates replies that although no one can see one's body, the soul is disfigured by the evils one commits. The disfigured and corrupted soul (antithesis of the beautiful soul) is imbalanced and disordered, and, in itself, is undesirable, regardless of any advantage derived from acting unjustly. The picture of Dorian Gray is the means by which other people, such as his friend Basil Hallward, may see Dorian's distorted soul.
Dorian attends a performance of Tannhäuser, by Richard Wagner, and the narrative identifies him with the protagonist of the opera. Disruptive beauty is the thematic resemblance between the opera and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Based upon a mediaeval historical figure, Tannhäuser is a singer whose art is so beautiful that Venus becomes enamoured of him. The Roman goddess of love then offers him eternal life with her in the Venusberg, and he accepts; yet, Tannhäuser becomes dissatisfied with life in the Venusberg, and returns to the harsh reality of the mortal world. After participating in a singing contest, Tannhäuser is censured for the sensuality of his art; eventually, he dies searching for repentance and the love of a good woman.
About the literary hero, the author Oscar Wilde said, “in every first novel the hero is the author as Christ or Faust.” As in the legend of Faust, in The Picture of Dorian Gray a temptation (ageless beauty) is placed before the protagonist, which he indulges. In each story, the protagonist entices a beautiful woman to love him, and then destroys her life. In the preface to the novel (1891), Wilde said that the notion behind the tale is “old in the history of literature”, but was a thematic subject to which he had “given a new form”.
Unlike the academic Faust, the gentleman Dorian makes no deal with the Devil, who is represented by the cynical hedonist Lord Henry, who presents the temptation that will corrupt the virtue and innocence that Dorian possesses at the start of the story. Throughout, Lord Henry appears unaware of the effect of his actions upon the young man; and so frivolously advises Dorian, that “the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing.” As such, the devilish Lord Henry is “leading Dorian into an unholy pact, by manipulating his innocence and insecurity.”
In the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Wilde speaks of the sub-human Caliban character from The Tempest. When Dorian tells Lord Henry, about his new love Sibyl Vane, he mentions the Shakespeare plays in which she has acted, and refers to her by the name of the heroine of each play. Later, Dorian speaks of his life by quoting Hamlet, a privileged character who impels his girlfriend (Ophelia) to suicide, and prompts her brother (Laertes) to swear mortal revenge.
The anonymous “poisonous French novel” that leads Dorian to his fall is a thematic variant of À rebours (1884), by Joris-Karl Huysmans. In the biography, Oscar Wilde (1989), the literary critic Richard Ellmann said that:
Wilde does not name the book, but at his trial he conceded that it was, or almost [was], Huysmans's À rebours . . . to a correspondent, he wrote that he had played a ‘fantastic variation’ upon À rebours, and [that] someday must write it down. The references in Dorian Gray to specific chapters are deliberately inaccurate.
The Picture of Dorian Gray originally was a short novel submitted to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for serial publication. In 1889, J. M. Stoddart, an editor for Lippincott, was in London to solicit short novels to publish in the magazine. On 30 August 1889, Stoddart dined with Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and T. P. Gill  at the Langham Hotel, and commissioned short novels from each writer. Conan Doyle promptly submitted The Sign of the Four (1890) to Stoddart, but Wilde was more dilatory; Conan Doyle's second Sherlock Holmes novel was published in the February 1890 edition of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, yet Stoddart did not receive Wilde's manuscript for The Picture of Dorian Gray until 7 April 1890, nine months after having commissioned the novel from him.
The literary merits of The Picture of Dorian Gray impressed Stoddart, but, as an editor, he told the publisher, George Lippincott, "in its present condition there are a number of things an innocent woman would make an exception to. . . ." Among the pre-publication deletions that Stoddart and his editors made to the text of Wilde's original manuscript were: (i) passages alluding to homosexuality and to homosexual desire; (ii) all references to the fictional book title Le Secret de Raoul and its author, Catulle Sarrazin; and (iii) all “mistress” references to Gray's lovers, Sibyl Vane and Hetty Merton.
