Archive for February, 2015

Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray: A Reader’s Edition by Oscar Wilde Nicholas Frankel

UPODGThomas Hardy complained that censors were prudish so it isn’t just this book which had parts cut. One translator was sent to jail so publishers were under legal threat.

There is much repetition in the textual introduction of material in the general introduction.

Some of our group thought that we were sold this version under false pretences since there is hardly any extra material and yet there are seven chapters from the World Classics edition missing here. https://gaymensbookclubbristol.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/the-picture-of-dorian-gray-oxford-worlds-classics-by-oscar-wilde-author-isobel-murray-editor/

Wilde’s view of marriage was shocking to many of his time. Was that why the book was censored. If can’t be because of homosexuality per se because the uncensored version still had: Why is your friendship so fatal to young men ? There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were his great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave. England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. What about Adrian Singleton, and his dreadful end ? What about Lord Kent’s only son, and his career ? I met his father yesterday in St. James’s Street. He seemed broken with shame and sorrow. What about the young Duke of. Perth? What sort of life has he got now ? What gentleman would associate with him ?’

Is Basil the angel and Lord Henry the devil in Dorian’s ears? The latter urges a pre-Christian, Greek morality.

One chapter is self-indulgent and contains much tedious description but otherwise the book skilfully leaves much to the imagination.

The anti-Semitism when referring to the theatre manager is typical of its time.

The portrait painter acted out of adoration for Dorian.The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals him­self. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.’ (And Wilde being a Roman Catholic, would have known that ‘accident’ was a technical term in the notion of transubstantiation – if Dorian is the accident, does the painting become the substance – art as sacrament? the painting as the real presence?)

The name Dorian evokes ‘Greek love’.

The portrait remains ‘in the closet’.

Algiers is mentioned – a hangout for English homosexuals.

Wilde’s typical bon mots are amusing to start with but become tiresome after a while.

Is it autobiographical? Wilde once remarked that it “contains much of me in it. ….that Basil Hallward is “what I think I am” but “Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” Wilde’s comment suggests a backward glance to a Greek or “Dorian” Age, but also a forward-looking one to a more permissive time. That Dorian and Lord Henry contain elements of John Gray and Lord Ronald Gower: does not begin to account for the com­plexity of these characters or for their vibrancy on the page.

Quotations

there is only one thing in the world worse than being I talked about, and that is not being talked about 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

It is better not to be different from one’s fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and with­out disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such, as they are—my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray’s good looks—we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.’

With an evening coat and a white-tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized

I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray. Then—but I don’t know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows. I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. (awe)

Lady Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods

It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.

Women have no appreciation of good looks

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 some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.

You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.

Beauty is a form of Genius—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation.

You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it…….Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars, against your lilies and, your roses. You will become sallow, and, hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed.

`I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose ? Every moment that passes takes something from me, and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now ! Why did you paint it?

‘What a fuss people make about fidelity!’ exclaimed Lord Henry. ‘Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiol­ogy. It has nothing to do with our own will. young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.’

Lord Henry had not yet come in. He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.

‘The formal monotonous ticking of the Louis Quatorze clock annoyed him. Once or twice he thought of going away.

Dorian smiled, and shook his head: ‘I am afraid I don’t think, so, Lady Henry. I never talk during music—at least, during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it in conversation.’

Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

`Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.’

`I don’t think I am likely to marry, Harry. I am too much in love. That is one of your aphorisms. I am putting it into practice, as I do everything that you say.’

`My dear, boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.’

As for conversation, there are only five women in London worth talking to, and two of these can’t be admitted into decent society

I remembered what you had said to me on that wonderful evening when we first dined together, about the search for beauty being the real secret of life.

`Half-past six! What an hour! It will be like having a meat ­tea, or reading an English novel. It must be seven. No gentle­man dines before seven.

I am a little jealous of the picture for being a whole month younger than I am.

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.

The pulse and passion of youth were in him, but he was becoming self-conscious. It was delightful to watch him. With his beautiful face, and his beautiful soul, I he was a thing to wonder at. It was no matter how it all ended, or was destined to- end. He was like one of those gracious figures in a pageant or a play, whose joys seem to be

Remote from one, but whose sorrows stir one’s sense of beauty and whose wounds are like red roses.

drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality.

