The Picture of Dorian Gray
|Chapter Five||Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.|
|Chapter Six||There is hardly a single person in the House of Commons worth painting; though many of them would be the better for a little whitewashing.|
|Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.|
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. [...] The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless.
|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 neighbour 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.|
Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of ones age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.
But, surely, if one lives merely for ones self, Harry, one pays a terrible price for doing so? suggested the partner.
Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy 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.
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.
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. My dear fellow, mediæval art is charming, but mediæval emotions are out of date. [...] Believe me, no civilised man ever regrets a pleasure, and no uncivilised man ever knows what a pleasure is.
|A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?|
|Chapter Seven||There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.|
|Chapter Eight||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.|
|You cut life to pieces with your epigrams.|
|Things like that make a man fashionable in Paris. But in London people are so prejudiced. Here, one should never make ones début with a scandal. One should reserve that to give an interest to ones old age.|
Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. [...] They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
|I once wore nothing but violets all through one season, as a form of artistic 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.|
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 themselves, and that they are conscious of sharing with the less highly organised 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 willful 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 out the anchorite to feed with the wild animals of the desert and giving to the hermit the beasts of the field as his companions.
Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate 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.
|Society, civilised society at least, is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating. It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals, and, in its opinion, the highest respectability is of much less value than the possession of a good chef.|
|There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realise his conception of the beautiful.|
|Chapter Fifteen||Her capacity for family affection is extraordinary. When her third husband died, her hair turned quite gold from grief.|
|It is perfectly monstrous, he said, at last, the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind ones back that are absolutely and entirely true.|
|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.|
|Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them they will forgive us everything, even our intellects.|
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.
Ones days were too brief to take the burden of anothers errors on ones shoulders. 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. In her dealings with man Destiny never closed her accounts.
There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature, that every fibre 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. They move to their terrible end as automatons move. Choice is taken from them, and conscience is either killed, or, if it lives at all, lives but to give rebellion its fascination, and disobedience its charm. For all sins, as theologians weary not of reminding us, are sins of disobedience.
I admit that I think that it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly.
Ugliness is one of the seven deadly sins, then? cried the Duchess. [...]
Ugliness is one of the seven deadly virtues, Gladys. You, as a good Tory, must not underrate them. Beer, the Bible, and the seven deadly virtues have made our England what it is.
We women, as someone says, love with our ears, just as you men love with your eyes, if you ever love at all.
It seems to me that we never do anything else, murmured Dorian.
Ah! then, you never really love, Mr. Gray, answered the Duchess, with mock sadness.
My dear Gladys! cried Lord Henry. How can you say that? Romance lives by repetition, and repetition converts an appetite into an art. Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it. 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.
|Chapter Eighteen||Actual life was chaos, but there was something terribly logical in the imagination. It was the imagination that set remorse to dog the feet of sin. It was the imagination that made each crime bear its misshapen brood. In the common world of fact the wicked were not punished, nor the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust upon the weak. That was all.|
|Shallow sorrows and shallow loves live on. The loves and sorrows that are great are destroyed by their own plenitude.|
|As for omens, there is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.|
You would sacrifice anybody, Harry, for the sake of an epigram.
The world goes to the altar of its own accord, was the answer.
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 absolutely uncivilised. Civilisation is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which a man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate.
|It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.|
|The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of Faith, and the lesson of Romance. [...] To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. [...] The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.|
|Chapter Twenty||Better for him that each sin of his life had brought its sure, swift penalty along with it. There was purification in punishment. Not Forgive us our sins, but Smite us for our iniquities should be the prayer of a man to a most just God.|
text checked (see note) Sep 2006
Background graphic copyright © 2004 by Hal Keen