"The next night, of course, I arrived at the place again.
When he saw me, he made me a low bow and assured me that I
was a munificent patron
. He was a most offensive brute
though he had an extraordinary passion for Shakespeare
He told me once, with an air of pride
, that his five bankruptcies
were entirely due to 'The Bard,' as he insisted on calling him.
He seemed to think it a distinction."
"It was a distinction, my dear Dorian--a great distinction.
Most people become bankrupt through having invested too
heavily in the prose of life. To have ruined one's self over
poetry is an honour. But when did you first speak to Miss
"The third night. She had been playing Rosalind.
I could not help going round. I had thrown her some flowers,
and she had looked at me--at least I fancied that she had.
The old Jew was persistent. He seemed determined to take me behind,
so I consented. It was curious my not wanting to know her,
"No; I don't think so."
"My dear Harry, why?"
"I will tell you some other time. Now I want to know about the girl."
"Sibyl? Oh, she was so shy and so gentle. There is something of a
child about her. Her eyes opened wide in exquisite wonder when I
told her what I thought of her performance, and she seemed quite
unconscious of her power. I think we were both rather nervous.
The old Jew stood grinning at the doorway of the dusty greenroom,
making elaborate speeches about us both, while we stood looking at
each other like children. He would insist on calling me 'My Lord,'
so I had to assure Sibyl that I was not anything of the kind.
She said quite simply to me, 'You look more like a prince.
I must call you Prince Charming.'"
"Upon my word, Dorian, Miss Sibyl knows how to pay compliments."
"You don't understand her, Harry. She regarded me merely as a person
in a play. She knows nothing of life. She lives with her mother,
a faded tired woman who played Lady Capulet in a sort of magenta
dressing-wrapper on the first night, and looks as if she had seen
"I know that look. It depresses me,"
murmured Lord Henry,
examining his rings.
"The Jew wanted to tell me her history, but I said it did not interest me."
"You were quite right. There is always something infinitely mean
about other people's tragedies."
"Sibyl is the only thing I care about. What is it to me
where she came from? From her little head to her little feet,
she is absolutely and entirely divine. Every night of my life I
go to see her act, and every night she is more marvellous."
"That is the reason, I suppose, that you never dine with me now.
I thought you must have some curious romance on hand. You have;
but it is not quite what I expected."
"My dear Harry, we either lunch or sup together every day,
and I have been to the opera with you several times,"
opening his blue eyes in wonder.
"You always come dreadfully late."
"Well, I can't help going to see Sibyl play,"
"even if it is
only for a single act. I get hungry for her presence; and when I think
of the wonderful soul that is hidden away in that little ivory body,
I am filled with awe."
"You can dine with me to-night, Dorian, can't you?"
He shook his head.
"To-night she is Imogen,"
"and to-morrow night she will be Juliet."
"When is she Sibyl Vane?"
"I congratulate you."
"How horrid you are! She is all the great heroines of the world in one.
She is more than an individual. You laugh, but I tell you she
has genius. I love her, and I must make her love me. You, who know
all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me!
I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world
to hear our laughter and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion
to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain.
My God, Harry, how I worship her!"
He was walking up and down the room
as he spoke. Hectic spots of red burned on his cheeks. He was
Lord Henry watched him with a subtle sense of pleasure. How different
he was now from the shy frightened boy he had met in Basil Hallward's studio!
His nature had developed like a flower, had borne blossoms of scarlet flame.
Out of its secret hiding-place had crept his soul, and desire had come to meet
it on the way.
"And what do you propose to do?"
said Lord Henry at last.
"I want you and Basil to come with me some night and see her act.
I have not the slightest fear of the result. You are certain to
acknowledge her genius. Then we must get her out of the Jew's hands.
She is bound to him for three years--at least for two years and eight months--
from the present time. I shall have to pay him something, of course.
When all that is settled, I shall take a West End theatre and bring
her out properly. She will make the world as mad as she has
"That would be impossible, my dear boy."
"Yes, she will. She has not merely art, consummate art-instinct,
in her, but she has personality also; and you have often told me
that it is personalities, not principles, that move the age."
"Well, what night shall we go?"
"Let me see. To-day is Tuesday. Let us fix to-morrow. She plays
"All right. The Bristol at eight o'clock; and I will get Basil."
"Not eight, Harry, please. Half-past six. We must be there
before the curtain rises. You must see her in the first act,
where she meets Romeo."
"Half-past six! What an hour! It will be like having a meat-tea, or reading
an English novel. It must be seven. No gentleman dines before seven.
Shall you see Basil between this and then? Or shall I write to him?"
"Dear Basil! I have not laid eyes on him for a week.
It is rather horrid of me, as he has sent me my portrait in
the most wonderful frame, specially designed by himself, and,
though I am a little jealous of the picture for being a whole
month younger than I am, I must admit that I delight in it.
Perhaps you had better write to him. I don't want to see him alone.
He says things that annoy me. He gives me good advice."
Lord Henry smiled.
"People are very fond of giving away what they
need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity."
"Oh, Basil is the best of fellows, but he seems to me to be just a bit
of a Philistine. Since I have known you, Harry, I have discovered that."
"Basil, my dear boy, puts everything that is charming in him
into his work. The consequence is that he has nothing left for
life but his prejudices, his principles, and his common sense.