The love that he bore him—for it was really love—had nothing in it that was not noble and intellectual. It was not that mere physical admira­tion of beauty that is born of the senses, and that dies when the senses tire. It was such love as Michael Angelo had known, and Montaigne, and Winckelmann, and Shakespeare himself.

There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamoured of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself……Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl into the corners of the room, and crouch there

It was rumoured of him once that he was about to join the Roman Catholic communion; and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it sought to symbolize. He loved to kneel down on the cold marble pavement, and watch the priest, in his stiff flowered dalmatic, slowly and with white hands moving aside the veil of the tabernacle, or raising aloft the jewelled lantern-shaped monstrance with that pallid wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed the ‘panis celestis,’ the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments of the Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice, and smiting his breast for his sins. The fuming censers, that the, grave boys, in their lace and scarlet, tossed into the air like great gilt flowers, had their subtle fascination for him….. But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellect 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. Mysticism, with its marvellous power of making common things strange to us, and the subtle antinomianism that always seems to accompany it, moved him for a season; and for a season he inclined to the materialistic doctrines of the Darwinismus movement in Germany, and found a curious pleasure in tracing the thoughts and passions of men to some pearly cell in the brain, or some white nerve in the body, delighting in the conception of the absolute dependence of the spirit on certain physical conditions, morbid or healthy, normal or diseased. Yet, as has been said of him before, no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance com­pared with life itself. 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.

He had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments,’ as indeed he had for everything connected with the service of the Church. In the long cedar chests that lined the west gallery of his house he had stored away many rare and beauti­ful specimens of what is really the raiment of the Bride of Christ, who must wear purple and jewels and fine linen that she may hide the pallid macerated body that is worn by the suffering that she seeks for, and wounded by self-inflicted pain.

For these treasures, and everything that he collected in his lovely house, were to be to him means of forgetfulness, modes by which he could escape, for a season, from the fear that seemed to him at times to be almost too-great to be borne.

Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful.

Censored bits:

Basil Hallward to Lord Henry about Dorian: “I find a strange pleasure in saying things to him I know I shall be sorry for having said. I give myself away. As a rule, he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club arm in arm.”

Wilde’s narrator tells us in the 1890 Lippincott’s edition and the typescript that “rugged and straightforward as he was,” there was something in Hallward’s na­ture “that was purely feminine in its tenderness.”

In the present typescript version Hallward says to Dorian: “It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more ro­ mance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman. . . . From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me . . . I adored you madly, extravagantly, absurdly. I was jealous of every­one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you.”

“Why is it that every young man that you take up seems to come to grief, to go to the bad at once?” changed to “Why is your friendship so fateful to young men?”

“A man with curious eyes had suddenly peered into his face, and then dogged him with stealthy footsteps, passing and repassing him, many times.”

“Upon the other hand, had she become your mistress, she would have lived in the society of charming and cultured men. You would have educated her, taught her how to dress, how to talk, how to move. You would have made her perfect, and she would have been extremely happy. After a time, no doubt, you would have grown tired of her. She would have made a scene. You would have made a settlement. Then a new career would have begun for her.”

“she promised to come with me to town. I had taken a house for her, and arranged everything,”

“I don’t suppose that ten per cent of the lower orders live with their wives” changed to “I don’t suppose that ten per cent of the lower orders live cor­rectly.”

“the sinful creatures who prowl the street at night [and who] cursed him as he passed by, seeing in him a corruption greater than their own.”

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The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oxford World’s Classics by Oscar Wilde (Author), Isobel Murray (Editor)

TPODGWCI have read this twice before but have just read it in conjunction with the recently published uncensored version edited by Nicholas Frankel.

The latter has 13 chapters whereas the former had twenty. Did Murray add chapters to soften the impact or to explain to readers some extra background?

Murray’s chapter 3 has Henry visiting Uncle George to find out about Gray’s family background.

Her chapter 5 has Sybil Vane telling her mother that she has become engaged. Her brother, James, is suspicious.

In chapter 15, Dorian goes to a party of Lady Narborough’s and people notice that5 he is ‘out of sorts’.

Chapter 16 is his taxi ride to an opium den where he meedsAdrian Singleton and, later, James Vane, who remarks that he hasn’t changed in eighteen years.

In chapter 17, Dorian talks to the Duchess of Monmouth.

In chapter 18 he tried to save a hare from being shot but James Vane is shot dead in this hunt.

Chapters 19 and 20 expand the other versions’s chapter 13

Quotations

 His principles were out of date, but there was a good deal to be said for his prejudices.

