Posted by: emmadamato | December 7, 2010

to get it out of my system

I loved reading this book. It was a real pleasure. But, regretfully, I have developed a bit of a crush on Lord Henry. I am only telling everyone because it’s the last blog post and so I don’t say it in class and get chastised. I know he’s a horrible man, especially when it comes to women and I might be showing far too many of my cards to tell you how I was very attracted to his character. I am not sure if I really would want to be his wife, but I would defiantly want to be him- a genre of crushing all on its own.

Because I can’t make tee shirts of everything he said I figured I would share some of my favorites here.

“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul” 23

“Sin is the only real colour-element left in modern life” 31

“I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.” 42

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are ones mistakes” 43

“the only way a woman can reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life” 100

“It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style” 101

“nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner. Conscience makes egotists of us all” 103

There are many more things that he said that I admire, but I’m feeling too like him to post all of them.

You’re all invited to the wedding, a bit of a June-December romance…


  1. I was also weirdly attracted to him for the first few chapters, but then just began to get awfully irritated by his character! Initially I was struck by how pithy almost all of his words/phrases are and I found myself underlining like crazy. However as the book progressed I started to get bored with his musings, and later, annoyed. Part of me wished he were more like Basil, someone who speaks clearly and always with purpose. The character of Lord Henry is baffling because you can never know what his true desires, or better, morals, really represent. Though he talks a lot, I often get the impression that Wilde uses his character for some sort of exercise in rhetoric and philosophy and thus Lord Henry cannot be satisfied every saying just one thing with one single meaning, but is almost perpetually clever—which, though exciting at first—becomes very irritating. What’ more one can’t help but hate Dorian’s fascination with him. It seems to me as if initially Dorian was a blank slate of sorts ( a state in which Basil preferred he remain), but one can see slowly how the influence and wordiness of Lord Henry begins to confuse Dorian’s basic desires and relationships with other characters.
    In all I would totally love to go on a dinner date with Lord Henry, but I’m not sure a second date would be in store : )

  2. Emma, I’m so glad you posted this, and I am already picturing your wedding to Lord Henry or your merging into him, whichever comes first. I can totally see where the attraction could stem from–the “bad” one that’s also clever and moves in a sophisticated set and has such excellent quotes, though I must also agree that I would definitely be psyched about a dinner date with him but less-than-thrilled about a marriage to him. Okay, I’m not really adding anything noteworthy here, but I wanted to say you two are not alone in the attraction to Lord Henry. To add a random aside: I did not see the movie that came out in 2009, but I do remember there was quite the debate over the fact that Colin Firth was playing Lord Henry. Some were convinced that by casting the Mr. Darcy/period-drama heartthrob/what-have-you as such an evil character, the directors were purposely trying to make Lord Henry into a romantic interest for the female viewers. Some argued that Lord Henry was an inherently attractive character, just not in a Firth-esque way. I can’t seem to find the article I read on it back when casting choices were being made, and I didn’t see the film, so I can’t add my two cents about whether the casting was appropriate or not, but, for what it’s worth, the attractiveness of Lord Henry has been debated by others besides you, Emma, so don’t regret your feelings. I hope you two are very happy together.

  3. I really believe that Wilde wants us to be attracted to Lord Henry, at least at first. He is absolutely enthralling, and we are drawn to him just as Dorian is. But since we also see Lord Henry from Basil’s point of view, his corrupting influence on Dorian can be seen as “evil” but I sincerely do not think that Lord Henry is. Instead, Wilde portrays him as merely insincere — a man who says clever, naughty things but rarely means them. The problem, for Dorian at least, is that he accepts Lord Henry’s “teachings” with wide-eyed innocence, and doesn’t understand the repercussions until it is too late.

    As for the recent film, I have yet to see it, but think Colin Firth is the LEAST of the movie’s problems. (Uhm, HELLO Ben Barnes is the worst casting choice for Dorian.) But then again, I’m a Wilde purist.

  4. I think the importance of Lord Henry and Basil’s character is that they represent two extremes that Dorian can go to. In the novel Basil is truthful but to some extent he represses what he really feels. In contrast Lord Henry is witty and acts as though the world owes him something. This is attractive to the reader and you can understand why Dorian becomes his devotee as he’s relatively inexperienced about life. Also although Dorian is innocent from the beginning I think to an extent he always had a narcissistic complex as he’s quick to adhere to Lord Henry’s love of fun. When I read this novel I always think about the importance of beauty and that even though Basil tries to save Dorian, his problem is, is that he too is enthralled with beauty although he tries to deny this to himself

  5. Stacey, I’m totally with you in thinking that Basil and Lord Henry represent two opposing lifestyles, one of which Dorian would obviously have to choose for the story to be worth its salt. I also think you’re right in that Basil was too enamored of Dorian’s beauty to save him. I really do think that Basil had the best of intentions—it’s only unfortunate that he spent so much time in the beginning fixating on Dorian’s physical worth. He and Lord Henry both recognize that from the very start, and I think that if one of them (and that one would have had to be Basil) had not been so obsessed with his appearance, Dorian may have had a chance to escape the all-consuming vanity into which he fell. I think Basil’s split from the obsession with physical beauty just came too late to do Dorian any good. This becomes painfully clear after, when Basil tries to help Dorian, the younger man repays him with a knife to the throat.

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