Friday, June 3, 2011 | Categories: Books
The Picture of Dorian Gray, is Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde's, only novel.
The title character is a young man with the face of an Adonis and few morals to speak of, whose portrait ages and turns ugy - assuming all the wages of Dorian's sins - while he himself remains young and unchanged.
In its day, The Picture of Dorian Gray was called "vulgar", "poisonous", and "unclean" or - as one newspaper of the day put it - "heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction".
All that for a manuscript that had already been cleaned up, first by the editor of the magazine where it was first appeared in 1890, then by Wilde himself when he published it as a book a year later.
It was reviled for its allusions to homosexuality, sexual promiscuity and personal self-indulgence - all unacceptable in polite Victorian society. And it was the beginning of the end for Oscar Wilde, who five years later would find himself imprisoned for gross indecency. He died destitute in 1900, fulfilling his own prediction: "I will never outlive the century. The English people would not stand for it".
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic and delectable bit of gothic horror. It is also a serious reflection on art, beauty and the consequences of pleasure for pleasure's sake and at any cost.
Now for the first time it can be read as Wilde first wrote it in a new version called, The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. It is edited by Nicholas Frankel, associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Professor Frankel joined us from a studio in Richmond, Virginia.