The Picture of Dorian Gray (Modern Library Series)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Modern Library Series)

4.0 766
by Oscar Wilde, Uchida

View All Available Formats & Editions

Introduction by Jeffrey Eugenides
Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but…  See more details below


Introduction by Jeffrey Eugenides
Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.95(w) x 7.56(h) x 0.87(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt


The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters of Tokio who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

As the painter looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.

"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. Whenever I have gone there, there have been either so many people that I have not been able to see the pictures, which was dreadful, or so many pictures that I have not been able to see the people, which was worse. The Grosvenor is really the only place."

"I don't think I shall send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. 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. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion."

"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit it I have put too much of myself into it."

Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed.

"Yes, I knew you would; but it is quite true, all the same."

"Too much of yourself in it!  Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you — well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless, beautiful creature, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him.

"You don't understand me, Harry," answered the artist. "Of course I am not like him. I know that perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry to look like him. You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth. There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction, the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings. It is better not to be different from one's fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are — my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks — we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly."

"Dorian Gray? Is that his name?" asked Lord Henry, walking across the studio towards Basil Hallward.

"Yes, that is his name. I didn't intend to tell it to you."

"But why not?"

"Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance to one's life. I suppose you think me awful foolish about it?"

"Not at all," answered Lord Henry, "not at all, my dear Basil. 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."

"I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said Basil Hallward, strolling towards the door that led into the garden. "I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose."

"Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know," cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out into the garden together, and ensconced themselves on a long bamboo seat that stood in the shade of a tall laurel bush. The sunlight slipped over the polished leaves. In the grass, white daisies were tremulous.

After a pause, Lord Henry pulled out his watch. "I am afraid I must be going, Basil," he murmured, "and before you go, I insist on your answering a question I put to you some time ago."

"What is that?" said the painter, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.

"You know quite well."

"I do not, Harry."

"Well, I will tell you what it is. I want you to explain to me why you won't exhibit Dorian Gray's picture. I want the real reason."

"I told you the real reason."

"No you did not. You said it was because there was too much of yourself in it. Now, that is childish."

"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 rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit the picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my soul."

Lord Henry laughed. "And what is that?" he asked.

"I will tell you," said Hallward; but an expression of perplexity came over his face.

"I am all expectation, Basil," continued his companion, glancing at him.

"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the painter; "and I am afraid you will hardly understand it. Perhaps you will hardly believe it."

Lord Henry smiled, and, leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisy from the grass, and examined it. "I am quite sure I shall understand it," he replied, gazing intently at the little golden white-feathered disk, "and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible."

The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy lilac-blooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the languid air. A grasshopper began to chirrup by the wall, and like a blue thread a long thing dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze wings. Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart beating, and wondered what was coming.

"The story is simply this," and the painter after some time. "Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's. You know we poor artists have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to remind the public that we are not savages. With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stockbroker, can gain a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge over-dressed dowagers and tedious Academicians, I suddenly became conscious that some one was looking at me. I turned half-way round, and saw Dorian Gray for the first time. When our eyes met, I felt that I was growing pale. A curious sensation of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my soul, my very art itself. I did not want any external influence in my life. You know I did not want any external influence in my life. I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray. Then— but I don't know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows. I grew afraid, and turned to quite the room. It was not conscience that made me do so; it was a sort of cowardice. I take no credit to myself for trying to escape."

"Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all."

"I don't believe that, Harry, and I don't believe you do either. However, whatever was my motive — and it may have been pride, for I used to be very proud — I certainly struggled to the door. There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon. 'You are not going to run away so soon, Mr. Hallward?' she screamed out. You know her curiously shrill voice?"

"Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty," said Lord Henry, pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fingers.

"I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to Royalties, and people with Stars and Garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic tiaras and parrot noses. She spoke of me as her dearest friend. I had only met her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize me. I believe some picture of mine had made a great success at the time, at least had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is the nineteenth-century standard of immortality. Suddenly I found myself face to face with the young man whose personality had so strangely stirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes met again. It was reckless of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce me to him. perhaps it was not so reckless, after all. It was simply inevitable. We would have spoken to each other without any introduction. I am sure of that. Dorian told me so afterwards. He, too, felt that we were destined to know each other."

