THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
by Oscar Wilde
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 Tokio 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 burdon note of a distant organ.
In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the
full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal
beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the
artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some
years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise
to so many strange conjectures.
As the painter looked at the gracious and comely form he had so
skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his
face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up,
and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though
he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which
he feared he might awake.
"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done,"
said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to
the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. Whenever I
have gone there, there have either been 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 always be 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
"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
"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 halfway 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 it:
it was a sort of cowardice. I take no credit to myself for trying to
"Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil.
Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all."
"I don't believe that, Harry, and I don't believe you do either.
However, whatever was my motive- and it may have been pride, for I
used to be very proud- I certainly struggled to the door. There, of
course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon. 'You are not going to run
away so soon, Mr. Hallward?' she screamed out. You know her
curiously shrill voice?"
"Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty," said Lord Henry,
pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fingers.
"I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to Royalties, and
people with Stars and Garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic tiaras
and parrot noses. She spoke of me as her dearest friend. I had only
met her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize me. I
believe some picture of mine had made a great success at the time,
at least had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is
the nineteenth-century standard of immortality. Suddenly I found
myself face to face with the young man whose personality had so
strangely stirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes
met again. It was reckless of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to
introduce me to him. Perhaps it was not so reckless, after all. It was
simply inevitable. We would have spoken to each other without any
introduction. I am sure of that. Dorian told me so afterwards. He,
too, felt that we were destined to know each other."
"And how did Lady Brandon describe this wonderful young man?"
asked his companion. "I know she goes in for giving a rapid precis
of all her guests. I remember her bringing me up to a truculent and
red-faced old gentleman covered all over with orders and ribbons,
and hissing into my ear, in a tragic whisper which must have been
perfectly audible to everybody in the room, the most astounding
details. I simply fled. I like to find out people for myself. But Lady
Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods.
She either explains them entirely away, or tells one everything
about them except what one wants to know."
"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
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 that 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 your art."
"He is all my art to me now," said the painter, gravely. "I
sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any importance
in the world's history. The first is the appearance of a new medium
for art, and the second is the appearance of a new personality for art
also. What the invention of oil-painting was to the Venetians, the
face of Antinous was to late Greek sculpture, and the face of Dorian
Gray will some day be to me. It is not merely that I paint from him,
draw from him, sketch from him. Of course I have done all that. But he
is much more to me than a model or a sitter. I won't tell you that I
am dissatisfied with what I have done of him or that his beauty is
such that Art cannot express it. There is nothing that Art cannot
express, and I know that the work I have done, since I met Dorian
Gray, is good work, is the best work of my life. But in some curious
way- I wonder will you understand me?- his personality has suggested
to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode of style.
I see things differently, I think of them differently. I can now
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 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 his 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
"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 summer's day."
"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 idea. 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 too often."
"Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it. Those who are
faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who
know love's tragedies." And Lord Henry struck a light on a dainty
silver case, and began to smoke a cigarette with a self-conscious
and satisfied air, as if he had summed up the world in a phrase. There
was a rustle of chirruping sparrows in the green lacquer leaves of the
ivy, and the blue cloud-shadows chased themselves across the grass
like swallows. How pleasant it was in the garden! And how delightful
other people's emotions were!- much more delightful than their
ideas, it seemed to him. One's own soul, and the passions of one's
friends- those were the fascinating things in life. He pictured to
himself with silent amusement the tedious luncheon that he had
missed by staying so long with Basil Hallward. Had he gone to his
aunt's, he would have been sure to have met Lord Goodbody there, and
the whole conversation would have been about the feeding of the
poor, and the necessity for model lodging-houses. Each class would
have preached the importance of those virtues, for whose exercise
there was no necessity in their own lives. The rich would have
spoken on the value of thrift, and the idle grown eloquent over the
dignity of labour. It was charming to have escaped all that! As he
thought of his aunt, an idea seemed to strike him. He turned to
Hallward, and said, "My dear fellow, I have just remembered."
"Remembered what, Harry?"
"Where I heard the name of Dorian Gray."
"Where was it?" asked Hallward, with a slight frown.
