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The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapters 3-4: Lord Henry's Influence

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Jan. 15th, 2010 | 01:20 pm

Chapter 3
Lord Henry pays a visit to his Tory blowhard uncle who knows everything about everyone, and asks about Dorian Gray. The uncle knew his grandfather and is able to provide the information. Dorian's mother married a penniless soldier for love; shortly after Dorian was born, the man was killed in a duel (the uncle suspects the grandfather hired a mercenary to do the deed), and the mother died within the year.

On his way to his aunt's for a dinner party with some friends of hers (including Dorian, in whose playing she has taken an interest), Lord Henry dreamily decides that this tragic backstory makes Dorian even cuter. He reflects on how nice it is to "influence" Dorian. Influence him hard.
"Talking to him was like playing upon an exquisite violin. He answered to every touch and thrill of the bow. . . . There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other activity was like it. To project one's soul into some gracious form, and let it tarry there for a moment..."
Yikes!! Just as Lord Henry is deciding he will "seek to dominate" Dorian, "indeed, he had already half done so" (which half?), he realizes he has passed his aunt's house. D'oh!

At the dinner, Lord Henry does his usual chatty thing, saying whatever he thinks is clever, and bringing the topic round to his favorite lecture topics, Why We Should All Forget Morals And Do What We Like. Everyone is suitable shocked and amused and tells him he is bad and invites him to their parties. As the group breaks up, Lord Henry heads for a walk in the park, and Dorian comes with him, even though he had plans with Basil.

Chapter 4
We join Dorian a month later sitting in Lord Henry's library. The room is described in detail with a lot of name-dropping of classy French things. Let's see how that would look with modern product placement.
Dorian Gray was reclining in a luxurious [Eames lounge chair], in the little library of Lord Henry's [Madison Avenue penthouse]. It was, in its way, a very charming room, with its [Roma wall fabric], its [David Weeks wall sconces], and its [Anthropologie Mila rug]. On a [Tucker Robbins wire side table] stood a [Bourgie table lamp], and beside it [a bottle of Vitamin Water]... With listless fingers he turned over the pages of an elaborately illustrated edition of [von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl] that he had found in one of the [Aziz Sariyer B-line bookcases]. The formal monotonous ticking of the [Louis Quatorze]* clock annoyed him. Once or twice he thought of going away.
*Actually that one's the same. Some things don't change.

As is his wont, he starts bitching the moment he hears someone enter, but it's not Harry; it's his wife! She's ugly, you guys! She's also chatty, and described as having a "nervous staccato laugh," and I think you're supposed to think she's dumb, but she seems pretty on par with Lord Henry--making what seem to be purposely Philistine-y observations, like saying Wagner is the best composer because he's so loud that nobody else can hear your conversation. She makes a pretty pithy observation when Dorian says something Lord Henry-ish: "That is one of Harry's views, isn't it? I always hear Harry's views from his friends. It is the only way I get to know of them." Lord Henry comes in and is charming, and the wife bustles out, and Henry throws himself on the couch and tells Dorian, "Never marry." Ha ha asshole.

Dorian has come to tell Lord Henry that he is in love! With an actress. He says it's all due to Lord Henry, and that he was wandering around some grimy part of London looking for trouble when he came across this awful vulgar little theatre, and out of perversity, he went in. They were putting on Romeo and Juliet, and the all the actors were embarrassing and bad, until Juliet came on stage. In worshipful tones, Dorian describes her beauty, her genius as an actress, and her voice. "You know how a voice can stir one. Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear them, and each of them says something different. I don't know which to follow." Surprisingly enough, Lord Henry doesn't say anything at this point, no "There are only two kinds of bisexuals--those who love men, and those who love women" or anything like that.

When Dorian is done, Lord Henry pokes some fun at him, and he regrets saying anything. Lord Henry asks the surprisingly straightforward question, "What are your actual relations with Sybil Vane?" and Dorian is horrified: "Harry! Sibyl Vane is sacred!" "It is only the sacred things that are worth touching" is Harry's predictable answer. Anyway, the answer is that he goes to see her in a different Shakespeare play every night, and once he talked to her briefly backstage. She called him "Prince Charming." Lord Henry agrees to go with Dorian to see her in another R+J performance the following night. Dorian leaves.

Lord Henry sits back to think. "Certainly few people had ever interested him so much as Dorian Gray, and yet the lad's mad adoration of some one else caused him not the slightest pang of annoyance or jealousy." Overall, he is pleased with Dorian's progress. The love affair makes him more interesting. He's becoming passionate and reckless, and Lord Henry likes that in a man.

He goes out to dinner and when he comes back, there's a telegram waiting for him: it's Dorian wiring to say he's engaged.

Lord Henry's Quotable Oscar Wilde
  • Chapter 3
    • "American girls are as clever at concealing their parents, as English women are at concealing their past"
    • "Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic."
    • "I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect."
    • "I can sympathize with everything except suffering"
  • Chapter 4
    • "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
    • "Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed."
    • "there are only five women in London worth talking to, and two of these can't be admitted into decent society."

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Comments {4}

duneguy

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from: duneguy
date: Jan. 15th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
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>Dorian Gray was reclining in a luxurious [Eames lounge chair] etc.

best

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duneguy

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from: duneguy
date: Jan. 16th, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
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How to Make Friends and Bone People
Sphere of Bone
Spanish Boneza

Influence Thugs n Harmony
Dr. Leonard "Influences" McCoy
Richard Milhous "Influencer" Stabone

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Alison

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from: anthemyst
date: Jan. 21st, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
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You skipped all the antisemitism!

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Laura Hughes

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from: laura_redcloud
date: Jan. 21st, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
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Oh, right, how Dorian Gray was really over the top put off that the guy who runs the theatre was a Jew? I don't know why I didn't bother to mention that. I guess it's kind of par for the course in Victorian English aristocracy fiction.

Although there are a few books I can think of which specifically attack prevalent anti-semitic attitudes (Daniel Deronda, The Way We Live Now) (and those happen to be the most awesome books for a variety of reasons).

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