The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde

Part 1 out of 3

E-text Editor: Alfred J. Drake, Ph.D.



Chapter I: 3-12
Chapter II: 12-22
Chapter III: 22-32
Chapter IV: 32-36
Chapter V: 36-43
Chapter VI: 43-52
Chapter VII: 52-58
Chapter VIII: 58-64
Chapter IX: 65-77
Chapter X: 77-81
Chapter XI: 81-86
Chapter XII: 86-93
Chapter XIII: 94-100


[3] The studio was filled with the rich odor 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 usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton
could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored
blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able
to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like 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 who, in 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 black-crocketed spires of the early June hollyhocks, seemed to
make the stillness more oppressive, and the dim roar of London was
like the bourdon 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 he 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 [4] 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. The
Grosvenor is the only place."

"I don't think I will 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

"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 his long legs out on the divan and shook with

"Yes, I knew you would laugh; 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 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
an 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 consequently 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 a brainless, beautiful thing, who
should be always 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. 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 [5] 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 quietly 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
fame, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks,--we will
all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly."

"Dorian Gray? is that his name?" said 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 seems like surrendering a part of them.
You know how I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make
modern life wonderful or mysterious to us. The commonest thing is
delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town 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, laying his hand upon his shoulder;
"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
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, shaking his hand off, and 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 for a time they did not speak.

After a long 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?" asked Basil Hallward, keeping his eyes fixed on the

"You know quite well."

"I do not, Harry."

[6] "Well, I will tell you what it is."

"Please don't."

"I must. 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 colored canvas, reveals himself. The reason
I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown
with it the secret of my own soul."

Lord Harry laughed. "And what is that?" he asked.

"I will tell you," said Hallward; and an expression of perplexity
came over his face.

"I am all expectation, Basil," murmured his companion, looking at

"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the young
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 I can believe anything, provided that it is 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 in the grass, and a long thin
dragon-fly floated by on its brown gauze wings. Lord Henry felt as
if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart beating, and he wondered what
was coming.

"Well, this is incredible," repeated Hallward, rather bitterly,--
"incredible to me at times. I don't know what it means. The story
is simply this. Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's.
You know we poor painters 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 half-way round, and saw Dorian
Gray for the first time. When our eyes met, I felt that I was
growing pale. A curious instinct 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. My father destined me for the army. I
insisted on [7] going to Oxford. Then he made me enter my name at
the Middle Temple. Before I had eaten half a dozen dinners I gave up
the Bar, and announced my intention of becoming a painter. 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 knew that if I spoke
to Dorian I would become absolutely devoted to him, and that I ought
not to speak to him. I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. It
was not conscience that made me do so: it was cowardice. I take no
credit to myself for trying to escape."

"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. 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 shrill horrid 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 hooked 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 mad of me, but I asked Lady
Brandon to introduce me to him. Perhaps it was not so mad, 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? I know
she goes in for giving a rapid précis of all her guests. I remember
her bringing me up to a most 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, something like 'Sir Humpty Dumpty--you know--Afghan
frontier--Russian intrigues: very successful man--wife killed by an
elephant--quite inconsolable--wants to marry a beautiful American
widow--everybody does nowadays--hates Mr. Gladstone--but very much
interested in beetles: ask him what he thinks of Schouvaloff.' I
simply fled. I like to find out people for myself. But poor 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. But what did she say about Mr.
Dorian Gray?"

[8] "Oh, she murmured, 'Charming boy--poor dear mother and I quite
inseparable--engaged to be married to the same man--I mean married on
the same day--how very silly of me! Quite forget what he does--
afraid he--doesn't do anything--oh, yes, plays the piano--or is it
the violin, dear Mr. Gray?' We could neither of us help laughing,
and we became friends at once."

"Laughter is not a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is the best
ending for one," said Lord Henry, plucking another daisy.

Hallward buried his face in his hands. "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 were drifting across the
hollowed turquoise of the summer sky, like ravelled skeins of glossy
white silk. "Yes; horribly unjust of you. I make a great difference
between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my
acquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains.
A man can't 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."


"My dear fellow, I am not quite serious. But I can't help detesting
my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that we can't 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 classes. They 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
lower orders live correctly."

"I don't agree with a single word that you have said, and, what is
more, Harry, I don't believe you do either."

Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard, and tapped the toe of his
patent-leather boot with a tasselled malacca cane. "How English you
are, Basil! If one puts forward an idea to a real 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 one's self. 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 [9] will not be colored 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. Tell me more about Dorian Gray. How often do you
see him?"

"Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. Of
course sometimes it is only for a few minutes. But a few minutes
with somebody one worships mean a great deal."

"But you don't really worship him?"

"I do."

"How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything but
your painting,--your art, I should say. Art sounds better, doesn't

"He is all my art to me now. I sometimes think, Harry, that there
are only two eras of any importance in the history of the world. 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 Antinoüs 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, model
from him. Of course I have done all that. He has stood as Paris in
dainty armor, and as Adonis with huntsman's cloak and polished boar-
spear. Crowned with heavy lotus-blossoms, he has sat on the prow of
Adrian's barge, looking into the green, turbid Nile. He has leaned
over the still pool of some Greek woodland, and seen in the water's
silent silver the wonder of his own beauty. But he is much more to
me than that. 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 itself 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 bestial,
an ideality that is void. Harry! 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."

"Basil, this is quite wonderful! I must see Dorian Gray." Hallward
got up from the seat, and walked up and down the [10] garden. After
some time he came back. "You don't understand, Harry," he said.
"Dorian Gray is merely to me a motive in art. He is never more
present in my work than when no image of him is there. He is simply
a suggestion, as I have said, of a new manner. I see him in the
curves of certain lines, in the loveliness and the subtleties of
certain colors. That is all."

"Then why won't you exhibit his portrait?"

"Because I have put into it all the extraordinary romance of which,
of course, I have never dared to speak to him. He knows nothing
about it. He will 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. 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. If I live, 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?"

Hallward 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. I give myself away. As a
rule, he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club
arm in arm, or 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. 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 ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well informed man is a
dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-brac shop, all monsters and
dust, and everything priced above its proper value. I think you will
tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at Gray, and he
will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won't like his
tone of color, 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 [11] perfectly cold and
indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you. The
worst of having a romance 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 pleasures 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
self-satisfied air, as if he had summed up life in a phrase. There
was a rustle of chirruping sparrows in 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 thought with pleasure of 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 meet
Lord Goodbody there, and the whole conversation would have been about
the housing of the poor, and the necessity for model lodging-houses.
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's, 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,
horridly 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."

"Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio, sir," said the butler, coming into
the garden.

"You must introduce me now," cried Lord Henry, laughing.

Basil Hallward turned to the servant, who stood blinking in the
sunlight. "Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I will 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 a beautiful nature. Your aunt was quite
right in what she said of him. Don't spoil him for me. 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 [12] away from me the
one person that makes life absolutely lovely to me, and that gives to
my art whatever wonder or charm it possesses. 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.


[...12] 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 entirely depends 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 colored 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 shaking him by the hand. "My aunt
has often spoken to me about you. You are one of her favorites, 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 her 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

"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 candor 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.
He was made to be worshipped.

"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.

Hallward had been busy mixing his colors and getting his brushes
ready. He was looking worried, and when he heard Lord Henry's last
[13] 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. But I certainly
will 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-by, 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 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?"

Hallward 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 exception of myself."

Dorian 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 Hallward. 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 [14] 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 Hallward, 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 his life out 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 among 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!" murmured 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 impulses were at work within him, and 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 yet touched some secret chord, that had never
been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing
to curious pulses.

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 a
new 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! [15] 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-colored to him.
It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not
known it?

Lord Henry watched him, with his sad smile. 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, which had revealed to him much that he had not known before,
he wondered whether Dorian Gray was passing through the same
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 come 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 I don't think I believe anything he has told me."

"You know you believe it all," said Lord Henry, looking at him with
his dreamy, heavy-lidded eyes. "I will go out to the garden with
you. It is horridly 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 them

[16] "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 creature. 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-colored 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 then 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 school-boy,
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 let yourself become sunburnt. It would be very
unbecoming to you."

"What does it matter?" cried Dorian, 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 now 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 one 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. 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
really to live. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it,
and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left
[17] 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.

"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, which are the 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, what you really might be. There was so much about
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

"The common hill-flowers wither, but they blossom again. The
laburnum will be as golden 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 have 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 did not
dare 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
fretted purple 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 it 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 Hallward appeared at the door of the studio, and made
frantic signs for them to come in. They turned to each other, and

"I am waiting," cried Hallward. "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
end of the garden a thrush began to sing.

"You are glad you have met me, Mr. Gray," said Lord Henry, looking at

"Yes, I am glad now. I wonder shall I always be glad?"

[18] "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 upon 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 Hallward stepped back now
and then to look at his work from a distance. In the slanting beams
that streamed through the open door-way the dust danced and was
golden. The heavy scent of the roses seemed to brood over

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 smiling. "It
is quite finished," he cried, at last, and stooping down he wrote his
name in thin 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," he said.--"Mr.
Gray, come and look at yourself."