 

what brings you out so early ? I thought you dandies never got up till two, and were not visible till five.

Like all people who try to exhaust a subject, he exhausted his listeners

‘When an old woman like myself blushes, it is a very bad sign. Ah ! Lord Henry, I wish you would tell me how to become young again,

To get I back one’s youth, one has merely to repeat one’s follies.’

the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.

To see him is to worship him, to know him is to trust him

Ernest Harrowden, one of those middle-aged mediocrities so common in London clubs who have no enemies, but are thoroughly disliked by their friends

Nowadays all the married men live like bachelors, and all the bachelors like married men.

The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one.

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Kitchen Venom – Philip Hensher

KV(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

What an interesting way to start a book – with a funeral. You get introduced to all the characters but they are all (or mostly) on their best behaviour so you know that you have more to learn about them and what they’re really like: They ended with the professional choices of the professional undertaker, the grand official sorrow of the priest from a church no one ever went to. He accepted solicitude and regret gracefully. When the Secretary of State came, John, too, was flattered, and he could not suppress the thought that Helena would have been delighted at this man turning up at her funeral, who for seven years had never man­aged to get to one of her parties.

Like most modern books, the story jumps about.

There’s a scene set in the notorious ‘Brief Encounter’ bar: Later on they went to bed together. The man gave him a false name and telephone number afterwards. Louis gave him his real name and a false telephone number, since he did not like him one bit, had fucked him out of politeness and did not want to be troubled by part-time heterosexuals. The man left in time for Louis to have dinner on his own before going to bed.

Who else entitles a chapter: Have you ever been fucked?

I never knew that sartorial manners required: keep double-cuffed shirts for double-breasted suits,’ Henry said. ‘That’s a very nice suit, but I think you probably ought to wear a single-cuffed shirt with it. The shirt looks more perhaps formal than the suit.’

I had to look up ‘Zooty clothes’.

Surely it doesn’t take a day and a half to clear the air of cigarette smoke.

There is an observant take on hospital routine: ‘You see, they come round at six-thirty in the morning, and you have to choose what you want for lunch and for supper. Lunch is at twelve noon, and supper is at five-thirty. And of course by then you’ve quite forgotten what you ordered, partly because it’s so long, and partly because I’m completely gaga, and it’s far too late to change what you thought might be nice at the crack of dawn.’

……how like life it is. You get asked what you’re going to want when you’re almost bound to make the wrong decision, and then you’re stuck with it. When the trolley lady comes round in the end, you might fancy the sole, but you’re stuck with the sausage sandwich. Or perhaps you could only really manage a small salad, but you have to get through an enormous beef stew.

I would have thought that the author would have known better than to have written ‘bored of’ when he meant ‘bored with’. It wasn’t in direct speech.

There is clearly a waste of space in the Palace of Westminster. Literally, many rooms where nobody enters or even knows about. Also people who have little or no work to do but are paid handsomely every month.

There is also a lot of hot air: Mem­bers; their lack of hygiene; their badly cut suits; the halitotic stew of their breath.

I greatly enjoyed someone describing Mrs. Thatcher as an ‘old cow’.

It is said that the author’s career as a full-time novelist was launched with a scandal that saw him sacked as a House of Commons clerk after writing this novel – he gave an interview for a gay magazine in which he described Members of the House of Commons as ugly. In the story, one member is described as a lunatic and in the voting on the fate of the prime minister, most are shown as not knowing what they were doing and simply relying on the Tory party whips to tell them how to vote. He describes his sacking after the publication of Kitchen Venom as “one of the happiest moments of my life. It was bliss”, although he acknowledges that he “wasn’t exactly starting from scratch when I lost my job”.

Some say that Kitchen Venom foreshadows Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, especially its portrayal of the coldness underlying the relationships.

No spoilers but the ending is in very lyrical prose.

Quotations

Kitchen venom; a place nourishment was produced, and a place from which poison could come.

When he had bought the flat, he had considered that it would be good for him to have a lodger. It would give him a certain amount of income, and it would introduce him to a large circle of people whom he would otherwise not meet. He therefore informed a telephone service for homosexuals in London that he was looking for a lodger. The prospective lodgers who had visited him were three. The first was a man who propositioned him before he had been shown the whole flat.

Never before had people lived on the streets of London; never before had people been asked for money; never before had people asked for money.

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