- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics (2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1593080255
- ISBN-13: 978-1593080259
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3,026 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Picture of Dorian Gray
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Perhaps the most salient episode of Wilde's life involved his three infamous court trials in spring 1895. They captivated the London press, much of which was only too happy to see Wilde, of whom it had long been jealously suspicious, debased and finally punished for his alleged crimes and for daring to live outside Victorian social convention. The first trial, in early April 1895, involved the author's libel suit against his lover Douglas's father, the Marquess of Queensbury (before the trials, he was most famous for formulating the Queensbury rules of boxing). Angry over Wilde's alleged influence upon his son, Queensbury accused Wilde in a note of being a "posing somdomite" (sic). Queensbury's defense attorney even presented The Picture of Dorian Gray as an immoral, perverted book and as one of the fifteen pleas for justification of his client's claim (although the justice at Wilde's next trial chose not to rule Dorian Gray as evidence of Wilde's crimes). Thus the novel took on yet another role: involuntary accomplice to Wilde's accuser. The libel suit was not resolved in Wilde's favor, and during the proceedings Queensbury's defense provided enough potential evidence of homosexuality to have Wilde tried under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Friends and associates urged Wilde to flee the country, as other homosexuals on the verge of being outed had done, but whether from stubbornness of his position or in denial of his vulnerability, he remained in London and was arrested on April 5, 1895.
After two trials on charges of "committing acts of gross indecency with male persons," Wilde ultimately was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years in prison with hard labor. He gave eloquent testimony on the stand to the legitimacy of, as he called it, "the love that dare not speak its name," which in large part drives The Picture of Dorian Gray. Among many other definitions, Wilde declared it "that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michaelangelo. . . . It is the noblest form of affection." His words were rewarded, really too late, with spontaneous courtroom applause. Yet the press exulted in Wilde's demise: "The aesthetic cult," the News of the World proclaimed, "in its nasty form, is over."
The details of Wilde's final five years, spent in prison and in lonely exile, are tragic. The prison labor, which at first primarily involved operating a treadmill for the equivalent of a daily 6,000-foot ascent, physically broke Wilde. His creditors and Queensbury had forced a bankruptcy sale of his property, and his valuable, carefully collected possessions were sold and disbursed. His wife, who had sought a divorce, died in 1898. He would never again see his sons. From prison, Wilde composed, in the form of a letter to Douglas, his apologia De Profundis (posthumously published in 1905), whose Latin title means "Out of the Depths," and which takes its name and religious tenor from Psalm 130, which reads, in part: "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." The probing, deeply religious nature of this last work still did not bring about Wilde's Catholic conversion, however. (Douglas would convert in 1911.) Unlike John Gray, Wilde could not bring himself to use religion as a refuge from his earthly problems. Wilde's conversion instead took place within the last two days of his life, when desperate friends, the Catholic Robbie Ross among them, who had long thought Wilde insincere when he mentioned his desire to convert, brought in a local priest to gauge Wilde's assent to the conversion and to administer Last Rites.
Appropriately, Wilde's last act was an assent to a final ritual-in this case, one that symbolically sealed the senses that had dictated his life-long self-creation. Wilde's only novel, over the years many things to many people, continues to serve as a symbol of its era. After experiencing it, a reader may want nothing more than to override questions of genre and influence, when The Picture of Dorian Gray itself tells us what it has been: "the type of what the age is searching for, and what it is afraid it has found."
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I absolutely despise Dorian Gray, but I am sure that was Wilde’s intention. How could you like a man that is so selfish, narcissistic, and obsessed with his own youth and beauty at the cost of all others around him? Dorian truly represents the ugliest that humanity has to offer, and I am happy that he pays for his sins in a fairly poetic nature.
To lighten the serious tones of this book is Lord Henry, easily my favorite character. Nearly every line he speaks is a life-quote and his character gives insight to Wilde’s own thoughts regarding the world and the people in the world. A few of my favorites:
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it & your soul grows sick with longing for things it has forbidden itself.”
“Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.”
I liked this book so much that I want to re-read it immediately :).
In this case, the title refers to "other writings" but it does not seem to contain any other writings. In any case, it is hard to tell because there is no table of contents. Chapters do not begin on a new page but (to save money) a new chapter will begin anywhere on the page.
Sometimes there are smart quotes. Sometimes there are unformatted quotation marks.
Margins are very close to the edges of the pages, again to save money.
Most troubling, the original Bantam edition was about 450 pages; this edition is 190 pages.
So, I would recommend you go with a name brand publisher instead of ordering this version.
Why did I not give it one or two stars? Because I did not notice typos and the entire text of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" appears to be contained here, plus the front and back covers, which contain old portraits of the author, are attractive.
The novel is full of the hedonist thoughts of Lord Henry which corrupt Gray to a life of debauchery. Wilde is quoted as saying, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks of me: Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”
And, so this read will give, more than most novels, a glimpse at its author. This is a short and easily readable novel that acts as a platform to carry some serious philosophical opinions and observations of Lord Henry (Wilde?) - some of which are surely out of date in the 21st century. Here is an interesting musing from Lord Henry…
“Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.” This read will illustrate that misogyny and anti-Semitism were a large part of the ‘standard’ of one’s age’ in ~1890 - so be willing to accept (hold your nose at) some of the author's observations and opinions, expressed through Lord Henry. But, even with its “warts”, it is a literary masterpiece and well worth a read!