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The Picture of Dorian Gray

About the Book

Dorian Gray is young, rich and beautiful. When he sees an exquisite portrait of himself, he is bewitched and offers his soul in exchange for eternal youth and good looks.

Under the corrupting influence of his friend Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian becomes drawn into a double life, indulging his every desire in a secret life of pleasure and excess, while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence.

And as Dorian’s behaviour sinks further into debauchery and cruelty, the bargain he has struck looks set to destroy him …

(From the Penguin Edition)

About the Author

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on 16th October 1854 at 21 Westland Row, Dublin. He was the second son of Sir William Wilde and his wife Jane Wilde, who wrote under the pseudonym Speranza. Ireland’s leading eye and ear surgeon, William Wilde was knighted in 1864 for his services to medicine.

The family moved to 1 Merrion Square in 1855 where Lady Wilde held a regular Saturday afternoon salon with guests that included Sheridan le Fanu, Charles Lever, George Petrie, Isaac Butt and Samuel Ferguson.

Oscar was educated at home until he was nine, after which he attended Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, and spent summer months with his family in Co. Waterford, Wexford and at his father’s family home in Mayo. He read classics at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874. Having won the Berkeley Gold Medal for Classics in Trinity, he won a scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford where he became part of the Aesthetic movement.

After leaving Oxford in 1878 Oscar earned a living by lecturing and writing for periodicals. He published a largely unsuccessful volume of poems in 1881 and in the next year undertook a lecture-tour of the United States in order to promote the D’Oyle Carte production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, Patience. After graduation from Oxford, Oscar returned to Dublin, where he met Florence Balcombe. She, however, became engaged to Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. On hearing of her engagement, Wilde wrote to her stating his intention to leave Ireland permanently.

After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, he tried to establish himself as a writer, but with little initial success. However, his three volumes of short fiction, The Happy Prince (1888), Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (1891) and A House of Pomegranates (1891), together with his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), gradually won him a reputation as a modern writer with an original talent, a reputation confirmed and enhanced by the phenomenal success of his Society Comedies – Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, all performed on the West End stage between 1892 and 1895.

Success, however, was short-lived. In 1891 Oscar met and fell extravagantly in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, when his success as a dramatist was at its height, he brought an unsuccessful libel action against Douglas’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Oscar lost the case and two trials later was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for acts of gross indecency. As a result of this experience he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He was released from prison in 1897 and went into an immediate self-imposed exile on the Continent. Oscar died in Paris in 1900 and is buried in Père Lachaise cemetery.

Published by Penguin.

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