- “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” — Lord Henry
- “Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.” — Lord Henry
- “There is nothing that Art cannot express.”
- “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.”
- “It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.”
- “There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral—immoral from the scientific point of view.”
- “The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of Faith, and the lesson of Romance.” — Lord Henry
- “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.” — Lord Henry
- “To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.” — Lord Henry
- “To become the spectator of one’s own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life.” — Dorian Gray
- “Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the molding of his hands even.” — Basil Hallward
- “Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him!” — Dorian Gray
- “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.” — Lord Henry
- “Young people, nowadays, imagine that money is everything […] and when they grow older they know it.”
- “Human life—that appeared to him the one thing worth investigating.”
- “There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating—people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.” — Lord Henry
- “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
- “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
- “Anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often. That is one of the most important secrets of life.” — Lord Henry
- “The only people to whose opinions I listen now with any respect are people much younger than myself.” — Lord Henry
- “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, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.” — Lord Henry
- “I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do.” — Lord Henry
- “I love acting. It is so much more real than life.” — Lord Henry
- “To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self.” — Lord Henry
- “Being adored is a nuisance.” — Lord Henry
- “It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty.”
- “Beauty is a form of Genius—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation.”
- “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”
- 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 had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!” — Lord Henry
- “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 a romance.” — Lord Henry
- “She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.” — Lord Henry
- “The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists.” — Lord Henry
- “To be in love is to surpass one’s self.” — Sibyl Vane
- “Believe me that if this man wrongs my sister, I will find out who he is, track him down, and kill him like a dog. I swear it.” — Sibyl’s brother
- “We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful.” — Lord Henry
- “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 [boredom], and became a confirmed misanthrope.” — Dorian Gray
- “When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs.” — Lord Henry
- “We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.” — Lord Henry
- The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. That is all.” — Lord Henry
“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.” — Lord Henry
“You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely 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.” — Lord Henry
“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 in it the secret of my own soul.”
“Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm.” — Lord Henry
“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot 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.” — Lord Henry
“If one puts forward an idea to a true 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, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.” — Lord Henry
“I sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any importance in the world’s history. 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 Venetians, the face of Antinoüsl was to late Greek sculpture, and the face of Dorian Gray will some day be to me.” — Basil
“There is nothing that Art cannot express.”
“Dorian Gray is to me simply a motive in art. You might see nothing in him. I see everything in him. He is never more present in my work than when no image of him is there. He is a suggestion, as I have said, of a new manner. I find him in the curves of certain lines, in the loveliness and subtleties of certain colors. That is all.” — Basil
“Because, without intending it, I have put into it some expression of all this curious artistic idolatry, of which, of course, I have never cared to speak to him. He knows nothing about it. He shall 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!” — Basil
“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. Some day I will show the world what it is; and for that reason the world shall never see my portrait of Dorian Gray.”
“It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.”
“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. As a rule, he is charming to me, and we 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.”
“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.”
“I think you will tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at your friend, 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. What you have told me is quite a romance, a romance of art one might call it, and the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.”
“Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.”
“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—”
“I believe that if one man were to live out his life 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 mediævalism, and return to the Hellenic idealv—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!” faltered 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.
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 another 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?
“You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.” - Lord Henry
“Because you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having.” - Lord Henry
“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 of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, 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 is. 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 the invisible. . . . 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 to live really, perfectly, and fully. 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 horribly. . . . Ah! 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. These are the sickly 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, of what you really might be. There was so much in you that charmed me that I felt that 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 time. The common hill-flowers wither, but they blossom again. The laburnum will be as yellow 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 hold 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 had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!” - Lord Henry
“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.” - Lord Henry
“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June. . . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” - Dorian Gray
“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 Wotton is perfectly right. Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old I shall kill myself.” - Dorian Gray
“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.” - Lord Henry
“What a fuss people make about fidelity!” exclaimed Lord Henry. “Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.”
“Young people, nowadays, imagine that money is everything.”
“Yes,” murmured Lord Henry, settling his buttonhole in his coat; “and when they grow older they know it.”
“Is she pretty?”
“She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.” - Lord Henry
“Why can’t these American women stay in their own country? They are always telling us that it is the Paradise for women.”
“It is. That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it,” said Lord Henry.
“I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones.” - Lord Henry
“Hump! tell your Aunt Agatha, Harry, not to bother me any more with charity appeals. I am sick of them. Why, the good woman thinks that I have nothing to do but to write cheques for her silly fads.”
