The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
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
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 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 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."
"Well, I will tell you what it is."
"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
"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 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 precis 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.
"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
"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 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
"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?"
"How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything
but your painting,—your art, I should say. Art sounds better,
"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 Antinous 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 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-a-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 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 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.
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
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
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 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!
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"Yes, I am glad now. I wonder shall I always be glad?"
"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.
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
"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
"This is your doing, Harry," said Hallward, bitterly.
"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
"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
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?"
"I should like to come to the theatre with you, Lord Henry," said
"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
"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.
"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!"
"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.
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
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."
"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
"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.
"Never marry a woman with straw-colored hair, Dorian," he said,
after a few puffs.
"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
"With an actress," said Dorian Gray, blushing.
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "That is a rather common-place
debut," 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 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
"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
peres ont toujours tort."
"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 actress?"
"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."
"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?"
"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
"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 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
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
"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
"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
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 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
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
"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
"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 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
"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. 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
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."
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."
Dorian Gray laughed, and tossed his head. "You are quite
incorrigible, Harry; but I don't mind. It is impossible to be angry
with you. When you see Sibyl Vane you will feel that the man who
could wrong her would be a beast without a heart. I cannot
understand how any one can wish to shame what he loves. I love Sibyl
Vane. I wish to place her on a pedestal of gold, and to see the
world worship the woman who is mine. What is marriage? An
irrevocable vow. And it is an irrevocable vow that I want to take.
Her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good. When I am
with her, I regret all that you have taught me. I become different
from what you have known me to be. I am changed, and the mere touch
of Sibyl Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong,
fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories."
"You will always like me, Dorian," said Lord Henry. "Will you have
some coffee, you fellows?—Waiter, bring coffee, and fine-champagne,
and some cigarettes. No: don't mind the cigarettes; I have some.—
Basil, I can't allow you to smoke cigars. You must have a cigarette.
A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is
exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can you want?—
Yes, Dorian, you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all
the sins you have never had the courage to commit."
"What nonsense you talk, Harry!" cried Dorian Gray, lighting his
cigarette from a fire-breathing silver dragon that the waiter had
placed on the table. "Let us go down to the theatre. When you see
Sibyl you will have a new ideal of life. She will represent
something to you that you have never known."
"I have known everything," said Lord Henry, with a sad look in his
eyes, "but I am always ready for a new emotion. I am afraid that
there is no such thing, for me at any rate. Still, your wonderful
girl may thrill me. I love acting. It is so much more real than
life. Let us go. Dorian, you will come with me.—I am so sorry,
Basil, but there is only room for two in the brougham. You must
follow us in a hansom."
They got up and put on their coats, sipping their coffee standing.
Hallward was silent and preoccupied. There was a gloom over him. He
could not bear this marriage, and yet it seemed to him to be better
than many other things that might have happened. After a few
moments, they all passed down-stairs. He drove off by himself, as
had been arranged, and watched the flashing lights of the little
brougham in front of him. A strange sense of loss came over him. He
felt that Dorian Gray would never again be to him all that he had been
in the past. His eyes darkened, and the crowded flaring streets
became blurred to him. When the cab drew up at the doors of the
theatre, it seemed to him that he had grown years older.
For some reason or other, the house was crowded that night, and
the fat Jew manager who met them at the door was beaming from ear to
ear with an oily, tremulous smile. He escorted them to their box with
a sort of pompous humility, waving his fat jewelled hands, and talking
at the top of his voice. Dorian Gray loathed him more than ever. He
felt as if he had come to look for Miranda and had been met by
Caliban. Lord Henry, upon the other hand, rather liked him. At least
he declared he did, and insisted on shaking him by the hand, and
assured him that he was proud to meet a man who had discovered a real
genius and gone bankrupt over Shakespeare. Hallward amused himself
with watching the faces in the pit. The heat was terribly oppressive,
and the huge sunlight flamed like a monstrous dahlia with petals of
fire. The youths in the gallery had taken off their coats and
waistcoats and hung them over the side. They talked to each other
across the theatre, and shared their oranges with the tawdry painted
girls who sat by them. Some women were laughing in the pit; their
voices were horribly shrill and discordant. The sound of the popping
of corks came from the bar.
"What a place to find one's divinity in!" said Lord Henry.
"Yes!" answered Dorian Gray. "It was here I found her, and she is
divine beyond all living things. When she acts you will forget
everything. These common people here, with their coarse faces and
brutal gestures, become quite different when she is on the stage.
They sit silently and watch her. They weep and laugh as she wills
them to do. She makes them as responsive as a violin. She
spiritualizes them, and one feels that they are of the same flesh and
blood as one's self."
"Oh, I hope not!" murmured Lord Henry, who was scanning the
occupants of the gallery through his opera-glass.
"Don't pay any attention to him, Dorian," said Hallward. "I
understand what you mean, and I believe in this girl. Any one you
love must be marvellous, and any girl that has the effect you
describe must be fine and noble. To spiritualize one's age,—that is
something worth doing. If this girl can give a soul to those who
have lived without one, if she can create the sense of beauty in
people whose lives have been sordid and ugly, if she can strip them
of their selfishness and lend them tears for sorrows that are not
their own, she is worthy of all your adoration, worthy of the
adoration of the world. This marriage is quite right. I did not
think so at first, but I admit it now. God made Sibyl Vane for you.
Without her you would have been incomplete."
"Thanks, Basil," answered Dorian Gray, pressing his hand. "I knew
that you would understand me. Harry is so cynical, he terrifies me.
But here is the orchestra. It is quite dreadful, but it only lasts
for about five minutes. Then the curtain rises, and you will see the
girl to whom I am going to give all my life, to whom I have given
everything that is good in me."
A quarter of an hour afterwards, amidst an extraordinary turmoil of
applause, Sibyl Vane stepped on to the stage. Yes, she was certainly
lovely to look at,—one of the loveliest creatures, Lord Henry
thought, that he had ever seen. There was something of the fawn in
her shy grace and startled eyes. A faint blush, like the shadow of a
rose in a mirror of silver, came to her cheeks as she glanced at the
crowded, enthusiastic house. She stepped back a few paces, and her
lips seemed to tremble. Basil Hallward leaped to his feet and began
to applaud. Dorian Gray sat motionless, gazing on her, like a man in
a dream. Lord Henry peered through his opera-glass, murmuring,
The scene was the hall of Capulet's house, and Romeo in his
pilgrim's dress had entered with Mercutio and his friends. The band,
such as it was, struck up a few bars of music, and the dance began.
Through the crowd of ungainly, shabbily-dressed actors, Sibyl Vane
moved like a creature from a finer world. Her body swayed, as she
danced, as a plant sways in the water. The curves of her throat were
like the curves of a white lily. Her hands seemed to be made of cool
Yet she was curiously listless. She showed no sign of joy when her
eyes rested on Romeo. The few lines she had to speak,—
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss,—
with the brief dialogue that follows, were spoken in a thoroughly
artificial manner. The voice was exquisite, but from the point of
view of tone it was absolutely false. It was wrong in color. It
took away all the life from the verse. It made the passion unreal.
Dorian Gray grew pale as he watched her. Neither of his friends
dared to say anything to him. She seemed to them to be absolutely
incompetent. They were horribly disappointed.
Yet they felt that the true test of any Juliet is the balcony scene
of the second act. They waited for that. If she failed there, there
was nothing in her.
She looked charming as she came out in the moonlight. That could
not be denied. But the staginess of her acting was unbearable, and
grew worse as she went on. Her gestures became absurdly artificial.
She over-emphasized everything that she had to say. The beautiful
Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night,—
was declaimed with the painful precision of a school-girl who has
been taught to recite by some second-rate professor of elocution. When
she leaned over the balcony and came to those wonderful lines,—
Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say, "It lightens." Sweet, good-night!
This bud of love by summer's ripening breath
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet,—
she spoke the words as if they conveyed no meaning to her. It was
not nervousness. Indeed, so far from being nervous, she seemed
absolutely self-contained. It was simply bad art. She was a
Even the common uneducated audience of the pit and gallery lost
their interest in the play. They got restless, and began to talk
loudly and to whistle. The Jew manager, who was standing at the back
of the dress-circle, stamped and swore with rage. The only person
unmoved was the girl herself.
When the second act was over there came a storm of hisses, and Lord
Henry got up from his chair and put on his coat. "She is quite
beautiful, Dorian," he said, "but she can't act. Let us go."
"I am going to see the play through," answered the lad, in a hard,
bitter voice. "I am awfully sorry that I have made you waste an
evening, Harry. I apologize to both of you."
"My dear Dorian, I should think Miss Vane was ill," interrupted
Hallward. "We will come some other night."
"I wish she was ill," he rejoined. "But she seems to me to be
simply callous and cold. She has entirely altered. Last night she
was a great artist. To-night she is merely a commonplace, mediocre
"Don't talk like that about any one you love, Dorian. Love is a
more wonderful thing than art."
"They are both simply forms of imitation," murmured Lord Henry.
"But do let us go. Dorian, you must not stay here any longer. It is
not good for one's morals to see bad acting. Besides, I don't suppose
you will want your wife to act. So what does it matter if she plays
Juliet like a wooden doll? She is very lovely, and if she knows as
little about life as she does about acting, she will be a delightful
experience. There are only two kinds of people who are really
fascinating,—people who know absolutely everything, and people who
know absolutely nothing. Good heavens, my dear boy, don't look so
tragic! The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion
that is unbecoming. Come to the club with Basil and myself. We will
smoke cigarettes and drink to the beauty of Sibyl Vane. She is
beautiful. What more can you want?"
"Please go away, Harry," cried the lad. "I really want to be
alone.- -Basil, you don't mind my asking you to go? Ah! can't you see
that my heart is breaking?" The hot tears came to his eyes. His
lips trembled, and, rushing to the back of the box, he leaned up
against the wall, hiding his face in his hands.
"Let us go, Basil," said Lord Henry, with a strange tenderness in
his voice; and the two young men passed out together.
A few moments afterwards the footlights flared up, and the curtain
rose on the third act. Dorian Gray went back to his seat. He looked
pale, and proud, and indifferent. The play dragged on, and seemed
interminable. Half of the audience went out, tramping in heavy
boots, and laughing. The whole thing was a fiasco. The last act was
played to almost empty benches.
As soon as it was over, Dorian Gray rushed behind the scenes into
the greenroom. The girl was standing alone there, with a look of
triumph on her face. Her eyes were lit with an exquisite fire. There
was a radiance about her. Her parted lips were smiling over some
secret of their own.
When he entered, she looked at him, and an expression of infinite
joy came over her. "How badly I acted to-night, Dorian!" she cried.
"Horribly!" he answered, gazing at her in amazement,—"horribly!
It was dreadful. Are you ill? You have no idea what it was. You
have no idea what I suffered."
The girl smiled. "Dorian," she answered, lingering over his name
with long-drawn music in her voice, as though it were sweeter than
honey to the red petals of her lips,—"Dorian, you should have
understood. But you understand now, don't you?"
"Understand what?" he asked, angrily.
"Why I was so bad to-night. Why I shall always be bad. Why I
shall never act well again."
He shrugged his shoulders. "You are ill, I suppose. When you are
ill you shouldn't act. You make yourself ridiculous. My friends
were bored. I was bored."
She seemed not to listen to him. She was transfigured with joy.
An ecstasy of happiness dominated her.
"Dorian, Dorian," she cried, "before I knew you, acting was the one
reality of my life. It was only in the theatre that I lived. I
thought that it was all true. I was Rosalind one night, and Portia
the other. The joy of Beatrice was my joy, and the sorrows of
Cordelia were mine also. I believed in everything. The common
people who acted with me seemed to me to be godlike. The painted
scenes were my world. I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them
real. You came,—oh, my beautiful love!—and you freed my soul from
prison. You taught me what reality really is. To-night, for the
first time in my life, I saw through the hollowness, the sham, the
silliness, of the empty pageant in which I had always played. To-
night, for the first time, I became conscious that the Romeo was
hideous, and old, and painted, that the moonlight in the orchard was
false, that the scenery was vulgar, and that the words I had to speak
were unreal, were not my words, not what I wanted to say. You had
brought me something higher, something of which all art is but a
reflection. You have made me understand what love really is. My
love! my love! I am sick of shadows. You are more to me than all
art can ever be. What have I to do with the puppets of a play? When I
came on to-night, I could not understand how it was that everything
had gone from me. Suddenly it dawned on my soul what it all meant.
The knowledge was exquisite to me. I heard them hissing, and I
smiled. What should they know of love? Take me away, Dorian— take
me away with you, where we can be quite alone. I hate the stage. I
might mimic a passion that I do not feel, but I cannot mimic one that
burns me like fire. Oh, Dorian, Dorian, you understand now what it
all means? Even if I could do it, it would be profanation for me to
play at being in love. You have made me see that."
He flung himself down on the sofa, and turned away his face. "You
have killed my love," he muttered.
She looked at him in wonder, and laughed. He made no answer. She
came across to him, and stroked his hair with her little fingers. She
knelt down and pressed his hands to her lips. He drew them away, and
a shudder ran through him.
Then he leaped up, and went to the door. "Yes," he cried, "you
have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don't
even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you
because you were wonderful, because you had genius and intellect,
because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and
substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You
are shallow and stupid. My God! how mad I was to love you! What a
fool I have been! You are nothing to me now. I will never see you
again. I will never think of you. I will never mention your name.
You don't know what you were to me, once. Why, once . . . . Oh, I
can't bear to think of it! I wish I had never laid eyes upon you!
You have spoiled the romance of my life. How little you can know of
love, if you say it mars your art! What are you without your art?
Nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The
world would have worshipped you, and you would have belonged to me.
What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face."
The girl grew white, and trembled. She clinched her hands
together, and her voice seemed to catch in her throat. "You are not
serious, Dorian?" she murmured. "You are acting."
"Acting! I leave that to you. You do it so well," he answered,
She rose from her knees, and, with a piteous expression of pain in
her face, came across the room to him. She put her hand upon his
arm, and looked into his eyes. He thrust her back. "Don't touch
me!" he cried.
A low moan broke from her, and she flung herself at his feet, and
lay there like a trampled flower. "Dorian, Dorian, don't leave me!"
she whispered. "I am so sorry I didn't act well. I was thinking of
you all the time. But I will try,—indeed, I will try. It came so
suddenly across me, my love for you. I think I should never have
known it if you had not kissed me,—if we had not kissed each other.
Kiss me again, my love. Don't go away from me. I couldn't bear it.
Can't you forgive me for to-night? I will work so hard, and try to
improve. Don't be cruel to me because I love you better than
anything in the world. After all, it is only once that I have not
pleased you. But you are quite right, Dorian. I should have shown
myself more of an artist. It was foolish of me; and yet I couldn't
help it. Oh, don't leave me, don't leave me." A fit of passionate
sobbing choked her. She crouched on the floor like a wounded thing,
and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down at her, and his
chiselled lips curled in exquisite disdain. There is always
something ridiculous about the passions of people whom one has ceased
to love. Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic. Her
tears and sobs annoyed him.
"I am going," he said at last, in his calm, clear voice. "I don't
wish to be unkind, but I can't see you again. You have disappointed
She wept silently, and made no answer, but crept nearer to him.
Her little hands stretched blindly out, and appeared to be seeking
for him. He turned on his heel, and left the room. In a few moments
he was out of the theatre.
Where he went to, he hardly knew. He remembered wandering through
dimly-lit streets with gaunt black-shadowed archways and evil-looking
houses. Women with hoarse voices and harsh laughter had called after
him. Drunkards had reeled by cursing, and chattering to themselves
like monstrous apes. He had seen grotesque children huddled upon
door-steps, and had heard shrieks and oaths from gloomy courts.
When the dawn was just breaking he found himself at Covent Garden.
Huge carts filled with nodding lilies rumbled slowly down the
polished empty street. The air was heavy with the perfume of the
flowers, and their beauty seemed to bring him an anodyne for his
pain. He followed into the market, and watched the men unloading
their wagons. A white-smocked carter offered him some cherries. He
thanked him, wondered why he refused to accept any money for them,
and began to eat them listlessly. They had been plucked at midnight,
and the coldness of the moon had entered into them. A long line of
boys carrying crates of striped tulips, and of yellow and red roses,
defiled in front of him, threading their way through the huge jade-
green piles of vegetables. Under the portico, with its gray sun-
bleached pillars, loitered a troop of draggled bareheaded girls,
waiting for the auction to be over. After some time he hailed a
hansom and drove home. The sky was pure opal now, and the roofs of
the houses glistened like silver against it. As he was passing
through the library towards the door of his bedroom, his eye fell
upon the portrait Basil Hallward had painted of him. He started back
in surprise, and then went over to it and examined it. In the dim
arrested light that struggled through the cream-colored silk blinds,
the face seemed to him to be a little changed. The expression looked
different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in
the mouth. It was certainly curious.
He turned round, and, walking to the window, drew the blinds up.
The bright dawn flooded the room, and swept the fantastic shadows
into dusky corners, where they lay shuddering. But the strange
expression that he had noticed in the face of the portrait seemed to
linger there, to be more intensified even. The quivering, ardent
sunlight showed him the lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly
as if he had been looking into a mirror after he had done some
He winced, and, taking up from the table an oval glass framed in
ivory Cupids, that Lord Henry had given him, he glanced hurriedly
into it. No line like that warped his red lips. What did it mean?
He rubbed his eyes, and came close to the picture, and examined it
again. There were no signs of any change when he looked into the
actual painting, and yet there was no doubt that the whole expression
had altered. It was not a mere fancy of his own. The thing was
He threw himself into a chair, and began to think. Suddenly there
flashed across his mind what he had said in Basil Hallward's studio
the day the picture had been finished. Yes, he remembered it
perfectly. He had uttered a mad wish that he himself might remain
young, and the portrait grow old; that his own beauty might be
untarnished, and the face on the canvas bear the burden of his
passions and his sins; that the painted image might be seared with
the lines of suffering and thought, and that he might keep all the
delicate bloom and loveliness of his then just conscious boyhood.
Surely his prayer had not been answered? Such things were
impossible. It seemed monstrous even to think of them. And, yet,
there was the picture before him, with the touch of cruelty in the
Cruelty! Had he been cruel? It was the girl's fault, not his. He
had dreamed of her as a great artist, had given his love to her
because he had thought her great. Then she had disappointed him. She
had been shallow and unworthy. And, yet, a feeling of infinite regret
came over him, as he thought of her lying at his feet sobbing like a
little child. He remembered with what callousness he had watched her.
Why had he been made like that? Why had such a soul been given to
him? But he had suffered also. During the three terrible hours that
the play had lasted, he had lived centuries of pain, aeon upon aeon of
torture. His life was well worth hers. She had marred him for a
moment, if he had wounded her for an age. Besides, women were better
suited to bear sorrow than men. They lived on their emotions. They
only thought of their emotions. When they took lovers, it was merely
to have some one with whom they could have scenes. Lord Henry had
told him that, and Lord Henry knew what women were. Why should he
trouble about Sibyl Vane? She was nothing to him now.
But the picture? What was he to say of that? It held the secret
of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own
beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul? Would he ever
look at it again?
No; it was merely an illusion wrought on the troubled senses. The
horrible night that he had passed had left phantoms behind it.
Suddenly there had fallen upon his brain that tiny scarlet speck that
makes men mad. The picture had not changed. It was folly to think
Yet it was watching him, with its beautiful marred face and its
cruel smile. Its bright hair gleamed in the early sunlight. Its blue
eyes met his own. A sense of infinite pity, not for himself, but for
the painted image of himself, came over him. It had altered already,
and would alter more. Its gold would wither into gray. Its red and
white roses would die. For every sin that he committed, a stain
would fleck and wreck its fairness. But he would not sin. The
picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of
conscience. He would resist temptation. He would not see Lord Henry
any more,—would not, at any rate, listen to those subtle poisonous
theories that in Basil Hallward's garden had first stirred within him
the passion for impossible things. He would go back to Sibyl Vane,
make her amends, marry her, try to love her again. Yes, it was his
duty to do so. She must have suffered more than he had. Poor child!
He had been selfish and cruel to her. The fascination that she had
exercised over him would return. They would be happy together. His
life with her would be beautiful and pure.
He got up from his chair, and drew a large screen right in front of
the portrait, shuddering as he glanced at it. "How horrible!" he
murmured to himself, and he walked across to the window and opened
it. When he stepped out on the grass, he drew a deep breath. The
fresh morning air seemed to drive away all his sombre passions. He
thought only of Sibyl Vane. A faint echo of his love came back to
him. He repeated her name over and over again. The birds that were
singing in the dew-drenched garden seemed to be telling the flowers
It was long past noon when he awoke. His valet had crept several
times into the room on tiptoe to see if he was stirring, and had
wondered what made his young master sleep so late. Finally his bell
sounded, and Victor came in softly with a cup of tea, and a pile of
letters, on a small tray of old Sevres china, and drew back the
olive-satin curtains, with their shimmering blue lining, that hung in
front of the three tall windows.
"Monsieur has well slept this morning," he said, smiling.
"What o'clock is it, Victor?" asked Dorian Gray, sleepily.
"One hour and a quarter, monsieur."
How late it was! He sat up, and, having sipped some tea, turned
over his letters. One of them was from Lord Henry, and had been
brought by hand that morning. He hesitated for a moment, and then put
it aside. The others he opened listlessly. They contained the usual
collection of cards, invitations to dinner, tickets for private
views, programmes of charity concerts, and the like, that are
showered on fashionable young men every morning during the season.
There was a rather heavy bill, for a chased silver Louis-Quinze
toilet-set, that he had not yet had the courage to send on to his
guardians, who were extremely old-fashioned people and did not
realize that we live in an age when only unnecessary things are
absolutely necessary to us; and there were several very courteously
worded communications from Jermyn Street money-lenders offering to
advance any sum of money at a moment's notice and at the most
reasonable rates of interest.
After about ten minutes he got up, and, throwing on an elaborate
dressing-gown, passed into the onyx-paved bath-room. The cool water
refreshed him after his long sleep. He seemed to have forgotten all
that he had gone through. A dim sense of having taken part in some
strange tragedy came to him once or twice, but there was the
unreality of a dream about it.
As soon as he was dressed, he went into the library and sat down to
a light French breakfast, that had been laid out for him on a small
round table close to an open window. It was an exquisite day. The
warm air seemed laden with spices. A bee flew in, and buzzed round
the blue-dragon bowl, filled with sulphur-yellow roses, that stood in
front of him. He felt perfectly happy.
Suddenly his eye fell on the screen that he had placed in front of
the portrait, and he started.
"Too cold for Monsieur?" asked his valet, putting an omelette on
the table. "I shut the window?"
Dorian shook his head. "I am not cold," he murmured.
Was it all true? Had the portrait really changed? Or had it been
simply his own imagination that had made him see a look of evil where
there had been a look of joy? Surely a painted canvas could not
alter? The thing was absurd. It would serve as a tale to tell Basil
some day. It would make him smile.
And, yet, how vivid was his recollection of the whole thing! First
in the dim twilight, and then in the bright dawn, he had seen the
touch of cruelty in the warped lips. He almost dreaded his valet
leaving the room. He knew that when he was alone he would have to
examine the portrait. He was afraid of certainty. When the coffee
and cigarettes had been brought and the man turned to go, he felt a
mad desire to tell him to remain. As the door closed behind him he
called him back. The man stood waiting for his orders. Dorian
looked at him for a moment. "I am not at home to any one, Victor,"
he said, with a sigh. The man bowed and retired.
He rose from the table, lit a cigarette, and flung himself down on
a luxuriously-cushioned couch that stood facing the screen. The
screen was an old one of gilt Spanish leather, stamped and wrought
with a rather florid Louis-Quatorze pattern. He scanned it curiously,
wondering if it had ever before concealed the secret of a man's life.
Should he move it aside, after all? Why not let it stay there?
What was the use of knowing? If the thing was true, it was terrible.
If it was not true, why trouble about it? But what if, by some fate
or deadlier chance, other eyes than his spied behind, and saw the
horrible change? What should he do if Basil Hallward came and asked
to look at his own picture? He would be sure to do that. No; the
thing had to be examined, and at once. Anything would be better than
this dreadful state of doubt.
He got up, and locked both doors. At least he would be alone when
he looked upon the mask of his shame. Then he drew the screen aside,
and saw himself face to face. It was perfectly true. The portrait
As he often remembered afterwards, and always with no small wonder,
he found himself at first gazing at the portrait with a feeling of
almost scientific interest. That such a change should have taken
place was incredible to him. And yet it was a fact. Was there some
subtle affinity between the chemical atoms, that shaped themselves
into form and color on the canvas, and the soul that was within him?
Could it be that what that soul thought, they realized?—that what it
dreamed, they made true? Or was there some other, more terrible
reason? He shuddered, and felt afraid, and, going back to the couch,
lay there, gazing at the picture in sickened horror.
One thing, however, he felt that it had done for him. It had made
him conscious how unjust, how cruel, he had been to Sibyl Vane. It
was not too late to make reparation for that. She could still be his
wife. His unreal and selfish love would yield to some higher
influence, would be transformed into some nobler passion, and the
portrait that Basil Hallward had painted of him would be a guide to
him through life, would be to him what holiness was to some, and
conscience to others, and the fear of God to us all. There were
opiates for remorse, drugs that could lull the moral sense to sleep.
But here was a visible symbol of the degradation of sin. Here was an
ever-present sign of the ruin men brought upon their souls.
Three o'clock struck, and four, and half-past four, but he did not
stir. He was trying to gather up the scarlet threads of life, and to
weave them into a pattern; to find his way through the sanguine
labyrinth of passion through which he was wandering. He did not know
what to do, or what to think. Finally, he went over to the table and
wrote a passionate letter to the girl he had loved, imploring her
forgiveness, and accusing himself of madness. He covered page after
page with wild words of sorrow, and wilder words of pain. There is a
luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one
else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest,
that gives us absolution. When Dorian Gray had finished the letter,
he felt that he had been forgiven.
Suddenly there came a knock to the door, and he heard Lord Henry's
voice outside. "My dear Dorian, I must see you. Let me in at once.
I can't bear your shutting yourself up like this."
He made no answer at first, but remained quite still. The knocking
still continued, and grew louder. Yes, it was better to let Lord
Henry in, and to explain to him the new life he was going to lead, to
quarrel with him if it became necessary to quarrel, to part if
parting was inevitable. He jumped up, drew the screen hastily across
the picture, and unlocked the door.
"I am so sorry for it all, my dear boy," said Lord Henry, coming
in. "But you must not think about it too much."
"Do you mean about Sibyl Vane?" asked Dorian.
"Yes, of course," answered Lord Henry, sinking into a chair, and
slowly pulling his gloves off. "It is dreadful, from one point of
view, but it was not your fault. Tell me, did you go behind and see
her after the play was over?"
"I felt sure you had. Did you make a scene with her?"
"I was brutal, Harry,—perfectly brutal. But it is all right now.
I am not sorry for anything that has happened. It has taught me to
know myself better."
"Ah, Dorian, I am so glad you take it in that way! I was afraid I
would find you plunged in remorse, and tearing your nice hair."
"I have got through all that," said Dorian, shaking his head, and
smiling. "I am perfectly happy now. I know what conscience is, to
begin with. It is not what you told me it was. It is the divinest
thing in us. Don't sneer at it, Harry, any more,—at least not
before me. I want to be good. I can't bear the idea of my soul
"A very charming artistic basis for ethics, Dorian! I congratulate
you on it. But how are you going to begin?"
"By marrying Sibyl Vane."
"Marrying Sibyl Vane!" cried Lord Henry, standing up, and looking
at him in perplexed amazement. "But, my dear Dorian—"
"Yes, Harry, I know what you are going to say. Something dreadful
about marriage. Don't say it. Don't ever say things of that kind to
me again. Two days ago I asked Sibyl to marry me. I am not going to
break my word to her. She is to be my wife."
"Your wife! Dorian! . . . Didn't you get my letter? I wrote to
you this morning, and sent the note down, by my own man."
"Your letter? Oh, yes, I remember. I have not read it yet, Harry.
I was afraid there might be something in it that I wouldn't like."
Lord Henry walked across the room, and, sitting down by Dorian
Gray, took both his hands in his, and held them tightly. "Dorian," he
said, "my letter—don't be frightened—was to tell you that Sibyl
Vane is dead."
A cry of pain rose from the lad's lips, and he leaped to his feet,
tearing his hands away from Lord Henry's grasp. "Dead! Sibyl dead!
It is not true! It is a horrible lie!"
"It is quite true, Dorian," said Lord Henry, gravely. "It is in
all the morning papers. I wrote down to you to ask you not to see any
one till I came. There will have to be an inquest, of course, and
you must not be mixed up in it. Things like that make a man
fashionable in Paris. But in London people are so prejudiced. Here,
one should never make one's debut with a scandal. One should reserve
that to give an interest to one's old age. I don't suppose they know
your name at the theatre. If they don't, it is all right. Did any
one see you going round to her room? That is an important point."
Dorian did not answer for a few moments. He was dazed with horror.
Finally he murmured, in a stifled voice, "Harry, did you say an
inquest? What did you mean by that? Did Sibyl—? Oh, Harry, I
can't bear it! But be quick. Tell me everything at once."
"I have no doubt it was not an accident, Dorian, though it must be
put in that way to the public. As she was leaving the theatre with
her mother, about half-past twelve or so, she said she had forgotten
something up-stairs. They waited some time for her, but she did not
come down again. They ultimately found her lying dead on the floor
of her dressing-room. She had swallowed something by mistake, some
dreadful thing they use at theatres. I don't know what it was, but
it had either prussic acid or white lead in it. I should fancy it
was prussic acid, as she seems to have died instantaneously. It is
very tragic, of course, but you must not get yourself mixed up in it.
I see by the Standard that she was seventeen. I should have thought
she was almost younger than that. She looked such a child, and
seemed to know so little about acting. Dorian, you mustn't let this
thing get on your nerves. You must come and dine with me, and
afterwards we will look in at the Opera. It is a Patti night, and
everybody will be there. You can come to my sister's box. She has
got some smart women with her."
"So I have murdered Sibyl Vane," said Dorian Gray, half to
himself,— "murdered her as certainly as if I had cut her little
throat with a knife. And the roses are not less lovely for all that.
The birds sing just as happily in my garden. And to-night I am to
dine with you, and then go on to the Opera, and sup somewhere, I
suppose, afterwards. How extraordinarily dramatic life is! If I had
read all this in a book, Harry, I think I would have wept over it.
Somehow, now that it has happened actually, and to me, it seems far
too wonderful for tears. Here is the first passionate love-letter I
have ever written in my life. Strange, that my first passionate love-
letter should have been addressed to a dead girl. Can they feel, I
wonder, those white silent people we call the dead? Sibyl! Can she
feel, or know, or listen? Oh, Harry, how I loved her once! It seems
years ago to me now. She was everything to me. Then came that
dreadful night—was it really only last night?—when she played so
badly, and my heart almost broke. She explained it all to me. It
was terribly pathetic. But I was not moved a bit. I thought her
shallow. Then something happened that made me afraid. I can't tell
you what it was, but it was awful. I said I would go back to her. I
felt I had done wrong. And now she is dead. My God! my God! Harry,
what shall I do? You don't know the danger I am in, and there is
nothing to keep me straight. She would have done that for me. She
had no right to kill herself. It was selfish of her."
"My dear Dorian, the only way a woman can ever reform a man is by
boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life.
If you had married this girl you would have been wretched. Of course
you would have treated her kindly. One can always be kind to people
about whom one cares nothing. But she would have soon found out that
you were absolutely indifferent to her. And when a woman finds that
out about her husband, she either becomes dreadfully dowdy, or wears
very smart bonnets that some other woman's husband has to pay for.
I say nothing about the social mistake, but I assure you that in any
case the whole thing would have been an absolute failure."
"I suppose it would," muttered the lad, walking up and down the
room, and looking horribly pale. "But I thought it was my duty. It
is not my fault that this terrible tragedy has prevented my doing what
was right. I remember your saying once that there is a fatality about
good resolutions,—that they are always made too late. Mine
"Good resolutions are simply a useless attempt to interfere with
scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is
absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious
sterile emotions that have a certain charm for us. That is all that
can be said for them."
"Harry," cried Dorian Gray, coming over and sitting down beside
him, "why is it that I cannot feel this tragedy as much as I want to?
I don't think I am heartless. Do you?"
"You have done too many foolish things in your life to be entitled
to give yourself that name, Dorian," answered Lord Henry, with his
sweet, melancholy smile.
The lad frowned. "I don't like that explanation, Harry," he
rejoined, "but I am glad you don't think I am heartless. I am
nothing of the kind. I know I am not. And yet I must admit that
this thing that has happened does not affect me as it should. It
seems to me to be simply like a wonderful ending to a wonderful play.
It has all the terrible beauty of a great tragedy, a tragedy in which
I took part, but by which I have not been wounded."
"It is an interesting question," said Lord Henry, who found an
exquisite pleasure in playing on the lad's unconscious egotism,—"an
extremely interesting question. I fancy that the explanation is
this. It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such
an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their
absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack
of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us
an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that.
Sometimes, however, a tragedy that has artistic elements of beauty
crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole
thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly we
find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the
play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere
wonder of the spectacle enthralls us. In the present case, what is
it that has really happened? Some one has killed herself for love of
you. I wish I had ever had such an experience. It would have made
me in love with love for the rest of my life. The people who have
adored me—there have not been very many, but there have been some—
have always insisted on living on, long after I had ceased to care
for them, or they to care for me. They have become stout and
tedious, and when I meet them they go in at once for reminiscences.
That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an
utter intellectual stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the
color of life, but one should never remember its details. Details
are always vulgar.
"Of course, now and then things linger. I once wore nothing but
violets all through one season, as mourning for a romance that would
not die. Ultimately, however, it did die. I forget what killed it.
I think it was her proposing to sacrifice the whole world for me.
That is always a dreadful moment. It fills one with the terror of
eternity. Well,—would you believe it?—a week ago, at Lady
Hampshire's, I found myself seated at dinner next the lady in
question, and she insisted on going over the whole thing again, and
digging up the past, and raking up the future. I had buried my
romance in a bed of poppies. She dragged it out again, and assured
me that I had spoiled her life. I am bound to state that she ate an
enormous dinner, so I did not feel any anxiety. But what a lack of
taste she showed! The one charm of the past is that it is the past.
But women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a
sixth act, and as soon as the interest of the play is entirely over
they propose to continue it. If they were allowed to have their way,
every comedy would have a tragic ending, and every tragedy would
culminate in a farce. They are charmingly artificial, but they have
no sense of art. You are more fortunate than I am. I assure you,
Dorian, that not one of the women I have known would have done for me
what Sibyl Vane did for you. Ordinary women always console
themselves. Some of them do it by going in for sentimental colors.
Never trust a woman who wears mauve, whatever her age may be, or a
woman over thirty-five who is fond of pink ribbons. It always means
that they have a history. Others find a great consolation in
suddenly discovering the good qualities of their husbands. They
flaunt their conjugal felicity in one's face, as if it was the most
fascinating of sins. Religion consoles some. Its mysteries have all
the charm of a flirtation, a woman once told me; and I can quite
understand it. Besides, nothing makes one so vain as being told that
one is a sinner. There is really no end to the consolations that
women find in modern life. Indeed, I have not mentioned the most
important one of all."
"What is that, Harry?" said Dorian Gray, listlessly.
"Oh, the obvious one. Taking some one else's admirer when one
loses one's own. In good society that always whitewashes a woman.
But really, Dorian, how different Sibyl Vane must have been from all
the women one meets! There is something to me quite beautiful about
her death. I am glad I am living in a century when such wonders
happen. They make one believe in the reality of the things that
shallow, fashionable people play with, such as romance, passion, and
"I was terribly cruel to her. You forget that."
"I believe that women appreciate cruelty more than anything else.
They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them,
but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They
love being dominated. I am sure you were splendid. I have never
seen you angry, but I can fancy how delightful you looked. And,
after all, you said something to me the day before yesterday that
seemed to me at the time to be merely fanciful, but that I see now
was absolutely true, and it explains everything."
"What was that, Harry?"
"You said to me that Sibyl Vane represented to you all the heroines
of romance—that she was Desdemona one night, and Ophelia the other;
that if she died as Juliet, she came to life as Imogen."
"She will never come to life again now," murmured the lad, burying
his face in his hands.
"No, she will never come to life. She has played her last part.
But you must think of that lonely death in the tawdry dressing-room
simply as a strange lurid fragment from some Jacobean tragedy, as a
wonderful scene from Webster, or Ford, or Cyril Tourneur. The girl
never really lived, and so she has never really died. To you at
least she was always a dream, a phantom that flitted through
Shakespeare's plays and left them lovelier for its presence, a reed
through which Shakespeare's music sounded richer and more full of
joy. The moment she touched actual life, she marred it, and it
marred her, and so she passed away. Mourn for Ophelia, if you like.
Put ashes on your head because Cordelia was strangled. Cry out
against Heaven because the daughter of Brabantio died. But don't
waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was less real than they are."
There was a silence. The evening darkened in the room.
Noiselessly, and with silver feet, the shadows crept in from the
garden. The colors faded wearily out of things.
After some time Dorian Gray looked up. "You have explained me to
myself, Harry," he murmured, with something of a sigh of relief. "I
felt all that you have said, but somehow I was afraid of it, and I
could not express it to myself. How well you know me! But we will
not talk again of what has happened. It has been a marvellous
experience. That is all. I wonder if life has still in store for me
anything as marvellous."
"Life has everything in store for you, Dorian. There is nothing
that you, with your extraordinary good looks, will not be able to do."
"But suppose, Harry, I became haggard, and gray, and wrinkled?
"Ah, then," said Lord Henry, rising to go,—"then, my dear Dorian,
you would have to fight for your victories. As it is, they are
brought to you. No, you must keep your good looks. We live in an
age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be
beautiful. We cannot spare you. And now you had better dress, and
drive down to the club. We are rather late, as it is."
"I think I shall join you at the Opera, Harry. I feel too tired to
eat anything. What is the number of your sister's box?"
"Twenty-seven, I believe. It is on the grand tier. You will see
her name on the door. But I am sorry you won't come and dine."
"I don't feel up to it," said Dorian, wearily. "But I am awfully
obliged to you for all that you have said to me. You are certainly
my best friend. No one has ever understood me as you have."
"We are only at the beginning of our friendship, Dorian," answered
Lord Henry, shaking him by the hand. "Good-by. I shall see you
before nine-thirty, I hope. Remember, Patti is singing."
As he closed the door behind him, Dorian Gray touched the bell,
and in a few minutes Victor appeared with the lamps and drew the
blinds down. He waited impatiently for him to go. The man seemed to
take an interminable time about everything.
As soon as he had left, he rushed to the screen, and drew it back.
No; there was no further change in the picture. It had received the
news of Sibyl Vane's death before he had known of it himself. It was
conscious of the events of life as they occurred. The vicious
cruelty that marred the fine lines of the mouth had, no doubt,
appeared at the very moment that the girl had drunk the poison,
whatever it was. Or was it indifferent to results? Did it merely
take cognizance of what passed within the soul? he wondered, and
hoped that some day he would see the change taking place before his
very eyes, shuddering as he hoped it.
Poor Sibyl! what a romance it had all been! She had often mimicked
death on the stage, and at last Death himself had touched her, and
brought her with him. How had she played that dreadful scene? Had
she cursed him, as she died? No; she had died for love of him, and
love would always be a sacrament to him now. She had atoned for
everything, by the sacrifice she had made of her life. He would not
think any more of what she had made him go through, that horrible
night at the theatre. When he thought of her, it would be as a
wonderful tragic figure to show Love had been a great reality. A
wonderful tragic figure? Tears came to his eyes as he remembered her
child-like look and winsome fanciful ways and shy tremulous grace. He
wiped them away hastily, and looked again at the picture.
He felt that the time had really come for making his choice. Or
had his choice already been made? Yes, life had decided that for
him,— life, and his own infinite curiosity about life. Eternal
youth, infinite passion, pleasures subtle and secret, wild joys and
wilder sins,—he was to have all these things. The portrait was to
bear the burden of his shame: that was all.
A feeling of pain came over him as he thought of the desecration
that was in store for the fair face on the canvas. Once, in boyish
mockery of Narcissus, he had kissed, or feigned to kiss, those
painted lips that now smiled so cruelly at him. Morning after
morning he had sat before the portrait wondering at its beauty,
almost enamoured of it, as it seemed to him at times. Was it to
alter now with every mood to which he yielded? Was it to become a
hideous and loathsome thing, to be hidden away in a locked room, to
be shut out from the sunlight that had so often touched to brighter
gold the waving wonder of the hair? The pity of it! the pity of it!
For a moment he thought of praying that the horrible sympathy that
existed between him and the picture might cease. It had changed in
answer to a prayer; perhaps in answer to a prayer it might remain
unchanged. And, yet, who, that knew anything about Life, would
surrender the chance of remaining always young, however fantastic
that chance might be, or with what fateful consequences it might be
fraught? Besides, was it really under his control? Had it indeed
been prayer that had produced the substitution? Might there not be
some curious scientific reason for it all? If thought could exercise
its influence upon a living organism, might not thought exercise an
influence upon dead and inorganic things? Nay, without thought or
conscious desire, might not things external to ourselves vibrate in
unison with our moods and passions, atom calling to atom, in secret
love or strange affinity? But the reason was of no importance. He
would never again tempt by a prayer any terrible power. If the
picture was to alter, it was to alter. That was all. Why inquire
too closely into it?
For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be
able to follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would
be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his
own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul. And when winter
came upon it, he would still be standing where spring trembles on the
verge of summer. When the blood crept from its face, and left behind
a pallid mask of chalk with leaden eyes, he would keep the glamour of
boyhood. Not one blossom of his loveliness would ever fade. Not one
pulse of his life would ever weaken. Like the gods of the Greeks, he
would be strong, and fleet, and joyous. What did it matter what
happened to the colored image on the canvas? He would be safe. That
He drew the screen back into its former place in front of the
picture, smiling as he did so, and passed into his bedroom, where his
valet was already waiting for him. An hour later he was at the
Opera, and Lord Henry was leaning over his chair.
As he was sitting at breakfast next morning, Basil Hallward was
shown into the room.
"I am so glad I have found you, Dorian," he said, gravely. "I
called last night, and they told me you were at the Opera. Of course
I knew that was impossible. But I wish you had left word where you
had really gone to. I passed a dreadful evening, half afraid that one
tragedy might be followed by another. I think you might have
telegraphed for me when you heard of it first. I read of it quite by
chance in a late edition of the Globe, that I picked up at the club.
I came here at once, and was miserable at not finding you. I can't
tell you how heart-broken I am about the whole thing. I know what
you must suffer. But where were you? Did you go down and see the
girl's mother? For a moment I thought of following you there. They
gave the address in the paper. Somewhere in the Euston Road, isn't
it? But I was afraid of intruding upon a sorrow that I could not
lighten. Poor woman! What a state she must be in! And her only
child, too! What did she say about it all?"
"My dear Basil, how do I know?" murmured Dorian, sipping some pale-
yellow wine from a delicate gold-beaded bubble of Venetian glass, and
looking dreadfully bored. "I was at the Opera. You should have come
on there. I met Lady Gwendolen, Harry's sister, for the first time.
We were in her box. She is perfectly charming; and Patti sang
divinely. Don't talk about horrid subjects. If one doesn't talk
about a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression, as
Harry says, that gives reality to things. Tell me about yourself and
what you are painting."
"You went to the Opera?" said Hallward, speaking very slowly, and
with a strained touch of pain in his voice. "You went to the Opera
while Sibyl Vane was lying dead in some sordid lodging? You can talk
to me of other women being charming, and of Patti singing divinely,
before the girl you loved has even the quiet of a grave to sleep in?
Why, man, there are horrors in store for that little white body of
"Stop, Basil! I won't hear it!" cried Dorian, leaping to his feet.
"You must not tell me about things. What is done is done. What is
past is past."
"You call yesterday the past?"
"What has the actual lapse of time got to do with it? It is only
shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who
is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a
pleasure. I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to
use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them."
"Dorian, this is horrible! Something has changed you completely.
You look exactly the same wonderful boy who used to come down to my
studio, day after day, to sit for his picture. But you were simple,
natural, and affectionate then. You were the most unspoiled creature
in the whole world. Now, I don't know what has come over you. You
talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you. It is all Harry's
influence. I see that."
The lad flushed up, and, going to the window, looked out on the
green, flickering garden for a few moments. "I owe a great deal to
Harry, Basil," he said, at last,—"more than I owe to you. You only
taught me to be vain."
"Well, I am punished for that, Dorian,—or shall be some day."
"I don't know what you mean, Basil," he exclaimed, turning round.
"I don't know what you want. What do you want?"
"I want the Dorian Gray I used to know."
"Basil," said the lad, going over to him, and putting his hand on
his shoulder, "you have come too late. Yesterday when I heard that
Sibyl Vane had killed herself—"
"Killed herself! Good heavens! is there no doubt about that?"
cried Hallward, looking up at him with an expression of horror.
"My dear Basil! Surely you don't think it was a vulgar accident?
Of course she killed herself It is one of the great romantic
tragedies of the age. As a rule, people who act lead the most
commonplace lives. They are good husbands, or faithful wives, or
something tedious. You know what I mean,—middle-class virtue, and
all that kind of thing. How different Sibyl was! She lived her
finest tragedy. She was always a heroine. The last night she
played—the night you saw her—she acted badly because she had known
the reality of love. When she knew its unreality, she died, as Juliet
might have died. She passed again into the sphere of art. There is
something of the martyr about her. Her death has all the pathetic
uselessness of martyrdom, all its wasted beauty. But, as I was
saying, you must not think I have not suffered. If you had come in
yesterday at a particular moment,—about half-past five, perhaps, or a
quarter to six,—you would have found me in tears. Even Harry, who
was here, who brought me the news, in fact, had no idea what I was
going through. I suffered immensely, then it passed away. I cannot
repeat an emotion. No one can, except sentimentalists. And you are
awfully unjust, Basil. You come down here to console me. That is
charming of you. You find me consoled, and you are furious. How like
a sympathetic person! You remind me of a story Harry told me about a
certain philanthropist who spent twenty years of his life in trying
to get some grievance redressed, or some unjust law altered,—I
forget exactly what it was. Finally he succeeded, and nothing could
exceed his disappointment. He had absolutely nothing to do, almost
died of ennui, and became a confirmed misanthrope. And besides, my
dear old Basil, if you really want to console me, teach me rather to
forget what has happened, or to see it from a proper artistic point
of view. Was it not Gautier who used to write about la consolation
des arts? I remember picking up a little vellum-covered book in your
studio one day and chancing on that delightful phrase. Well, I am
not like that young man you told me of when we were down at Marlowe
together, the young man who used to say that yellow satin could
console one for all the miseries of life. I love beautiful things
that one can touch and handle. Old brocades, green bronzes, lacquer-
work, carved ivories, exquisite surroundings, luxury, pomp,—there is
much to be got from all these. But the artistic temperament that they
create, or at any rate reveal, is still more to me. To become the
spectator of one's own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering
of life. I know you are surprised at my talking to you like this.
You have not realized how I have developed. I was a school-boy when
you knew me. I am a man now. I have new passions, new thoughts, new
ideas. I am different, but you must not like me less. I am changed,
but you must always be my friend. Of course I am very fond of Harry.
But I know that you are better than he is. You are not stronger,—you
are too much afraid of life,—but you are better. And how happy we
used to be together! Don't leave me, Basil, and don't quarrel with
me. I am what I am. There is nothing more to be said."
Hallward felt strangely moved. Rugged and straightforward as he
was, there was something in his nature that was purely feminine in its
tenderness. The lad was infinitely dear to him, and his personality
had been the great turning-point in his art. He could not bear the
idea of reproaching him any more. After all, his indifference was
probably merely a mood that would pass away. There was so much in
him that was good, so much in him that was noble.
"Well, Dorian," he said, at length, with a sad smile, "I won't
speak to you again about this horrible thing, after to-day. I only
trust your name won't be mentioned in connection with it. The inquest
is to take place this afternoon. Have they summoned you?"
Dorian shook his head, and a look of annoyance passed over his face
at the mention of the word "inquest." There was something so crude
and vulgar about everything of the kind. "They don't know my name,"
"But surely she did?"
"Only my Christian name, and that I am quite sure she never
mentioned to any one. She told me once that they were all rather
curious to learn who I was, and that she invariably told them my name
was Prince Charming. It was pretty of her. You must do me a drawing
of her, Basil. I should like to have something more of her than the
memory of a few kisses and some broken pathetic words."
"I will try and do something, Dorian, if it would please you. But
you must come and sit to me yourself again. I can't get on without
"I will never sit to you again, Basil. It is impossible!" he
exclaimed, starting back.
Hallward stared at him, "My dear boy, what nonsense!" he cried.
"Do you mean to say you don't like what I did of you? Where is it?
Why have you pulled the screen in front of it? Let me look at it.
It is the best thing I have ever painted. Do take that screen away,
Dorian. It is simply horrid of your servant hiding my work like
that. I felt the room looked different as I came in."
"My servant has nothing to do with it, Basil. You don't imagine I
let him arrange my room for me? He settles my flowers for me
sometimes,—that is all. No; I did it myself. The light was too
strong on the portrait."
"Too strong! Impossible, my dear fellow! It is an admirable place
for it. Let me see it." And Hallward walked towards the corner of
A cry of terror broke from Dorian Gray's lips, and he rushed
between Hallward and the screen. "Basil," he said, looking very pale,
"you must not look at it. I don't wish you to."
"Not look at my own work! you are not serious. Why shouldn't I
look at it?" exclaimed Hallward, laughing.
"If you try to look at it, Basil, on my word of honor I will never
speak to you again as long as I live. I am quite serious. I don't
offer any explanation, and you are not to ask for any. But,
remember, if you touch this screen, everything is over between us."
Hallward was thunderstruck. He looked at Dorian Gray in absolute
amazement. He had never seen him like this before. The lad was
absolutely pallid with rage. His hands were clinched, and the pupils
of his eyes were like disks of blue fire. He was trembling all over.
"But what is the matter? Of course I won't look at it if you don't
want me to," he said, rather coldly, turning on his heel, and going
over towards the window. "But, really, it seems rather absurd that I
shouldn't see my own work, especially as I am going to exhibit it in
Paris in the autumn. I shall probably have to give it another coat
of varnish before that, so I must see it some day, and why not to-
"To exhibit it! You want to exhibit it?" exclaimed Dorian Gray, a
strange sense of terror creeping over him. Was the world going to be
shown his secret? Were people to gape at the mystery of his life?
That was impossible. Something—he did not know what—had to be done
"Yes: I don't suppose you will object to that. Georges Petit is
going to collect all my best pictures for a special exhibition in the
Rue de Seze, which will open the first week in October. The portrait
will only be away a month. I should think you could easily spare it
for that time. In fact, you are sure to be out of town. And if you
hide it always behind a screen, you can't care much abut it."
Dorian Gray passed his hand over his forehead. There were beads of
perspiration there. He felt that he was on the brink of a horrible
danger. "You told me a month ago that you would never exhibit it,"
he said. "Why have you changed your mind? You people who go in for
being consistent have just as many moods as others. The only
difference is that your moods are rather meaningless. You can't have
forgotten that you assured me most solemnly that nothing in the world
would induce you to send it to any exhibition. You told Harry
exactly the same thing." He stopped suddenly, and a gleam of light
came into his eyes. He remembered that Lord Henry had said to him
once, half seriously and half in jest, "If you want to have an
interesting quarter of an hour, get Basil to tell you why he won't
exhibit your picture. He told me why he wouldn't, and it was a
revelation to me." Yes, perhaps Basil, too, had his secret. He
would ask him and try.
"Basil," he said, coming over quite close, and looking him straight
in the face, "we have each of us a secret. Let me know yours, and I
will tell you mine. What was your reason for refusing to exhibit my
Hallward shuddered in spite of himself. "Dorian, if I told you,
you might like me less than you do, and you would certainly laugh at
me. I could not bear your doing either of those two things. If you
wish me never to look at your picture again, I am content. I have
always you to look at. If you wish the best work I have ever done to
be hidden from the world, I am satisfied. Your friendship is dearer
to me than any fame or reputation."
"No, Basil, you must tell me," murmured Dorian Gray. "I think I
have a right to know." His feeling of terror had passed away, and
curiosity had taken its place. He was determined to find out Basil
"Let us sit down, Dorian," said Hallward, looking pale and pained.
"Let us sit down. I will sit in the shadow, and you shall sit in the
sunlight. Our lives are like that. Just answer me one question.
Have you noticed in the picture something that you did not like?—
something that probably at first did not strike you, but that
revealed itself to you suddenly?"
"Basil!" cried the lad, clutching the arms of his chair with
trembling hands, and gazing at him with wild, startled eyes.
"I see you did. Don't speak. Wait till you hear what I have to
say. It is quite true that I have worshipped you with far more romance
of feeling than a man usually gives to a friend. Somehow, I had never
loved a woman. I suppose I never had time. Perhaps, as Harry says,
a really 'grande passion' is the privilege of those who have nothing
to do, and that is the use of the idle classes in a country. Well,
from the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary
influence over me. I quite admit that I adored you madly,
extravagantly, absurdly. I was jealous of every one to whom you
spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I
was with you. When I was away from you, you were still present in my
art. It was all wrong and foolish. It is all wrong and foolish
still. Of course I never let you know anything about this. It would
have been impossible. You would not have understood it; I did not
understand it myself. One day I determined to paint a wonderful
portrait of you. It was to have been my masterpiece. It is my
masterpiece. But, as I worked at it, every flake and film of color
seemed to me to reveal my secret. I grew afraid that the world would
know of my idolatry. I felt, Dorian, that I had told too much. Then
it was that I resolved never to allow the picture to be exhibited.
You were a little annoyed; but then you did not realize all that it
meant to me. Harry, to whom I talked about it, laughed at me. But I
did not mind that. When the picture was finished, and I sat alone
with it, I felt that I was right. Well, after a few days the portrait
left my studio, and as soon as I had got rid of the intolerable
fascination of its presence it seemed to me that I had been foolish in
imagining that I had said anything in it, more than that you were
extremely good-looking and that I could paint. Even now I cannot help
feeling that it is a mistake to think that the passion one feels in
creation is ever really shown in the work one creates. Art is more
abstract than we fancy. Form and color tell us of form and
color,—that is all. It often seems to me that art conceals the
artist far more completely than it ever reveals him. And so when I got
this offer from Paris I determined to make your portrait the principal
thing in my exhibition. It never occurred to me that you would
refuse. I see now that you were right. The picture must not be
shown. You must not be angry with me, Dorian, for what I have told
you. As I said to Harry, once, you are made to be worshipped."
Dorian Gray drew a long breath. The color came back to his cheeks,
and a smile played about his lips. The peril was over. He was safe
for the time. Yet he could not help feeling infinite pity for the
young man who had just made this strange confession to him. He
wondered if he would ever be so dominated by the personality of a
friend. Lord Harry had the charm of being very dangerous. But that
was all. He was too clever and too cynical to be really fond of.
Would there ever be some one who would fill him with a strange
idolatry? Was that one of the things that life had in store?
"It is extraordinary to me, Dorian," said Hallward, "that you
should have seen this in the picture. Did you really see it?"
"Of course I did."
"Well, you don't mind my looking at it now?"
Dorian shook his head. "You must not ask me that, Basil. I could
not possibly let you stand in front of that picture."
"You will some day, surely?"
"Well, perhaps you are right. And now good-by, Dorian. You have
been the one person in my life of whom I have been really fond. I
don't suppose I shall often see you again. You don't know what it
cost me to tell you all that I have told you."
"My dear Basil," cried Dorian, "what have you told me? Simply that
you felt that you liked me too much. That is not even a compliment."
"It was not intended as a compliment. It was a confession."
"A very disappointing one."
"Why, what did you expect, Dorian? You didn't see anything else in
the picture, did you? There was nothing else to see?"
"No: there was nothing else to see. Why do you ask? But you
mustn't talk about not meeting me again, or anything of that kind.
You and I are friends, Basil, and we must always remain so."
"You have got Harry," said Hallward, sadly.
"Oh, Harry!" cried the lad, with a ripple of laughter. "Harry
spends his days in saying what is incredible, and his evenings in
doing what is improbable. Just the sort of life I would like to lead.
But still I don't think I would go to Harry if I was in trouble. I
would sooner go to you, Basil."
"But you won't sit to me again?"
"You spoil my life as an artist by refusing, Dorian. No man comes
across two ideal things. Few come across one."
"I can't explain it to you, Basil, but I must never sit to you
again. I will come and have tea with you. That will be just as
"Pleasanter for you, I am afraid," murmured Hallward, regretfully.
"And now good-by. I am sorry you won't let me look at the picture
once again. But that can't be helped. I quite understand what you
feel about it."
As he left the room, Dorian Gray smiled to himself. Poor Basil!
how little he knew of the true reason! And how strange it was that,
instead of having been forced to reveal his own secret, he had
succeeded, almost by chance, in wresting a secret from his friend!
How much that strange confession explained to him! Basil's absurd
fits of jealousy, his wild devotion, his extravagant panegyrics, his
curious reticences,—he understood them all now, and he felt sorry.
There was something tragic in a friendship so colored by romance.
He sighed, and touched the bell. The portrait must be hidden away
at all costs. He could not run such a risk of discovery again. It
had been mad of him to have the thing remain, even for an hour, in a
room to which any of his friends had access.
When his servant entered, he looked at him steadfastly, and
wondered if he had thought of peering behind the screen. The man was
quite impassive, and waited for his orders. Dorian lit a cigarette,
and walked over to the glass and glanced into it. He could see the
reflection of Victor's face perfectly. It was like a placid mask of
servility. There was nothing to be afraid of, there. Yet he thought
it best to be on his guard.
Speaking very slowly, he told him to tell the housekeeper that he
wanted to see her, and then to go to the frame-maker's and ask him to
send two of his men round at once. It seemed to him that as the man
left the room he peered in the direction of the screen. Or was that
only his fancy?
After a few moments, Mrs. Leaf, a dear old lady in a black silk
dress, with a photograph of the late Mr. Leaf framed in a large gold
brooch at her neck, and old-fashioned thread mittens on her wrinkled
hands, bustled into the room.
"Well, Master Dorian," she said, "what can I do for you? I beg
your pardon, sir,"—here came a courtesy,—"I shouldn't call you
Master Dorian any more. But, Lord bless you, sir, I have known you
since you were a baby, and many's the trick you've played on poor old
Leaf. Not that you were not always a good boy, sir; but boys will be
boys, Master Dorian, and jam is a temptation to the young, isn't it,
He laughed. "You must always call me Master Dorian, Leaf. I will
be very angry with you if you don't. And I assure you I am quite as
fond of jam now as I used to be. Only when I am asked out to tea I
am never offered any. I want you to give me the key of the room at
the top of the house."
"The old school-room, Master Dorian? Why, it's full of dust. I
must get it arranged and put straight before you go into it. It's not
fit for you to see, Master Dorian. It is not, indeed."
"I don't want it put straight, Leaf. I only want the key."
"Well, Master Dorian, you'll be covered with cobwebs if you goes
into it. Why, it hasn't been opened for nearly five years,—not since
his lordship died."
He winced at the mention of his dead uncle's name. He had hateful
memories of him. "That does not matter, Leaf," he replied. "All I
want is the key."
