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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

at him.

"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the

painter; "and I am afraid you will hardly understand it. Perhaps you

will hardly believe it."

Lord Henry smiled, and, leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled

daisy from the grass, and examined it. "I am quite sure I shall

understand it," he replied, gazing intently at the little golden

white-feathered disk, "and as for believing things, I can believe

anything, provided that it is quite incredible."

The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy

lilac-blooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the

languid air. A grasshopper began to chirrup by the wall, and like a

blue thread a long thin dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze

wings. Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart

beating, and wondered what was coming.

"The story is simply this," said the painter after some time. "Two

months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's. You know we poor

artists have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to

remind the public that we are not savages. With an evening coat and

a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can

gain a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the

room about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and

tedious Academicians, I suddenly became conscious that some one was

looking at me. I turned 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

Dorian, laughing.

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

them trembling.

"Yes," continued Lord Henry, "that is one of the great secrets of

life- to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means

of the soul. You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you

think you know, just as you know less than you want to know."

Dorian Gray frowned and turned his head away. He could not help

liking the tall, graceful young man who was standing by him. His

romantic olive-coloured face and worn expression interested him. There

was something in his low, languid voice that was absolutely

fascinating. His cool, white, 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

at him.

"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

is all."

"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

feel that."

"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

silly boy."

"You know the picture is yours, Dorian. I gave it to you before it


"And you know you have been a little silly, Mr. Gray, and that you

don't really object to being reminded that you are extremely young."

"I should have objected very strongly this morning, Lord Henry."

"Ah! this morning! You have lived since then."

There came a knock at the door, and the butler entered with a

laden tea-tray, and set it down upon a small Japanese table. There was

a rattle of cups and saucers and the hissing of a fluted Georgian urn.

Two globe-shaped china dishes were brought in by a page. Dorian Gray

went over and poured out the tea. The two men sauntered languidly to

the table, and examined what was under the covers.

"Let us go to the theatre to-night," said Lord Henry. "There is sure

to be something on, somewhere. I have promised to dine at White's, but

it is only with an old friend, so I can send him a wire to say that

I am ill, or that I am prevented from coming in consequence of a

subsequent engagement. I think that would be a rather nice excuse:

it would have all the surprise of candour."

"It is such a bore putting on one's dress-clothes," muttered

Hallward. "And, when one has them on, they are so horrid."

"Yes," answered Lord Henry, dreamily, "the costume of the nineteenth


Date: 2015-02-03; view: 338

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