The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde’s (1854-1900) Gothic tale first appeared in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1890. It was revised and expanded into a novel, which W H Smith rejected as ‘filthy’. Wilde explores the doctrine of aestheticism: devotion to the beautiful. Dorian dedicates his life to decadence and sensuous pleasure; while he remains youthful, his portrait gradually ages and decays, reflecting the depravity of his actions. Some reviewers were repelled, and Wilde’s wife, Constance, lamented, ‘no one will speak to us’. In the Preface the author declared: ‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.’

Creator:
Oscar Wilde
Published:
1890
Forms:
Prose
Genre:
Victorian literature
Literary period:
Victorian

Related articles

Perversion and degeneracy in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst
Themes:
Fin de siècle, Gender and sexuality

Many reviewers denounced Oscar Wilde’s novel as perverse and immoral. Roger Luckhurst explores the work’s sexual and moral ambiguities.

Aestheticism and decadence

Article by:
Carolyn Burdett
Theme:
Fin de siècle

‘Art for art’s sake’? Aestheticism and decadence shocked the Victorian establishment by challenging traditional values, foregrounding sensuality and promoting artistic, sexual and political experimentation. Dr Carolyn Burdett explores the key features of this unconventional artistic period.

The Picture of Dorian Gray: art, ethics and the artist

Article by:
Greg Buzwell
Themes:
The Gothic, London, Fin de siècle

Dark desires and forbidden pleasure are at the centre of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Greg Buzwell examines the interplay between art and morality in Oscar Wilde’s novel, and considers its use of traditional Gothic motifs as well as the theories of the new aesthetic movement.

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