All art is quite useless.
The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through
the open door the heavy scent
of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume
of the pink-flowering thorn.
From the corner
of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom
cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam
of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous
branches seemed hardly able
to bear the burden
of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic
shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk
curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect
, and making him think of those pallid
, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through
of an art that is necessarily immobile
the sense of swiftness and motion
. The sullen murmur
of the bees shouldering their way through
the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous
insistence round the dusty gilt
horns of the straggling
woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive
. The dim roar
of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ
In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel
, stood the full-length portrait
of a young man of personal
beauty, and in front of it, some little distance
away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement
and gave rise to so many strange
As the painter looked at the gracious
form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger
there. But he suddenly
started up, and closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison
within his brain
some curious dream
from which he feared he might
"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry languidly
. "You must certainly
send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar
. Whenever I have gone there, there have been either so many people that I have not been able
to see the pictures, which was dreadful
, or so many pictures that I have not been able
to see the people, which was worse. The Grosvenor is really the only place."
"I don't think I shall send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. "No, I won't send it anywhere."
Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows and looked at him in amazement through
blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful
whorls from his heavy, opium-tainted cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason
? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain
. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw
it away. 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. A portrait
like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous
, if old men are ever capable
of any emotion
"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit
it. I have put too much of myself into it."
Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed.
"Yes, I knew you would; but it is quite true, all the same."
"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain
; and I really can't see any resemblance
between you, with your rugged
strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory
and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you-well, of course you have an intellectual expression
and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression
begins. Intellect is in itself a mode
, and destroys the harmony
of any face. The moment
one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid
. Look at the successful
men in any of the learned
professions. How perfectly hideous
they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence
he always looks absolutely
delightful. Your mysterious
young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature
who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence
. Don't flatter
yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him."
"You don't understand
me, Harry," answered the artist. "Of course I am not like him. I know that perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry to look like him. You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth. There is a fatality
about all physical
and intellectual distinction
, the sort of fatality
that seems to dog through
history the faltering steps of kings. It is better not to be different
from one's fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease
at the play. If they know nothing of victory
, they are at least spared the knowledge
. They live as we all should live-undisturbed, indifferent
, and without disquiet
. They neither bring ruin
upon others, nor ever receive
it from alien
hands. Your rank
, Harry; my brains, such as they are-my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks-we shall all suffer
for what the gods have given us, suffer
"Dorian Gray? Is that his name?" asked Lord Henry, walking across the studio towards Basil Hallward.
"Yes, that is his name. I didn't intend
to tell it to you."
"But why not?"
"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
or marvellous 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
"Not at all," answered Lord Henry, "not at all, my dear Basil. You seem to forget
that I am married, and the one charm
is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary
for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing. When we meet-we do meet occasionally
, when we dine out together, or go down to the Duke's-we tell each other the most absurd
stories with the most serious
faces. My wife is very good at it-much better, in fact
, than I am. She never gets confused
over her dates, and I always do. But when she does find me out, she makes no row at all. I sometimes wish she would; but she merely
laughs at me."
"I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said Basil Hallward, strolling towards the door that led into the garden. "I believe that you are really a very good husband
, but that you are thoroughly ashamed
of your own virtues. You are an fellow. You never say a moral
thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism
is simply a pose
is simply a pose
, and the most irritating pose
I know," cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out into the garden together and ensconced themselves on a long bamboo
seat that stood in the shade of a tall laurel
bush. The sunlight slipped over the polished leaves. In the grass, white daisies were tremulous
After a pause
, Lord Henry pulled out his watch. "I am afraid I must be going, Basil," he murmured, "and before I go, I insist
on your answering a question I put to you some time ago."
"What is that?" said the painter, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.
"You know quite well."
"I do not, Harry."
"Well, I will tell you what it is. I want you to explain
to me why you won't exhibit
Dorian Gray's picture. I want the real reason
"I told you the real reason
"No, you did not. You said it was because there was too much of yourself in it. Now, that is childish."
