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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition Hardcover – May 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. First published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine and the following year in novel form, The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature. An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself—exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate)—and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld. The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the US and UK at the time. Intriguing annotations allude to Wilde's influences and enterprising range of reference, incorporating art, poetry, literature, Greek mythology, philosophy, and fashion (certain to inspire further reading; an appendix is provided). Comparisons are drawn between Dorian Gray and Wilde's other literary output, as well as to the work of Walter Pater. Numerous illustrations subtly compliment Frankelÿs inferences. A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting. (Mar.)

Review

Nicholas Frankel has done a great service to Oscar Wilde's readers in preparing this new edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray. His introduction and annotations deepen our understanding not only of Wilde the writer but of the political and sexual milieu in which he lived and published. This is the kind of scholarship that reminds us why scholarship matters. (David Leavitt)

Frankel's extensive annotations reveal that the homoerotic qualities of the novel are deeply encoded within it and cannot be excised by the removal of a few phrases...If the restored text is interesting primarily as a social document of what was and was not permissible in England in the 1890s, it poignantly reveals an author desperately at war with his society and with himself. (Ruth Franklin New Republic online 2011-03-23)

In pages redolent of fin-de-siecle languor and sparkling with bons mots, Wilde's only novel raises several seriously troubling questions: If one could live a life of absolute freedom, would the result be happiness or a nightmare? How much of our complex selves do we deny or sacrifice to conventional morality? ...This Harvard edition of the untouched typescript is thus a necessary acquisition for any serious student of Wilde's work...After this enthralling novel has left you shaken and disturbed, look for deeper understanding in Nicholas Frankel's superb annotated edition. (Michael Dirda Washington Post 2011-03-31)

This edition gives us a chance to read Wilde's text in a form as close as possible to the way he meant it to appear. (Sarah Boslaugh PopMatters 2011-03-31)

The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature. An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself--exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate)--and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld. The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the U.S. and UK at the time...A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting. (Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2011-04-04)

There is a good argument that the published version of the novel is not quite true to its author's intent or achievement, and Nicholas Frankel, who teaches English at Virginia Commonwealth University, has now set things right--and in handsome fashion. He has skillfully restored Wilde's original version, and in the manner of other great annotated editions, supplied readers with everything anyone would need to know about Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and their lives and times...The entire product--novel and critical/biographical material--makes fascinating reading. (Philip Terzian Weekly Standard 2011-04-02)

Like Harvard University Press's other beautiful annotated editions of classics, this is both handsome and instructive. (David Azzolina Library Journal 2011-05-01)

A richly annotated and illustrated volume edited by Nicholas Frankel. It is not often that a piece of serious scholarship is accorded such deluxe treatment, and in this case it is a cause for real celebration, for Frankel has provided a wealth of supplemental material and visual matter, as well as a "Textual Introduction" and a series of notes that explain references and cultural context, help the reader understand the editing processes, and point out the passages that were singled out for deletion...This annotated version [is] a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism. (Brooke Allen Barnes & Noble Review 2011-04-26)

Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray may have outraged Victorian society even more had his editor not deleted sections of his original text...These passages and others deemed risky 120 years ago now appear for the first time. (Nicholas Clee The Times 2011-05-07)

Splendid...Profusely illustrated and annotated, the edition's most interesting feature will be a comparison of the original hand-emended typescript with the two main published versions, each of which toned down the novel in a vain effort to avoid the notoriety that descended on both the work and its author...Frankel's edition is a major contribution to the studies of Wilde and of late Victorian legal, sexual, and social contexts...Required reading for students and scholars of Wilde and his period. (George Bornstein Times Literary Supplement 2011-06-17)