"And here is the key, Master Dorian," said the old lady, after
going over the contents of her bunch with tremulously uncertain hands.
"Here is the key. I'll have it off the ring in a moment. But you
don't think of living up there, Master Dorian, and you so comfortable
"No, Leaf, I don't. I merely want to see the place, and perhaps
store something in it,—that is all. Thank you, Leaf. I hope your
rheumatism is better; and mind you send me up jam for breakfast."
Mrs. Leaf shook her head. "Them foreigners doesn't understand jam,
Master Dorian. They calls it 'compot.' But I'll bring it to you
myself some morning, if you lets me."
"That will be very kind of you, Leaf," he answered, looking at the
key; and, having made him an elaborate courtesy, the old lady left
the room, her face wreathed in smiles. She had a strong objection to
the French valet. It was a poor thing, she felt, for any one to be
born a foreigner.
As the door closed, Dorian put the key in his pocket, and looked
round the room. His eye fell on a large purple satin coverlet
heavily embroidered with gold, a splendid piece of late seventeenth-
century Venetian work that his uncle had found in a convent near
Bologna. Yes, that would serve to wrap the dreadful thing in. It
had perhaps served often as a pall for the dead. Now it was to hide
something that had a corruption of its own, worse than the corruption
of death itself,—something that would breed horrors and yet would
never die. What the worm was to the corpse, his sins would be to the
painted image on the canvas. They would mar its beauty, and eat away
its grace. They would defile it, and make it shameful. And yet the
thing would still live on. It would be always alive.
He shuddered, and for a moment he regretted that he had not told
Basil the true reason why he had wished to hide the picture away.
Basil would have helped him to resist Lord Henry's influence, and the
still more poisonous influences that came from his own temperament.
The love that he bore him—for it was really love—had something
noble and intellectual in it. It was not that mere physical
admiration of beauty that is born of the senses, and that dies when
the senses tire. It was such love as Michael Angelo had known, and
Montaigne, and Winckelmann, and Shakespeare himself. Yes, Basil
could have saved him. But it was too late now. The past could
always be annihilated. Regret, denial, or forgetfulness could do
that. But the future was inevitable. There were passions in him
that would find their terrible outlet, dreams that would make the
shadow of their evil real.
He took up from the couch the great purple-and-gold texture that
covered it, and, holding it in his hands, passed behind the screen.
Was the face on the canvas viler than before? It seemed to him that
it was unchanged; and yet his loathing of it was intensified. Gold
hair, blue eyes, and rose-red lips,—they all were there. It was
simply the expression that had altered. That was horrible in its
cruelty. Compared to what he saw in it of censure or rebuke, how
shallow Basil's reproaches about Sibyl Vane had been!—how shallow,
and of what little account! His own soul was looking out at him from
the canvas and calling him to judgment. A look of pain came across
him, and he flung the rich pall over the picture. As he did so, a
knock came to the door. He passed out as his servant entered.
"The persons are here, monsieur."
He felt that the man must be got rid of at once. He must not be
allowed to know where the picture was being taken to. There was
something sly about him, and he had thoughtful, treacherous eyes.
Sitting down at the writing-table, he scribbled a note to Lord Henry,
asking him to send him round something to read, and reminding him
that they were to meet at eight-fifteen that evening.
"Wait for an answer," he said, handing it to him, "and show the men
In two or three minutes there was another knock, and Mr. Ashton
himself, the celebrated frame-maker of South Audley Street, came in
with a somewhat rough-looking young assistant. Mr. Ashton was a
florid, red-whiskered little man, whose admiration for art was
considerably tempered by the inveterate impecuniosity of most of the
artists who dealt with him. As a rule, he never left his shop. He
waited for people to come to him. But he always made an exception in
favor of Dorian Gray. There was something about Dorian that charmed
everybody. It was a pleasure even to see him.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Gray?" he said, rubbing his fat
freckled hands. "I thought I would do myself the honor of coming
round in person. I have just got a beauty of a frame, sir. Picked it
up at a sale. Old Florentine. Came from Fonthill, I believe.
Admirably suited for a religious picture, Mr. Gray."
"I am so sorry you have given yourself the trouble of coming round,
Mr. Ashton. I will certainly drop in and look at the frame,—though
I don't go in much for religious art,—but to-day I only want a
picture carried to the top of the house for me. It is rather heavy,
so I thought I would ask you to lend me a couple of your men."
"No trouble at all, Mr. Gray. I am delighted to be of any service
to you. Which is the work of art, sir?"
"This," replied Dorian, moving the screen back. "Can you move it,
covering and all, just as it is? I don't want it to get scratched
"There will be no difficulty, sir," said the genial frame-maker,
beginning, with the aid of his assistant, to unhook the picture from
the long brass chains by which it was suspended. "And, now, where
shall we carry it to, Mr. Gray?"
"I will show you the way, Mr. Ashton, if you will kindly follow me.
Or perhaps you had better go in front. I am afraid it is right at
the top of the house. We will go up by the front staircase, as it is
He held the door open for them, and they passed out into the hall
and began the ascent. The elaborate character of the frame had made
the picture extremely bulky, and now and then, in spite of the
obsequious protests of Mr. Ashton, who had a true tradesman's dislike
of seeing a gentleman doing anything useful, Dorian put his hand to it
so as to help them.
"Something of a load to carry, sir," gasped the little man, when
they reached the top landing. And he wiped his shiny forehead.
"A terrible load to carry," murmured Dorian, as he unlocked the
door that opened into the room that was to keep for him the curious
secret of his life and hide his soul from the eyes of men.
He had not entered the place for more than four years,—not,
indeed, since he had used it first as a play-room when he was a child
and then as a study when he grew somewhat older. It was a large,
well- proportioned room, which had been specially built by the last
Lord Sherard for the use of the little nephew whom, being himself
childless, and perhaps for other reasons, he had always hated and
desired to keep at a distance. It did not appear to Dorian to have
much changed. There was the huge Italian cassone, with its
fantastically-painted panels and its tarnished gilt mouldings, in
which he had so often hidden himself as a boy. There was the
satinwood bookcase filled with his dog-eared school-books. On the
wall behind it was hanging the same ragged Flemish tapestry where a
faded king and queen were playing chess in a garden, while a company
of hawkers rode by, carrying hooded birds on their gauntleted wrists.
How well he recalled it all! Every moment of his lonely childhood
came back to him, as he looked round. He remembered the stainless
purity of his boyish life, and it seemed horrible to him that it was
here that the fatal portrait was to be hidden away. How little he had
thought, in those dead days, of all that was in store for him!
But there was no other place in the house so secure from prying
eyes as this. He had the key, and no one else could enter it.
Beneath its purple pall, the face painted on the canvas could grow
bestial, sodden, and unclean. What did it matter? No one could see
it. He himself would not see it. Why should he watch the hideous
corruption of his soul? He kept his youth,—that was enough. And,
besides, might not his nature grow finer, after all? There was no
reason that the future should be so full of shame. Some love might
come across his life, and purify him, and shield him from those sins
that seemed to be already stirring in spirit and in flesh,—those
curious unpictured sins whose very mystery lent them their subtlety
and their charm. Perhaps, some day, the cruel look would have passed
away from the scarlet sensitive mouth, and he might show to the world
Basil Hallward's masterpiece.
No; that was impossible. The thing upon the canvas was growing
old, hour by hour, and week by week. Even if it escaped the
hideousness of sin, the hideousness of age was in store for it. The
cheeks would become hollow or flaccid. Yellow crow's-feet would creep
round the fading eyes and make them horrible. The hair would lose its
brightness, the mouth would gape or droop, would be foolish or gross,
as the mouths of old men are. There would be the wrinkled throat,
the cold blue-veined hands, the twisted body, that he remembered in
the uncle who had been so stern to him in his boyhood. The picture
had to be concealed. There was no help for it.
"Bring it in, Mr. Ashton, please," he said, wearily, turning round.
"I am sorry I kept you so long. I was thinking of something else."
"Always glad to have a rest, Mr. Gray," answered the frame-maker,
who was still gasping for breath. "Where shall we put it, sir?"
"Oh, anywhere, Here, this will do. I don't want to have it hung
up. Just lean it against the wall. Thanks."
"Might one look at the work of art, sir?"
Dorian started. "It would not interest you, Mr. Ashton," he said,
keeping his eye on the man. He felt ready to leap upon him and fling
him to the ground if he dared to lift the gorgeous hanging that
concealed the secret of his life. "I won't trouble you any more now.
I am much obliged for your kindness in coming round."
"Not at all, not at all, Mr. Gray. Ever ready to do anything for
you, sir." And Mr. Ashton tramped down-stairs, followed by the
assistant, who glanced back at Dorian with a look of shy wonder in
his rough, uncomely face. He had never seen any one so marvellous.
When the sound of their footsteps had died away, Dorian locked the
door, and put the key in his pocket. He felt safe now. No one would
ever look on the horrible thing. No eye but his would ever see his
On reaching the library he found that it was just after five
o'clock, and that the tea had been already brought up. On a little
table of dark perfumed wood thickly incrusted with nacre, a present
from his guardian's wife, Lady Radley, who had spent the preceding
winter in Cairo, was lying a note from Lord Henry, and beside it was a
book bound in yellow paper, the cover slightly torn and the edges
soiled. A copy of the third edition of the St. James's Gazette had
been placed on the tea-tray. It was evident that Victor had returned.
He wondered if he had met the men in the hall as they were leaving
the house and had wormed out of them what they had been doing. He
would be sure to miss the picture,—had no doubt missed it already,
while he had been laying the tea-things. The screen had not been
replaced, and the blank space on the wall was visible. Perhaps some
night he might find him creeping up-stairs and trying to force the
door of the room. It was a horrible thing to have a spy in one's
house. He had heard of rich men who had been blackmailed all their
lives by some servant who had read a letter, or overheard a
conversation, or picked up a card with an address, or found beneath a
pillow a withered flower or a bit of crumpled lace.
He sighed, and, having poured himself out some tea, opened Lord
Henry's note. It was simply to say that he sent him round the
evening paper, and a book that might interest him, and that he would
be at the club at eight-fifteen. He opened the St. James's
languidly, and looked through it. A red pencil-mark on the fifth
page caught his eye. He read the following paragraph:
"INQUEST ON AN ACTRESS.—An inquest was held this morning at the
Bell Tavern, Hoxton Road, by Mr. Danby, the District Coroner, on the
body of Sibyl Vane, a young actress recently engaged at the Royal
Theatre, Holborn. A verdict of death by misadventure was returned.
Considerable sympathy was expressed for the mother of the deceased,
who was greatly affected during the giving of her own evidence, and
that of Dr. Birrell, who had made the post-mortem examination of the
He frowned slightly, and, tearing the paper in two, went across the
room and flung the pieces into a gilt basket. How ugly it all was!
And how horribly real ugliness made things! He felt a little annoyed
with Lord Henry for having sent him the account. And it was
certainly stupid of him to have marked it with red pencil. Victor
might have read it. The man knew more than enough English for that.
Perhaps he had read it, and had begun to suspect something. And,
yet, what did it matter? What had Dorian Gray to do with Sibyl
Vane's death? There was nothing to fear. Dorian Gray had not killed
His eye fell on the yellow book that Lord Henry had sent him. What
was it, he wondered. He went towards the little pearl-colored
octagonal stand, that had always looked to him like the work of some
strange Egyptian bees who wrought in silver, and took the volume up.
He flung himself into an arm-chair, and began to turn over the
leaves. After a few minutes, he became absorbed. It was the
strangest book he had ever read. It seemed to him that in exquisite
raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world
were passing in dumb show before him. Things that he had dimly
dreamed of were suddenly made real to him. Things of which he had
never dreamed were gradually revealed.
It was a novel without a plot, and with only one character, being,
indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian, who
spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the
passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except
his own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods
through which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their mere
artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called
virtue, as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call
sin. The style in which it was written was that curious jewelled
style, vivid and obscure at once, full of argot and of archaisms, of
technical expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that
characterizes the work of some of the finest artists of the French
school of Decadents. There were in it metaphors as monstrous as
orchids, and as evil in color. The life of the senses was described
in the terms of mystical philosophy. One hardly knew at times
whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval
saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner. It was a
poisonous book. The heavy odor of incense seemed to cling about its
pages and to trouble the brain. The mere cadence of the sentences,
the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex
refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of
the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of revery, a
malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and
the creeping shadows.
Cloudless, and pierced by one solitary star, a copper-green sky
gleamed through the windows. He read on by its wan light till he
could read no more. Then, after his valet had reminded him several
times of the lateness of the hour, he got up, and, going into the
next room, placed the book on the little Florentine table that always
stood at his bedside, and began to dress for dinner.
It was almost nine o'clock before he reached the club, where he
found Lord Henry sitting alone, in the morning-room, looking very
"I am so sorry, Harry," he cried, "but really it is entirely your
fault. That book you sent me so fascinated me that I forgot what the
"I thought you would like it," replied his host, rising from his
"I didn't say I liked it, Harry. I said it fascinated me. There
is a great difference."
"Ah, if you have discovered that, you have discovered a great
deal," murmured Lord Henry, with his curious smile. "Come, let us go
in to dinner. It is dreadfully late, and I am afraid the champagne
will be too much iced."
For years, Dorian Gray could not free himself from the memory of
this book. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he never
sought to free himself from it. He procured from Paris no less than
five large-paper copies of the first edition, and had them bound in
different colors, so that they might suit his various moods and the
changing fancies of a nature over which he seemed, at times, to have
almost entirely lost control. The hero, the wonderful young
Parisian, in whom the romantic temperament and the scientific
temperament were so strangely blended, became to him a kind of
prefiguring type of himself. And, indeed, the whole book seemed to
him to contain the story of his own life, written before he had lived
In one point he was more fortunate than the book's fantastic hero.
He never knew—never, indeed, had any cause to know—that somewhat
grotesque dread of mirrors, and polished metal surfaces, and still
water, which came upon the young Parisian so early in his life, and
was occasioned by the sudden decay of a beauty that had once,
apparently, been so remarkable. It was with an almost cruel joy—and
perhaps in nearly every joy, as certainly in every pleasure, cruelty
has its place—that he used to read the latter part of the book, with
its really tragic, if somewhat over-emphasized, account of the sorrow
and despair of one who had himself lost what in others, and in the
world, he had most valued.
He, at any rate, had no cause to fear that. The boyish beauty that
had so fascinated Basil Hallward, and many others besides him, seemed
never to leave him. Even those who had heard the most evil things
against him (and from time to time strange rumors about his mode of
life crept through London and became the chatter of the clubs) could
not believe anything to his dishonor when they saw him. He had
always the look of one who had kept himself unspotted from the world.
Men who talked grossly became silent when Dorian Gray entered the
room. There was something in the purity of his face that rebuked
them. His mere presence seemed to recall to them the innocence that
they had tarnished. They wondered how one so charming and graceful
as he was could have escaped the stain of an age that was at once
sordid and sensuous.
He himself, on returning home from one of those mysterious and
prolonged absences that gave rise to such strange conjecture among
those who were his friends, or thought that they were so, would creep
up-stairs to the locked room, open the door with the key that never
left him, and stand, with a mirror, in front of the portrait that
Basil Hallward had painted of him, looking now at the evil and aging
face on the canvas, and now at the fair young face that laughed back
at him from the polished glass. The very sharpness of the contrast
used to quicken his sense of pleasure. He grew more and more
enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the
corruption of his own soul. He would examine with minute care, and
often with a monstrous and terrible delight, the hideous lines that
seared the wrinkling forehead or crawled around the heavy sensual
mouth, wondering sometimes which were the more horrible, the signs
of sin or the signs of age. He would place his white hands beside the
coarse bloated hands of the picture, and smile. He mocked the
misshapen body and the failing limbs.
There were moments, indeed, at night, when, lying sleepless in his
own delicately-scented chamber, or in the sordid room of the little
ill-famed tavern near the Docks, which, under an assumed name, and in
disguise, it was his habit to frequent, he would think of the ruin he
had brought upon his soul, with a pity that was all the more poignant
because it was purely selfish. But moments such as these were rare.
That curiosity about life that, many years before, Lord Henry had
first stirred in him, as they sat together in the garden of their
friend, seemed to increase with gratification. The more he knew, the
more he desired to know. He had mad hungers that grew more ravenous
as he fed them.
Yet he was not really reckless, at any rate in his relations to
society. Once or twice every month during the winter, and on each
Wednesday evening while the season lasted, he would throw open to the
world his beautiful house and have the most celebrated musicians of
the day to charm his guests with the wonders of their art. His
little dinners, in the settling of which Lord Henry always assisted
him, were noted as much for the careful selection and placing of
those invited, as for the exquisite taste shown in the decoration of
the table, with its subtle symphonic arrangements of exotic flowers,
and embroidered cloths, and antique plate of gold and silver. Indeed,
there were many, especially among the very young men, who saw, or
fancied that they saw, in Dorian Gray the true realization of a type
of which they had often dreamed in Eton or Oxford days, a type that
was to combine something of the real culture of the scholar with all
the grace and distinction and perfect manner of a citizen of the
world. To them he seemed to belong to those whom Dante describes as
having sought to "make themselves perfect by the worship of beauty."
Like Gautier, he was one for whom "the visible world existed."
And, certainly, to him life itself was the first, the greatest, of
the arts, and for it all the other arts seemed to be but a
preparation. Fashion, by which what is really fantastic becomes for
a moment universal, and Dandyism, which, in its own way, is an
attempt to assert the absolute modernity of beauty, had, of course,
their fascination for him. His mode of dressing, and the particular
styles that he affected from time to time, had their marked influence
on the young exquisites of the Mayfair balls and Pall Mall club
windows, who copied him in everything that he did, and tried to
reproduce the accidental charm of his graceful, though to him only
For, while he was but too ready to accept the position that was
almost immediately offered to him on his coming of age, and found,
indeed, a subtle pleasure in the thought that he might really become
to the London of his own day what to imperial Neronian Rome the
author of the "Satyricon" had once been, yet in his inmost heart he
desired to be something more than a mere arbiter elegantiarum, to be
consulted on the wearing of a jewel, or the knotting of a necktie, or
the conduct of a cane. He sought to elaborate some new scheme of
life that would have its reasoned philosophy and its ordered
principles and find in the spiritualizing of the senses its highest
The worship of the senses has often, and with much justice, been
decried, men feeling a natural instinct of terror about passions and
sensations that seem stronger than ourselves, and that we are
conscious of sharing with the less highly organized forms of
existence. But it appeared to Dorian Gray that the true nature of
the senses had never been understood, and that they had remained
savage and animal merely because the world had sought to starve them
into submission or to kill them by pain, instead of aiming at making
them elements of a new spirituality, of which a fine instinct for
beauty was to be the dominant characteristic. As he looked back upon
man moving through History, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So
much had been surrendered! and to such little purpose! There had
been mad wilful rejections, monstrous forms of self-torture and self-
denial, whose origin was fear, and whose result was a degradation
infinitely more terrible than that fancied degradation from which, in
their ignorance, they had sought to escape, Nature in her wonderful
irony driving the anchorite out to herd with the wild animals of the
desert and giving to the hermit the beasts of the field as his
Yes, there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new hedonism
that was to re-create life, and to save it from that harsh, uncomely
puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It
was to have its service of the intellect, certainly; yet it was never
to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of
any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be
experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter
as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of
the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But
it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life
that is itself but a moment.
There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn,
either after one of those dreamless nights that make one almost
enamoured of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen
joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more
terrible than reality itself, and instinct with that vivid life that
lurks in all grotesques, and that lends to Gothic art its enduring
vitality, this art being, one might fancy, especially the art of
those whose minds have been troubled with the malady of revery.
Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear
to tremble. Black fantastic shadows crawl into the corners of the
room, and crouch there. Outside, there is the stirring of birds
among the leaves, or the sound of men going forth to their work, or
the sigh and sob of the wind coming down from the hills, and
wandering round the silent house, as though it feared to wake the
sleepers. Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by
degrees the forms and colors of things are restored to them, and we
watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan
mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where
we have left them, and beside them lies the half-read book that we
had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball,
or the letter that we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too
often. Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the
night comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume
it where we had left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of
the necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome
round of stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our
eyelids might open some morning upon a world that had been
re-fashioned anew for our pleasure in the darkness, a world in which
things would have fresh shapes and colors, and be changed, or have
other secrets, a world in which the past would have little or no
place, or survive, at any rate, in no conscious form of obligation or
regret, the remembrance even of joy having its bitterness, and the
memories of pleasure their pain.
It was the creation of such worlds as these that seemed to Dorian
Gray to be the true object, or among the true objects, of life; and
in his search for sensations that would be at once new and
delightful, and possess that element of strangeness that is so
essential to romance, he would often adopt certain modes of thought
that he knew to be really alien to his nature, abandon himself to
their subtle influences, and then, having, as it were, caught their
color and satisfied his intellectual curiosity, leave them with that
curious indifference that is not incompatible with a real ardor of
temperament, and that indeed, according to certain modern
psychologists, is often a condition of it.
It was rumored of him once that he was about to join the Roman
Catholic communion; and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great
attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all
the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its
superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive
simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human
tragedy that it sought to symbolize. He loved to kneel down on the
cold marble pavement, and with the priest, in his stiff flowered
cope, slowly and with white hands moving aside the veil of the
tabernacle, and raising aloft the jewelled lantern-shaped monstrance
with that pallid wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed
the "panis caelestis," the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments
of the Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice, and
smiting his breast for his sins. The fuming censers, that the grave
boys, in their lace and scarlet, tossed into the air like great gilt
flowers, had their subtle fascination for him. As he passed out, he
used to look with wonder at the black confessionals, and long to sit
in the dim shadow of one of them and listen to men and women
whispering through the tarnished grating the true story of their
But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual
development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of
mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable
for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which
there are no stars and the moon is in travail. Mysticism, with its
marvellous power of making common things strange to us, and the
subtle antinomianism that always seems to accompany it, moved him for
a season; and for a season he inclined to the materialistic
doctrines of the Darwinismus movement in Germany, and found a curious
pleasure in tracing the thoughts and passions of men to some pearly
cell in the brain, or some white nerve in the body, delighting in the
conception of the absolute dependence of the spirit on certain
physical conditions, morbid or healthy, normal or diseased. Yet, as
has been said of him before, no theory of life seemed to him to be of
any importance compared with life itself. He felt keenly conscious
of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from
action and experiment. He knew that the senses, no less than the
soul, have their mysteries to reveal.
And so he would now study perfumes, and the secrets of their
manufacture, distilling heavily-scented oils, and burning odorous
gums from the East. He saw that there was no mood of the mind that
had not its counterpart in the sensuous life, and set himself to
discover their true relations, wondering what there was in
frankincense that made one mystical, and in ambergris that stirred
one's passions, and in violets that woke the memory of dead romances,
and in musk that troubled the brain, and in champak that stained the
imagination; and seeking often to elaborate a real psychology of
perfumes, and to estimate the several influences of sweet-smelling
roots, and scented pollen-laden flowers, of aromatic balms, and of
dark and fragrant woods, of spikenard that sickens, of hovenia that
makes men mad, and of aloes that are said to be able to expel
melancholy from the soul.
At another time he devoted himself entirely to music, and in a long
latticed room, with a vermilion-and-gold ceiling and walls of olive-
green lacquer, he used to give curious concerts in which mad gypsies
tore wild music from little zithers, or grave yellow-shawled
Tunisians plucked at the strained strings of monstrous lutes, while
grinning negroes beat monotonously upon copper drums, or turbaned
Indians, crouching upon scarlet mats, blew through long pipes of reed
or brass, and charmed, or feigned to charm, great hooded snakes and
horrible horned adders. The harsh intervals and shrill discords of
barbaric music stirred him at times when Schubert's grace, and
Chopin's beautiful sorrows, and the mighty harmonies of Beethoven
himself, fell unheeded on his ear. He collected together from all
parts of the world the strangest instruments that could be found,
either in the tombs of dead nations or among the few savage tribes
that have survived contact with Western civilizations, and loved to
touch and try them. He had the mysterious juruparis of the Rio Negro
Indians, that women are not allowed to look at, and that even youths
may not see till they have been subjected to fasting and scourging,
and the earthen jars of the Peruvians that have the shrill cries of
birds, and flutes of human bones such as Alfonso de Ovalle heard in
Chili, and the sonorous green stones that are found near Cuzco and
give forth a note of singular sweetness. He had painted gourds
filled with pebbles that rattled when they were shaken; the long
clarin of the Mexicans, into which the performer does not blow, but
through which he inhales the air; the harsh ture of the Amazon
tribes, that is sounded by the sentinels who sit all day long in
trees, and that can be heard, it is said, at a distance of three
leagues; the teponaztli, that has two vibrating tongues of wood, and
is beaten with sticks that are smeared with an elastic gum obtained
from the milky juice of plants; the yotl-bells of the Aztecs, that are
hung in clusters like grapes; and a huge cylindrical drum, covered
with the skins of great serpents, like the one that Bernal Diaz saw
when he went with Cortes into the Mexican temple, and of whose doleful
sound he has left us so vivid a description. The fantastic character
of these instruments fascinated him, and he felt a curious delight in
the thought that Art, like Nature, has her monsters, things of bestial
shape and with hideous voices. Yet, after some time, he wearied of
them, and would sit in his box at the Opera, either alone or with Lord
Henry, listening in rapt pleasure to "Tannhauser," and seeing in that
great work of art a presentation of the tragedy of his own soul.
On another occasion he took up the study of jewels, and appeared at
a costume ball as Anne de Joyeuse, Admiral of France, in a dress
covered with five hundred and sixty pearls. He would often spend a
whole day settling and resettling in their cases the various stones
that he had collected, such as the olive-green chrysoberyl that turns
red by lamplight, the cymophane with its wire-like line of silver,
the pistachio-colored peridot, rose-pink and wine-yellow topazes,
carbuncles of fiery scarlet with tremulous four-rayed stars, flame-
red cinnamon-stones, orange and violet spinels, and amethysts with
their alternate layers of ruby and sapphire. He loved the red gold
of the sunstone, and the moonstone's pearly whiteness, and the broken
rainbow of the milky opal. He procured from Amsterdam three emeralds
of extraordinary size and richness of color, and had a turquoise de
la vieille roche that was the envy of all the connoisseurs.
He discovered wonderful stories, also, about jewels. In Alphonso's
"Clericalis Disciplina" a serpent was mentioned with eyes of real
jacinth, and in the romantic history of Alexander he was said to have
found snakes in the vale of Jordan "with collars of real emeralds
growing on their backs." There was a gem in the brain of the dragon,
Philostratus told us, and "by the exhibition of golden letters and a
scarlet robe" the monster could be thrown into a magical sleep, and
slain. According to the great alchemist Pierre de Boniface, the
diamond rendered a man invisible, and the agate of India made him
eloquent. The cornelian appeased anger, and the hyacinth provoked
sleep, and the amethyst drove away the fumes of wine. The garnet
cast out demons, and the hydropicus deprived the moon of her color.
The selenite waxed and waned with the moon, and the meloceus, that
discovers thieves, could be affected only by the blood of kids.
Leonardus Camillus had seen a white stone taken from the brain of a
newly-killed toad, that was a certain antidote against poison. The
bezoar, that was found in the heart of the Arabian deer, was a charm
that could cure the plague. In the nests of Arabian birds was the
aspilates, that, according to Democritus, kept the wearer from any
danger by fire.
The King of Ceilan rode through his city with a large ruby in his
hand, as the ceremony of his coronation. The gates of the palace of
John the Priest were "made of sardius, with the horn of the horned
snake inwrought, so that no man might bring poison within." Over the
gable were "two golden apples, in which were two carbuncles," so that
the gold might shine by day, and the carbuncles by night. In Lodge's
strange romance "A Margarite of America" it was stated that in the
chamber of Margarite were seen "all the chaste ladies of the world,
inchased out of silver, looking through fair mirrours of chrysolites,
carbuncles, sapphires, and greene emeraults." Marco Polo had watched
the inhabitants of Zipangu place a rose-colored pearl in the mouth of
the dead. A sea-monster had been enamoured of the pearl that the
diver brought to King Perozes, and had slain the thief, and mourned
for seven moons over his loss. When the Huns lured the king into the
great pit, he flung it away,— Procopius tells the story,—nor was it
ever found again, though the Emperor Anastasius offered five
hundred-weight of gold pieces for it. The King of Malabar had shown a
Venetian a rosary of one hundred and four pearls, one for every god
that he worshipped.
When the Duke de Valentinois, son of Alexander VI., visited Louis
XII. of France, his horse was loaded with gold leaves, according to
Brantome, and his cap had double rows of rubies that threw out a
great light. Charles of England had ridden in stirrups hung with
three hundred and twenty-one diamonds. Richard II. had a coat,
valued at thirty thousand marks, which was covered with balas rubies.
Hall described Henry VIII., on his way to the Tower previous to his
coronation, as wearing "a jacket of raised gold, the placard
embroidered with diamonds and other rich stones, and a great
bauderike about his neck of large balasses." The favorites of James
I. wore ear-rings of emeralds set in gold filigrane. Edward II. gave
to Piers Gaveston a suit of red-gold armor studded with jacinths, and
a collar of gold roses set with turquoise-stones, and a skull-cap
parseme with pearls. Henry II. wore jewelled gloves reaching to the
elbow, and had a hawk-glove set with twelve rubies and fifty-two
great pearls. The ducal hat of Charles the Rash, the last Duke of
Burgundy of his race, was studded with sapphires and hung with pear-
How exquisite life had once been! How gorgeous in its pomp and
decoration! Even to read of the luxury of the dead was wonderful.
Then he turned his attention to embroideries, and to the tapestries
that performed the office of frescos in the chill rooms of the
Northern nations of Europe. As he investigated the subject,—and he
always had an extraordinary faculty of becoming absolutely absorbed
for the moment in whatever he took up,—he was almost saddened by the
reflection of the ruin that time brought on beautiful and wonderful
things. He, at any rate, had escaped that. Summer followed summer,
and the yellow jonquils bloomed and died many times, and nights of
horror repeated the story of their shame, but he was unchanged. No
winter marred his face or stained his flower-like bloom. How
different it was with material things! Where had they gone to? Where
was the great crocus-colored robe, on which the gods fought against
the giants, that had been worked for Athena? Where the huge velarium
that Nero had stretched across the Colosseum at Rome, on which were
represented the starry sky, and Apollo driving a chariot drawn by
white gilt-reined steeds? He longed to see the curious table-napkins
wrought for Elagabalus, on which were displayed all the dainties and
viands that could be wanted for a feast; the mortuary cloth of King
Chilperic, with its three hundred golden bees; the fantastic robes
that excited the indignation of the Bishop of Pontus, and were figured
with "lions, panthers, bears, dogs, forests, rocks, hunters,—all, in
fact, that a painter can copy from nature;" and the coat that Charles
of Orleans once wore, on the sleeves of which were embroidered the
verses of a song beginning "Madame, je suis tout joyeux," the musical
accompaniment of the words being wrought in gold thread, and each
note, a square shape in those days, formed with four pearls. He read
of the room that was prepared at the palace at Rheims for the use of
Queen Joan of Burgundy, and was decorated with "thirteen hundred and
twenty-one parrots, made in broidery, and blazoned with the king's
arms, and five hundred and sixty-one butterflies, whose wings were
similarly ornamented with the arms of the queen, the whole worked in
gold." Catherine de Medicis had a mourning-bed made for her of black
velvet powdered with crescents and suns. Its curtains were of damask,
with leafy wreaths and garlands, figured upon a gold and silver
ground, and fringed along the edges with broideries of pearls, and it
stood in a room hung with rows of the queen's devices in cut black
velvet upon cloth of silver. Louis XIV. had gold-embroidered
caryatides fifteen feet high in his apartment. The state bed of
Sobieski, King of Poland, was made of Smyrna gold brocade embroidered
in turquoises with verses from the Koran. Its supports were of silver
gilt, beautifully chased, and profusely set with enamelled and
jewelled medallions. It had been taken from the Turkish camp before
Vienna, and the standard of Mohammed had stood under it.
And so, for a whole year, he sought to accumulate the most
exquisite specimens that he could find of textile and embroidered
work, getting the dainty Delhi muslins, finely wrought, with
gold-threat palmates, and stitched over with iridescent beetles'
wings; the Dacca gauzes, that from their transparency are known in the
East as "woven air," and "running water," and "evening dew;" strange
figured cloths from Java; elaborate yellow Chinese hangings; books
bound in tawny satins or fair blue silks and wrought with fleurs de
lys, birds, and images; veils of lacis worked in Hungary point;
Sicilian brocades, and stiff Spanish velvets; Georgian work with its
gilt coins, and Japanese Foukousas with their green-toned golds and
their marvellously- plumaged birds.
He had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments, as
indeed he had for everything connected with the service of the
Church. In the long cedar chests that lined the west gallery of his
house he had stored away many rare and beautiful specimens of what is
really the raiment of the Bride of Christ, who must wear purple and
jewels and fine linen that she may hide the pallid macerated body
that is worn by the suffering that she seeks for, and wounded by
self-inflicted pain. He had a gorgeous cope of crimson silk and
gold-thread damask, figured with a repeating pattern of golden
pomegranates set in six-petalled formal blossoms, beyond which on
either side was the pine- apple device wrought in seed-pearls. The
orphreys were divided into panels representing scenes from the life of
the Virgin, and the coronation of the Virgin was figured in colored
silks upon the hood. This was Italian work of the fifteenth century.
Another cope was of green velvet, embroidered with heart- shaped
groups of acanthus-leaves, from which spread long-stemmed white
blossoms, the details of which were picked out with silver thread and
colored crystals. The morse bore a seraph's head in gold- thread
raised work. The orphreys were woven in a diaper of red and gold
silk, and were starred with medallions of many saints and martyrs,
among whom was St. Sebastian. He had chasubles, also, of
amber-colored silk, and blue silk and gold brocade, and yellow silk
damask and cloth of gold, figured with representations of the Passion
and Crucifixion of Christ, and embroidered with lions and peacocks
and other emblems; dalmatics of white satin and pink silk damask,
decorated with tulips and dolphins and fleurs de lys; altar frontals
of crimson velvet and blue linen; and many corporals, chalice-veils,
and sudaria. In the mystic offices to which these things were put
there was something that quickened his imagination.
For these things, and everything that he collected in his lovely
house, were to be to him means of forgetfulness, modes by which he
could escape, for a season, from the fear that seemed to him at times
to be almost too great to be borne. Upon the walls of the lonely
locked room where he had spent so much of his boyhood, he had hung
with his own hands the terrible portrait whose changing features
showed him the real degradation of his life, and had draped the
purple-and-gold pall in front of it as a curtain. For weeks he would
not go there, would forget the hideous painted thing, and get back
his light heart, his wonderful joyousness, his passionate pleasure in
mere existence. Then, suddenly, some night he would creep out of the
house, go down to dreadful places near Blue Gate Fields, and stay
there, day after day, until he was driven away. On his return he
would sit in front of the picture, sometimes loathing it and himself,
but filled, at other times, with that pride of rebellion that is half
the fascination of sin, and smiling, with secret pleasure, at the
misshapen shadow that had to bear the burden that should have been
After a few years he could not endure to be long out of England,
and gave up the villa that he had shared at Trouville with Lord Henry,
as well as the little white walled-in house at Algiers where he had
more than once spent his winter. He hated to be separated from the
picture that was such a part of his life, and he was also afraid that
during his absence some one might gain access to the room, in spite
of the elaborate bolts and bars that he had caused to be placed upon
He was quite conscious that this would tell them nothing. It was
true that the portrait still preserved, under all the foulness and
ugliness of the face, its marked likeness to himself; but what could
they learn from that? He would laugh at any one who tried to taunt
him. He had not painted it. What was it to him how vile and full of
shame it looked? Even if he told them, would they believe it?
Yet he was afraid. Sometimes when he was down at his great house
in Nottinghamshire, entertaining the fashionable young men of his own
rank who were his chief companions, and astounding the county by the
wanton luxury and gorgeous splendor of his mode of life, he would
suddenly leave his guests and rush back to town to see that the door
had not been tampered with and that the picture was still there. What
if it should be stolen? The mere thought made him cold with horror.
Surely the world would know his secret then. Perhaps the world
already suspected it.
For, while he fascinated many, there were not a few who distrusted
him. He was blackballed at a West End club of which his birth and
social position fully entitled him to become a member, and on one
occasion, when he was brought by a friend into the smoking-room of
the Carlton, the Duke of Berwick and another gentleman got up in a
marked manner and went out. Curious stories became current about him
after he had passed his twenty-fifth year. It was said that he had
been seen brawling with foreign sailors in a low den in the distant
parts of Whitechapel, and that he consorted with thieves and coiners
and knew the mysteries of their trade. His extraordinary absences
became notorious, and, when he used to reappear again in society, men
would whisper to each other in corners, or pass him with a sneer, or
look at him with cold searching eyes, as if they were determined to
discover his secret.
Of such insolences and attempted slights he, of course, took no
notice, and in the opinion of most people his frank debonair manner,
his charming boyish smile, and the infinite grace of that wonderful
youth that seemed never to leave him, were in themselves a sufficient
answer to the calumnies (for so they called them) that were
circulated about him. It was remarked, however, that those who had
been most intimate with him appeared, after a time, to shun him. Of
all his friends, or so-called friends, Lord Henry Wotton was the only
one who remained loyal to him. Women who had wildly adored him, and
for his sake had braved all social censure and set convention at
defiance, were seen to grow pallid with shame or horror if Dorian
Gray entered the room.
Yet these whispered scandals only lent him, in the eyes of many,
his strange and dangerous charm. His great wealth was a certain
element of security. Society, civilized society at least, is never
very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both
rich and charming. It feels instinctively that manners are of more
importance than morals, and the highest respectability is of less
value in its opinion than the possession of a good chef. And, after
all, it is a very poor consolation to be told that the man who has
given one a bad dinner, or poor wine, is irreproachable in his
private life. Even the cardinal virtues cannot atone for cold
entrees, as Lord Henry remarked once, in a discussion on the subject;
and there is possibly a good deal to be said for his view. For the
canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of
art. Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity
of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the
insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that
make such plays charming. Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I
think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our
Such, at any rate, was Dorian Gray's opinion. He used to wonder at
the shallow psychology of those who conceive the Ego in man as a
thing simple, permanent, reliable, and of one essence. To him, man
was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex
multiform creature that bore within itself strange legacies of
thought and passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the
monstrous maladies of the dead. He loved to stroll through the gaunt
cold picture-gallery of his country-house and look at the various
portraits of those whose blood flowed in his veins. Here was Philip
Herbert, described by Francis Osborne, in his "Memoires on the Reigns
of Queen Elizabeth and King James," as one who was "caressed by the
court for his handsome face, which kept him not long company." Was
it young Herbert's life that he sometimes led? Had some strange
poisonous germ crept from body to body till it had reached his own?
Was it some dim sense of that ruined grace that had made him so
suddenly, and almost without cause, give utterance, in Basil
Hallward's studio, to that mad prayer that had so changed his life?
Here, in gold-embroidered red doublet, jewelled surcoat, and gilt-
edged ruff and wrist-bands, stood Sir Anthony Sherard, with his
silver-and-black armor piled at his feet. What had this man's legacy
been? Had the lover of Giovanna of Naples bequeathed him some
inheritance of sin and shame? Were his own actions merely the dreams
that the dead man had not dared to realize? Here, from the fading
canvas, smiled Lady Elizabeth Devereux, in her gauze hood, pearl
stomacher, and pink slashed sleeves. A flower was in her right hand,
and her left clasped an enamelled collar of white and damask roses.