“All right, Uncle George, I’ll tell her, but it won’t have any effect. Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic.”
Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.
“Ah! I have talked quite enough for to-day,” said Lord Henry, smiling. “All I want now is to look at life. You may come and look at it with me, if you care to.”
“I like [Richard Wagner's] music better than anybody’s. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says.” — Lady Henry
“Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” — Lord Henry
“Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.” — Lord Henry
“You will always be loved, and you will always be in love with love. A grande passion is the privilege of people who have nothing to do.” — Lord Henry
“My dear boy, the people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect—simply a confession of failure… The passion for property is in it. There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.” — Lord Henry
“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.” — Dorian Gray
“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 a romance.” — Lord Henry
“You, who know all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me!” — Dorian Gray
“The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. 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.” — Lord Henry
Human life—that appeared to him the one thing worth investigating. Compared to it there was nothing else of any value.
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, nor 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.
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.
Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
“To be in love is to surpass one’s self.” — Sibyl Vane
“In Sibyl’s own room they parted. There was jealousy in the lad’s heart, and a fierce, murderous hatred of the stranger who, as it seemed to him, had come between them. Yet, when her arms were flung round his neck, and her fingers strayed through his hair, he softened, and kissed her with real affection. There were tears in his eyes as he went down-stairs.”
“Believe me that if this man wrongs my sister, I will find out who he is, track him down, and kill him like a dog. I swear it.” — Sibyl’s brother
“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.” — Lord Henry
“Your portrait of him has quickened his appreciation of the personal appearance of other people. It has had that excellent effect, among others.” — Lord Henry
“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 mode of expression that personality selects is absolutely delightful to me.” — Lord Henry
“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 study.” — Lord Henry
“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 the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a benefit to us. 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 have the greatest contempt for optimism.” — Lord Henry
“Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about,” he answered, in his slow, melodious voice. “But I am afraid I cannot claim my theory as my own. It belongs to Nature, not to me. Pleasure is Nature’s test, her sign of approval. When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.” — Lord Henry
“To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self.” — Lord Henry
“One’s own life—that is the important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbors, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, Individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.” — Lord Henry
“Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy that the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich.” — Lord Henry
“One has to pay in other ways but money.”
“What sort of ways, Basil?”
“Oh! I should fancy in remorse, in suffering, in . . . well, in the consciousness of degradation.”
“I know what pleasure is!” cried Dorian Gray. “It is to adore some one.”
“That is certainly better than being adored,” he answered, toying with some fruits. “Being adored is a nuisance.” — Lord Henry
“Yes, Dorian, you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.” — Lord Henry
“When Sibyl comes on the stage 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 tired look in his eyes, “but I am always ready for a new emotion. I am afraid, however, that, for me at any rate, there is no such thing. Still, your wonderful girl may thrill me. I love acting. It is so much more real than life.” — Lord Henry
“There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating—people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.” — Lord Henry
“The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming.” — Lord Henry
“Before I knew you, acting was the one reality of my life. It was only in the theater that I lived. I thought that it was all true. I was Rosalind one night, and Por tia the other. The joy of Beatrice was my joy, and the sorrows of Cordelia were mine also.cm I believed in everything… The painted scenes were my world. I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them real.” — Sibyl Vane
[Dorian and Sibyl:] 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 with her little fingers stroked his hair. She knelt down and pressed his hands to her lips. He drew them away, and a shudder ran through him.
“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 marvelous, 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… Without your art you are nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshiped you, and you would have borne my name. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face.” — Dorian Gray
There is always something ridiculous about the emotion of people whom one has ceased to love. Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic. Her tears and sobs annoyed him.
“Strange, that my first passionate love-letter should have been addressed to a dead girl.” — Dorian Gray
“Sometimes, however, a tragedy that possesses 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 that I had ever had such an experience. It would have made me in love with love for the rest of my life.” — Lord Henry
“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 their own 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.” — Lord Henry
“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.” — Lord Henry
“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 Brabantioda died. But don’t waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was less real than they are. — Lord Henry
“But suppose, Harry, I became haggard, and old, and wrinkled? What then?”
“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.”
“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
“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 [boredom], and became a confirmed misanthrope.” — Dorian Gray
“To become the spectator of one’s own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life.” — Dorian Gray
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.
