The Picture of Dorian Gray

This Gothic classic (176 pages) was published in October of 1993 by Dover Publications. The book takes you to Victorian England. Melissa read The Picture of Dorian Gray and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

This slender Gothic classic by Oscar Wilde — he of the quotable quip and velvet waistcoat — is a damning portrayal of vanity and Victorian morality. It’s also a damn good thriller.

The story begins when tortured artist Basil Hallward paints a full-length portrait of his latest muse, a callow, shallow, and painfully beautiful young man named Dorian Gray. As Basil works to capture Dorian’s smooth, physical perfection in oils and brushstrokes, he unwittingly sets off a chain of events that spell Dorian’s doom.

Because the two men are not alone in the studio.

They’re joined by Lord Henry Wotton — literally, a silver-tongued devil. Lord Henry seduces Dorian with words, goading the younger man to explore his baser instincts, to exploit his youth that is so revered yet so fleeting: ‘The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.’

Dorian gazes at his own likeness and is devastated by the knowledge that he will one day no longer resemble his perfect portrait. He makes a perilous wish that destroys his life and the lives of innocent people helplessly caught in the web of his charm and seductive debauchery.

Wilde’s wild story and florid prose explore philosophy, Romanticism, and the reverence for beauty and Beauty above all else. But grab your smelling salts because this is no intellectual exercise; there are opium dens, a scandalous novel, tawdry theater, betrayals, homoerotic flirting, murder, and a Faustian deal that seals Dorian’s fate.

Wilde famously said, ‘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.’ Who among us wouldn’t want to hold on to our innocence and fresh blush of youth as long as possible?

We love Wilde’s words on the page, but they sing when spoken by Russell Tovey, the narrator of this excellent audiobook. He’s a television, film, and stage actor with an utterly dreamy accent.

I turned halfway 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 someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself. — Oscar Wilde

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