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"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is the only novel Oscar Wilde ever published and it is considered to be his greatest work.
Oscar Wilde published the first version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in 1890 in a magazine called Lippincott's Monthly, and it was not well received. Readers and critics considered it to be incredibly immoral. These days that probably would mean that the book would get a lot of attention, make a lot of money and get made into a movie with those kids from Twilight. But this was at the end of Victorian era, and morality was a bigger deal then, so a book being called 'immoral' meant it wasn't going to be successful. So Wilde decided to write a second version of the book, with a preface and some additional chapters that he thought would address some of the criticism he received and explain his position as a follower of aestheticism, which just means that he thought something beautiful didn't have to serve a larger purpose. It didn't have to be moral or educational or take a political stance; it could just be beauty for beauty's sake.
It's also worth noting that he published "The Picture of Dorian Gray" around the time that he began his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, also known as Bosie.
Dorian Gray, the title character of the novel, is a decadent dandy of the Victorian era. Concerned with little but appearances, he lives a reckless, nonproductive existence. A crucial event in his life comes when Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton in the studio of Basil Hallward, an artist, who has painted a portrait of the breathtakingly beautiful Dorian, now in his early twenties. Lord Wotton intrigues Dorian with his talk of the New Hedonism and, unbeknownst to Basil, the picture has somehow become enchanted, and it ages in Dorian's place.
Free to sin without consequences, Dorian lives a life of debauchery and freedom. He acts on his every desire, committing unspeakable acts that leave his portrait disfigured. Basil is horrified by this, but his friend, Lord Henry Wotton, encourages Dorian's sinful ways.
In the end, Dorian decides to reform. He plunges a knife into the portrait...
First published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine and the following year in novel form, The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature. An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate) and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld. The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the US and UK at the time. Intriguing annotations allude to Wilde's influences and enterprising range of reference, incorporating art, poetry, literature, Greek mythology, philosophy, and fashion (certain to inspire further reading; an appendix is provided). Comparisons are drawn between Dorian Gray and Wilde's other literary output, as well as to the work of Walter Pater. Numerous illustrations subtly compliment Frankel s inferences. A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting.