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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


front of the portrait that Basil Hallward had painted of him,
looking now at the evil and aging face on the canvas, and now at
the fair young face that laughed back at him from the polished
glass. The very sharpness of the contrast used to quicken his sense
of pleasure. He grew more and more enamoured of his own
beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own
soul. He would examine with minute care, and sometimes with
monstrous and terrible delight, the hideous lines that seared the
wrinkling forehead or crawled around the heavy sensual mouth,
wondering sometimes which were the more horrible, the signs of
sin or the signs of age. He would place his white hands beside the
coarse bloated hands of the picture, and smile. He mocked the
misshapen body and the failing limbs.

There were moments, indeed, at night, when, lying sleepless in his
own delicately-scented chamber, or in the sordid room of the little
ill-famed tavern near the Docks, which, under an assumed name,
and in disguise, it was his habit to frequent, he would think of the
ruin he had brought upon his soul, with a pity that was all the
more poignant because it was purely selfish. But moments such as
these were rare. That curiosity about life which Lord Henry had
first stirred in him, as they sat together in the garden of their
friend, seemed to increase with gratification. The more he knew,
the more he desired to know. He had mad hungers that grew more
ravenous as he fed them.

Yet he was not really reckless, at any rate in his relations to society.
Once or twice every month during the winter, and on each
Wednesday evening while the season lasted, he would throw open
to the world his beautiful house and have the most celebrated
musicians of the day to charm his guests with the wonder’s of their
art. His little dinners, in the settling of which Lord Henry always
assisted him, were noted as much for the careful selection and
placing of those invited, as for the exquisite taste shown in the
decoration of the table, with its subtle symphonic arrangements of
exotic flowers, and embroidered cloths, and antique plate of gold
and silver. Indeed, there were many, especially among the very
young men, who saw, or fancied that they saw, in Dorian Gray the
true realization of a type of which they had often dreamed in Eton
or Oxford days, a type that was to combine something of the real
culture of the scholar with all the grace and distinction and perfect
manner of a citizen of the world. To them he seemed to be of the
company of those whom Dante describes as having sought to
“make themselves perfect by the worship of beauty.” Like Gautier,
he was one for whom “the visible world existed.” And certainly, to
him Life itself was the first, the greatest, of the arts, and for it all
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