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The Picture of Dorian Gray Entries

ENTRY 1 

A Quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray

“That evening, at eight-thirty, exquisitely dressed and wearing a large buttonhole of Parma violets, Dorian Gray was ushered into Lady Narborough’s drawing-room by bowing servants. His forehead was throbbing with maddened nerves, and he felt wildly excited, but his manner as he bent over his hostess’s hand was as easy and graceful as ever. Perhaps one never seems so much at one’s ease as when one has to play a part. Certainly no one looking at Dorian Gray that night could have believed that he had passed through a tragedy as horrible as any tragedy of our age. Those finely shaped fingers could never have clutched a knife for sin, nor those smiling lips have cried out on God and goodness. He himself could not help wondering at the calm of his demeanour, and for a moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life” (205).

Critical Commentary on the Novel – Appendix H: Contemporary Reviews and Wilde’s Responses

“Only a day or two later, another London newspaper, the Daily Chronicle, published a review (June 30) that made a more direct attack on the morality of the book: 

It is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Décadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction – a gloating study of the mental and physical corruption of a fresh, fair and golden youth, which might be horrible and fascinating but for its effeminate frivolity, its studied insincerity, its theatrical cynicism, its tawdry mysticism, its flippant philosophisings, and the contaminating trail of garish vulgarity which is over all Mr Wilde’s elaborate Wardour Street aestheticism and obtrusively cheap scholarship…

Once again, Wilde responded to this attack, and his letter of June 30 makes a claim for Dorian Gray as a distinctively modern novel that represented a break with nineteenth-century tradition:

Finally, let me say this – the aesthetic movement produced certain colours, subtle in their loveliness and fascinating in their almost mystical tone. They were, and are, our reactions against the crude primaries of a doubtless more respectable but certainly less cultivated age. My story is an essay on decorative art. It reacts against the crude brutality of plain realism. It is poisonous if you like, but you cannot deny that it is also perfect, and perfection is what we artists aim at” (272-273).

Images from The British Library: The Picture of Dorian Gray illustrated by Majeska

3/25/20

 

5 Comments

  1. phussey

    Hey Olivia!
    It was awesome to see what you found about how the book was really broken down. It looks like it wasn’t received very well by many. I don’t know about you but when I read a book I either like it or I don’t. I guess many go as far as to really take offense to what the book could mean. I wonder if people do the same now-a-days compared to early times.

  2. Evelyn

    Greetings!
    I love the quote you chose about Dorian because it touches greatly upon a subject Sarah and I were talking about in our forum about how Dorian, unlike other monsters we’ve encountered in the course, is not ugly and is constantly surrounded by images of himself via mirrors as well as people priding him on his beauty. We particularly talked about how him being able to view himself in this positive manner contributes to his downfall, and I think your quote perfectly captures what I was trying to say.
    I also love the Appendix entry you chose as well, I think it’s super interesting to see how the book was received and hear some criticism of Wilde. The words they used were quite colorful, and they really knew how to (as we would say in Modern times) “read each other to filth”.

  3. jchretien1

    Hey Olivia!

    Nice job with your entry for this week!

    The quotation chosen from the novel about “doubling” really highlights an important theme from Dorian Gray, and is a theme that we’ve encountered in essentially every novel we’ve read thus far in the course (seen with Frankenstein/his creature; Jane/Bertha; Jekyll/Hyde). This common recurrence really illustrates the centrality of “doubles” in Gothic literature, and it will be interesting to see if/how our upcoming novels (The Beetle and Dracula) handle this notion of “doubling”. This specific quotation also made me think of the notion of “inviolate personality” (or, “privacy and personhood”) that we talked about briefly with Jekyll and Hyde, given that the descriptor of a “terrible pleasure” assigned to Dorian’s feelings of his secret associations with the “bad-side” of London could be said to suggest that Dorian feels a mix of shame and enjoyment towards harboring an aspect of his personality that he gets to keep “all to himself”. This notion of privacy (and the enjoyment of it) also appears in the first chapter when Basil remarks that there’s a enjoyably “romantic” aspect to not telling others where you’re going away to, and throughout the novel when the narrator alludes to other characters speculating about/making rumors about the private activities of others.

    I also like how you chose to include a review from the time period of the novel’s publication. The review really highlights the uniqueness of Dorian Gray as a hybrid of a “Victorian novel” and a “Modern novel”, and really encourages readers to think about the difficulties of defining starting and ending points for historical periods/literary movements, given that history/culture tends to “bleed into itself” and not just cleanly jump from one distinct moment to another overnight.

  4. pphillips5

    Great entry! The theme of doubling, or having a split identity, is one that has been very prevalent in all of the novels we have read this year, but each one has its own unique spin on it. In my CPB entry, I also discussed how Wilde was scorned publicly for the “radical” ideas he put into Dorian Gray. This theme of doubling really seems to be something these Victorian authors may have had to do in such a judgmental society.

  5. cirish1

    Hi Olivia!

    I really enjoyed reading your CPB entry for this week as it touched upon some of the same aspects that I included in mine, such as the images as well as the discussion on Dorians double life. I thought the literary critique was also super interesting as it shows a lot of negativity towards the novel. The quote you chose that discusses the concept of the double life really connects to other Gothic stories such as Jekyll and Hyde where there are two versions of oneself. For Dorian it is interesting how he is able to contain his other self in a painting for so many years whereas Jekyll and Hyde have more of an awareness of their “double life”. Dorian has the ability to store this corrupt side of him away and only look at it when he wants to. This I thought was a very unique thing for Wilde to that differs from other Gothic novel.

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