Francis Gilbert, November, TheMaking of Modernity, 22nd 2011
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in Lippincotts Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine. Wilde later revised this edition, making several alterations, and adding new chapters; the amended version was published by Ward, Lock, and Company in April 1891…
Against the Grain or Nature, by Joris-Karl Huysmans Richard Ellmann describes the effect of the book in his biography of Oscar Wilde: Whistler rushed to congratulate Huysmans the next day on his „marvellous‟ book. Bourget, at that time a close friend of Huysmans as of Wilde, admired it greatly; Paul Valéry called it his „Bible and his bedside book‟ and this is what it became for Wilde. He said to the Morning News: „This last book of Huysmans is one of the best I have ever seen‟. It was being reviewed everywhere as the guidebook of decadence. At the very moment that Wilde was falling in with social patterns, he was confronted with a book which even in its title defied them
“Sunk in his easy chair, he now ruminated upon that unyielding order which was wrecking his plans, breaking the strings of his present life and overturning his future plans. His beatitude was ended. He was compelled to abandon this sheltering haven and return at full speed into the stupidity which had once attacked him. The physicians spoke of amusement and distraction. With whom, and with what did they wish him to distract and amuse himself? Had he not banished himself from society? Did he know a single person whose existence would approximate his in seclusion and contemplation? Did he know a man capable of appreciating the fineness of a phrase, the subtlety of a painting, the quintessence of an idea,—a man whose soul was delicate and exquisite enough to understand Mallarmé and love Verlaine? Where and when must he search to discover a twin spirit, a soul detached from commonplaces, blessing silence as a benefit, ingratitude as a solace, contempt as a refuge and port?”
In August 1889, Wilde reveals some of his surprise at the public reaction: “The newspapers seem to be to be written by the prurient for the Philistine. I cannot understand how they can treat Dorian Gray as immoral. My difficulty was to keep the inherent moral subordinate to the artistic and dramatic effect, and it still seems to me that the moral is too obvious.”
The Chronicle that said: “There is not a single good and holy impulse of human nature, scarcely a fine feeling or instinct that civilisation, art, and religion have developed throughout the ages as part of the barrier between Humanity and Animalism that is not held up to ridicule and contempt in “Dorian Gray,” if, indeed, such strong words can be fitly applied to the actual effect of Mr Wilde‟s airy levity and fluent impudence. His desperate attempt to vamp up a “moral” for the book at the end is, artistically speaking, coarse and crude because the whole incident of Dorian Gray‟s death is, as they say on the stage, “out of the picture.”
Basil Hallward says (page 96, 1890 teaching edition, http://contentdm.library.uvic.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/Literary/id/2521 ) 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… Most of this paragraph was cut from the 1891 version, why?
Walter Pater‟s The Renaissance influenced Wilde‟s aesthetic vision in The Picture of Dorian Gray as a whole, and “flame-like” alludes to Pater‟s famous “Conclusion” to the book (Riquelme 621).