The lad started, as if awakened from some dream. "Is it really
finished?" he murmured, stepping down from the platform.

"Quite finished," said Hallward. "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, 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 colorless, 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 ignoble, hideous, and uncouth.

[19] As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck like a knife
across him, and made each delicate fibre of his nature quiver. His
eyes deepened into amethyst, and a mist of tears came across them.
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, and 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."

"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 horrid, and
dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never
be older than this particular day of June. . . . If it was only the
other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture
that were to grow old! For this--for this--I would give everything!
Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!"

"You would hardly care for that arrangement, Basil," cried Lord
Henry, laughing. "It would be rather hard lines on you."

"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."

Hallward stared in amazement. It was so unlike Dorian to speak like
that. What had happened? He seemed almost 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 is perfectly right.
Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing
old, I will 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?"

"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 was 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 if he
was praying.

"This is your doing, Harry," said Hallward, bitterly.

[20] "My doing?"

"Yes, yours, and you know it."

Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "It is the real Dorian Gray,--
that is all," he answered.

"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."

"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 color? I
will not let it come across our three lives and mar them."

Dorian Gray lifted his golden head from the pillow, and looked at him
with pallid face and tear-stained eyes, as he walked over to the deal
painting-table that was set beneath the large 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 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 he 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 murder!"

"I am glad you appreciate my work at last, Dorian," said Hallward,
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? Tea is the only
simple pleasure left to us."

"I don't like simple pleasures," said Lord Henry. "And 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 do."

"If you let any one have it but me, Basil, I will never forgive you!"
cried Dorian Gray. "And I don't allow people to call me a silly

"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 mind being called a boy."

"I should have minded very much this morning, Lord Henry."

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

There came a knock to the door, and the butler entered with the tea-
tray and set it down upon a small Japanese table. There was a [21]
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 the tea out. 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 and 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 the surprise of candor."

"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 our day is
detestable. It is so sombre, so depressing. Sin is the only color-
element left in modern life."

"You really must not say things like that before Dorian, Harry."

"Before which Dorian? The one who is pouring out tea for us, or the
one in the picture?"

"Before either."

"I should like to come to the theatre with you, Lord Henry," said the

"Then you shall come; and you will come too, Basil, won't you?"

"I can't, really. I would sooner not. I have a lot of work to do."

"Well, then, you and I will go alone, Mr. Gray."

"I should like that awfully."

Basil Hallward bit his lip and walked over, cup in hand, to the
picture. "I will stay with the real Dorian," he said, sadly.

"Is it the real Dorian?" cried the original of the portrait, running
across to him. "Am I really like that?"

"Yes; you are just like that."

"How wonderful, Basil!"

"At least you are like it in appearance. But it will never alter,"
said Hallward. "That is something."

"What a fuss people make about fidelity!" murmured Lord Henry.

"And, after all, it is purely a question for physiology. It has
nothing to do with our own will. It is either an unfortunate
accident, or an unpleasant result of temperament. Young men want to
be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot:
that is all one can say."

"Don't go to the theatre to-night, Dorian," said Hallward. "Stop and
dine with me."

"I can't, really."


"Because I have promised Lord Henry to go with him."

"He won't like you better for keeping your promises. He always
breaks his own. I beg you not to go."

Dorian Gray laughed and shook his head.

"I entreat you."

The lad hesitated, and looked over at Lord Henry, who was watching
them from the tea-table with an amused smile.

[22] "I must go, Basil," he answered.

"Very well," said Hallward; and he walked over and laid his cup down
on the tray. "It is rather late, and, as you have to dress, you had
better lose no time. Good-by, Harry; good-by, Dorian. Come and see
me soon. Come to-morrow."


"You won't forget?"

"No, of course not."

"And . . . Harry!"

"Yes, Basil?"

"Remember what I asked you, when in the garden this morning."

"I have forgotten it."

"I trust you."

"I wish I could trust myself," said Lord Henry, laughing.--"Come, Mr.
Gray, my hansom is outside, and I can drop you at your own place.--
Good-by, Basil. It has been a most interesting afternoon."

As the door closed behind them, Hallward flung himself down on a
sofa, and a look of pain came into his face.


