'The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.'
When Dorian Gray has his portrait painted, he is captivated by his own beauty. Tempted by his world-weary, decadent friend Lord Henry Wotton, he wishes to stay forever young, and pledges his very soul to keep his good looks. Set in fin-de-siécle London, the novel traces a path from the studio of painter Basil Hallward to the opium dens of the East End. As Dorian's slide into crime and cruelty progresses he stays magically youthful, while his beautiful portrait changes, revealing
the hideous corruption of moral decay.
Ever since its first publication in 1890 Wilde's only novel has remained the subject of critical controversy. Acclaimed by some as an instructive moral tale, it has been denounced by others for its implicit immorality. Combining elements of the supernatural, aestheticism, and the Gothic, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an unclassifiable and uniquely unsettling work of fiction.
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Joseph Bristow is editor of the Oxford English Texts edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry and Olive Schreiner's African Farm for OWC. He is the author of The Fin-de-Siécle Poem: English Culture and the 1890s (Ohio UP, 2005).