On a table by her side lay a mandolin and an apple. There were large
green rosettes upon her little pointed shoes. He knew her life, and
the strange stories that were told about her lovers. Had he
something of her temperament in him? Those oval heavy-lidded eyes
seemed to look curiously at him. What of George Willoughby, with his
powdered hair and fantastic patches? How evil he looked! The face
was saturnine and swarthy, and the sensual lips seemed to be twisted
with disdain. Delicate lace ruffles fell over the lean yellow hands
that were so overladen with rings. He had been a macaroni of the
eighteenth century, and the friend, in his youth, of Lord Ferrars.
What of the second Lord Sherard, the companion of the Prince Regent
in his wildest days, and one of the witnesses at the secret marriage
with Mrs. Fitzherbert? How proud and handsome he was, with his
chestnut curls and insolent pose! What passions had he bequeathed?
The world had looked upon him as infamous. He had led the orgies at
Carlton House. The star of the Garter glittered upon his breast.
Beside him hung the portrait of his wife, a pallid, thin-lipped woman
in black. Her blood, also, stirred within him. How curious it all
Yet one had ancestors in literature, as well as in one's own race,
nearer perhaps in type and temperament, many of them, and certainly
with an influence of which one was more absolutely conscious. There
were times when it seemed to Dorian Gray that the whole of history
was merely the record of his own life, not as he had lived it in act
and circumstance, but as his imagination had created it for him, as it
had been in his brain and in his passions. He felt that he had known
them all, those strange terrible figures that had passed across the
stage of the world and made sin so marvellous and evil so full of
wonder. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had
been his own.
The hero of the dangerous novel that had so influenced his life had
himself had this curious fancy. In a chapter of the book he tells
how, crowned with laurel, lest lightning might strike him, he had
sat, as Tiberius, in a garden at Capri, reading the shameful books of
Elephantis, while dwarfs and peacocks strutted round him and the
flute-player mocked the swinger of the censer; and, as Caligula, had
caroused with the green-shirted jockeys in their stables, and supped
in an ivory manger with a jewel-frontleted horse; and, as Domitian,
had wandered through a corridor lined with marble mirrors, looking
round with haggard eyes for the reflection of the dagger that was to
end his days, and sick with that ennui, that taedium vitae, that
comes on those to whom life denies nothing; and had peered through a
clear emerald at the red shambles of the Circus, and then, in a
litter of pearl and purple drawn by silver-shod mules, been carried
through the Street of Pomegranates to a House of Gold, and heard men
cry on Nero Caesar as he passed by; and, as Elagabalus, had painted
his face with colors, and plied the distaff among the women, and
brought the Moon from Carthage, and given her in mystic marriage to
Over and over again Dorian used to read this fantastic chapter, and
the chapter immediately following, in which the hero describes the
curious tapestries that he had had woven for him from Gustave
Moreau's designs, and on which were pictured the awful and beautiful
forms of those whom Vice and Blood and Weariness had made monstrous
or mad: Filippo, Duke of Milan, who slew his wife, and painted her
lips with a scarlet poison; Pietro Barbi, the Venetian, known as Paul
the Second, who sought in his vanity to assume the title of Formosus,
and whose tiara, valued at two hundred thousand florins, was bought
at the price of a terrible sin; Gian Maria Visconti, who used hounds
to chase living men, and whose murdered body was covered with roses
by a harlot who had loved him; the Borgia on his white horse, with
Fratricide riding beside him, and his mantle stained with the blood
of Perotto; Pietro Riario, the young Cardinal Archbishop of Florence,
child and minion of Sixtus IV., whose beauty was equalled only by his
debauchery, and who received Leonora of Aragon in a pavilion of white
and crimson silk, filled with nymphs and centaurs, and gilded a boy
that he might serve her at the feast as Ganymede or Hylas; Ezzelin,
whose melancholy could be cured only by the spectacle of death, and
who had a passion for red blood, as other men have for red wine,—the
son of the Fiend, as was reported, and one who had cheated his father
at dice when gambling with him for his own soul; Giambattista Cibo,
who in mockery took the name of Innocent, and into whose torpid veins
the blood of three lads was infused by a Jewish doctor; Sigismondo
Malatesta, the lover of Isotta, and the lord of Rimini, whose effigy
was burned at Rome as the enemy of God and man, who strangled
Polyssena with a napkin, and gave poison to Ginevra d'Este in a cup of
emerald, and in honor of a shameful passion built a pagan church for
Christian worship; Charles VI., who had so wildly adored his brother's
wife that a leper had warned him of the insanity that was coming on
him, and who could only be soothed by Saracen cards painted with the
images of Love and Death and Madness; and, in his trimmed jerkin and
jewelled cap and acanthus-like curls, Grifonetto Baglioni, who slew
Astorre with his bride, and Simonetto with his page, and whose
comeliness was such that, as he lay dying in the yellow piazza of
Perugia, those who had hated him could not choose but weep, and
Atalanta, who had cursed him, blessed him.
There was a horrible fascination in them all. He saw them at
night, and they troubled his imagination in the day. The Renaissance
knew of strange manners of poisoning,—poisoning by a helmet and a
lighted torch, by an embroidered glove and a jewelled fan, by a gilded
pomander and by an amber chain. Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a
book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode
through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful.
It was on the 7th of November, the eve of his own thirty- second
birthday, as he often remembered afterwards.
He was walking home about eleven o'clock from Lord Henry's, where
he had been dining, and was wrapped in heavy furs, as the night was
cold and foggy. At the corner of Grosvenor Square and South Audley
Street a man passed him in the mist, walking very fast, and with the
collar of his gray ulster turned up. He had a bag in his hand. He
recognized him. It was Basil Hallward. A strange sense of fear, for
which he could not account, came over him. He made no sign of
recognition, and went on slowly, in the direction of his own house.
But Hallward had seen him. Dorian heard him first stopping, and
then hurrying after him. In a few moments his hand was on his arm.
"Dorian! What an extraordinary piece of luck! I have been waiting
for you ever since nine o'clock in your library. Finally I took pity
on your tired servant, and told him to go to bed, as he let me out. I
am off to Paris by the midnight train, and I wanted particularly to
see you before I left. I thought it was you, or rather your fur
coat, as you passed me. But I wasn't quite sure. Didn't you
"In this fog, my dear Basil? Why, I can't even recognize Grosvenor
Square. I believe my house is somewhere about here, but I don't feel
at all certain about it. I am sorry you are going away, as I have
not seen you for ages. But I suppose you will be back soon?"
"No: I am going to be out of England for six months. I intend to
take a studio in Paris, and shut myself up till I have finished a
great picture I have in my head. However, it wasn't about myself I
wanted to talk. Here we are at your door. Let me come in for a
moment. I have something to say to you."
"I shall be charmed. But won't you miss your train?" said Dorian
Gray, languidly, as he passed up the steps and opened the door with
The lamp-light struggled out through the fog, and Hallward looked
at his watch. "I have heaps of time," he answered. "The train
doesn't go till twelve-fifteen, and it is only just eleven. In fact,
I was on my way to the club to look for you, when I met you. You see,
I shan't have any delay about luggage, as I have sent on my heavy
things. All I have with me is in this bag, and I can easily get to
Victoria in twenty minutes."
Dorian looked at him and smiled. "What a way for a fashionable
painter to travel! A Gladstone bag, and an ulster! Come in, or the
fog will get into the house. And mind you don't talk about anything
serious. Nothing is serious nowadays. At least nothing should be."
Hallward shook his head, as he entered, and followed Dorian into
the library. There was a bright wood fire blazing in the large open
hearth. The lamps were lit, and an open Dutch silver spirit-case
stood, with some siphons of soda-water and large cut-glass tumblers,
on a little table.
"You see your servant made me quite at home, Dorian. He gave me
everything I wanted, including your best cigarettes. He is a most
hospitable creature. I like him much better than the Frenchman you
used to have. What has become of the Frenchman, by the bye?"
Dorian shrugged his shoulders. "I believe he married Lady Ashton's
maid, and has established her in Paris as an English dressmaker.
Anglomanie is very fashionable over there now, I hear. It seems
silly of the French, doesn't it? But—do you know?—he was not at
all a bad servant. I never liked him, but I had nothing to complain
about. One often imagines things that are quite absurd. He was
really very devoted to me, and seemed quite sorry when he went away.
Have another brandy-and-soda? Or would you like hock-and-seltzer? I
always take hock-and-seltzer myself. There is sure to be some in the
"Thanks, I won't have anything more," said Hallward, taking his cap
and coat off, and throwing them on the bag that he had placed in the
corner. "And now, my dear fellow, I want to speak to you seriously.
Don't frown like that. You make it so much more difficult for me."
"What is it all about?" cried Dorian, in his petulant way, flinging
himself down on the sofa. "I hope it is not about myself. I am
tired of myself to-night. I should like to be somebody else."
"It is about yourself," answered Hallward, in his grave, deep
voice, "and I must say it to you. I shall only keep you half an
Dorian sighed, and lit a cigarette. "Half an hour!" he murmured.
"It is not much to ask of you, Dorian, and it is entirely for your
own sake that I am speaking. I think it right that you should know
that the most dreadful things are being said about you in
London,—things that I could hardly repeat to you."
"I don't wish to know anything about them. I love scandals about
other people, but scandals about myself don't interest me. They have
not got the charm of novelty."
"They must interest you, Dorian. Every gentleman is interested in
his good name. You don't want people to talk of you as something
vile and degraded. Of course you have your position, and your
wealth, and all that kind of thing. But position and wealth are not
everything. Mind you, I don't believe these rumors at all. At
least, I can't believe them when I see you. Sin is a thing that
writes itself across a man's face. It cannot be concealed. People
talk of secret vices. There are no such things as secret vices. If
a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth,
the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even. Somebody—
I won't mention his name, but you know him—came to me last year to
have his portrait done. I had never seen him before, and had never
heard anything about him at the time, though I have heard a good deal
since. He offered an extravagant price. I refused him. There was
something in the shape of his fingers that I hated. I know now that
I was quite right in what I fancied about him. His life is dreadful.
But you, Dorian, with your pure, bright, innocent face, and your
marvellous untroubled youth,—I can't believe anything against you.
And yet I see you very seldom, and you never come down to the studio
now, and when I am away from you, and I hear all these hideous things
that people are whispering about you, I don't know what to say. Why
is it, Dorian, that a man like the Duke of Berwick leaves the room of
a club when you enter it? Why is it that so many gentlemen in London
will neither go to your house nor invite you to theirs? You used to
be a friend of Lord Cawdor. I met him at dinner last week. Your
name happened to come up in conversation, in connection with the
miniatures you have lent to the exhibition at the Dudley. Cawdor
curled his lip, and said that you might have the most artistic
tastes, but that you were a man whom no pure-minded girl should be
allowed to know, and whom no chaste woman should sit in the same room
with. I reminded him that I was a friend of yours, and asked him
what he meant. He told me. He told me right out before everybody.
It was horrible! Why is your friendship so fateful to young men?
There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You
were his great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave
England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. What
about Adrian Singleton, and his dreadful end? What about Lord Kent's
only son, and his career? I met his father yesterday in St. James
Street. He seemed broken with shame and sorrow. What about the
young Duke of Perth? What sort of life has he got now? What
gentleman would associate with him? Dorian, Dorian, your reputation
is infamous. I know you and Harry are great friends. I say nothing
about that now, but surely you need not have made his sister's name
a by-word. When you met Lady Gwendolen, not a breath of scandal had
ever touched her. Is there a single decent woman in London now who
would drive with her in the Park? Why, even her children are not
allowed to live with her. Then there are other stories,—stories
that you have been seen creeping at dawn out of dreadful houses and
slinking in disguise into the foulest dens in London. Are they true?
Can they be true? When I first heard them, I laughed. I hear them
now, and they make me shudder. What about your country-house, and
the life that is led there? Dorian, you don't know what is said
about you. I won't tell you that I don't want to preach to you. I
remember Harry saying once that every man who turned himself into an
amateur curate for the moment always said that, and then broke his
word. I do want to preach to you. I want you to lead such a life as
will make the world respect you. I want you to have a clean name and
a fair record. I want you to get rid of the dreadful people you
associate with. Don't shrug your shoulders like that. Don't be so
indifferent. You have a wonderful influence. Let it be for good,
not for evil. They say that you corrupt every one whom you become
intimate with, and that it is quite sufficient for you to enter a
house, for shame of some kind to follow after you. I don't know
whether it is so or not. How should I know? But it is said of you.
I am told things that it seems impossible to doubt. Lord Gloucester
was one of my greatest friends at Oxford. He showed me a letter that
his wife had written to him when she was dying alone in her villa at
Mentone. Your name was implicated in the most terrible confession I
ever read. I told him that it was absurd,—that I knew you
thoroughly, and that you were incapable of anything of the kind. Know
you? I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, I should
have to see your soul."
"To see my soul!" muttered Dorian Gray, starting up from the sofa
and turning almost white from fear.
"Yes," answered Hallward, gravely, and with infinite sorrow in his
voice,—"to see your soul. But only God can do that."
A bitter laugh of mockery broke from the lips of the younger man.
"You shall see it yourself, to-night!" he cried, seizing a lamp from
the table. "Come: it is your own handiwork. Why shouldn't you look
at it? You can tell the world all about it afterwards, if you
choose. Nobody would believe you. If they did believe you, they'd
like me all the better for it. I know the age better than you do,
though you will prate about it so tediously. Come, I tell you. You
have chattered enough about corruption. Now you shall look on it
face to face."
There was the madness of pride in every word he uttered. He
stamped his foot upon the ground in his boyish insolent manner. He
felt a terrible joy at the thought that some one else was to share his
secret, and that the man who had painted the portrait that was the
origin of all his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life
with the hideous memory of what he had done.
"Yes," he continued, coming closer to him, and looking steadfastly
into his stern eyes, "I will show you my soul. You shall see the
thing that you fancy only God can see."
Hallward started back. "This is blasphemy, Dorian!" he cried.
"You must not say things like that. They are horrible, and they
don't mean anything."
"You think so?" He laughed again.
"I know so. As for what I said to you to-night, I said it for your
good. You know I have been always devoted to you."
"Don't touch me. Finish what you have to say."
A twisted flash of pain shot across Hallward's face. He paused for
a moment, and a wild feeling of pity came over him. After all, what
right had he to pry into the life of Dorian Gray? If he had done a
tithe of what was rumored about him, how much he must have suffered!
Then he straightened himself up, and walked over to the fireplace,
and stood there, looking at the burning logs with their frost-like
ashes and their throbbing cores of flame.
"I am waiting, Basil," said the young man, in a hard, clear voice.
He turned round. "What I have to say is this," he cried. "You
must give me some answer to these horrible charges that are made
against you. If you tell me that they are absolutely untrue from
beginning to end, I will believe you. Deny them, Dorian, deny them!
Can't you see what I am going through? My God! don't tell me that
you are infamous!"
Dorian Gray smiled. There was a curl of contempt in his lips.
"Come up-stairs, Basil," he said, quietly. "I keep a diary of my
life from day to day, and it never leaves the room in which it is
written. I will show it to you if you come with me."
"I will come with you, Dorian, if you wish it. I see I have missed
my train. That makes no matter. I can go to-morrow. But don't ask
me to read anything to-night. All I want is a plain answer to my
"That will be given to you up-stairs. I could not give it here.
You won't have to read long. Don't keep me waiting."
He passed out of the room, and began the ascent, Basil Hallward
following close behind. They walked softly, as men instinctively do
at night. The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the wall and staircase.
A rising wind made some of the windows rattle.
When they reached the top landing, Dorian set the lamp down on the
floor, and taking out the key turned it in the lock. "You insist on
knowing, Basil?" he asked, in a low voice.
"I am delighted," he murmured, smiling. Then he added, somewhat
bitterly, "You are the one man in the world who is entitled to know
everything about me. You have had more to do with my life than you
think." And, taking up the lamp, he opened the door and went in. A
cold current of air passed them, and the light shot up for a moment
in a flame of murky orange. He shuddered. "Shut the door behind
you," he said, as he placed the lamp on the table.
Hallward glanced round him, with a puzzled expression. The room
looked as if it had not been lived in for years. A faded Flemish
tapestry, a curtained picture, an old Italian cassone, and an almost
empty bookcase,—that was all that it seemed to contain, besides a
chair and a table. As Dorian Gray was lighting a half-burned candle
that was standing on the mantel-shelf, he saw that the whole place
was covered with dust, and that the carpet was in holes. A mouse ran
scuffling behind the wainscoting. There was a damp odor of mildew.
"So you think that it is only God who sees the soul, Basil? Draw
that curtain back, and you will see mine."
The voice that spoke was cold and cruel. "You are mad, Dorian, or
playing a part," muttered Hallward, frowning.
"You won't? Then I must do it myself," said the young man; and he
tore the curtain from its rod, and flung it on the ground.
An exclamation of horror broke from Hallward's lips as he saw in
the dim light the hideous thing on the canvas leering at him. There
was something in its expression that filled him with disgust and
loathing. Good heavens! it was Dorian Gray's own face that he was
looking at! The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely marred
that marvellous beauty. There was still some gold in the thinning
hair and some scarlet on the sensual lips. The sodden eyes had kept
something of the loveliness of their blue, the noble curves had not
yet passed entirely away from chiselled nostrils and from plastic
throat. Yes, it was Dorian himself. But who had done it? He seemed
to recognize his own brush-work, and the frame was his own design.
The idea was monstrous, yet he felt afraid. He seized the lighted
candle, and held it to the picture. In the left-hand corner was his
own name, traced in long letters of bright vermilion.
It was some foul parody, some infamous, ignoble satire. He had
never done that. Still, it was his own picture. He knew it, and he
felt as if his blood had changed from fire to sluggish ice in a
moment. His own picture! What did it mean? Why had it altered? He
turned, and looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man. His
mouth twitched, and his parched tongue seemed unable to articulate.
He passed his hand across his forehead. It was dank with clammy
The young man was leaning against the mantel-shelf, watching him
with that strange expression that is on the faces of those who are
absorbed in a play when a great artist is acting. There was neither
real sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion of the
spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in the eyes. He had
taken the flower out of his coat, and was smelling it, or pretending
to do so.
"What does this mean?" cried Hallward, at last. His own voice
sounded shrill and curious in his ears.
"Years ago, when I was a boy," said Dorian Gray, "you met me,
devoted yourself to me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my
good looks. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours, who
explained to me the wonder of youth, and you finished a portrait of me
that revealed to me the wonder of beauty. In a mad moment, that I
don't know, even now, whether I regret or not, I made a wish. Perhaps
you would call it a prayer . . . ."
"I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! the thing is
impossible. The room is damp. The mildew has got into the canvas.
The paints I used had some wretched mineral poison in them. I tell
you the thing is impossible."
"Ah, what is impossible?" murmured the young man, going over to the
window, and leaning his forehead against the cold, mist-stained
"You told me you had destroyed it."
"I was wrong. It has destroyed me."
"I don't believe it is my picture."
"Can't you see your romance in it?" said Dorian, bitterly.
"My romance, as you call it . . ."
"As you called it."
"There was nothing evil in it, nothing shameful. This is the face
of a satyr."
"It is the face of my soul."
"God! what a thing I must have worshipped! This has the eyes of a
"Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil," cried Dorian, with
a wild gesture of despair.
Hallward turned again to the portrait, and gazed at it. "My God!
if it is true," he exclaimed, "and this is what you have done with
your life, why, you must be worse even than those who talk against you
fancy you to be!" He held the light up again to the canvas, and
examined it. The surface seemed to be quite undisturbed, and as he
had left it. It was from within, apparently, that the foulness and
horror had come. Through some strange quickening of inner life the
leprosies of sin were slowly eating the thing away. The rotting of a
corpse in a watery grave was not so fearful.
His hand shook, and the candle fell from its socket on the floor,
and lay there sputtering. He placed his foot on it and put it out.
Then he flung himself into the rickety chair that was standing by the
table and buried his face in his hands.
"Good God, Dorian, what a lesson! what an awful lesson!" There was
no answer, but he could hear the young man sobbing at the window.
"Pray, Dorian, pray," he murmured. "What is it that one was taught
to say in one's boyhood? 'Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us
our sins. Wash away our iniquities.' Let us say that together. The
prayer of your pride has been answered. The prayer of your
repentance will be answered also. I worshipped you too much. I am
punished for it. You worshipped yourself too much. We are both
Dorian Gray turned slowly around, and looked at him with
tear-dimmed eyes. "It is too late, Basil," he murmured.
"It is never too late, Dorian. Let us kneel down and try if we can
remember a prayer. Isn't there a verse somewhere, 'Though your sins
be as scarlet, yet I will make them as white as snow'?"
"Those words mean nothing to me now."
"Hush! don't say that. You have done enough evil in your life. My
God! don't you see that accursed thing leering at us?"
Dorian Gray glanced at the picture, and suddenly an uncontrollable
feeling of hatred for Basil Hallward came over him. The mad passions
of a hunted animal stirred within him, and he loathed the man who was
seated at the table, more than he had ever loathed anything in his
whole life. He glanced wildly around. Something glimmered on the
top of the painted chest that faced him. His eye fell on it. He
knew what it was. It was a knife that he had brought up, some days
before, to cut a piece of cord, and had forgotten to take away with
him. He moved slowly towards it, passing Hallward as he did so. As
soon as he got behind him, he seized it, and turned round. Hallward
moved in his chair as if he was going to rise. He rushed at him, and
dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear, crushing
the man's head down on the table, and stabbing again and again.
There was a stifled groan, and the horrible sound of some one
choking with blood. The outstretched arms shot up convulsively three
times, waving grotesque stiff-fingered hands in the air. He stabbed
him once more, but the man did not move. Something began to trickle
on the floor. He waited for a moment, still pressing the head down.
Then he threw the knife on the table, and listened.
He could hear nothing, but the drip, drip on the threadbare carpet.
He opened the door, and went out on the landing. The house was quite
quiet. No one was stirring.
He took out the key, and returned to the room, locking himself in
as he did so.
The thing was still seated in the chair, straining over the table
with bowed head, and humped back, and long fantastic arms. Had it
not been for the red jagged tear in the neck, and the clotted black
pool that slowly widened on the table, one would have said that the
man was simply asleep.
How quickly it had all been done! He felt strangely calm, and,
walking over to the window, opened it, and stepped out on the
balcony. The wind had blown the fog away, and the sky was like a
monstrous peacock's tail, starred with myriads of golden eyes. He
looked down, and saw the policeman going his rounds and flashing a
bull's-eye lantern on the doors of the silent houses. The crimson
spot of a prowling hansom gleamed at the corner, and then vanished. A
woman in a ragged shawl was creeping round by the railings, staggering
as she went. Now and then she stopped, and peered back. Once, she
began to sing in a hoarse voice. The policeman strolled over and said
something to her. She stumbled away, laughing. A bitter blast swept
across the Square. The gas-lamps flickered, and became blue, and the
leafless trees shook their black iron branches as if in pain. He
shivered, and went back, closing the window behind him.
He passed to the door, turned the key, and opened it. He did not
even glance at the murdered man. He felt that the secret of the
whole thing was not to realize the situation. The friend who had
painted the fatal portrait, the portrait to which all his misery had
been due, had gone out of his life. That was enough.
Then he remembered the lamp. It was a rather curious one of
Moorish workmanship, made of dull silver inlaid with arabesques of
burnished steel. Perhaps it might be missed by his servant, and
questions would be asked. He turned back, and took it from the table.
How still the man was! How horribly white the long hands looked! He
was like a dreadful wax image.
He locked the door behind him, and crept quietly down-stairs. The
wood-work creaked, and seemed to cry out as if in pain. He stopped
several times, and waited. No: everything was still. It was merely
the sound of his own footsteps.
When he reached the library, he saw the bag and coat in the corner.
They must be hidden away somewhere. He unlocked a secret press that
was in the wainscoting, and put them into it. He could easily burn
them afterwards. Then he pulled out his watch. It was twenty
minutes to two.
He sat down, and began to think. Every year—every month, almost—
men were strangled in England for what he had done. There had been a
madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to
Evidence? What evidence was there against him? Basil Hallward had
left the house at eleven. No one had seen him come in again. Most
of the servants were at Selby Royal. His valet had gone to bed.
Paris! Yes. It was to Paris that Basil had gone, by the midnight
train, as he had intended. With his curious reserved habits, it
would be months before any suspicions would be aroused. Months?
Everything could be destroyed long before then.
A sudden thought struck him. He put on his fur coat and hat, and
went out into the hall. There he paused, hearing the slow heavy
tread of the policeman outside on the pavement, and seeing the flash
of the lantern reflected in the window. He waited, holding his
After a few moments he opened the front door, and slipped out,
shutting it very gently behind him. Then he began ringing the bell.
In about ten minutes his valet appeared, half dressed, and looking
"I am sorry to have had to wake you up, Francis," he said, stepping
in; "but I had forgotten my latch-key. What time is it?"
"Five minutes past two, sir," answered the man, looking at the
clock and yawning.
"Five minutes past two? How horribly late! You must wake me at
nine to-morrow. I have some work to do."
"All right, sir."
"Did any one call this evening?"
"Mr. Hallward, sir. He stayed here till eleven, and then he went
away to catch his train."
"Oh! I am sorry I didn't see him. Did he leave any message?"
"No, sir, except that he would write to you."
"That will do, Francis. Don't forget to call me at nine
The man shambled down the passage in his slippers.
Dorian Gray threw his hat and coat upon the yellow marble table,
and passed into the library. He walked up and down the room for a
quarter of an hour, biting his lip, and thinking. Then he took the
Blue Book down from one of the shelves, and began to turn over the
leaves. "Alan Campbell, 152, Hertford Street, Mayfair." Yes; that
was the man he wanted.
At nine o'clock the next morning his servant came in with a cup of
chocolate on a tray, and opened the shutters. Dorian was sleeping
quite peacefully, lying on his right side, with one hand underneath
his cheek. He looked like a boy who had been tired out with play, or
The man had to touch him twice on the shoulder before he woke, and
as he opened his eyes a faint smile passed across his lips, as though
he had been having some delightful dream. Yet he had not dreamed at
all. His night had been untroubled by any images of pleasure or of
pain. But youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its
He turned round, and, leaning on his elbow, began to drink his
chocolate. The mellow November sun was streaming into the room. The
sky was bright blue, and there was a genial warmth in the air. It
was almost like a morning in May.
Gradually the events of the preceding night crept with silent
blood- stained feet into his brain, and reconstructed themselves there
with terrible distinctness. He winced at the memory of all that he
had suffered, and for a moment the same curious feeling of loathing
for Basil Hallward, that had made him kill him as he sat in the chair,
came back to him, and he grew cold with passion. The dead man was
still sitting there, too, and in the sunlight now. How horrible that
was! Such hideous things were for the darkness, not for the day.
He felt that if he brooded on what he had gone through he would
sicken or grow mad. There were sins whose fascination was more in
the memory than in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified
the pride more than the passions, and gave to the intellect a
quickened sense of joy, greater than any joy they brought, or could
ever bring, to the senses. But this was not one of them. It was a
thing to be driven out of the mind, to be drugged with poppies, to be
strangled lest it might strangle one itself.
He passed his hand across his forehead, and then got up hastily,
and dressed himself with even more than his usual attention, giving a
good deal of care to the selection of his necktie and scarf-pin, and
changing his rings more than once.
He spent a long time over breakfast, tasting the various dishes,
talking to his valet about some new liveries that he was thinking of
getting made for the servants at Selby, and going through his
correspondence. Over some of the letters he smiled. Three of them
bored him. One he read several times over, and then tore up with a
slight look of annoyance in his face. "That awful thing, a woman's
memory!" as Lord Henry had once said.
When he had drunk his coffee, he sat down at the table, and wrote
two letters. One he put in his pocket, the other he handed to the
"Take this round to 152, Hertford Street, Francis, and if Mr.
Campbell is out of town, get his address."
As soon as he was alone, he lit a cigarette, and began sketching
upon a piece of paper, drawing flowers, and bits of architecture,
first, and then faces. Suddenly he remarked that every face that he
drew seemed to have an extraordinary likeness to Basil Hallward. He
frowned, and, getting up, went over to the bookcase and took out a
volume at hazard. He was determined that he would not think about
what had happened, till it became absolutely necessary to do so.
When he had stretched himself on the sofa, he looked at the title-
page of the book. It was Gautier's "Emaux et Camees," Charpentier's
Japanese-paper edition, with the Jacquemart etching. The binding was
of citron-green leather with a design of gilt trellis-work and dotted
pomegranates. It had been given to him by Adrian Singleton. As he
turned over the pages his eye fell on the poem about the hand of
Lacenaire, the cold yellow hand "du supplice encore mal lavee," with
its downy red hairs and its "doigts de faune." He glanced at his own
white taper fingers, and passed on, till he came to those lovely
verses upon Venice:
Sur une gamme chromatique,
Le sein de perles ruisselant,
La Venus de l'Adriatique
Sort de l'eau son corps rose et blanc.
Les domes, sur l'azur des ondes
Suivant la phrase au pur contour,
S'enflent comme des gorges rondes
Que souleve un soupir d'amour.
L'esquif aborde et me depose,
Jetant son amarre au pilier,
Devant une facade rose,
Sur le marbre d'un escalier.
How exquisite they were! As one read them, one seemed to be
floating down the green water-ways of the pink and pearl city, lying
in a black gondola with silver prow and trailing curtains. The mere
lines looked to him like those straight lines of turquoise-blue that
follow one as one pushes out to the Lido. The sudden flashes of color
reminded him of the gleam of the opal-and-iris-throated birds that
flutter round the tall honey-combed Campanile, or stalk, with such
stately grace, through the dim arcades. Leaning back with half-
closed eyes, he kept saying over and over to himself,—
Devant une facade rose,
Sur le marbre d'un escalier.
The whole of Venice was in those two lines. He remembered the
autumn that he had passed there, and a wonderful love that had
stirred him to delightful fantastic follies. There was romance in
every place. But Venice, like Oxford, had kept the background for
romance, and background was everything, or almost everything. Basil
had been with him part of the time, and had gone wild over Tintoret.
Poor Basil! what a horrible way for a man to die!
He sighed, and took up the book again, and tried to forget. He
read of the swallows that fly in and out of the little cafe at Smyrna
where the Hadjis sit counting their amber beads and the turbaned
merchants smoke their long tasselled pipes and talk gravely to each
other; of the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde that weeps tears of
granite in its lonely sunless exile, and longs to be back by the hot
lotus-covered Nile, where there are Sphinxes, and rose-red ibises,
and white vultures with gilded claws, and crocodiles, with small
beryl eyes, that crawl over the green steaming mud; and of that
curious statue that Gautier compares to a contralto voice, the
"monstre charmant" that couches in the porphyry-room of the Louvre.
But after a time the book fell from his hand. He grew nervous, and a
horrible fit of terror came over him. What if Alan Campbell should
be out of England? Days would elapse before he could come back.
Perhaps he might refuse to come. What could he do then? Every
moment was of vital importance.
They had been great friends once, five years before,—almost
inseparable, indeed. Then the intimacy had come suddenly to an end.
When they met in society now, it was only Dorian Gray who smiled:
Alan Campbell never did.
He was an extremely clever young man, though he had no real
appreciation of the visible arts, and whatever little sense of the
beauty of poetry he possessed he had gained entirely from Dorian. His
dominant intellectual passion was for science. At Cambridge he had
spent a great deal of his time working in the Laboratory, and had
taken a good class in the Natural Science tripos of his year. Indeed,
he was still devoted to the study of chemistry, and had a laboratory
of his own, in which he used to shut himself up all day long, greatly
to the annoyance of his mother, who had set her heart on his standing
for Parliament and had a vague idea that a chemist was a person who
made up prescriptions. He was an excellent musician, however, as
well, and played both the violin and the piano better than most
amateurs. In fact, it was music that had first brought him and Dorian
Gray together,—music and that indefinable attraction that Dorian
seemed to be able to exercise whenever he wished, and indeed exercised
often without being conscious of it. They had met at Lady Berkshire's
the night that Rubinstein played there, and after that used to be
always seen together at the Opera, and wherever good music was going
on. For eighteen months their intimacy lasted. Campbell was always
either at Selby Royal or in Grosvenor Square. To him, as to many
others, Dorian Gray was the type of everything that is wonderful and
fascinating in life. Whether or not a quarrel had taken place between
them no one ever knew. But suddenly people remarked that they
scarcely spoke when they met, and that Campbell seemed always to go
away early from any party at which Dorian Gray was present. He had
changed, too,— was strangely melancholy at times, appeared almost to
dislike hearing music of any passionate character, and would never
himself play, giving as his excuse, when he was called upon, that he
was so absorbed in science that he had no time left in which to
practise. And this was certainly true. Every day he seemed to become
more interested in biology, and his name appeared once or twice in
some of the scientific reviews, in connection with certain curious
This was the man that Dorian Gray was waiting for, pacing up and
down the room, glancing every moment at the clock, and becoming
horribly agitated as the minutes went by. At last the door opened,
and his servant entered.
"Mr. Alan Campbell, sir."
A sigh of relief broke from his parched lips, and the color came
back to his cheeks.
"Ask him to come in at once, Francis."
The man bowed, and retired. In a few moments Alan Campbell walked
in, looking very stern and rather pale, his pallor being intensified
by his coal-black hair and dark eyebrows.
"Alan! this is kind of you. I thank you for coming."
"I had intended never to enter your house again, Gray. But you
said it was a matter of life and death." His voice was hard and cold.
He spoke with slow deliberation. There was a look of contempt in the
steady searching gaze that he turned on Dorian. He kept his hands in
the pockets of his Astrakhan coat, and appeared not to have noticed
the gesture with which he had been greeted.
"It is a matter of life and death, Alan, and to more than one
person. Sit down."
Campbell took a chair by the table, and Dorian sat opposite to him.
The two men's eyes met. In Dorian's there was infinite pity. He
knew that what he was going to do was dreadful.
After a strained moment of silence, he leaned across and said, very
quietly, but watching the effect of each word upon the face of the
man he had sent for, "Alan, in a locked room at the top of this
house, a room to which nobody but myself has access, a dead man is
seated at a table. He has been dead ten hours now. Don't stir, and
don't look at me like that. Who the man is, why he died, how he
died, are matters that do not concern you. What you have to do is
"Stop, Gray. I don't want to know anything further. Whether what
you have told me is true or not true, doesn't concern me. I entirely
decline to be mixed up in your life. Keep your horrible secrets to
yourself. They don't interest me any more."
"Alan, they will have to interest you. This one will have to
interest you. I am awfully sorry for you, Alan. But I can't help
myself. You are the one man who is able to save me. I am forced to
bring you into the matter. I have no option. Alan, you are a
scientist. You know about chemistry, and things of that kind. You
have made experiments. What you have got to do is to destroy the
thing that is up-stairs,—to destroy it so that not a vestige will be
left of it. Nobody saw this person come into the house. Indeed, at
the present moment he is supposed to be in Paris. He will not be
missed for months. When he is missed, there must be no trace of him
found here. You, Alan, you must change him, and everything that
belongs to him, into a handful of ashes that I may scatter in the
"You are mad, Dorian."
"Ah! I was waiting for you to call me Dorian."
"You are mad, I tell you,—mad to imagine that I would raise a
finger to help you, mad to make this monstrous confession. I will
have nothing to do with this matter, whatever it is. Do you think I
am going to peril my reputation for you? What is it to me what
devil's work you are up to?"
"It was a suicide, Alan."
"I am glad of that. But who drove him to it? You, I should
"Do you still refuse to do this, for me?"
"Of course I refuse. I will have absolutely nothing to do with it.
I don't care what shame comes on you. You deserve it all. I should
not be sorry to see you disgraced, publicly disgraced. How dare you
ask me, of all men in the world, to mix myself up in this horror? I
should have thought you knew more about people's characters. Your
friend Lord Henry Wotton can't have taught you much about psychology,
whatever else he has taught you. Nothing will induce me to stir a
step to help you. You have come to the wrong man. Go to some of
your friends. Don't come to me."
"Alan, it was murder. I killed him. You don't know what he had
made me suffer. Whatever my life is, he had more to do with the
making or the marring of it than poor Harry has had. He may not have
intended it, the result was the same."
"Murder! Good God, Dorian, is that what you have come to? I shall
not inform upon you. It is not my business. Besides, you are
certain to be arrested, without my stirring in the matter. Nobody
ever commits a murder without doing something stupid. But I will
have nothing to do with it."
"All I ask of you is to perform a certain scientific experiment.
You go to hospitals and dead-houses, and the horrors that you do
there don't affect you. If in some hideous dissecting-room or fetid
laboratory you found this man lying on a leaden table with red
gutters scooped out in it, you would simply look upon him as an
admirable subject. You would not turn a hair. You would not believe
that you were doing anything wrong. On the contrary, you would
probably feel that you were benefiting the human race, or increasing
the sum of knowledge in the world, or gratifying intellectual
curiosity, or something of that kind. What I want you to do is
simply what you have often done before. Indeed, to destroy a body
must be less horrible than what you are accustomed to work at. And,
remember, it is the only piece of evidence against me. If it is
discovered, I am lost; and it is sure to be discovered unless you
"I have no desire to help you. You forget that. I am simply
indifferent to the whole thing. It has nothing to do with me."
"Alan, I entreat you. Think of the position I am in. Just before
you came I almost fainted with terror. No! don't think of that. Look
at the matter purely from the scientific point of view. You don't
inquire where the dead things on which you experiment come from.
Don't inquire now. I have told you too much as it is. But I beg of
you to do this. We were friends once, Alan."
"Don't speak about those days, Dorian: they are dead."
"The dead linger sometimes. The man up-stairs will not go away.
He is sitting at the table with bowed head and outstretched arms.
Alan! Alan! if you don't come to my assistance I am ruined. Why,
they will hang me, Alan! Don't you understand? They will hang me for
what I have done."
"There is no good in prolonging this scene. I refuse absolutely to
do anything in the matter. It is insane of you to ask me."
"You refuse absolutely?"
The same look of pity came into Dorian's eyes, then he stretched
out his hand, took a piece of paper, and wrote something on it. He
read it over twice, folded it carefully, and pushed it across the
table. Having done this, he got up, and went over to the window.
Campbell looked at him in surprise, and then took up the paper, and
opened it. As he read it, his face became ghastly pale, and he fell
back in his chair. A horrible sense of sickness came over him. He
felt as if his heart was beating itself to death in some empty
After two or three minutes of terrible silence, Dorian turned
round, and came and stood behind him, putting his hand upon his
"I am so sorry, Alan," he murmured, "but you leave me no
alternative. I have a letter written already. Here it is. You see
the address. If you don't help me, I must send it. You know what the
result will be. But you are going to help me. It is impossible for
you to refuse now. I tried to spare you. You will do me the justice
to admit that. You were stern, harsh, offensive. You treated me as
no man has ever dared to treat me,—no living man, at any rate. I
bore it all. Now it is for me to dictate terms."
Campbell buried his face in his hands, and a shudder passed through
"Yes, it is my turn to dictate terms, Alan. You know what they
are. The thing is quite simple. Come, don't work yourself into this
fever. The thing has to be done. Face it, and do it."
A groan broke from Campbell's lips, and he shivered all over. The
ticking of the clock on the mantel-piece seemed to him to be dividing
time into separate atoms of agony, each of which was too terrible to
be borne. He felt as if an iron ring was being slowly tightened
round his forehead, and as if the disgrace with which he was
threatened had already come upon him. The hand upon his shoulder
weighed like a hand of lead. It was intolerable. It seemed to crush
"Come, Alan, you must decide at once."
He hesitated a moment. "Is there a fire in the room up-stairs?"