[...22] One afternoon, a month later, Dorian Gray was reclining in a
luxurious arm-chair, in the little library of Lord Henry's house in
Curzon Street. It was, in its way, a very charming room, with its
high panelled wainscoting of olive-stained oak, its cream-colored
frieze and ceiling of raised plaster-work, and its brick-dust felt
carpet strewn with long-fringed silk Persian rugs. On a tiny
satinwood table stood a statuette by Clodion, and beside it lay a
copy of "Les Cent Nouvelles," bound for Margaret of Valois by Clovis
Eve, and powdered with the gilt daisies that the queen had selected
for her device. Some large blue china jars, filled with parrot-
tulips, were ranged on the mantel-shelf, and through the small leaded
panes of the window streamed the apricot-colored light of a summer's
day in London.

Lord Henry had not come in yet. He was always late on principle, his
principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. So the lad
was looking rather sulky, as with listless fingers he turned over the
pages of an elaborately-illustrated edition of "Manon Lescaut" that
he had found in one of the bookcases. The formal monotonous ticking
of the Louis Quatorze clock annoyed him. Once or twice he thought of
going away.

At last he heard a light step outside, and the door opened. "How
late you are, Harry!" he murmured.

"I am afraid it is not Harry, Mr. Gray," said a woman's voice.

He glanced quickly round, and rose to his feet. "I beg your pardon.
I thought--"

"You thought it was my husband. It is only his wife. You must let
me introduce myself. I know you quite well by your photographs. I
think my husband has got twenty-seven of them."

[23] "Not twenty-seven, Lady Henry?"

"Well, twenty-six, then. And I saw you with him the other night at
the Opera." She laughed nervously, as she spoke, and watched him
with her vague forget-me-not eyes. She was a curious woman, whose
dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put
on in a tempest. She was always in love with somebody, and, as her
passion was never returned, she had kept all her illusions. She
tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy. Her
name was Victoria, and she had a perfect mania for going to church.

"That was at 'Lohengrin,' Lady Henry, I think?"

"Yes; it was at dear 'Lohengrin.' I like Wagner's music better than
any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time,
without people hearing what one says. That is a great advantage:
don't you think so, Mr. Gray?"

The same nervous staccato laugh broke from her thin lips, and her
fingers began to play with a long paper-knife.

Dorian smiled, and shook his head: "I am afraid I don't think so,
Lady Henry. I never talk during music,--at least during good music.
If one hears bad music, it is one's duty to drown it by

"Ah! that is one of Harry's views, isn't it, Mr. Gray? But you must
not think I don't like good music. I adore it, but I am afraid of
it. It makes me too romantic. I have simply worshipped pianists,--
two at a time, sometimes. I don't know what it is about them.
Perhaps it is that they are foreigners. They all are, aren't they?
Even those that are born in England become foreigners after a time,
don't they? It is so clever of them, and such a compliment to art.
Makes it quite cosmopolitan, doesn't it? You have never been to any
of my parties, have you, Mr. Gray? You must come. I can't afford
orchids, but I spare no expense in foreigners. They make one's rooms
look so picturesque. But here is Harry!--Harry, I came in to look
for you, to ask you something,--I forget what it was,--and I found
Mr. Gray here. We have had such a pleasant chat about music. We
have quite the same views. No; I think our views are quite
different. But he has been most pleasant. I am so glad I've seen

"I am charmed, my love, quite charmed," said Lord Henry, elevating
his dark crescent-shaped eyebrows and looking at them both with an
amused smile.--"So sorry I am late, Dorian. I went to look after a
piece of old brocade in Wardour Street, and had to bargain for hours
for it. Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value
of nothing."

"I am afraid I must be going," exclaimed Lady Henry, after an awkward
silence, with her silly sudden laugh. "I have promised to drive with
the duchess.--Good-by, Mr. Gray.--Good-by, Harry. You are dining
out, I suppose? So am I. Perhaps I shall see you at Lady

"I dare say, my dear," said Lord Henry, shutting the door behind her,
as she flitted out of the room, looking like a bird-of-paradise that
had been out in the rain, and leaving a faint odor of patchouli
behind her. Then he shook hands with Dorian Gray, lit a cigarette,
and flung himself down on the sofa.

[24] "Never marry a woman with straw-colored hair, Dorian," he said,
after a few puffs.

"Why, Harry?"

"Because they are so sentimental."

"But I like sentimental people."

"Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired;
women, because they are curious: both are disappointed."

"I don't think I am likely to marry, Harry. I am too much in love.
That is one of your aphorisms. I am putting it into practice, as I
do everything you say."

"Whom are you in love with?" said Lord Henry, looking at him with a
curious smile.

"With an actress," said Dorian Gray, blushing.

Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "That is a rather common-place
début," he murmured.

"You would not say so if you saw her, Harry."

"Who is she?"

"Her name is Sibyl Vane."

"Never heard of her."

"No one has. People will some day, however. She is a genius."

