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The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Oscar Wilde
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Nov 2003 Penguin Classics

Oscar Wilde's tale of a Faustian pact in Victorian England, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a both a slow-burning Gothic horror and a brilliant philosophical investigation of youth, beauty and desire. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Robert Mighall.

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb.

This definitive edition includes a selection of contemporary reviews condemning the novels immorality, and the introduction to the first Penguin Classics edition by Peter Ackroyd.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), son of an eminent eye-surgeon and a nationalist poet, was educated in Dublin and Oxford and became the leading exponent of the new Aesthetic Movement. His work, including short fiction such The Happy Price (1888), his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), gradually won him a reputation, which was cemented by his phenomenally successful plays, including A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Imprisoned for homosexual acts, he died after his release, in exile in Paris.

If you enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray, you might like Joris-Karl Huysmans' Against Nature (A Rebours) Wilde's real-life inspiration for the novel that slowly corrupts Dorian Gray, also available in Penguin Classics.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) + Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Wordsworth Classics) + Frankenstein (Wordsworth Classics): Or, the Modern Prometheus
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1 edition (6 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439570
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man's portrait, his subject's frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray's picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent. After he kills a young woman, "as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife", Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. "The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden."

As Hallward tries to make sense of his creation, his epigram-happy friend Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian in his sensual quest with any number of Wildean paradoxes, including the delightful "When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy." But despite its many languorous pleasures, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imperfect work. Compared to the two (voyeuristic) older men, Dorian is a bore, and his search for ever new sensations far less fun than the novel's drawing-room discussions. Even more oddly, the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde's supposed aims, not least "no artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style." Nonetheless, the glamour boy gets his just deserts. And Wilde, defending Dorian Gray, had it both ways: "All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


It seemed to be an impossible task to outdo the former edition of 'Dorian Gray' in the World's Classics series, but Bristow has achieved his goal. The quality of the explanatory notes is, simply, superb, and the introduction is succint but informative, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Careful What You Wish For 23 Jun 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I chose to read this book after watching the original black and white movie in class, even if I didn't understand it due to my absance for the first half of the film. I was very pleased with the book, and the beutiful style of Wilde's prose. It was so sensual in his description.
The book follows the highly narcissitc Dorian Gray, who after having a portrait of himself painted, wishes he would not age and the painting does. The statement be careful what you wish for is stark and powerful here, as we witness the slow demise of the aristocrat. The characters are built wondefully, with Wooton being a personal favourite. The settings are rich in vivdness and the language sublime. This is surely a masterpiece.
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186 of 195 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "To define is to limit." 25 Feb 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Let me start by asserting that I'm pretty much an ordinary guy - I'm 17 and come from a UK comprehensive school. I've only recently tried dipping into the classics half-seriously and have little experience with the likes of Oscar Wilde. Sure I'm aware of 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and some of his witty one-liners, but until I bought 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' I had no serious interest in this man.
Classics are often interpreted by the public as fairly difficult to access; they are often hefty, dense and reserved for the University intelligentsia to comprehend. But this book is very different.
It contains the important and interesting psychological themes of hubris (pride and insolence) and also features the classic 'Faustian Pact' scenario: where an individual is willing to sell her or his own soul in return for something.
I suppose the MAIN appeal of this book is its narrative. Oscar Wilde writes - well - he writes 'wonderfully'. His prose is absolutely fascinating to read, and its rhythms guide you at a gentle pace through the book. Another key factor regarding the narrative is that it is generally interesting. There are so many classic books out there which can be difficult to access for the more impatient of us, but this one really is easily accessible for almost anyone. Did I mention that it contains some really brilliant one-liners?
...It's so cheap you'd be crazy not to give it a go.
It tackles themes through 'interesting' (I mean, genuinely interesting) metaphors, the characters are fascinating, the narrative is funny, acerbic, satirical and enthralling. While the story - the story itself - it just a pleasure to read. It contains a little love, a little humour, lots of tension and is ultimately a tragedy. Man - I URGE you to buy it.
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158 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the modern classics of Western literature 24 May 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dorian Gray at the age of eighteen seems blessed beyond all other young men, possessing wealth and beauty. While having his portrait painted by the artist Basil Hallward, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a cynic and thinker who convinces Dorian that his youth and beauty are his most important possessions. Falling under Lord Henry's spell, Dorian wishes a fateful wish, that he would hold onto his youth and beauty, while his portrait would feel the effects of time and life.

And with his wish granted, Dorian Gray sets out to test all of the virtues and vices that life has to offer, free from the fear that his experiences will leave a mark upon his face. But, to his horror and dismay, Dorian begins to realize that while the mirror reflects the state of his face, the picture reflects the state of his soul.

This book is considered one of the modern classics of Western literature, and it is easy to see why. The book shows off Oscar Wilde's (1854-1900) writing talents to great effect, with the book seeming more like poetry at times. But, the story itself is quite fascinating. "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" asks Lord Henry, quoting Jesus Christ.

Overall, I found this to be a fascinating read. Oscar Wilde was a great thinker, and in many ways this book shows him at his best and at his worst. Which character represents Mr. Wilde, Lord Henry, Basil Hallward, Dorian Gray, or all three? I would say all three.

This is a great book, one that everyone should read, a book about living and what you do and what you are underneath. I give this book my highest recommendations!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I always felt until now that works by Oscar Wilde would be overly flowery and "superficial" and only got this book because it was free on Kindle.
I could not have been more wrong.............Like the earlier reviewer suggested I had a very vague notion of Dorian Gray and the ideals he stood for but reading the novel it seems incredibly relevant to todays image obsessed society and the linked declines in morality.

The book itself is dark in places but still infused with humour and insights into human society and is a delight to read.

On the strength of this experience I have ordered several other "Classics" by authors I otherwise would not have touched.

Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture says a thousand words... 22 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In roughly three weeks Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes comes to DVD in the UK (and I intend to buy it. I have a region free DVD player and sadly there was never a US release of this film). I haven't seen this film version yet and I know it strays from the original novel but that's not the worst thing in the world. I've seen a version where Basil was a woman and it was set in the nineteen sixties with really bad acting. Now that was terrible. And there's also the 1944 version of The Canterville Ghost that turned it into World War 2 propaganda. So I don't mind what they've done with the Ben Barnes version of Dorian Gray.

But since I am waiting for this adaptation I would like to write a review now for the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I LOVE the work of Oscar Wilde. Allow me to stress that. I absolutely love the work of Oscar Wilde. My two favourite works of his are The Canterville Ghost and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. While he remains flawless, a portrait of himself grows uglier every time he sins. He cannot die unless you destroy the painting.
Thanks to temptation and vice Dorian falls into hedonism and debauchery. As he externally remains pure and untainted his soul bears the burdens of his actions as reflected in the painting. Dorian learns the hard way that it's not physical beauty that matters but the inner beauty of one's own soul in qualities of kindness, mercy and compassion, things that he had lost along the way for selfishness, hedonism and greed.

Dorian's fall from grace is a road lined with wit and humour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 days ago by j g hames
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but stylistically enraging
I know I know I've only given it 3 stars (how could I?!) don't get me wrong, I love Wilde, no-one can turn a phrase better, and the plot is of course engaging; a classic. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Genevieve Girling
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you for my purchase there lovely
Published 12 days ago by miss s e hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing novel, and arrived in perfect condition. Thanks
Published 13 days ago by SL Riley
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Wow such a beautiful story telling the perils of vanity. So descriptive. Like Crime and Punishment it asks the question - can you live with yourself and your own conscience if you... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Donna.G.Yk
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Would recommend this classic to anyone who likes Oscar Wilde's work and likes to read classics. Interesting read. Enjoyed it and will recommend.
Published 1 month ago by Raindrop
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Oscar Wilde
Good, affordable price for my English AS course. Love the wit of Oscar Wilde. Footnotes in the back of the book giving more detail in places. Read more
Published 1 month ago by lai fong liew
4.0 out of 5 stars Roger
Enthralling ! Never read any of Wilde's work before but couldn't put this down. Excellent piece of writing and wish I had read it years ago.
Published 2 months ago by Wino
4.0 out of 5 stars The Picture of Dorian Gray
I've long had a vague idea about the picture of Dorian Gray, but have never read the book itself. I thought it was about time I remedied that failing. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Keen Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars a novel revisited!
I read this many years ago and could not quite remember all the twists and turns. Having re-read the wonderful prose and turn of phrase, descriptive use of words etc. Read more
Published 2 months ago by pickwick
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