I’m feeling quite uninspired in terms of writing today – everything just seems to come out wrong so I’m going to stop trying. Instead I’ve decided to share my favourite quotes from The Picture of Dorian Gray.I don’t necessarily agree with all of the views expressed (and neither do the characters who say them – Lord Henry doesn’t mean anything he says) and I don’t think hedonism works out too well, as you see by the end. But it was a fascinating book, with interesting points to ponder, and I think Wilde did a pretty good job of his only novel. I don’t think I’ve left in anything that would spoil the story.
“‘But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment on sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, or course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don’t think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful.'”
“‘Oh, I can’t explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.'”
“‘But I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.'”
“‘The only horrible thing in the world is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.'”
“‘Then I feel, Harry, that I have given away my whole soul to someone who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat.'”
“‘In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.'”
“‘Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of life: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.'”
“‘Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him.'”
“‘I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream – I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, (sic) and return to the Hellenic ideal …'”
“‘The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives.'”
“‘stop! You bewilder me. I don’t know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it.'”
“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them. They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”
“‘Yes … that is one of the great secrets of life – to cure the soul by means of the senses and the senses by means of the soul.'”
“There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love. [She] seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic.”
“But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which there are no stars and the moon is in travail.”
“‘It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to thins. Names are everything. I never quarrel with actions. My one quarrel is with words. That is the reasons I hate vulgar realism in literature. The one who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.'” ***COUGH***Hemingway***COUGH***
“‘Since then, his work was that curious mixture of bad painting and good intentions that always entitles a man to be called a representative British artist.'”
“‘If a man treats life artistically, his brain is his heart.'”
“‘As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the works its own shame. That is all.'”
Oh, Lord Henry would be disappointed to see the ennui that plagues me today. Ah well, maybe I’ll clean my room.
Which quotes do you like? I’m thinking of posting them separately each day for easier digestion and linking them back to this master post. Whatcha think?