Oh Dorian. Oh Dorian.
When I first read this book in the fruitless years of my youth I was excited, overwhelmed and a blank slate (as Dorian is, upon his first encounter with Lord Henry) easily molded, persuaded, influenced, etc.
Certain Wildisms (Wildeisms?) would take my breath away. Would become my mottos to believe in. To follow. To live.
"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."
"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."
"If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat."
"Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place."
"You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know."
Re-reading this masterpiece and coming upon these highlighted lines was possibly more interesting than the book this time. Why had I highlighted these lines? Do they still mean the same thing to me, as they did when I first took note of them, enough to highlight them? I still love all of those lines. But no longer feel so strongly for them.
Now these are lines that stick out still to me. Or were newly underlined on the second pass through. New Wildisms to mold me.
"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 marvelous 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 into one's life. I suppose you think me awfully foolish about it?"
"Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty."
"Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one."
"I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects."
"Ah! this Morning! You have lived since then."
"what brings you out so early? I thought you dandies never got up till two, and were not visible till five." --A new personal favorite. That I follow very seriously.
"She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm."
'He thought for a moment. "Can you remember any great error that you committed in your early days, Duchess?" he asked, looking at her across the table.
"A great many, I fear," she cried.
"Then commit them over again," he said, gravely. "To get back one's youth one has merely to repeat one's follies."
"A delightful theory!" she exclaimed. " I must put it into practice."
"Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion."
It turns out that all of these quotes occur in the first 45 pages, except that last one which is right near the end. And it seems most of my reviews end up being mostly quotes from the book itself, but I figure this is what shaped and informed my reading, so I want to share it with all of you. What do you think of it all?
That said, poor Sybil Vane! Poor James Vane! Poor Basil Hallward! Shit, even poor old Lord Henry Wotton! And Dorian! Oh Dorian! Lead the life you did and for what?
That's all I am going to say about the book. I don't think I shall read Against Nature, for fear of being seduced like Dorian.
If you're tired of this review or just tired in general, stop now and come back later. I am going to include two more quotes from the book that truly fucked me up. So much I had to read them at least 3 times in a row. And then transcribe them here for you. The last section, thats the one that did it. Beautiful.
"There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral-immoral from the scientific point of view."
"Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly-that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry and cloth the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals; the terror of God, which is the secret of religion-these are the two things that govern us. And yet-"
"And yet," continues Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice,"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream-I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal-to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sins, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. 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. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame-"
"Stop!" faltered Dorian Gray, "stop! you bewilder me. I don't know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don't speak. Let me think, or, rather, let me try not to think."
"There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamored of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself, and instinct with that vivid life that lurks in all grotesques, and that lends to Gothic art its enduring vitality, this art being, one might fancy, especially the art of those who minds have been troubled with the malady of reverie. Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black, fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl into the corners of the room, and crouch there. Outside, there is the stirring of the birds among the leaves, or the sound of men going forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down from the hills and wandering round the silent house, as though it feared to wake the sleeper, and yet must needs call forth Sleep from her purple cave. Veil after veil of thin, dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colors of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we had left them, and beside them lies the half-cut book that we had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the letter we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often. Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume it where we had left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of the necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome round of stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids might open some morning upon a world that had been refashioned anew in the darkness for our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh shapes and colors, and be changed, or have other secrets, a world in which the past would have little or no place, or survive, at any rate, in no conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance even of joy having its bitterness, and the memories of pleasure their pain."