Dorian: 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, unpic tured 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. Hour by hour and week by week the thing upon the canvas was growing old. It might escape the hideousness of sin, but the hideousness of age was in store for it.
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.
“Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the molding of his hands even.” — Basil Hallward
“And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.” — Dorian
“Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil!” cried Dorian, with a wild gesture of despair.
Dorian says to Basil, “Am I his keeper?”
- That’s what Cain says to God after he kills Abel. Then Dorian kills Basil. Interesting because Basil is the one who created Dorian’s portrait (his soul). Basil, in a sense, is God.
The friend who had painted the fatal portrait to which all his misery had been due had gone out of his life.
Dorian was one of her special favorites, and she always told him she was extremely glad she had not met him in early life. “I know, my dear, 1 should have fallen madly in love with you,” she used to say, “and thrown my bonnet right over the mills for your sake.
“When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs.” — Lord Henry
“Narborough wasn’t perfect,” cried the old lady.
“If he had been, you would not have loved him, my dear lady,” was the rejoinder. “Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our intellects. You will never ask me to dinner again, after saying this, I am afraid, Lady Narborough; but it is quite true.” — Lord Henry
“Of course it is true, Lord Henry. If we women did not love you for your defects, where would you all be? Not one of you would ever be married. You would be a set of unfortunate bachelors. Not, however, that that would alter you much. Nowadays all the married men live like bachelors, and all the bachelors like married men.” — Lady Narborough
“What nonsense people talk about happy marriages!” exclaimed Lord Henry. “A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.”
“To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul!” How the words rang in his ears! His soul, certainly, was sick to death. Was it true that the senses could cure it? Innocent blood had been spilt. What could atone for that? Ah! for that there was no atonement; but though forgiveness was impossible, forgetfulness was possible still, and he was determined to forget, to stamp the thing out, to crush it as one would crush the adder that had stung one. Indeed, what right had Basil to have spoken to him as he had done? Who had made him a judge over others? He had said things that were dreadful, horrible, not to be endured.
He knew in what strange heavens they were suffering, and what dull hells were teaching them the secret of some new joy.
There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or for what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature that every fiber of the body, as every cell of the brain, seems to be instinct with fearful impulses. Men and women at such moments lose the freedom of their will.
For all sins, as theologians weary not of reminding us, are sins of disobedience. When that high spirit, that morning star of evil, fell from heaven, it was as a rebel that he fell.
“He is the worst one that comes here. They say he has sold himself to the devil for a pretty face. It’s nigh on eighteen years since I met him. He hasn’t changed much since then.”
“It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. Names are everything. I never quarrel with actions. My one quarrel is with words. That is the reason I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.” — Lord Henry
“They are more cunning than practical. When they make up their ledger, they balance stupidity by wealth, and vice by hypocrisy.” — Lord Henry
“We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.”
“Even when one has been wounded by it, Harry?” asked the Duchess, after a pause.
“Especially when one has been wounded by it,” answered Lord Henry”
“Has he never been jealous?”
“I wish he had been.”
“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 plowman. Well, the fact of having met you, and loved you, will teach her to despise her husband, and she will be wretched.” — Lord Henry
“They have had my own divorce case and Alan Campbell’s suicide. Now they have got the mysterious disappearance of an artist.” — Lord Henry
“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 attraction of the next world.” — Lord Henry
“The house is rather lonely without her. Of course, married life is merely a habit—a bad habit. But then one regrets the loss even of one’s worst habits. Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of one’s personality.” — Lord Henry
“Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. I don’t blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations.” — Lord Henry
“A method of procuring sensations? Do you think then, that a man who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same crime again? Don’t tell me that.”
“Oh! anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often,” cried Lord Henry, laughing. “That is one of the most important secrets of life.”
“It [Dorian’s portrait] used to remind me of those curious lines in some play—‘Hamlet,’ I think—how do they run?—Yes, that is what it was like.”
“‘Like the painting of a sorrow, A face without a heart.”
“The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of Faith, and the lesson of Romance.” — Lord Henry
“To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.” — Lord Henry
“It’s absurd to talk of the ignorance of youth. The only people to whose opinions I listen now with any respect are people much younger than myself. They seem in front of me. Life has revealed to them her latest 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 the opinions current in 1820, when people wore high stocks, believed in everything, and knew absolutely nothing.” — Lord Henry
“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, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.” — Lord Henry
“As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. That is all.” — Lord Henry
It would kill the past, and when that was dead he would be free.
“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.”