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


twisted with disdain. Delicate lace ruffles fell over the lean yellow
hands that were so overladen with rings. He had been a macaroni
of the eighteenth century, and the friend, in his youth, of Lord
Ferrars. What of the second Lord Beckenham, the companion of the
Prince Regent in his wildest days, and one of the witnesses at the
secret marriage with Mrs. Fitzherbert? How proud and handsome
he was, with his chestnut curls and insolent pose! What passions
had he bequeathed? The world had looked upon him as infamous.
He had led the orgies at Carlton House. The star of the Garter
glittered upon his breast. Beside him hung the portrait of his wife,
a pallid, thin-lipped woman in black. Her blood, also, stirred
within him. How curious it all seemed! And his mother with her
Lady Hamilton face, and her moist wine-dashed lips-he knew
what he had got from her. He had got from her his beauty, and his
passion for the beauty of others. She laughed at him in her loose
Bacchante dress. There were vine leaves in her hair. The purple
spilled from the cup she was holding. The carnations of the
painting had withered, but the eyes were still wonderful in their
depth and brilliancy of colour. They seemed to follow him
wherever he went.

Yet one had ancestors in literature, as well as in one’s own race,
nearer perhaps in type and temperament, many of them, and
certainly with an influence of which one was more absolutely
conscious. There were times when it appeared to Dorian Gray that
the whole of history was merely the record of his own life, not as
he had lived it in act and circumstance, but as his imagination had
created it for him, as it had been in his brain and in his passions.
He felt that he had known them all, those strange terrible figures
that had passed across the stage of the world and made sin so
marvellous and evil so full of subtlety. It seemed to him that in
some mysterious way their lives had been his own.

The hero of the wonderful novel that had so influenced his life had
himself known this curious fancy. In the seventh chapter he tells
how, crowned with laurel, lest lightning might strike him, he had
sat, as Tiberius, in a garden at Capri reading the shameful books of
Elephantis, while dwarfs and peacocks strutted round him and the
flute-player mocked the swagger of the censer, and, as Caligula,
had caroused with the green-shirted jockeys in their stables, and
supped in an ivory manger with a jewel-frontleted horse; and, as
Domitian, had wandered through a corridor lined with marble
mirrors, looking round with haggard eyes for the reflection of the
digger that was to end his days, and sick with that ennui, that
terrible taedium vitae, that comes on those to whom life denies
nothing: and had peered through a clear emerald at the red
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