The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful
are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make,
and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are.
A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of
all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating.
The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look.
The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets
makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that
he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare
"I wonder is that really so, Harry?"
said Dorian Gray,
putting some perfume on his handkerchief
out of a large,
gold-topped bottle that stood on the table.
"It must be,
if you say it. And now I am off. Imogen is waiting for me.
Don't forget about to-morrow. Good-bye."
As he left the room, Lord Henry's heavy eyelids drooped, and he began
to think. Certainly few people had ever interested him so much
as Dorian Gray, and yet the lad's mad adoration of some one else
caused him not the slightest pang of annoyance or jealousy.
He was pleased by it. It made him a more interesting study.
He had been always enthralled by the methods of natural science,
but the ordinary subject-matter of that science had seemed to him
trivial and of no import. And so he had begun by vivisecting himself,
as he had ended by vivisecting others. Human life--that appeared
to him the one thing worth investigating. Compared to it there
was nothing else of any value.
It was true that as one watched life in its curious crucible of pain and pleasure, one could
not wear over one's face a mask of glass, nor keep the sulphurous
fumes from troubling the brain and making the imagination turbid
with monstrous fancies and misshapen dreams. There were poisons
so subtle that to know their properties one had to sicken of them.
There were maladies so strange that one had to pass through them
if one sought to understand their nature. And, yet, what a great
reward one received! How wonderful the whole world became to one!
To note the curious hard logic of passion, and the emotional
coloured life of the intellect--to observe where they met,
and where they separated, at what point they were in unison,
and at what point they were at discord--there was a delight in that!
What matter what the cost was? One could never pay too high a price for any sensation.
He was conscious--and the thought brought a gleam of pleasure into
his brown agate eyes--that it was through certain words of his,
musical words said with musical utterance, that Dorian Gray's soul
had turned to this white girl and bowed in worship before her.
To a large extent the lad was his own creation. He had made
him premature. That was something. Ordinary people waited till
life disclosed to them its secrets, but to the few, to the elect,
the mysteries of life were revealed before the veil was drawn away.
Sometimes this was the effect of art, and chiefly of the art of literature,
which dealt immediately with the passions and the intellect.
But now and then a complex personality took the place and assumed
the office of art, was indeed, in its way, a real work of art,
life having its elaborate masterpieces, just as poetry has, or sculpture,
Yes, the lad was premature. He was gathering his harvest while it
was yet spring. The pulse and passion of youth were in him,
but he was becoming self-conscious. It was delightful to watch him.
With his beautiful face, and his beautiful soul, he was a thing to
wonder at. It was no matter how it all ended, or was destined to end.
He was like one of those gracious figures in a pageant or a play,
whose joys seem to be remote from one, but whose sorrows stir one's sense
of beauty, and whose wounds are like red roses.
Soul and body, body and soul--how mysterious they were! There was
animalism in the soul, and the body had its moments of spirituality.
The senses could refine, and the intellect could degrade. Who could
say where the fleshly impulse ceased, or the psychical impulse began?
How shallow were the arbitrary definitions of ordinary psychologists!
And yet how difficult to decide between the claims of the various schools!
Was the soul a shadow seated in the house of sin? Or was the body
really in the soul, as Giordano Bruno thought? The separation of spirit
from matter was a mystery, and the union of spirit with matter was a
He began to wonder whether we could ever make psychology so absolute
a science that each little spring of life would be revealed to us.
As it was, we always misunderstood ourselves and rarely understood others.
Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to
their mistakes. Moralists had, as a rule, regarded it as a mode of warning,
had claimed for it a certain ethical efficacy in the formation of character,
had praised it as something that taught us what to follow and showed
us what to avoid.
But there was no motive power in experience.
It was as little of an active cause as conscience itself. All that it
really demonstrated was that our future would be the same as our past,
and that the sin we had done once, and with loathing, we would do many times,
and with joy.
It was clear to him that the experimental method was the only
method by which one could arrive at any scientific analysis
of the passions; and certainly Dorian Gray was a subject made
to his hand, and seemed to promise rich and fruitful results.
His sudden mad love for Sibyl Vane was a psychological phenomenon
of no small interest. There was no doubt that curiosity had much
to do with it, curiosity and the desire for new experiences,
yet it was not a simple, but rather a very complex passion.
What there was in it of the purely sensuous instinct of boyhood
had been transformed by the workings of the imagination,
changed into something that seemed to the lad himself to be remote
from sense, and was for that very reason all the more dangerous.
It was the passions about whose origin we deceived ourselves
that tyrannized most strongly over us. Our weakest motives
were those of whose nature we were conscious. It often happened
that when we thought we were experimenting on others we were
really experimenting on ourselves.
While Lord Henry sat dreaming on these things, a knock came to the door,
and his valet entered and reminded him it was time to dress for dinner.
He got up and looked out into the street. The sunset had smitten into
scarlet gold the upper windows of the houses opposite. The panes glowed
like plates of heated metal. The sky above was like a faded rose.
He thought of his friend's young fiery-coloured life and wondered how it was
all going to end.
When he arrived home, about half-past twelve o'clock, he saw a telegram
lying on the hall table. He opened it and found it was from Dorian Gray.
It was to tell him that he was engaged to be married to Sibyl Vane.
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