"Don't look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt, Lady Agatha's. She
told me she had discovered a wonderful young man, who was going to
help her in the East End, and that his name was Dorian Gray. I am
bound to state that she never told me he was good-looking. Women
have no appreciation of good looks; at least, good women have not. She
said that he was very earnest, and had a beautiful nature. I at once
pictured to myself a creature with spectacles and lank hair,
horribly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known
it was your friend."
"I am very glad you didn't, Harry."
"I don't want you to meet him."
"You don't want me to meet him?"
"Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio, sir," said the butler, coming
into the garden.
"You must introduce me now," cried Lord Henry, laughing.
The painter turned to his servant, who stood blinking in the
sunlight. "Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I shall be in in a few
moments." The man bowed, and went up the walk.
Then he looked at Lord Henry. "Dorian Gray is my dearest friend," he
said. "He has a simple and 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 depends entirely 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
Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully
handsome, with his finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes,
his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one
trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as
all youth's passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself
unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him.
"You are too charming to go in for philanthropy, Mr. Gray- far too
charming." And Lord Henry flung himself down on the divan, and
opened his cigarette-case.
The painter had been busy mixing his colours and getting his brushes
ready. He was looking worried, and when he heard Lord Henry's last
remark he glanced at him, hesitated for a moment, and then said,
"Harry, I want to finish this picture to-day. Would you think it
awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?"
Lord Henry smiled, and looked at Dorian Gray. "Am I to go, Mr.
Gray?" he asked.
"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 yet--"
"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
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 had become
fiery-coloured to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in
fire. Why had he not known it?
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 bare-headed, and the leaves
had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded
threads. There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have
when they are suddenly awakened. His finely-chiselled nostrils
quivered, and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left
"Yes," continued Lord Henry, "that is one of the great secrets of
life- to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means
of the soul. You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you
think you know, just as you know less than you want to know."
Dorian Gray frowned and turned his head away. He could not help
liking the tall, graceful young man who was standing by him. His
romantic olive-coloured face and worn expression interested him. There
was something in his low, languid voice that was absolutely
fascinating. His cool, white, flower-like 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
"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 worth having."
"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 its tiny blossoms. He watched it with that
strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when
things of high import make us afraid, or when we are stirred by some
new emotion for which we cannot find expression, or when some
thought that terrifies us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls
on us to yield. After a time the bee flew away. He saw it creeping
into the stained trumpet of a Tyrian convolvulus. The flower seemed to
quiver, and then swayed gently to and fro.
Suddenly the painter appeared at the door of the studio, and made
staccato signs for them to come in. They turned to each other, and
"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
"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 forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The
only difference between a caprice and a life-long 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
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 exaggerations of friendship. He had listened to
them, laughed at them, forgotten them. They had not influenced his
nature. Then had come Lord Henry Wotton with his strange panegyric
on youth, his terrible warning of its brevity. That had stirred him at
the time, and now, as he stood gazing at the shadow of his own
loveliness, the full reality of the description flashed across him.
Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizened,
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 for that!"
"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
"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
"I am glad you appreciate my work at last, Dorian," said the
painter, coldly, when he had recovered from his surprise. "I never
thought you would."
"Appreciate it? I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself. I
"Well, as soon as you are dry, you shall be varnished, and framed,
and sent home. Then you can do what you like with yourself." And he
walked across the room and rang the bell for tea. "You will have
tea, of course, Dorian? And so will you, Harry? Or do you object to
such simple pleasures?"
"I adore simple pleasures," said Lord Henry. "They are the last
refuge of the complex. But I don't like scenes, except on the stage.
What absurd fellows you are, both of you! I wonder who it was
defined man as a rational animal. It was the most premature definition
ever given. Man is many things, but he is not rational. I am glad he
is not, after all: though I wish you chaps would not squabble over the
picture. You had much better let me have it, Basil. This silly boy
doesn't really want it, and I really do."
"If you let any one have it but me, Basil, I shall never forgive
you!" cried Dorian Gray; "and I don't allow people to call me a
"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
Date: 2015-02-03; view: 108