In this day of Kindles, e-books and tweets, this is truly a magnificent job of bookmaking. Oversized, lavishly illustrated and gorgeously presented, Oscar would have loved it. The text is examined minutely, with a variety of comparisons from various publications of the novel, as well as Wilde's original manuscript...The scholarship is both astounding and informative. The annotator and editor, Nicholas Frankel, easily and effortlessly places the modern reader in Wilde's time and place, London's late Victorian Age in London. There is still a tingle to Dorian's story of endless debauchery while he remains looking pure and innocent for decades and the painting ages and grows monstrous, reflecting his sins and crimes. Strangely, the book seems more modern than one would imagine. Rather than merely a potboiler from two centuries back, Wilde's genius imbues the story with a strange and haunting immediacy, and a cautionary tale for us all: Be careful what you wish for. One could hardly wish for a more beautifully accoutered book. (Alan W. Petrucelli Pittsburgh Examiner 2011-06-29)

There is much to be appreciated in this handsome scholarly edition...Frankel [is] an accomplished guide and this edition an elegant resource that enables us to admire all the more deeply the portrait and the artist. (Richard Gibson Books & Culture 2011-07-01)

The version that Wilde submitted to Lippincott's [published for the first time by Harvard University Press] is the better fiction. It has the swift and uncanny rhythm of a modern fairy tale--and Dorian is the greatest of Wilde's fairy tales. (Alex Ross New Yorker 2011-08-08)

It's a revelatory exercise to examine the text of Wilde's original typescript...It yields a deeper understanding of its author and of the hypocrisy and intolerance of late-Victorian English society which led to his two-year imprisonment for "gross indecency."...With this landmark edition we have the opportunity, until now denied us, to read what the author originally wrote. It unquestionably belongs on every Wildean's shelves. (Joel Greenberg The Australian 2011-07-30)

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray has the distinction of being one of the few pieces of literature that grew longer by way of being censored...It's seven chapters longer than his original version, which now appears for the first time from Harvard University Press by way of a brilliant scholarly presentation of the typescript Wilde submitted to the Philadelphia office of Lippincott's magazine...The typescript (in the UCLA library, but published for the first time here) is, besides truer to Wilde's original intentions, a vastly better novel than the one Lippincott's Monthly Magazine published, say nothing of the much expanded version England's Ward, Lock and Company brought out the next year, the one most of us know. To call Wilde's earlier version leaner would miss the flavor and point of this aestheticism-drenched work, but it's a swifter, bolder, more uncompromising, less moralistic and in every respect more affecting work than its edited, rewritten, or otherwise censored versions. Who would have thought a scholarly edition would be the one to have? But everything about Nicholas Frankel's revelatory new edition of the typescript of The Picture of Dorian Gray is game-changing. Reading it is like viewing a painting by Michelangelo--one of the great artists Wilde named while explaining what he meant by the phrase "the love that dare not speak its name" (to cheers of applause from some in the gallery) in the 1895 court trial--returned to its original glory by deeply knowledgeable, painstaking art restorers. If it did nothing more, Frankel's exhaustively researched book would be a dream presentation of any edition of Dorian Gray, lavishly illustrated with relevant art of the period, including priceless photographs that bring the details of Wilde's book, amazingly now 120 years old, to vivid life. The typescript text is larded with footnotes I'm tempted to describe as being as absorbing as Wilde's writing, except that no one's writing is more captivating than Wilde's, as Frankel would be the first to agree...Entry by entry, Frankel's painstaking explication of the culture Wilde's writing was both a product of, and immeasurably advanced, makes this dense, brilliant book comprehensible...Once through this seminal text with all its notes, illustrations, and explanations, the drive is to go back and re-read the typescript (easily recognized by its larger typeface) all over again, just because it's such a terrific book. (Tim Pfaff Bay Area Reporter 2011-08-25)

We now have an uncensored Dorian, which is very exciting...[It's] a beautifully produced volume: lots of white space, helpful annotations, crisp color illustrations and photographs. (Nikolai Endres Victorians 2011-05-01)

[A] superbly annotated new edition of Wilde's novel. (Colm Tóibín London Review of Books 2012-05-10)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Annotated edition (April 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674057929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674057920
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 9.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Alan W. Petrucelli on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What made Oscar Wild(e)?
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press has published a new edition of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. While there is no burning need for such a volume in the day of Lady Gaga and marriage equality, it's important to remember that Wilde spent two years in prison for being gay and for having the guts (stupidity?) to flaunt his sexuality. In many ways, it was the flaunting rather than the act themselves that so angered his persecutors.
And Dorian Gray, his first and only novel, was certainly a shot fired directly into the heart of Victorian prudery.
And in this day of Kindles, e-books and tweets, this is truly a magnificent job of bookmaking. Oversized, lavishly illustrated and gorgeously presented, Oscar would have loved it. The text is examined minutely, with a variety of comparisons from various publications of the novel, as well as Wilde's original manuscript. While there's nothing particularly new to discover in the emendations from the sources, merely a reinforcement of the outrageousness inherent in the piece, the scholarship is both astounding and informative.
The annotator and editor, Nicholas Frankel, easily and effortlessly places the modern reader in Wilde's time and place, London's late Victorian Age in London. There is still a tingle to Dorian's story of endless debauchery while he remains looking pure and innocent for decades and the painting ages and grows monstrous, reflecting his sins and crimes.
Strangely, the book seems more modern than one would imagine. Rather than merely a potboiler from two centuries back, WIlde's genius imbues the story with a strange and haunting immediacy, and a cautionary tale for us all: Be careful what you wish for.
One could hardly wish for a more beautifully accoutered book.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Karen R. Haynes on May 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book contains the story 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' - in original typescript form. This is the way Oscar Wilde wanted the novel to actually read before the publishers got hold of it. There are two other versions of the novel out there - the version printed for magazine publication & the one printed in novel form. After the publishers got hold of the manuscript a lot of changes were made because of content - the homoerotic element was toned down. The novel version is also longer - Wilde expanded the story. There are pictures, illustrations, & extensive notes included to explain all the changes. It's very interesting to see a version in print that is how Wilde intended it. If you are a fan of Oscar Wilde's works or of Dorian Gray in particular, you will appreciate having this book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, Esq. on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book in layout and design. Oscar Wilde was many things, but for me he is an Artist first and foremost, and with this book The Belknap Press pays homage to a brilliant writer. The novel's reception is an intriguing story. I have recently purchased OSCAR WILDE: THE CRITICAL HERITAGE, and it beautifully relates the history of the book's reception. One unsigned review, In PUNCH, begins, "The Baron has read Oscar Wilde's Wildest and Oscarest work, called DORIAN GRAY, a weird sensational romance..." Another review, in DAILY CHRONICLE, begins, "Dullness and dirt are the chief features of Lippincott's this month. The element in it that is unclean, though undiniably amusing, is furnished by Mr Oscar Wilde's story of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. It is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents--a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction..." (How I'd LOVE to get such a review for one of my wee books!) What seems clear is that the novel could not be divorced from Wilde's reputation.

But as a novel, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is wonderful and strange--if not entirely "successful". With this Annotated and Uncensored Edition of Wilde's book, we have its history and definitive text. The Contents:
General Introduction
Textual Introduction
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
Textual Notes
Appendix A: Accidental Changes Introduced into the Text by J. M. Stoddart or His Associates
Appendix B: The 1891 Preface to THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
Notes of Wilde Editions
Further Reading

The annotations are in-depth, fascinating and informative, reflecting the era in which the novel was spawned, aspects of Wilde's biography, &c.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John G. Pollard on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't add much to what has already been said in other review, but I can add this - this is a book well worth buying. I started reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in the form of the book that was issued by the Folio Society - this is the standard text of the book. Halfway into the book I ordered the annotated , uncensored version and started reading that version. I am planning on going back to the beginning of the uncensored version. The uncensored version is much richer. The other reviews have made very good points concerning this book - I can't improve upon them, but I can simply say that this is a version of the book that is well worth buying if you appreciate Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I am glad that I bought it!
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