Synopses & Reviews
Since its first publication in 1890, Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray
, has remained the subject of critical controversy. Acclaimed by some as an instructive moral tale, it has been denounced by others for its implicit immorality. After having his portrait painted, Dorian Gray is captivated by his own beauty. Tempted by his world-weary friend, the decadent Lord Henry Wotton, he wished to stay young forever and pledges his very soul to keep his good looks. As Dorian's slide into crime and cruelty progresses, he stays magically youthful, while his beautiful portrait changes, revealing the hideous corruption of moral decay.
Set in fin-de-siécle London, the novel traces a path from the studio of painter Basil Howard to the opium dens of the East End. The text of this edition is derived from the Oxford English Texts, which prints a critically established version of the first book edition of 1891. Also included is a new, fuller introduction, which considers the difference between the 1890 and 1891 texts, Wilde's range of sources, significant critical approaches to the novel and its reputation since 1891, full explanatory notes that identify Wilde's sources, and an up-to-date-bibliography.
The wish spoken by Dorian Gray as he looks at his portrait forms the basis of the plot of this story of a gilded and spoilt hedonist who is willing to sell his soul for his beauty.
Includes bibliographical references (p. [xix]-xx).
Spellbound before his own portrait, Dorian Gray utters a fateful wish. In exchange for eternal youth he gives his soul, to be corrupted by the malign influence of his mentor, the aesthete and hedonist Lord Henry Wotton. The novel was met with moral outrage by contemporary critics who, dazzled perhaps by Wilde's brilliant style, may have confused the author with his creation, Lord Henry, to whom even Dorian protests, 'You cut life to pieces with your epigrams.'. Encouraged by Lord Henry to substitute pleasure for goodness and art for reality, Dorian tries to watch impassively as he brings misery and death to those who love him. But the picture is watching him, and, made hideous by the marks of sin, it confronts Dorian with the reflection of his fall from grace, the silent bearer of what is in effect a devastating moral judgement.