"My dear boy, no woman is a genius: women are a decorative sex. They
never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. They
represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as we men represent
the triumph of mind over morals. There are only two kinds of women,
the plain and the colored. The plain women are very useful. If you
want to gain a reputation for respectability, you have merely to take
them down to supper. The other women are very charming. They commit
one mistake, however. They paint in order to try to look young. Our
grandmothers painted in order to try to talk brilliantly. Rouge and
esprit used to go together. That has all gone out now. As long as a
woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is
perfectly satisfied. As for conversation, there are only five women
in London worth talking to, and two of these can't be admitted into
decent society. However, tell me about your genius. How long have
you known her?"

"About three weeks. Not so much. About two weeks and two days."

"How did you come across her?"

"I will tell you, Harry; but you mustn't be unsympathetic about it.
After all, it never would have happened if I had not met you. You
filled me with a wild desire to know everything about life. For days
after I met you, something seemed to throb in my veins. As I lounged
in the Park, or strolled down Piccadilly, I used to look at every one
who passed me, and wonder with a mad curiosity what sort of lives
they led. Some of them fascinated me. Others filled me with terror.
There was an exquisite poison in the air. I had a passion for

"One evening about seven o'clock I determined to go out in search of
some adventure. I felt that this gray, monstrous London of ours,
with its myriads of people, its splendid sinners, and its sordid
sins, as [25] you once said, must have something in store for me. I
fancied a thousand things.

"The mere danger gave me a sense of delight. I remembered what you
had said to me on that wonderful night when we first dined together,
about the search for beauty being the poisonous secret of life. I
don't know what I expected, but I went out, and wandered eastward,
soon losing my way in a labyrinth of grimy streets and black,
grassless squares. About half-past eight I passed by a little third-
rate theatre, with great flaring gas-jets and gaudy play-bills. A
hideous Jew, in the most amazing waistcoat I ever beheld in my life,
was standing at the entrance, smoking a vile cigar. He had greasy
ringlets, and an enormous diamond blazed in the centre of a soiled
shirt. ''Ave a box, my lord?' he said, when he saw me, and he took
off his hat with an act of gorgeous servility. There was something
about him, Harry, that amused me. He was such a monster. You will
laugh at me, I know, but I really went in and paid a whole guinea for
the stage-box. To the present day I can't make out why I did so; and
yet if I hadn't!--my dear Harry, if I hadn't, I would have missed the
greatest romance of my life. I see you are laughing. It is horrid
of you!"

"I am not laughing, Dorian; at least I am not laughing at you. But
you should not say the greatest romance of your life. You should say
the first romance of your life. You will always be loved, and you
will always be in love with love. There are exquisite things in
store for you. This is merely the beginning."

"Do you think my nature so shallow?" cried Dorian Gray, angrily.

"No; I think your nature so deep."

"How do you mean?"

"My dear boy, people who only love once in their lives are really
shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I
call either the lethargy of custom or the lack of imagination.
Faithlessness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the
intellectual life,--simply a confession of failure. But I don't want
to interrupt you. Go on with your story."

"Well, I found myself seated in a horrid little private box, with a
vulgar drop-scene staring me in the face. I looked out behind the
curtain, and surveyed the house. It was a tawdry affair, all Cupids
and cornucopias, like a third-rate wedding-cake. The gallery and pit
were fairly full, but the two rows of dingy stalls were quite empty,
and there was hardly a person in what I suppose they called the
dress-circle. Women went about with oranges and ginger-beer, and
there was a terrible consumption of nuts going on."

"It must have been just like the palmy days of the British Drama."

"Just like, I should fancy, and very horrid. I began to wonder what
on earth I should do, when I caught sight of the play-bill. What do
you think the play was, Harry?"

"I should think 'The Idiot Boy, or Dumb but Innocent.' Our fathers
used to like that sort of piece, I believe. The longer I live,
Dorian, the more keenly I feel that whatever was good enough for our
fathers is not good enough for us. In art, as in politics, les grand
pères ont toujours tort."