"Harry," said Basil Hallward, looking him straight
in the face, "every portrait
that is painted with feeling is a portrait
of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely
, the occasion
. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas
, reveals himself. The reason
I will not exhibit
this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul
Lord Henry laughed. "And what is that?" he asked.
"I will tell you," said Hallward; but an expression
came over his face.
"I am all expectation
, Basil," continued his companion
, glancing at him.
"Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the painter; "and I am afraid you will hardly understand
it. Perhaps you will hardly believe it."
Lord Henry smiled, and leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisy from the grass and examined it. "I am quite sure I shall understand
it," he replied, gazing intently
at the little golden, white-feathered disk, "and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible
The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy lilac-blooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the languid
air. A grasshopper began to chirrup by the wall, and like a blue thread
a long thin
dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze
wings. Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart
beating, and wondered what was coming.
"The story is simply this," said the painter after some time. "Two months ago I went to a crush
at Lady Brandon's. You know we poor artists have to show ourselves in society
from time to time, just to remind
that we are not savages. With an evening coat and a white tie
, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain
for being civilized
. Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and tedious
academicians, I suddenly
that some one was looking at me. I turned half-way round and saw Dorian Gray for the first time. When our eyes met, I felt that I was growing pale
. A curious sensation
came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality
was so fascinating
that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb
my whole nature
, my whole soul
, my very art itself. I did not want any external influence
in my life. You know yourself, Harry, how independent
I am by nature
. I have always been my own master
; had at least always been so, till
I met Dorian Gray. Then-but I don't know how to explain
it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge
of a terrible crisis
in my life. I had a strange
feeling that fate
had in store
for me exquisite
joys and exquisite
sorrows. I grew afraid and turned to quit
the room. It was not conscience
that made me do so: it was a sort of cowardice
. I take no credit
to myself for trying to escape
"Conscience and cowardice
are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all."
"I don't believe that, Harry, and I don't believe you do either. However, whatever was my motive
-and it may have been pride
, for I used to be very proud-I certainly
struggled to the door. There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon. 'You are not going to run away so soon, Mr. Hallward?' she screamed out. You know her curiously shrill
"Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty," said Lord Henry, pulling the daisy to bits with his long nervous
"I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to royalties, and people with stars and garters, and elderly
ladies with gigantic
tiaras and parrot noses. She spoke
of me as her dearest friend. I had only met her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize
me. I believe some picture of mine
had made a great success
at the time, at least had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is the nineteenth-century standard
. Suddenly I found myself face to face with the young man whose personality
had so strangely stirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes met again. It was reckless
of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce
me to him. Perhaps it was not so reckless
, after all. It was simply inevitable
. We would have spoken to each other without any introduction
. I am sure of that. Dorian told me so afterwards. He, too, felt that we were destined
to know each other."
"And how did Lady Brandon describe
young man?" asked his companion
. "I know she goes in for giving a rapid precis
of all her guests. I remember
her bringing me up to a truculent
and red-faced old gentleman covered all over with orders and ribbons, and hissing into my ear, in a tragic whisper
which must have been perfectly audible
to everybody in the room, the most astounding
details. I simply fled. I like to find out people for myself. But Lady Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer
treats his goods. She either explains them entirely away, or tells one everything about them except what one wants to know."
"Poor Lady Brandon! You are hard on her, Harry!" said Hallward listlessly.
"My dear fellow, she tried to found a salon
, and only succeeded in opening a restaurant. How could I admire
her? But tell me, what did she say about Mr. Dorian Gray?"
"Oh, something like, 'Charming boy-poor dear mother and I absolutely inseparable
. Quite forget
what he does-afraid he-doesn't do anything-oh, yes, plays the piano-or is it the violin, dear Mr. Gray?' Neither of us could help laughing, and we became friends at once."
"Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship
, and it is far the best ending for one," said the young lord, plucking another daisy.
"How horribly unjust
of you!" cried Lord Henry, tilting his hat back and looking up at the little clouds that, like ravelled skeins of glossy
, were drifting across the hollowed turquoise
of the summer sky. "Yes; horribly unjust
of you. I make a great difference
between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful
in the choice
of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power
, and consequently
they all appreciate
me. Is that very vain
of me? I think it is rather vain
"My dear old Basil, you are much more than an acquaintance
"And much less than a friend. A sort of brother, I suppose
"Oh, brothers! I don't care for brothers. My elder
brother won't die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else."