Read More

What People are saying about this

Richard Ellman
His wit is an agent of renewal.
Richard Ellmann
He is not one of those writers who as the centuries change lose their relevance. Wilde is one of us. His wit is an agent of renewal, as pertinent now as a hundred years ago.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Collins Classics) 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 766 reviews.
MDC_ColumbiaU More than 1 year ago
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a fantastic book, mixing excellent wit with poignant commentary on society, intertwined around a spiritual story about a man who sold his soul unwittingly, but unrepentantly. Make sure you read this book, BUT ... buy a different edition. The editor of this book, Cauti, included many intelligent and spectacular notes throughout the book, but he includes asterisks and cross-marks throughout the book so that you will check his footnotes. These appear on 90% of the pages, and they ruin the flow of Wilde's prose because the reader is compelled to stop reading, check the footnote, and return to their previous position. The rhythm of the writing is totaly disrupted whenever this happens, and it is fair to say that this happens often. Often enough, in fact, that I recommend you buy another edition. Not this one.
theokester More than 1 year ago
I knew relatively little going into this book...and what little I did know was from less than 100% accurate retellings such as in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or references from cheesy shows or horror flicks (I think perhaps there was a reference in Scooby Doo somewhere?). I had the basic gist...there's a guy, Dorian Gray, who has some magical painting that ages while he stays young and wonderful forever. Not much to go on, but I was still excited to read it. I was pleasantly surprised that the book had much more depth to it. I was a little torn on my overall feeling for the book. It took me a while to get into it and there were long passages that were drudgerous to push through. However, from a high level, this is one of the better books I've read this year...or even for numerous years. It had a plenitude of intriguing themes that left me thinking in between readings. It had a lot of humorous quips and paradigms as presented by Harry that I laughed out loud at. It had surprising twists and tension that left me curious as to the true outcome (as opposed to that from rip-off stories). There are a couple of spots that could be considered "climax"...the confrontation with the artist is the main turning point in the book. Personally, I would have rather seen more pages after that turning point than before it. I think the last 1/3 of the book was far more engaging. At the same time, the buildup was necessary to promote the intended mood. Overall, this is a book I definitely recommend, with the caveat that you should be aware that it does slow down at points. Just push through those. The overall work is worthy of a couple of slow zones. In fact, perhaps those slow zones serve the purpose of allowing more pondering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Believe it or not, I had not heard of The Picture of Dorian Gray until the movie League of Extraordinaty Gentleman came out. I know, crazy right. No, I havn't lived under a rock my whole life. I don't know how i missed it. Well, after seeing the movie I rented every movie of The Picture of Dorian Gray I could find and fell in love with the story. Then I read the book... and fell in love with the writing. Reading the first chapter is like being swathed in wonderful writing from head too toe. I felt completely surrounded by it. You can almost feel the warmth of the garden, hear the sounds of the birds and dragonflies, and smell the beauty of the flowers as you sit and listen to this conversation between Harry and Basil. The writing is an immersive experince. And Basil's description of his first encounter with Dorian and the feelings that Dorian stirs in him, sound almost... romantic. At the least there's definately a bromance going on. And we also see the first crack of Dorian's facade in this chapter, which Basil's decsription of how Dorian sometiems seems purposefully cruel to him. Isn't it interesting, the first chapter ends with Harry demanding to meet Dorian and dragging Basil into the house and we haven't even met Dorian yet ourselves. As I read the book it occured to me that it could also have been titled the Influence of Lord Henry Wotten, for Harry's (as he's called by his friends) opinions and influence are as central to the story as Dorian Gray himself and more of a factor than the portrait itself. Hardly a scene goes by that Harry, whether present or not, is not quoted as an authority. It was as if he was the potter and Dorian was the clay. Harry was fully aware of his influence, and Dorian... Dorian seemed to be racing from one sensation to another like a spoiled child. This was by far one of the best written, most interesting stories I have read. I will read it over and over and would recommend it to everyone. STATS: Nook Pages: 240 Genere: Classic Re-readability: Very High
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for class. Sadly if it wasn't required I wouldn't have read it because I cannot stand classics. When I read this book and loved it I was astonished. Before reading it though I do recommend looking into the time period in which it was published so that you understand why it was such a controversial book. It was absolutely genius though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book many months ago, and as time has passed, it only grows upon me more. Though I will admit some parts are dry... other parts are fraught with action and suspense. The ending'and book itself' shocked me, and I am still thinking about it now, 7 months later. If you want a 'thriller', a book that is plot-driven and never drones, read another book. But if you want a complex, horrifying, intriguing work based on characters and self-conflict, then definitely I highly recommend Dorian Gray
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First classic i've ever read and it was amazing. It was a unique and interesting change from most books i read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting story rife with paradoxical witticisms and artistic commentary. Something falls short in the plot structure for me to withold labeling it as a great work of literature though I did very much enjoy it This book becomes infinitely more interesting as one researches Oscar Wilde and what the characters and art meant to him and the historical context in which they were illustrated. I would definitely recommend trying to find at least a brief account of Wilde's life and reading before delving into this book, it will pay dividends in the end and leave you less nonplussed about the surfeit of now untimely allusions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very poorly copied version of a great book and to my knowledge the only free version available. You are better off just buying a cheap copy of the ebook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written in the late 1800s by a British author, you can expect lengthy phrasing and vocabulary specific to the Brits. However, the content is very thought provoking. A young and beautiful man, Dorian, who happens to be one of the idle rich that have nothing to do all day but delve in the arts and drink tea, has his portrait painted and subsequently becomes influenced by the artist and his friend. Having no sound background that anchors his psychological and moral character, he easily absorbs the skewed philosophies of the two men. He is taught by the artist that youth and beauty is everything and is so temporary that one must do anything to hold on to it. The other man teaches him that there are no consequences to your sins. "Men represent the triumph of mind over morals" and "the sins we commit once with loathing, we will do many more times with joy". Dorian quickly became totally hedonistic and sold his soul to stay young and beautiful. He wished that the portrait would take on the changes in his beauty as he grew older. It also began taking on physical changes of cruelty and evil. The book depicts his moral decline and the grotesque changes in the portrait. It has many quotable passages. The mind of Oscar Wilde is fascinating.
XX18 More than 1 year ago
I's an amazing book, but hard to read mostly because i'm not familiar with the words used in the book. but when I read it again, I believe Oscar Wilde IS A GENIUS!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horrible book scans that don't include the whole book do not get.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly loved the book, couldn't stop reading. I truely fell in love with this book and its characters. Would most deffinately recomend it to everyone, if you enjoy mystery and scandelous happenings.
Bookworm95AO More than 1 year ago
Reading the synopsis of this novel, you would expect it to be a fantastical tale of magic and suspense. This is absolutely untrue. The novel delves into the nooks and crannies of the human soul. It dwells upon the subjects of right and wrong, heaven and hell, and vanity and evil. Every page is quotable and in every line, a debate can be found. Excellent writing. Excellent skill. The ending is abrupt, but also brilliant. *On a scale of 1-10 of reading difficulty, this book is a 4 or 5. Not hard to understand at all. Go for it.
MrsG-EnglishTeacher More than 1 year ago
The Picture of Dorian Gray is an interesting exploration of human weaknesses. Kind of creepy!
lovestoread203 More than 1 year ago
Dorian Gray is a classic novel written by Irish author Oscar Wilde. It is a very unique book that is a classic due to its excellent plot, colorful characters, and dramatic conclusion, which is also an amazing combination of drama and a touch of horror. The book takes place in Victorian London and its main characters are Dorian and Lord Henry, two very wealthy men, and also a painter named Basil who later goes on to draw that infamous portrait. In a way the characters are a bit cliché, but they all have quite a bit of depth, Dorian in particular. The story is mainly based around Dorian and Henry discussing the best way to live their lives, while Basil comes in to talk every now and then. Lord Henry always seemed to be a bad influence on Dorian as they both grew up to be rich, fat, narcissistic pigs. Later on in the book, Basil made a picture of Dorian when he was around 17 years old, at the height of his late youth. He claimed it to be his best work although Dorian never permitted him to display it at a gallery. After Basil painted it, Dorian cried out as to why the painting could stay young but he would not. He then later went on to rant about wishing to have eternal youth. Afterwards, Dorian spent the rest of his days living his life in a terrible fashion while something peculiar seemed to happen to the painting. In the beginning I stated that some characters were cliché, but Oscar Wilde was only displaying the sad truth about many Victorian Lords. Many could be very greedy and self-centered (although not to the extent of Dorian obviously.) The Picture Of Dorian Gray was a marvelous book of the 19TH Century, and readers can still enjoy this wonderful book today.
Poe_Ho More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVE this book!!! Very quotable and extremely spellbinding! I highly recommend it!
Holly2009 More than 1 year ago
This book is magnificient. It allowed me to appreciate my own mortality and the impact that my life has on others. It also made me realize that there truly are good and evil people that exist in this world. Wilde captures the beauty of human life in every syllable.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
This book contains 5 stories, all fascinating! The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gripping tale about the evils of being superficial. It was intriguing to see how the portrait changed to reflect the heart and soul of Dorian. Dorian was able to remain young and beautiful while his sins were reflected on canvas for the whole world to see. Dorian locks the portrait away to try to hide his shame from the world which is a very human impulse! I wonder, if it hadn't all been to much for him to bear, would he have been immortal? Could he truly have stayed young forever? Dorian must never have heard the old adage, be careful what you wish for because it may come true!
Guest More than 1 year ago
One my favorite books since Phantom of the Opera. It should be on Oprahs reading list!!! VERY INTELLECTUAL!!! MUST READ!!! MEMORABLE!!!
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous 5 months ago
It sucked baddly i tell you! Dont buy it or get the sample i am warning you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
40 page sample only has ONE page from the book. The other 39 pages are about the authors' life, trial and death with about 23 pages of comments and questions for a reading/book club........
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago