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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


99

CHAPTER XI

For years, Dorian Gray could not free himself from the influence of
this book.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he never sought
to free himself from it. He procured from Paris no less than nine
large-paper copies of the first edition, and had them bound in
different colours, so that they might suit his various moods and the
changing fancies of a nature over which he seemed, at times, to
have almost entirely lost control. The hero, the wonderful young
Parisian, in whom the romantic and the scientific temperaments
were so strangely blended, became to him a kind of prefiguring
type of himself. And, indeed, the whole book seemed to him to
contain the story of his own life, written before he had lived it.

In one point he was more fortunate than the novelís fantastic hero.
He never knew-never, indeed, had any cause to know-that
somewhat grotesque dread of mirrors, and polished metal surfaces,
and still waters, which came upon the young Parisian so early in
his life, and was occasioned by the sudden decay of a beauty that
had once, apparently, been so remarkable. It was with an almost
cruel joyand perhaps in nearly every joy, as certainly in every
pleasure, cruelty has its place-that he used to read the latter part of
the book, with its really tragic, if somewhat over-emphasized,
account of the sorrow and despair of one who had himself lost
what in others, and in the world, he had most dearly valued.

For the wonderful beauty that had so fascinated Basil Hallward,
and many others besides him, seemed never to leave him. Even
those who had heard the most evil things against him, and from
time to time strange rumours about his mode of life crept through
London and became the chatter of the clubs, could not believe
anything to his dishonour when they saw him. He had always the
look of one who had kept himself unspotted from the world. Men
who talked grossly became silent when Dorian Gray entered the
room. There was something in the purity of his face that rebuked
them. His mere presence seemed to recall to them the memory of
the innocence that they had tarnished. They wondered how one so
charming and graceful as he was could have escaped the stain of
an age that was at once sordid and sensual.

Often, on returning home from one of those mysterious and
prolonged absences that gave rise to such strange conjecture among
those who were his friends, or thought that they were so, he
himself would creep upstairs to the locked room, open the door
with the key that never left him now, and stand, with a mirror, in
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