The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
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
"You must lend me these, Basil,"
"I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming."
"That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian."
"Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don't want a life-sized portrait
answered the lad, swinging round on the music
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
"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
Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray.
"Am I to go, Mr. Gray?"
"Oh, please don't, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky moods,
and I can't bear him when he sulks. Besides, I want you to tell me why I
should not go in for philanthropy."
"I don't know that I shall tell you that, Mr. Gray. It is so
tedious a subject that one would have to talk seriously about it.
But I certainly shall not run away, now that you have asked me to stop.
You don't really mind, Basil, do you? You have often told me that you
liked your sitters to have some one to chat to."
Hallward bit his lip.
"If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay.
Dorian's whims are laws to everybody, except himself."
Lord Henry took up his hat and gloves.
"You are very pressing, Basil, but I
am afraid I must go. I have promised to meet a man at the Orleans.
Good-bye, Mr. Gray. Come and see me some afternoon in Curzon Street.
I am nearly always at home at five o'clock. Write to me when you are coming.
I should be sorry to miss you."
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,"
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
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
"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 neverseen there before.
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, orthe 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 fined you
with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might
stain your cheek with shame --"
ed 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
Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather
another chaos, that it created in us. Words! Mere words!
How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could
not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them!
They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things,
and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute.
Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?
Yes; there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood.
He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-coloured to him.
It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not
With his subtle smile, Lord Henry watched him. He knew the precise
psychological moment when to say nothing. He felt intensely interested.
He was amazed at the sudden impression that his words had produced,
and, remembering a book that he had read when he was sixteen,
a book which had revealed to him much that he had not known before,
he wondered whether Dorian Gray was passing through a similar experience.
He had merely shot an arrow into the air. Had it hit the mark?
How fascinating the lad was!
Hallward painted away with that marvellous bold touch of his,
that had the true refinement and perfect delicacy that in art,
at any rate comes only from strength. He was unconscious of
"Basil, I am tired of standing,"
cried Dorian Gray suddenly.
"I must go out and sit in the garden. The air is stifling here."
"My dear fellow, I am so sorry. When I am painting,
I can't think of anything else. But you never sat better.
You were perfectly still. And I have caught the effect I wanted--
the half-parted lips and the bright look in the eyes.
I don't know what Harry has been saying to you, but he has
certainly made you have the most wonderful expression.
I suppose he has been paying you compliments. You mustn't believe
a word that he says."
"He has certainly not been paying me compliments. Perhaps that is the reason
that I don't believe anything he has told me."
"You know you believe it all,"
said Lord Henry, looking at him with his dreamy languorous eyes.
"I will go out to the garden with you.
It is horribly hot in the studio. Basil, let us have something iced
to drink, something with strawberries in it."
"Certainly, Harry. Just touch the bell, and when Parker comes I
will tell him what you want. I have got to work up this background,
so I will join you later on. Don't keep Dorian too long.
I have never been in better form for painting than I am to-day. This
is going to be my masterpiece. It is my masterpiece as it stands."
Lord Henry went out to the garden and found Dorian Gray burying his face in
the great cool lilac-blossoms, feverishly drinking in their perfume as if it
had been wine. He came close to him and put his hand upon his shoulder.
"You are quite right to do that," he murmured. "Nothing can cure the soul
but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul."
The lad started and drew back. He was bareheaded, and the leaves
had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads.
There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they
are suddenly awakened. His finely chiselled nostrils quivered,
and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left
continued Lord Henry,
"that is one of the great secrets of life--
to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul.
You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as
you know less than you want to know."
Dorian Gray frowned and turned his head away. He could not help
liking the tall, graceful young man who was standing by him.
His romantic, olive-coloured face and worn expression interested him.
There was something in his low languid voice that was absolutely fascinating.
His cool, white, flowerlike hands, even, had a curious charm.
They moved, as he spoke, like music, and seemed to have a language
of their own. But he felt afraid of him, and ashamed of being afraid.
Why had it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself?
He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them
had never altered him. Suddenly there had come some one across his life
who seemed to have disclosed to him life's mystery. And, yet, what was
there to be afraid of? He was not a schoolboy or a girl. It was absurd to be frightened.
"Let us go and sit in the shade,"
said Lord Henry.
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
"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
Dorian Gray listened, open-eyed and wondering. The spray
of lilac fell from his hand upon the gravel. A furry bee came
and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble
all over the oval stellated globe of the tiny blossoms.
He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things
that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid,
or when we are stirred by some new emotion for which we
cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies
us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield.
After a time the bee flew away. He saw it creeping into the stained
trumpet of a Tyrian convolvulus. The flower seemed to quiver,
and then swayed gently to 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 smiled.
"I am waiting,"
"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 for ever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference
between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a
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
"It is quite finished,"
he cried at last,
and stooping down he wrote his name in long vermilion letters on
the left-hand corner of the canvas.
Lord Henry came over and examined the picture. It was certainly
a wonderful work of art, and a wonderful likeness as well.
"My dear fellow, I congratulate you most warmly,"
"It is the finest portrait of modern times. Mr. Gray, come over
and look at yourself."
The lad started, as if awakened from some dream.
"Is it really finished?"
he murmured, stepping down from the platform.
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.
Dorian made no answer, but passed listlessly in front of his
picture and turned towards it. When he saw it he drew back,
and his cheeks flushed for a moment with pleasure. A look of joy came
into his eyes, as if he had recognized himself for the first time.
He stood there motionless and in wonder, dimly conscious that Hallward
was speaking to him, but not catching the meaning of his words.
The sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation.
He had never felt it before. Basil Hallward's compliments had seemed
to him to be merely the charming exaggeration of friendship.
He had listened to them, laughed at them, forgotten them.
They had not influenced his nature. Then had come Lord Henry
Wotton with his strange panegyric on youth, his terrible warning
of its brevity. That had stirred him at the time, and now,
as he stood gazing at the shadow of his own loveliness, the full
reality of the description flashed across him.
Yes, there would
be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim
and colourless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed.
The scarlet would pass away from his lips and the gold steal from
his hair. The life that was to make his soul would mar his body.
He would become dreadful, hideous, and uncouth.
As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck through him
like a knife and made each delicate fibre of his nature quiver.
His eyes deepened into amethyst, and across them came a mist
of tears. He felt as if a hand of ice had been laid upon
"Don't you like it?"
cried Hallward at last, stung a little
by the lad's silence, not understanding what it meant.
"Of course he likes it,"
said Lord Henry.
"Who wouldn't like it? It is one of the greatest things in modern art. I will give you anything you like to ask for it. I must have it."
"It is not my property, Harry."
"Whose property is it?"
"Dorian's, of course,"
answered the painter.
"He is a very lucky fellow."
"How sad it is!"
murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon
his own portrait.
"How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young.
It will never be older than this particular day of June."
". . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was
to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old!
For that--for that--I would give everything! Yes, there is
nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul
"You would hardly care for such an arrangement, Basil,"
"It would be rather hard lines on your work."
"I should object very strongly, Harry,"
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.
"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.
"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
"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,"
"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
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!"
"It would be murder!"
"I am glad you appreciate my work at last, Dorian,"
said the painter coldly
when he had recovered from his surprise.
"I never thought you 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 existed."
"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."
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