[26] "This play was good enough for us, Harry. It was 'Romeo and
Juliet.' I must admit I was rather annoyed at the idea of seeing
Shakespeare done in such a wretched hole of a place. Still, I felt
interested, in a sort of way. At any rate, I determined to wait for
the first act. There was a dreadful orchestra, presided over by a
young Jew who sat at a cracked piano, that nearly drove me away, but
at last the drop-scene was drawn up, and the play began. Romeo was a
stout elderly gentleman, with corked eyebrows, a husky tragedy voice,
and a figure like a beer-barrel. Mercutio was almost as bad. He was
played by the low-comedian, who had introduced gags of his own and
was on most familiar terms with the pit. They were as grotesque as
the scenery, and that looked as if it had come out of a pantomime of
fifty years ago. But Juliet! Harry, imagine a girl, hardly
seventeen years of age, with a little flower-like face, a small Greek
head with plaited coils of dark-brown hair, eyes that were violet
wells of passion, lips that were like the petals of a rose. She was
the loveliest thing I had ever seen in my life. You said to me once
that pathos left you unmoved, but that beauty, mere beauty, could
fill your eyes with tears. I tell you, Harry, I could hardly see
this girl for the mist of tears that came across me. And her voice,-
-I never heard such a voice. It was very low at first, with deep
mellow notes, that seemed to fall singly upon one's ear. Then it
became a little louder, and sounded like a flute or a distant
hautbois. In the garden-scene it had all the tremulous ecstasy that
one hears just before dawn when nightingales are singing. There were
moments, later on, when it had the wild passion of violins. You know
how a voice can stir one. Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are
two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear
them, and each of them says something different. I don't know which
to follow. Why should I not love her? Harry, I do love her. She is
everything to me in life. Night after night I go to see her play.
One evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I
have seen her die in the gloom of an Italian tomb, sucking the poison
from her lover's lips. I have watched her wandering through the
forest of Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and
dainty cap. She has been mad, and has come into the presence of a
guilty king, and given him rue to wear, and bitter herbs to taste of.
She has been innocent, and the black hands of jealousy have crushed
her reed-like throat. I have seen her in every age and in every
costume. Ordinary women never appeal to one's imagination. They are
limited to their century. No glamour ever transfigures them. One
knows their minds as easily as one knows their bonnets. One can
always find them. There is no mystery in one of them. They ride in
the Park in the morning, and chatter at tea-parties in the afternoon.
They have their stereotyped smile, and their fashionable manner.
They are quite obvious. But an actress! How different an actress
is! Why didn't you tell me that the only thing worth loving is an

"Because I have loved so many of them, Dorian."

"Oh, yes, horrid people with dyed hair and painted faces."

"Don't run down dyed hair and painted faces. There is an
extraordinary charm in them, sometimes."

[27] "I wish now I had not told you about Sibyl Vane."

"You could not have helped telling me, Dorian. All through your life
you will tell me everything you do."

"Yes, Harry, I believe that is true. I cannot help telling you
things. You have a curious influence over me. If I ever did a
crime, I would come and confide it to you. You would understand me."

"People like you--the wilful sunbeams of life--don't commit crimes,
Dorian. But I am much obliged for the compliment, all the same. And
now tell me,--reach me the matches, like a good boy: thanks,--tell
me, what are your relations with Sibyl Vane?"

Dorian Gray leaped to his feet, with flushed cheeks and burning eyes.
"Harry, Sibyl Vane is sacred!"

"It is only the sacred things that are worth touching, Dorian," said
Lord Henry, with a strange touch of pathos in his voice. "But why
should you be annoyed? I suppose she will be yours some day. When
one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one
always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls
romance. You know her, at any rate, I suppose?"

"Of course I know her. On the first night I was at the theatre, the
horrid old Jew came round to the box after the performance was over,
and offered to bring me behind the scenes and introduce me to her. I
was furious with him, and told him that Juliet had been dead for
hundreds of years, and that her body was lying in a marble tomb in
Verona. I think, from his blank look of amazement, that he thought I
had taken too much champagne, or something."

"I am not surprised."

"I was not surprised either. Then he asked me if I wrote for any of
the newspapers. I told him I never even read them. He seemed
terribly disappointed at that, and confided to me that all the
dramatic critics were in a conspiracy against him, and that they were
all to be bought."

"I believe he was quite right there. But, on the other hand, most of
them are not at all expensive."

"Well, he seemed to think they were beyond his means. By this time
the lights were being put out in the theatre, and I had to go. He
wanted me to try some cigars which he strongly recommended. I
declined. The next night, of course, I arrived at the theatre again.
When he saw me he made me a low bow, and assured me that I was a
patron of art. 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 three bankruptcies were entirely due to the poet,
whom he insisted on calling 'The Bard.' He seemed to think it a

"It was a distinction, my dear Dorian,--a great distinction. But
when did you first speak to Miss Sibyl Vane?"

"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 bring me behind, so I consented. It was curious
my not wanting to know her, wasn't it?"

[28] "No; I don't think so."

"My dear Harry, why?"

"I will tell you some other time. Now I want to know about the

"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 door-way 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.'"

"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 who looks as if she had seen
better days."

"I know that look. It always depresses me."

