“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
(First publication: 1890 / This edition: Penguin Clothbound Classics 2008)
Taken with a lotus flower, coffee, and an essence oil reed diffuser.
You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit. (pg.77)
This is a favorite.
I love this book.
The first time the title caught my attention was when I was in high school and I heard it on “500 Days of Summer”. I’m sure I had probably heard the title before but just never really gave a thought about it.
The second time the book caught my attention was in January 2014, when I had a book-shopping spree in Kinokuniya in Tokyo after I finished the first semester of my senior year and needed to let off some steam. I don’t know why I chose it, but something compelled me to that day.
The story is about a man who sold his soul for beauty and youth. He explores all kinds of sins, dark elements, and becomes morally corrupted—but he still has his youth and handsome looks. The story explores themes like morality, experience, pleasure, sins, identity, and reason. It’s a philosophical fiction—makes you wonder and weigh reason vs. pleasure. There’s even some issues of homosexuality in there, which I thought was interesting, because if you know about Oscar Wilde’s personal life, he was quite notorious for his homosexuality and his relationships with his close male friends—and that is reflected a lot in Dorian and Basil’s relationship, I think.
I fell in love at first read. The story, of course, is mysterious and thrilling in the most perfect way—and just blew my mind and made me go frantic searching for more Wildes to read. (I’ve read “The Importance of Being Earnest”, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”, and “The Canterbury Tales”, but they’ve all been disappointing just because “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is just so darn good.)
It also made me upset at myself for having waited 22 years to read such a masterpiece. But I think what mesmerized and locked me in the most was Lord Henry’s character—there is this something about his vibe and words that just attract me and makes me feel that this is the most delicious, seductive, and sinful read ever (for those that has never read this, it’s nothing sexual or too explicit but there’s just something so alluring). I guess it’s like that douchey assiest baddest character in your favorite series but for some reason, you just like him and you just can’t resist no matter how douchey, ass-y, and baddy he is. For example, when Lord Henry says, “All I want now is to look at life. You may come and look at it with me, if you care to.” How freaking seductive is that?
I love the story so much that the first edition I had is just not satisfying enough and I just felt this itch to get a nicer, more elegant, “collectible” edition. I got this strong urge to read more about Lord Henry. I know Dorian Gray is the main character here, but I wasn’t as drawn to him and found him to be quite annoying, despite how attractive and mesmerizing he was supposed to be to everyone. I fell even more in love with the story the second time because I was able to re-read and understand Lord Henry’s character better, whereas the first time, I was focusing on what the hell was going to happen to Dorian Gray.
It’s kind of hard for me to write about this book, actually—I feel like it envelops so much in just around 200 pages, but it’s so overwhelming that my brain’s stuck on trying to sound all “book critic”-ish about it and instead just gush about how much I love this
book Lord Henry.
It’s such a classic and it’s a masterpiece. It’s definitely one of my top favorite books and I would highly recommend it to everyone—it’s one of those “must-reads before you die”, I think. It’s a thrilling and haunting read. (And I’m blogging this on Halloween—how appropriate.)
Just read it.
I feel like however much and grand I write about this book will never do it justice. It’s just one of the greatest books ever written.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
The curves of your lips rewrite history. (pg.210)
Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. (pg.47)
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. (pg.208)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. (pg.3)
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 subtle 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, that it is on things like these that our lives depend. […] our own senses will imagine them for us. There are moments when the odor of lilas blanc passes suddenly across me, and I have to live the strangest month of my life over again. (pg.206-207)
[…] for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. (pg.6)
Conscience and cowardice are really the same things. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all. (pg.10)
There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up. (pg.49)
Poets are not so scrupulous as you are. They know how useful passion is for publication. Nowadays a broken heart will run to many editions. (pg.14)
The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid of ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror. (pg.73)
I think you are wrong, but I won’t argue with you. It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue. (pg.14)
Each man lived his own life, and paid his own price for living it. The only pity was one had to pay so often for a single fault. One had to pay over and over again, indeed. (pg.181)
When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, an one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance. (pg.52)
Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies. (pg.15)
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 someone 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 our 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. (pg.20)
Nothing can cure the soul but the sense, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul. (pg.23)
Humanity takes itself too serious. It is the world’s original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, History would have been different. (pg.41)
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. (pg.54)
When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has the right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution. (pg.95)