‘Oh, if it were 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!’
Oscar Wilde’s tale of the young man who sells his soul for eternal youth is one of the best-loved classics of the 19th century; its central image of the ageing portrait one of the most famous in all literature. When Dorian Gray first sees his likeness, painted by Basil Hallward, he is awestruck by its beauty. Influenced by the cynical Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian makes a wish: that the portrait might age instead of him. His wish is granted, but at a terrible price. Dorian sinks ever deeper into an existence of decadence and corruption, while his beauty remains unchanged. Only the picture he keeps concealed reveals the true state of his soul.
Written in Wilde’s characteristically dazzling style, The Picture of Dorian Gray contains some of his most brilliant epigrams: ‘There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about’;‘The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it’; ‘Anybody can be good in the country’. Its themes are quintessentially Wildean yet wholly relevant today: the importance of art, the hypocrisy of society and the difference between morality and respectability.
With its story of a hidden life of unspeakable sin, The Picture of Dorian Gray caused such a scandal when it first appeared in 1890 that its publication triggered the disastrous decline of Wilde’s reputation in society. At its heart however, is a brilliant gothic fable, with echoes of Faust and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In a newly commissioned introduction, actor, writer and director Simon Callow reveals the novel’s ‘inescapable echoes of its author’s life’ and shows how it ‘continues to haunt the 21st-century imagination’.
Review by rsmr.js on 16th Mar 2013
"A book that asks anyone who reads it to analyse one's true nature, to see what is under the mask we wear in our everyday life. An intriguing read for a curious mind."