"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. I go to see her act every night of
my life, and every night she is more marvellous."

"That is the reason, I suppose, that you will 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."

"You always come dreadfully late."

"Well, I can't help going to see Sibyl play, even if it is only for
an 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," he answered, "and
tomorrow 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 [29]
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 terribly excited.

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 won't be able to
refuse to recognize 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 will have to pay
him something, of course. When all that is settled, I will take a
West-End theatre and bring her out properly. She will make the world
as mad as she has made me."

"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
Juliet to-morrow."

"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.
However, just as you wish. 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, designed by himself, and, though I am a little jealous of it
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."

Lord Henry smiled. "He gives you good advice, I suppose. People are
very fond of giving away what they need most themselves."

"You don't mean to say that Basil has got any passion or any romance
in him?"

"I don't know whether he has any passion, but he certainly has
romance," said Lord Henry, with an amused look in his eyes. "Has he
never let you know that?"

"Never. I must ask him about it. I am rather surprised to hear it.
He 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
[30] 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 give everything to their art, and consequently
are perfectly uninteresting in themselves. 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 not realize."

"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 so. And now I must be
off. Imogen is waiting for me. Don't forget about to-morrow. Good-

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 science, but the ordinary subject-matter
of 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.
There was nothing else of any value, compared to it. 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, or 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 colored life of the intellect,--to observe where they met,
and where they separated, at what point they became one, 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 [31] way, a real work
of art, Life having its elaborate masterpieces, just as poetry has,
or sculpture, or painting.

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 mystery also.

He began to wonder whether we should 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
we gave to our mistakes. Men had, as a rule, regarded it as a mode
of warning, had claimed for it a certain moral 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 boy 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
[32] 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 Dorian Gray's young
fiery-colored 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. It was to tell him that he was engaged to be married to
Sibyl Vane.


[...32] "I suppose you have heard the news, Basil?" said Lord Henry
on the following evening, as Hallward was shown into a little private
room at the Bristol where dinner had been laid for three.

"No, Harry," answered Hallward, giving his hat and coat to the bowing
waiter. "What is it? Nothing about politics, I hope? They don't
interest me. There is hardly a single person in the House of Commons
worth painting; though many of them would be the better for a little

"Dorian Gray is engaged to be married," said Lord Henry, watching him
as he spoke.

Hallward turned perfectly pale, and a curious look flashed for a
moment into his eyes, and then passed away, leaving them dull."
Dorian engaged to be married!" he cried. "Impossible!"

"It is perfectly true."

"To whom?"

"To some little actress or other."

"I can't believe it. Dorian is far too sensible."

"Dorian is far too wise not to do foolish things now and then, my
dear Basil."

"Marriage is hardly a thing that one can do now and then, Harry,"
said Hallward, smiling.

"Except in America. But I didn't say he was married. I said he was
engaged to be married. There is a great difference. I have a
distinct remembrance of being married, but I have no recollection at
all of being engaged. I am inclined to think that I never was

"But think of Dorian's birth, and position, and wealth. It would be
absurd for him to marry so much beneath him."

"If you want him to marry this girl, tell him that, Basil. He is
sure to do it then. Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing,
it is always from the noblest motives."

"I hope the girl is good, Harry. I don't want to see Dorian tied to
some vile creature, who might degrade his nature and ruin his

"Oh, she is more than good--she is beautiful," murmured Lord Henry,
sipping a glass of vermouth and orange-bitters. "Dorian says she is
beautiful; and he is not often wrong about things of that kind. [33]
Your portrait of him has quickened his appreciation of the personal
appearance of other people. It has had that excellent effect, among
others. We are to see her to-night, if that boy doesn't forget his

"But do you approve of it, Harry?" asked Hallward, walking up and
down the room, and biting his lip. "You can't approve of it, really.
It is some silly infatuation."

"I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd
attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air
our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people
say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a
personality fascinates me, whatever the personality chooses to do is
absolutely delightful to me. Dorian Gray falls in love with a
beautiful girl who acts Shakespeare, and proposes to marry her. Why
not? If he wedded Messalina he would be none the less interesting.
You know I am not a champion of marriage. The real drawback to
marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are
colorless. They lack individuality. Still, there are certain
temperaments that marriage makes more complex. They retain their
egotism, and add to it many other egos. They are forced to have more
than one life. They become more highly organized. Besides, every
experience is of value, and, whatever one may say against marriage,
it is certainly an experience. I hope that Dorian Gray will make
this girl his wife, passionately adore her for six months, and then
suddenly become fascinated by some one else. He would be a wonderful

"You don't mean all that, Harry; you know you don't. If Dorian
Gray's life were spoiled, no one would be sorrier than yourself. You
are much better than you pretend to be."