"Harry!" exclaimed Hallward, frowning.
"My dear fellow, I am not quite serious
. But I can't help detesting my relations. I suppose
it comes from the fact
that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves. I quite sympathize
with the rage
of the English democracy
against what they call the vices of the upper orders. The masses feel that drunkenness, stupidity
, and immorality
should be their own special property
, and that if any one of us makes an ass of himself, he is poaching on their preserves. When poor Southwark got into the divorce court
, their indignation
was quite magnificent
. And yet I don't suppose
that ten per cent of the proletariat
"I don't agree
with a single word that you have said, and, what is more, Harry, I feel sure you don't either."
Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard and tapped the toe of his patent-leather boot with a tasselled ebony
cane. "How English you are Basil! That is the second time you have made that observation
. If one puts forward
an idea to a true Englishman-always a rash
thing to do-he never dreams of considering whether the idea is right
or wrong. The only thing he considers of any importance is whether one believes it oneself. Now, the value
of an idea has nothing whatsoever
to do with the sincerity
of the man who expresses it. Indeed, the probabilities are that the more insincere
the man is, the more purely intellectual
will the idea be, as in that case it will not be coloured by either his wants, his desires, or his prejudices. However, I don't propose
to discuss politics
, or metaphysics
with you. I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world. Tell me more about Mr. Dorian Gray. How often do you see him?"
"Every day. I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. He is absolutely necessary
"How ! I thought
you would never care for anything but your art."
"He is all my art to me now," said the painter gravely. "I sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any importance in the world's history. The first is the appearance
of a new medium
for art, and the second is the appearance
of a new personality
for art also. What the invention
of oil-painting was to the Venetians, the face of Antinous was to late Greek sculpture
, and the face of Dorian Gray will some day be to me. It is not merely
that I paint from him, draw from him, sketch
from him. Of course, I have done all that. But he is much more to me than a model
or a sitter. I won't tell you that I am dissatisfied with what I have done of him, or that his beauty is such that art cannot express
it. There is nothing that art cannot express
, and I know that the work I have done, since I met Dorian Gray, is good work, is the best work of my life. But in some curious
will you understand
has suggested to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode
. I see things differently, I think of them differently. I can now recreate
life in a way that was hidden from me before. 'A dream
of form in days of thought
'-who is it who says that? I forget
; but it is what Dorian Gray has been to me. The merely visible presence
of this lad-for he seems to me little more than a lad, though he is really over twenty-his merely visible presence
-ah! I wonder
can you realize
all that that means? Unconsciously he defines for me the lines of a fresh
school, a school that is to have in it all the passion
of the romantic spirit
, all the perfection
of the spirit
that is Greek. The harmony
and body-how much that is! We in our madness have separated the two, and have invented a realism
that is vulgar
, an ideality that is void
. Harry! if you only knew what Dorian Gray is to me! You remember
, for which Agnew offered me such a huge price but which I would not part with? It is one of the best things I have ever done. And why is it so? Because, while I was painting it, Dorian Gray sat beside me. Some subtle influence
passed from him to me, and for the first time in my life I saw in the plain
woodland the wonder
I had always looked for and always missed."
"Basil, this is ! I must see Dorian Gray."
Hallward got up from the seat and walked up and down the garden. After some time he came back. "Harry," he said, "Dorian Gray is to me simply a motive
in art. You might
see nothing in him. I see everything in him. He is never more present in my work than when no image
of him is there. He is a suggestion
, as I have said, of a new manner. I find him in the curves of certain
lines, in the loveliness and subtleties of certain
colours. That is all."
"Because, without intending it, I have put into it some expression
of all this curious artistic idolatry
, of which, of course, I have never cared to speak to him. He knows nothing about it. He shall never know anything about it. But the world might
guess it, and I will not bare my soul
to their shallow
prying eyes. My heart
shall never be put under their microscope
. There is too much of myself in the thing, Harry-too much of myself!"
