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Detailed textual errors
on 18 April 2000
It could be true that John Sutherland has read all the books under review in this short book. But it's clear to me that he has not read Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," or if he has, that he has remembered very little of it.
Lord Henry Wotton is, according to Sutherland, an "evil angel," whatever that is. Lord Henry was many things, but he was neither of these. Sutherland says Dorian Gray was a brilliant conversationalist, but there is no evidence in the text to support this claim. It was Lord Henry, not Dorian, who kept all dinner goers spellbound with his ironic wit. "Dorian comes across a work of literature which will change his life," claims Sutherland. Not so. The book was a gift to him from Lord Henry. Sutherland says Dorian's would-be assassin was Tom Vane. Really? There is no character named Tom in the novel. Of course he means James Vane, the distraught, avenging brother of Sibyl Vane who has died from Dorian's callous neglect of her broken heart.
Close readings of other chapters reveal similar detailed textual errors. However, my purpose in writing now is not to belittle Sutherland's enthusiasm and intellect. In fact I love the concept of what he has undertaken here and in series via Oxford. I merely wish to urge him to be more judicious and careful in his future critical rambles through our great literature.