Lord Henry laughed. "The reason we all like to think so well of
others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of
optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we
credit our neighbor with those virtues that are likely to benefit
ourselves. We praise the banker that we may overdraw our account,
and find good qualities in the highwayman in the hope that he may
spare our pockets. I mean everything that I have said. I have the
greatest contempt for optimism. And as for a spoiled life, no life
is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested. If you want to mar a
nature, you have merely to reform it. But here is Dorian himself.
He will tell you more than I can."

"My dear Harry, my dear Basil, you must both congratulate me!" said
the boy, throwing off his evening cape with its satin-lined wings,
and shaking each of his friends by the hand in turn. "I have never
been so happy. Of course it is sudden: all really delightful things
are. And yet it seems to me to be the one thing I have been looking
for all my life." He was flushed with excitement and pleasure, and
looked extraordinarily handsome.

"I hope you will always be very happy, Dorian," said Hallward, "but I
don't quite forgive you for not having let me know of your
engagement. You let Harry know."

"And I don't forgive you for being late for dinner," broke in Lord
[34] Henry, putting his hand on the lad's shoulder, and smiling as he
spoke. "Come, let us sit down and try what the new chef here is
like, and then you will tell us how it all came about."

"There is really not much to tell," cried Dorian, as they took their
seats at the small round table. "What happened was simply this.
After I left you yesterday evening, Harry, I had some dinner at that
curious little Italian restaurant in Rupert Street, you introduced me
to, and went down afterwards to the theatre. Sibyl was playing
Rosalind. Of course the scenery was dreadful, and the Orlando
absurd. But Sibyl! You should have seen her! When she came on in
her boy's dress she was perfectly wonderful. She wore a moss-colored
velvet jerkin with cinnamon sleeves, slim brown cross-gartered hose,
a dainty little green cap with a hawk's feather caught in a jewel,
and a hooded cloak lined with dull red. She had never seemed to me
more exquisite. She had all the delicate grace of that Tanagra
figurine that you have in your studio, Basil. Her hair clustered
round her face like dark leaves round a pale rose. As for her
acting--well, you will see her to-night. She is simply a born
artist. I sat in the dingy box absolutely enthralled. I forgot that
I was in London and in the nineteenth century. I was away with my
love in a forest that no man had ever seen. After the performance
was over I went behind, and spoke to her. As we were sitting
together, suddenly there came a look into her eyes that I had never
seen there before. My lips moved towards hers. We kissed each
other. I can't describe to you what I felt at that moment. It
seemed to me that all my life had been narrowed to one perfect point
of rose-colored joy. She trembled all over, and shook like a white
narcissus. Then she flung herself on her knees and kissed my hands.
I feel that I should not tell you all this, but I can't help it. Of
course our engagement is a dead secret. She has not even told her
own mother. I don't know what my guardians will say. Lord Radley is
sure to be furious. I don't care. I shall be of age in less than a
year, and then I can do what I like. I have been right, Basil,
haven't I, to take my love out of poetry, and to find my wife in
Shakespeare's plays? Lips that Shakespeare taught to speak have
whispered their secret in my ear. I have had the arms of Rosalind
around me, and kissed Juliet on the mouth."

"Yes, Dorian, I suppose you were right," said Hallward, slowly.

"Have you seen her to-day?" asked Lord Henry.

Dorian Gray shook his head. "I left her in the forest of Arden, I
shall find her in an orchard in Verona."

Lord Henry sipped his champagne in a meditative manner. "At what
particular point did you mention the word marriage, Dorian? and what
did she say in answer? Perhaps you forgot all about it."

"My dear Harry, I did not treat it as a business transaction, and I
did not make any formal proposal. I told her that I loved her, and
she said she was not worthy to be my wife. Not worthy! Why, the
whole world is nothing to me compared to her."

"Women are wonderfully practical," murmured Lord Henry,--"much more
practical than we are. In situations of that kind we often forget to
say anything about marriage, and they always remind us."

[35] Hallward laid his hand upon his arm. "Don't, Harry. You have
annoyed Dorian. He is not like other men. He would never bring
misery upon any one. His nature is too fine for that."

Lord Henry looked across the table. "Dorian is never annoyed with
me," he answered. "I asked the question for the best reason
possible, for the only reason, indeed, that excuses one for asking
any question,--simple curiosity. I have a theory that it is always
the women who propose to us, and not we who propose to the women,
except, of course, in middle-class life. But then the middle classes
are not modern."


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