"Yes, there is a gas-fire with asbestos."
"I will have to go home and get some things from the laboratory."
"No, Alan, you need not leave the house. Write on a sheet of note-
paper what you want, and my servant will take a cab and bring the
things back to you."
Campbell wrote a few lines, blotted them, and addressed an envelope
to his assistant. Dorian took the note up and read it carefully.
Then he rang the bell, and gave it to his valet, with orders to
return as soon as possible, and to bring the things with him.
When the hall door shut, Campbell started, and, having got up from
the chair, went over to the chimney-piece. He was shivering with a
sort of ague. For nearly twenty minutes, neither of the men spoke. A
fly buzzed noisily about the room, and the ticking of the clock was
like the beat of a hammer.
As the chime struck one, Campbell turned around, and, looking at
Dorian Gray, saw that his eyes were filled with tears. There was
something in the purity and refinement of that sad face that seemed
to enrage him. "You are infamous, absolutely infamous!" he muttered.
"Hush, Alan: you have saved my life," said Dorian.
"Your life? Good heavens! what a life that is! You have gone from
corruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime. In
doing what I am going to do, what you force me to do, it is not of
your life that I am thinking."
"Ah, Alan," murmured Dorian, with a sigh, "I wish you had a
thousandth part of the pity for me that I have for you." He turned
away, as he spoke, and stood looking out at the garden. Campbell
made no answer.
After about ten minutes a knock came to the door, and the servant
entered, carrying a mahogany chest of chemicals, with a small
electric battery set on top of it. He placed it on the table, and
went out again, returning with a long coil of steel and platinum wire
and two rather curiously-shaped iron clamps.
"Shall I leave the things here, sir?" he asked Campbell.
"Yes," said Dorian. "And I am afraid, Francis, that I have another
errand for you. What is the name of the man at Richmond who supplies
Selby with orchids?"
"Yes,—Harden. You must go down to Richmond at once, see Harden
personally, and tell him to send twice as many orchids as I ordered,
and to have as few white ones as possible. In fact, I don't want any
white ones. It is a lovely day, Francis, and Richmond is a very
pretty place, otherwise I wouldn't bother you about it."
"No trouble, sir. At what time shall I be back?"
Dorian looked at Campbell. "How long will your experiment take,
Alan?" he said, in a calm, indifferent voice. The presence of a
third person in the room seemed to give him extraordinary courage.
Campbell frowned, and bit his lip. "It will take about five
hours," he answered.
"It will be time enough, then, if you are back at half-past seven,
Francis. Or stay: just leave my things out for dressing. You can
have the evening to yourself. I am not dining at home, so I shall not
"Thank you, sir," said the man, leaving the room.
"Now, Alan, there is not a moment to be lost. How heavy this chest
is! I'll take it for you. You bring the other things." He spoke
rapidly, and in an authoritative manner. Campbell felt dominated by
him. They left the room together.
When they reached the top landing, Dorian took out the key and
turned it in the lock. Then he stopped, and a troubled look came into
his eyes. He shuddered. "I don't think I can go in, Alan," he
"It is nothing to me. I don't require you," said Campbell, coldly.
Dorian half opened the door. As he did so, he saw the face of the
portrait grinning in the sunlight. On the floor in front of it the
torn curtain was lying. He remembered that the night before, for the
first time in his life, he had forgotten to hide it, when he crept
out of the room.
But what was that loathsome red dew that gleamed, wet and
glistening, on one of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated
blood? How horrible it was!—more horrible, it seemed to him for the
moment, than the silent thing that he knew was stretched across the
table, the thing whose grotesque misshapen shadow on the spotted
carpet showed him that it had not stirred, but was still there, as he
had left it.
He opened the door a little wider, and walked quickly in, with
half- closed eyes and averted head, determined that he would not look
even once upon the dead man. Then, stooping down, and taking up the
gold- and-purple hanging, he flung it over the picture.
He stopped, feeling afraid to turn round, and his eyes fixed
themselves on the intricacies of the pattern before him. He heard
Campbell bringing in the heavy chest, and the irons, and the other
things that he had required for his dreadful work. He began to
wonder if he and Basil Hallward had ever met, and, if so, what they
had thought of each other.
"Leave me now," said Campbell.
He turned and hurried out, just conscious that the dead man had
been thrust back into the chair and was sitting up in it, with
Campbell gazing into the glistening yellow face. As he was going
downstairs he heard the key being turned in the lock.
It was long after seven o'clock when Campbell came back into the
library. He was pale, but absolutely calm. "I have done what you
asked me to do," he muttered. "And now, good-by. Let us never see
each other again."
"You have saved me from ruin, Alan. I cannot forget that," said
As soon as Campbell had left, he went up-stairs. There was a
horrible smell of chemicals in the room. But the thing that had been
sitting at the table was gone.
"There is no good telling me you are going to be good, Dorian,"
cried Lord Henry, dipping his white fingers into a red copper bowl
filled with rose-water. "You are quite perfect. Pray don't change."
Dorian shook his head. "No, Harry, I have done too many dreadful
things in my life. I am not going to do any more. I began my good
"Where were you yesterday?"
"In the country, Harry. I was staying at a little inn by myself."
"My dear boy," said Lord Henry smiling, "anybody can be good in the
country. There are no temptations there. That is the reason why
people who live out of town are so uncivilized. There are only two
ways, as you know, of becoming civilized. One is by being cultured,
the other is by being corrupt. Country-people have no opportunity of
being either, so they stagnate."
"Culture and corruption," murmured Dorian. "I have known something
of both. It seems to me curious now that they should ever be found
together. For I have a new ideal, Harry. I am going to alter. I
think I have altered."
"You have not told me yet what your good action was. Or did you
say you had done more than one?"
"I can tell you, Harry. It is not a story I could tell to any one
else. I spared somebody. It sounds vain, but you understand what I
mean. She was quite beautiful, and wonderfully like Sibyl Vane. I
think it was that which first attracted me to her. You remember
Sibyl, don't you? How long ago that seems! Well, Hetty was not one
of our own class, of course. She was simply a girl in a village. But
I really loved her. I am quite sure that I loved her. All during
this wonderful May that we have been having, I used to run down and
see her two or three times a week. Yesterday she met me in a little
orchard. The apple-blossoms kept tumbling down on her hair, and she
was laughing. We were to have gone away together this morning at
dawn. Suddenly I determined to leave her as flower-like as I had
"I should think the novelty of the emotion must have given you a
thrill of real pleasure, Dorian," interrupted Lord Henry. "But I can
finish your idyl for you. You gave her good advice, and broke her
heart. That was the beginning of your reformation."
"Harry, you are horrible! You mustn't say these dreadful things.
Hetty's heart is not broken. Of course she cried, and all that. But
there is no disgrace upon her. She can live, like Perdita, in her
"And weep over a faithless Florizel," said Lord Henry, laughing.
"My dear Dorian, you have the most curious boyish moods. Do you
think this girl will ever be really contented now with any one of her
own rank? I suppose she will be married some day to a rough carter or
a grinning ploughman. Well, having met you, and loved you, will teach
her to despise her husband, and she will be wretched. From a moral
point of view I really don't think much of your great renunciation.
Even as a beginning, it is poor. Besides, how do you know that Hetty
isn't floating at the present moment in some mill-pond, with
water-lilies round her, like Ophelia?"
"I can't bear this, Harry! You mock at everything, and then
suggest the most serious tragedies. I am sorry I told you now. I
don't care what you say to me, I know I was right in acting as I did.
Poor Hetty! As I rode past the farm this morning, I saw her white
face at the window, like a spray of jasmine. Don't let me talk about
it any more, and don't try to persuade me that the first good action I
have done for years, the first little bit of self-sacrifice I have
ever known, is really a sort of sin. I want to be better. I am going
to be better. Tell me something about yourself. What is going on in
town? I have not been to the club for days."
"The people are still discussing poor Basil's disappearance."
"I should have thought they had got tired of that by this time,"
said Dorian, pouring himself out some wine, and frowning slightly.
"My dear boy, they have only been talking about it for six weeks,
and the public are really not equal to the mental strain of having
more than one topic every three months. They have been very fortunate
lately, however. They have had my own divorce-case, and Alan
Campbell's suicide. Now they have got the mysterious disappearance
of an artist. Scotland Yard still insists that the man in the gray
ulster who left Victoria by the midnight train on the 7th of November
was poor Basil, and the French police declare that Basil never
arrived in Paris at all. I suppose in about a fortnight we will be
told that he has been seen in San Francisco. It is an odd thing, but
every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It
must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the
"What do you think has happened to Basil?" asked Dorian, holding up
his Burgundy against the light, and wondering how it was that he
could discuss the matter so calmly.
"I have not the slightest idea. If Basil chooses to hide himself,
it is no business of mine. If he is dead, I don't want to think about
him. Death is the only thing that ever terrifies me. I hate it. One
can survive everything nowadays except that. Death and vulgarity are
the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain
away. Let us have our coffee in the music-room, Dorian. You must
play Chopin to me. The man with whom my wife ran away played Chopin
exquisitely. Poor Victoria! I was very fond of her. The house is
rather lonely without her."
Dorian said nothing, but rose from the table, and, passing into the
next room, sat down to the piano and let his fingers stray across the
keys. After the coffee had been brought in, he stopped, and, looking
over at Lord Henry, said, "Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil
Lord Henry yawned. "Basil had no enemies, and always wore a
Waterbury watch. Why should he be murdered? He was not clever
enough to have enemies. Of course he had a wonderful genius for
painting. But a man can paint like Velasquez and yet be as dull as
possible. Basil was really rather dull. He only interested me once,
and that was when he told me, years ago, that he had a wild adoration
"I was very fond of Basil," said Dorian, with a sad look in his
eyes. "But don't people say that he was murdered?"
"Oh, some of the papers do. It does not seem to be probable. I
know there are dreadful places in Paris, but Basil was not the sort of
man to have gone to them. He had no curiosity. It was his chief
defect. Play me a nocturne, Dorian, and, as you play, tell me, in a
low voice, how you have kept your youth. You must have some secret.
I am only ten years older than you are, and I am wrinkled, and bald,
and yellow. You are really wonderful, Dorian. You have never looked
more charming than you do to-night. You remind me of the day I saw
you first. You were rather cheeky, very shy, and absolutely
extraordinary. You have changed, of course, but not in appearance. I
wish you would tell me your secret. To get back my youth I would do
anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be
respectable. Youth! There is nothing like it. It's absurd to talk
of the ignorance of youth. The only people whose opinions I listen
to now with any respect are people much younger than myself. They
seem in front of me. Life has revealed to them her last wonder. As
for the aged, I always contradict the aged. I do it on principle. If
you ask them their opinion on something that happened yesterday, they
solemnly give you the opinions current in 1820, when people wore high
stocks and knew absolutely nothing. How lovely that thing you are
playing is! I wonder did Chopin write it at Majorca, with the sea
weeping round the villa, and the salt spray dashing against the panes?
It is marvelously romantic. What a blessing it is that there is one
art left to us that is not imitative! Don't stop. I want music
to-night. It seems to me that you are the young Apollo, and that I am
Marsyas listening to you. I have sorrows, Dorian, of my own, that
even you know nothing of. The tragedy of old age is not that one is
old, but that one is young. I am amazed sometimes at my own
sincerity. Ah, Dorian, how happy you are! What an exquisite life you
have had! You have drunk deeply of everything. You have crushed the
grapes against your palate. Nothing has been hidden from you. But it
has all been to you no more than the sound of music. It has not
marred you. You are still the same.
"I wonder what the rest of your life will be. Don't spoil it by
renunciations. At present you are a perfect type. Don't make
yourself incomplete. You are quite flawless now. You need not shake
your head: you know you are. Besides, Dorian, don't deceive
yourself. Life is not governed by will or intention. Life is a
question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly-built-up cells in which
thought hides itself and passion has its dreams. You may fancy
yourself safe, and think yourself strong. But a chance tone of color
in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once
loved and that brings strange memories with it, a line from a
forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece
of music that you had ceased to play,—I tell you, Dorian, that it is
on things like these that our lives depend. Browning writes about
that somewhere; but our own senses will imagine them for us. There
are moments when the odor of heliotrope passes suddenly across me, and
I have to live the strangest year of my life over again.
"I wish I could change places with you, Dorian. The world has
cried out against us both, but it has always worshipped you. It
always will worship you. You are the type of what the age is
searching for, and what it is afraid it has found. I am so glad that
you have never done anything, never carved a statue, or painted a
picture, or produced anything outside of yourself! Life has been your
art. You have set yourself to music. Your days have been your
Dorian rose up from the piano, and passed his hand through his
hair. "Yes, life has been exquisite," he murmured, "but I am not going
to have the same life, Harry. And you must not say these extravagant
things to me. You don't know everything about me. I think that if
you did, even you would turn from me. You laugh. Don't laugh."
"Why have you stopped playing, Dorian? Go back and play the
nocturne over again. Look at that great honey-colored moon that hangs
in the dusky air. She is waiting for you to charm her, and if you
play she will come closer to the earth. You won't? Let us go to the
club, then. It has been a charming evening, and we must end it
charmingly. There is some one at the club who wants immensely to know
you,—young Lord Poole, Bournmouth's eldest son. He has already
copied your neckties, and has begged me to introduce him to you. He
is quite delightful, and rather reminds me of you."
"I hope not," said Dorian, with a touch of pathos in his voice.
"But I am tired to-night, Harry. I won't go to the club. It is
nearly eleven, and I want to go to bed early."
"Do stay. You have never played so well as to-night. There was
something in your touch that was wonderful. It had more expression
than I had ever heard from it before."
"It is because I am going to be good," he answered, smiling. "I am
a little changed already."
"Don't change, Dorian; at any rate, don't change to me. We must
always be friends."
"Yet you poisoned me with a book once. I should not forgive that.
Harry, promise me that you will never lend that book to any one. It
"My dear boy, you are really beginning to moralize. You will soon
be going about warning people against all the sins of which you have
grown tired. You are much too delightful to do that. Besides, it is
no use. You and I are what we are, and will be what we will be. Come
round tomorrow. I am going to ride at eleven, and we might go
together. The Park is quite lovely now. I don't think there have
been such lilacs since the year I met you."
"Very well. I will be here at eleven," said Dorian. "Good-night,
Harry." As he reached the door he hesitated for a moment, as if he
had something more to say. Then he sighed and went out.
It was a lovely night, so warm that he threw his coat over his arm,
and did not even put his silk scarf round his throat. As he strolled
home, smoking his cigarette, two young men in evening dress passed
him. He heard one of them whisper to the other, "That is Dorian
Gray." He remembered how pleased he used to be when he was pointed
out, or stared at, or talked about. He was tired of hearing his own
name now. Half the charm of the little village where he had been so
often lately was that no one knew who he was. He had told the girl
whom he had made love him that he was poor, and she had believed him.
He had told her once that he was wicked, and she had laughed at him,
and told him that wicked people were always very old and very ugly.
What a laugh she had!—just like a thrush singing. And how pretty she
had been in her cotton dresses and her large hats! She knew nothing,
but she had everything that he had lost.
When he reached home, he found his servant waiting up for him. He
sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library,
and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said
Was it really true that one could never change? He felt a wild
longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood,—his rose-white
boyhood, as Lord Henry had once called it. He knew that he had
tarnished himself, filled his mind with corruption, and given horror
to his fancy; that he had been an evil influence to others, and had
experienced a terrible joy in being so; and that of the lives that
had crossed his own it had been the fairest and the most full of
promise that he had brought to shame. But was it all irretrievable?
Was there no hope for him?
It was better not to think of the past. Nothing could alter that.
It was of himself, and of his own future, that he had to think. Alan
Campbell had shot himself one night in his laboratory, but had not
revealed the secret that he had been forced to know. The excitement,
such as it was, over Basil Hallward's disappearance would soon pass
away. It was already waning. He was perfectly safe there. Nor,
indeed, was it the death of Basil Hallward that weighed most upon his
mind. It was the living death of his own soul that troubled him.
Basil had painted the portrait that had marred his life. He could
not forgive him that. It was the portrait that had done everything.
Basil had said things to him that were unbearable, and that he had
yet borne with patience. The murder had been simply the madness of a
moment. As for Alan Campbell, his suicide had been his own act. He
had chosen to do it. It was nothing to him.
A new life! That was what he wanted. That was what he was waiting
for. Surely he had begun it already. He had spared one innocent
thing, at any rate. He would never again tempt innocence. He would
As he thought of Hetty Merton, he began to wonder if the portrait
in the locked room had changed. Surely it was not still so horrible
as it had been? Perhaps if his life became pure, he would be able to
expel every sign of evil passion from the face. Perhaps the signs of
evil had already gone away. He would go and look.
He took the lamp from the table and crept up-stairs. As he
unlocked the door, a smile of joy flitted across his young face and
lingered for a moment about his lips. Yes, he would be good, and the
hideous thing that he had hidden away would no longer be a terror to
him. He felt as if the load had been lifted from him already.
He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom,
and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and
indignation broke from him. He could see no change, unless that in
the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved
wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome,—more
loathsome, if possible, than before,—and the scarlet dew that
spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilt.
Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed?
Or the desire of a new sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted, with his
mocking laugh? Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us
do things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all these?
Why was the red stain larger than it had been? It seemed to have
crept like a horrible disease over the wrinkled fingers. There was
blood on the painted feet, as though the thing had dripped,—blood
even on the hand that had not held the knife.
Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess? To give himself up,
and be put to death? He laughed. He felt that the idea was
monstrous. Besides, who would believe him, even if he did confess?
There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere. Everything
belonging to him had been destroyed. He himself had burned what had
been below-stairs. The world would simply say he was mad. They
would shut him up if he persisted in his story.
Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and to make
public atonement. There was a God who called upon men to tell their
sins to earth as well as to heaven. Nothing that he could do would
cleanse him till he had told his own sin. His sin? He shrugged his
shoulders. The death of Basil Hallward seemed very little to him. He
was thinking of Hetty Merton.
It was an unjust mirror, this mirror of his soul that he was
looking at. Vanity? Curiosity? Hypocrisy? Had there been nothing
more in his renunciation than that? There had been something more.
At least he thought so. But who could tell?
And this murder,—was it to dog him all his life? Was he never to
get rid of the past? Was he really to confess? No. There was only
one bit of evidence left against him. The picture itself,—that was
He would destroy it. Why had he kept it so long? It had given him
pleasure once to watch it changing and growing old. Of late he had
felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at night. When he had
been away, he had been filled with terror lest other eyes should look
upon it. It had brought melancholy across his passions. Its mere
memory had marred many moments of joy. It had been like conscience
to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it.
He looked round, and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward.
He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it.
It was bright, and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it
would kill the painter's work, and all that that meant. It would
kill the past, and when that was dead he would be free. He seized it,
and stabbed the canvas with it, ripping the thing right up from top to
There was a cry heard, and a crash. The cry was so horrible in its
agony that the frightened servants woke, and crept out of their
rooms. Two gentlemen, who were passing in the Square below, stopped,
and looked up at the great house. They walked on till they met a
policeman, and brought him back. The man rang the bell several
times, but there was no answer. The house was all dark, except for a
light in one of the top windows. After a time, he went away, and
stood in the portico of the next house and watched.
"Whose house is that, constable?" asked the elder of the two
"Mr. Dorian Gray's, sir," answered the policeman.
They looked at each other, as they walked away, and sneered. One
of them was Sir Henry Ashton's uncle.
Inside, in the servants' part of the house, the half-clad domestics
were talking in low whispers to each other. Old Mrs. Leaf was
crying, and wringing her hands. Francis was as pale as death.
After about a quarter of an hour, he got the coachman and one of
the footmen and crept up-stairs. They knocked, but there was no
reply. They called out. Everything was still. Finally, after vainly
trying to force the door, they got on the roof, and dropped down on to
the balcony. The windows yielded easily: the bolts were old.
When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid
portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder
of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead
man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered,
wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined
the rings that they recognized who it was.