"I hate them for it," cried Hallward. "An artist should create
beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography
. We have lost
sense of beauty. Some day I will show the world what it is; and for that reason
the world shall never see my portrait
of Dorian Gray."
"I think you are wrong, Basil, but I won't argue
with you. It is only the intellectually lost
who ever argue
. Tell me, is Dorian Gray very fond
The painter considered
for a few moments. "He likes me," he answered after a pause
; "I know he likes me. Of course I flatter
him dreadfully. I find a strange
pleasure in saying things to him that I know I shall be sorry for having said. As a rule, he is charming
to me, and we sit in the studio and talk of a thousand things. Now and then, however, he is horribly thoughtless, and seems to take a real delight
in giving me pain. Then I feel, Harry, that I have given away my whole soul
to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration
, an ornament
for a summer's day."
"Days in summer, Basil, are apt
," murmured Lord Henry. "Perhaps you will tire sooner than he will. It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt
lasts longer than beauty. That accounts for the fact
that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle
, 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. The thoroughly
well-informed man-that is the modern ideal
. And the mind
of the thoroughly
well-informed man is a dreadful
thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value
. I think you will tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at your friend, and he will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won't like his tone
of colour, or something. You will bitterly reproach
him in your own heart
, and seriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly cold and indifferent
. It will be a great pity
, for it will alter
you. What you have told me is quite a romance
, a romance
of art one might
call it, and the worst of having a romance
of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic."
"Harry, don't talk like that. As long as I live, the personality
of Dorian Gray will dominate
me. You can't feel what I feel. You change too often."
"Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it. Those who are faithful
know only the trivial
side of love: it is the faithless
who know love's tragedies." And Lord Henry struck a light on a dainty
silver case and began to smoke a cigarette with a conscious
air, as if he had summed up the world in a phrase
. There was a rustle
of chirruping sparrows in the green lacquer
leaves of the ivy, and the blue cloud-shadows chased themselves across the grass like swallows. How pleasant
it was in the garden! And how delightful other people's emotions were!-much more delightful than their ideas, it seemed to him. One's own soul
, and the passions of one's friends-those were the fascinating
things in life. He pictured to himself with silent amusement
the tedious luncheon
that he had missed by staying so long with Basil Hallward. Had he gone to his aunt's, he would have been sure to have met Lord Goodbody there, and the whole conversation
would have been about the feeding of the poor and the necessity
lodging-houses. Each class would have preached the importance of those virtues, for whose exercise
there was no necessity
in their own lives. The rich would have spoken on the value
, and the idle
over the dignity
of labour. It was charming
to have escaped all that! As he thought
of his aunt, an idea seemed to strike
him. He turned to Hallward and said, "My dear fellow, I have just remembered."
"Remembered what, Harry?"
"Where I heard the name of Dorian Gray."
"Where was it?" asked Hallward, with a slight frown
"Don't look so angry
, Basil. It was at my aunt, Lady Agatha's. She told me she had discovered a wonderful
young man who was going to help her in the East End, and that his name was Dorian Gray. I am bound
that she never told me he was good-looking. Women have no appreciation
of good looks; at least, good women have not. She said that he was very earnest
and had a beautiful nature
. I at once pictured to myself a creature
hair, horribly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known it was your friend."
"I am very glad you didn't, Harry."
"I don't want you to meet him."
"You don't want me to meet him?"
"Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio, sir," said the butler, coming into the garden.
"You must introduce
me now," cried Lord Henry, laughing.
The painter turned to his servant
, who stood blinking in the sunlight. "Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I shall be in in a few moments." The man bowed and went up the walk.
Then he looked at Lord Henry. "Dorian Gray is my dearest friend," he said. "He has a simple
and a beautiful nature
. Your aunt was quite right
in what she said of him. Don't spoil
him. Don't try to influence
him. Your influence
would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it. Don't take away from me the one person who gives to my art whatever charm
it possesses: my life as an artist depends on him. Mind, Harry, I trust
you." He spoke
very slowly, and the words seemed wrung out of him almost against his will.
you talk!" said Lord Henry, smiling, and taking Hallward by the arm, he almost led him into the house.