The Picture of Dorian Gray was published on 20 June 1890, in the July issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. British reviewers condemned the novel’s immorality, and said condemnation was so controversial that the W H Smith publishing house withdrew every copy of the July 1890 issue of “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine” from its bookstalls in railway stations. Consequent to the harsh criticism of the 1890 magazine edition, Wilde ameliorated the homoerotic references, in order to simplify the moral message of the story. In the magazine edition (1890), Basil tells Lord Henry how he “worships” Dorian, and begs him not to “take away the one person that makes my life absolutely lovely to me.” In the magazine edition, Basil concentrates upon love, whereas, in the book edition (1891), Basil concentrates upon his art, saying to Lord Henry, “the one person who gives my art whatever charm it may possess: my life as an artist depends on him.” The magazine edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) was expanded from thirteen to twenty chapters; and the magazine edition’s final chapter was divided into two chapters, the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the book edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Wilde’s textual additions were about "fleshing out of Dorian as a character" and providing details of his ancestry that made his “psychological collapse more prolonged and more convincing.”
The introduction of the James Vane character to the story develops the socio-economic background of the Sibyl Vane character, thus emphasising Dorian's selfishness and foreshadowing James’s accurate perception of the essentially immoral character of Dorian Gray; thus, he correctly deduced Dorian’s dishonourable intent towards Sybil. The sub-plot about James Vane's dislike of Dorian gives the novel a Victorian tinge of class struggle. With such textual changes, Oscar Wilde meant to diminish the moralistic controversy about the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Consequent to the harsh criticism of the magazine edition of the novel, the textual revisions to The Picture of Dorian Gray included a preface in which Wilde addressed the criticisms and defend the reputation of his novel. To communicate how the novel should be read, in the Preface, Wilde explains the role of the artist in society, the purpose of art, and the value of beauty. It traces Wilde's cultural exposure to Taoism and to the philosophy of Chuang Tsǔ (Zhuang Zhou). Earlier, before writing the preface, Wilde had written a book review of Herbert Giles’s translation of the work of Zhuang Zhou. The preface was first published in the 1891 edition of the novel; nonetheless, by June 1891, Wilde was defending The Picture of Dorian Gray against accusations that it was a bad book.
In the essay The Artist as Critic, Oscar Wilde said that:
The honest ratepayer and his healthy family have no doubt often mocked at the dome-like forehead of the philosopher, and laughed over the strange perspective of the landscape that lies beneath him. If they really knew who he was, they would tremble. For Chuang Tsǔ spent his life in preaching the great creed of Inaction, and in pointing out the uselessness of all things.
In the 19th. century, the critical reception of the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) was poor. The book critic of The Irish Times said, The Picture of Dorian Gray was "first published to some scandal." Such book reviews achieved for the novel a “certain notoriety for being ‘mawkish and nauseous’, ‘unclean’, ‘effeminate’ and ‘contaminating’.” Such moralistic scandal arose from the novel's homoeroticism, which offended the sensibilities (social, literary, and aesthetic) of Victorian book critics. Yet, most of the criticism was personal, attacking Wilde for being a hedonist with a distorted view of conventional morality of Victorian Britain. In the 30 June 1890 issue, the Daily Chronicle the book critic said that Wilde's novel contains “one element . . .which will taint every young mind that comes in contact with it.” In the 5 July 1890 issue, of the Scots Observer, the reviewer asked, “Why must Oscar Wilde ‘go grubbing in muck-heaps?’ “ In response to such criticism, Wilde obscured the homoeroticism of the story and expanded the personal background of the characters.
After the initial publication of the magazine edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Wilde expanded the text from 13 to 20 chapters and obscured the homoerotic themes of the story. In the novel version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), chapters 3, 5, and 15 to 18, inclusive, are new; and chapter 13 of the magazine edition was divided, and became chapters 19 and 20 of the novel edition. In 1895, at his trials, Oscar Wilde said he revised the text of The Picture of Dorian Gray, because of letters sent to him, by the cultural critic Walter Pater.
Passages revised for the novel
Passages added to the novel
The uncensored edition
In 2011, the Belknap Press published The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. The edition includes text that was deleted by JM Stoddart, Wilde's initial editor, before the story's publication in "Lippincott's Monthly Magazine" in 1890.
In Ireland, for the Dublin “One City, One Book” literary festival, The Picture of Dorian Gray was the "Book of 2010”.
Big Finish Productions published the audio-drama series The Confessions of Dorian Gray (2013) based on the premise that Oscar Wilde based The Picture of Dorian Gray on a real man; the actor Alexander Vlahos portrays Dorian Gray. An adaptation of the The Picture of Dorian Gray, by David Llewellyn, directed by Scott Handcock, and with Alexander Vlahos, as Dorian Gray; it was released in August 2013.
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