The picture of Dorian Gray / Le portrait de Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Édition de référence : Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1992

 

Preface

« There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. » (p.3)

« No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. » (p.3)

« All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. » (p.3)

« All art is quite useless. » (p.3) | A rapprocher de : « Il n’y a de vraiment beau que ce qui ne peut servir à rien ; tout ce qui est utile est laid, car c’est l’expression de quelque besoin, et ceux de l’homme sont ignobles et dégoûtants, comme sa pauvre et infirme nature. » (Gautier)

 

Roman

« The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. (Lord Henry) » (p.18)

« Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul. (Lord Henry) » (p.20)

« Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different. (Lord Henry) » (p.35)

« Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. (Lord Henry) » (p.39)

« Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed. (Lord Henry) » (p.40)

« My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals. (Lord Henry) » (p.40)

« I find that, ultimately, there are only two kinds of women, the plain and the coloured. The plain women are very useful. If you want to gain a reputation for respectability, you have merely to take them down to supper. The other women are very charming. They commit one mistake, however. They paint in order to try and look young. Our grandmothers painted in order to try and talk brilliantly. Rouge and esprit used to go together. That is all over now. As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied. (Lord Henry) » (p.40)

« My dear boy, the people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect – simply a confession of failure. Faithfulness! I must analyse it some day. The passion for property is in it. There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up. (Lord Henry) » (p.41)

« When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance. (Lord Henry) » (p.43)

« Basil, my dear boy, puts everything that is charming in him into his work. The consequence is that he has nothing left for life but his prejudices, his principles, and his common sense. The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize. (Lord Henry) » (p.47)

« Thin-lipped wisdom spoke at her from the worn chair, hinted at prudence, quoted from that book of cowardice whose author apes the name of common sense. » (p.50)

« The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality. Still, there are certain temperaments that marriage makes more complex. They retain their egotism, and add to it many other egos. They are forced to have more than one life. They become more highly organized, and to be highly organized is, I should fancy, the object of man’s existence. Besides, every experience is of value, and whatever one may say against marriage, it is certainly an experience. (Lord Henry) » (p.61)

« The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we credit our neighbour with the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a benefit to us. We praise the banker that we may overdraw our account, and find good qualities in the highwayman in the hope that he may spare our pockets. I mean everything that I have said. I have the greatest contempt for optimism. (Lord Henry) » (p.61)

« To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self […] Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life—that is the important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality. (Lord Henry) » (p.64)

« I love acting. It is so much more real than life. (Lord Henry) » (p.65)

« The people who have adored me—there have not been very many, but there have been some—have always insisted on living on, long after I had ceased to care for them, or they to care for me. They have become stout and tedious, and when I meet them, they go in at once for reminiscences. That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar. […] The one charm of the past is that it is the past. But women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a sixth act, and as soon as the interest of the play is entirely over, they propose to continue it. If they were allowed their own way, every comedy would have a tragic ending, and every tragedy would culminate in a farce. They are charmingly artificial, but they have no sense of art. (Lord Henry) » (p.82)

« […] perhaps in nearly every joy, as certainly in every pleasure, cruelty has its place […] » (p.102)

« The worship of the senses has often, and with much justice, been decried, men feeling a natural instinct of terror about passions and sensations that seem stronger than themselves, and that they are conscious of sharing with the less highly organized forms of existence. But it appeared to Dorian Gray that the true nature of the senses had never been understood, and that they had remained savage and animal merely because the world had sought to starve them into submission or to kill them by pain, instead of aiming at making them elements of a new spirituality, of which a fine instinct for beauty was to be the dominant characteristic. As he looked back upon man moving through history, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been surrendered! and to such little purpose! There had been mad wilful rejections, monstrous forms of self-torture and self-denial, whose origin was fear and whose result was a degradation infinitely more terrible than that fancied degradation from which, in their ignorance, they had sought to escape; Nature, in her wonderful irony, driving out the anchorite to feed with the wild animals of the desert and giving to the hermit the beasts of the field as his companions. Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment. » (p.104-105)

« He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment. He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual mysteries to reveal. » (p.106)

« Yet these whispered scandals only increased in the eyes of many his strange and dangerous charm. His great wealth was a certain element of security. Society—civilized society, at least—is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating. It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals, and, in its opinion, the highest respectability is of much less value than the possession of a good chef. And, after all, it is a very poor consolation to be told that the man who has given one a bad dinner, or poor wine, is irreproachable in his private life. Even the cardinal virtues cannot atone for half-cold entrees, as Lord Henry remarked once, in a discussion on the subject, and there is possibly a good deal to be said for his view. For the canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art. Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful to us. Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities. » (p.113)

« « You will never marry again, Lady Narborough, » broke in Lord Henry. « You were far too happy. When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs. » « Narborough wasn’t perfect, » cried the old lady. « If he had been, you would not have loved him, my dear lady, » was the rejoinder. « Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our intellects. You will never ask me to dinner again after saying this, I am afraid, Lady Narborough, but it is quite true. » » (p.142)

« « Never mind, Lady Narborough. I smoke a great deal too much. I am going to limit myself, for the future. » « Pray don’t, Lady Ruxton » said Lord Henry. « Moderation is a fatal thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast. » (p.143) »

« I admit that I think that it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand, no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly. (Lord Henry) » (p.154)

« They [countrymen] are more cunning than practical. When they make up their ledger, they balance stupidity by wealth, and vice by hypocrisy (Lord Henry) » (p.154)

« all good reputations [are made out of nothing] […] Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be a mediocrity. (Lord Henry) » (p.155)

« « Describe us as a sex, » was her challenge. « Sphinxes without secrets. » (Dorian Gray) » (157)

« « A method of procuring sensations? Do you think, then, that a man who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same crime again? Don’t tell me that. » « Oh! anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often, » cried Lord Henry, laughing. » (p.169)

« The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of faith, and the lesson of romance. How grave you are! Don’t be so serious. (Lord Henry) » (p.170)

« […] don’t deceive yourself. Life is not governed by will or intention. Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams. You may fancy yourself safe and think yourself strong. But a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play—I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend. Browning writes about that somewhere; but our own senses will imagine them for us. There are moments when the odour of lilas blanc passes suddenly across me, and I have to live the strangest month of my life over again. (Lord Henry) » (p.171)

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