Reading period: Jul–Sep 2018.

This entry is published in incomplete state.




  • random quotable wisdoms (mostly uttered by Dorian Gray):

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.”

“there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

  • with some it’s not clear whether they are genuine or passed along

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

  • on social graph building

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.”

  • information over matter
    • visionary or social constants?

“The thoroughly well-informed man–that is the modern ideal.”

“can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable.”

  • matter over intellect

Mysticism, with its marvellous power of making common things strange to us, and the subtle antinomianism that always seems to accompany it, moved him for a season; and for a season he inclined to the materialistic doctrines of the Darwinismus movement in Germany, and found a curious pleasure in tracing the thoughts and passions of men to some pearly cell in the brain, or some white nerve in the body, delighting in the conception of the absolute dependence of the spirit on certain physical conditions, morbid or healthy, normal or diseased.

  • misogyny/trolling?

“[…]no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”

  • also (has any women read the book?)

Women, as some witty Frenchman once put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces and always prevent us from carrying them out.

the only way a woman can ever reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life.

We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated.

  • evolution of human relationships

“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others.”

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.

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.”

She is very clever, too clever for a woman. [on Lady Monmouth]

  • perceiving relationships and self

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. When Dorian had finished the letter, he felt that he had been forgiven.

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.

  • I like this

To become the spectator of one’s own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life.

  • “work-life” balance

“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.”

  • too much weight on looks

Besides, he has the appearance of being rich, and

I trust he is one of the aristocracy. He has all the appearance of it, I must say. It might be a most brilliant marriage for Sibyl.

  • from Lord Henry

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.”

ugly -------- beautiful
        | \11

All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder.

  • the miraculous painting
    • the first encounter

the dim arrested light that struggled through the cream-coloured silk blinds, the face appeared to him to be a little changed. The expression looked different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth. It was certainly strange.

It had made him conscious how unjust, how cruel, he had been to Sibyl Vane.

There were opiates for remorse, drugs that could lull the moral sense to sleep. But here was a visible symbol of the degradation of sin. Here was an ever-present sign of the ruin men brought upon their souls.

He hated to be separated from the picture that was such a part of his life,

He felt a terrible joy at the thought that some one else was to share his secret, and that the man who had painted the portrait that was the origin of all his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life with the hideous memory of what he had done.

“You told me you had destroyed it.” “I was wrong. It has destroyed me.”

  • epistemology

What was the use of knowing? If the thing was true, it was terrible. If it was not true, why trouble about it?

I wish I knew,” she said at last. He shook his head. “Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.”

  • on catholics

[…] stirred him as much by its superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it sought to symbolize.

  • contrast with today

Society–civilized society, at least– is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating.

  • on countryside

They get up early, because they have so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to think about.

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 uncivilized.


Dorian Gray

  • 19th century free-thinker lifestyle (cf Eugen Oniegin)

“what brings you out so early? I thought you dandies never got up till two, and were not visible till five.”

“Half-past six! What an hour! It will be like having a meat-tea, or reading an English novel. It must be seven. No gentleman dines before seven.

Harry spends his days in saying what is incredible and his evenings in doing what is improbable.

  • processing mail (cf spam)

The others he opened listlessly. They contained the usual collection of cards, invitations to dinner, tickets for private views, programmes of charity concerts, and the like that are showered on fashionable young men every morning during the season.

  • and 38 starts at 17 yo, continues at 25 and 38

I shall be of age in less than a year, and then I can do what I like.

  • psychopath

Dorian looked at Campbell. “How long will your experiment take, Alan?” he said in a calm indifferent voice. The presence of a third person in the room seemed to give him extraordinary courage.

  • exploits his young-looking face to get away with Sibyl’s suicide

Basil Hallward

  • painter
  • killed by DG

Lord Herry Henry

“It was clear to him that the experimental method was the only method by which one could arrive at any scientific analysis of the passions; and certainly Dorian Gray was a subject made to his hand, and seemed to promise rich and fruitful results.”

The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality.

  • pair selfishness, greed for children
  • many quotes come from him, it’s even reflected in the book

“[…]forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.” “And those are … ?” asked Lord Henry, helping himself to some salad. “Oh, your theories about life, your theories about love, your theories about pleasure. All your theories, in fact, Harry.”

  • Dorian respects him

Lady Agatha

Sibyl Vane

  • actress
  • naïve (16 yo)

“what does money matter? Love is more than money.”

James Vane (brother)

  • accidentally shot

Alan Campbell

  • chemist, solves problems

His dominant intellectual passion was for science.

  • dissolves the corpse in nitric acid
  • blackmailed
  • commits suicide eventually

Adrian Singleton

  • ???

Language & style

  • Basil/Dorian: a chapter written as a dialogue
  • Chapter 4: part of chapter is more descriptive and contemplating
  • chapters are sharp delimiters (timeline jumps)
  • in later parts, the inter-chapter gaps get shorter
  • French excerpts I did not understand

  • some for singular? “as if awakened from some dream.”
  • indirect enumeration, requiring cultural knowledge

“One evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I have seen her die in the gloom of an Italian tomb, sucking the poison from her lover’s lips. I have watched her wandering through the forest of Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and dainty cap. She has been mad, and has come into the presence of a guilty king, and given him rue to wear and bitter herbs to taste of. She has been innocent, and the black hands of jealousy have crushed her reedlike throat. I have seen her in every age and in every costume.

  • another cultural ref Besides, how do you know that Hetty isn’t floating at the present moment in some starlit mill-pond, with lovely water-lilies round her, like Ophelia?”

I am off to Paris by the midnight train, and I particularly wanted to see you before I left.