”It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had spoiled him.”
FIRST EDITION OF WILDE'S ONLY NOVEL; ARGUABLY HIS MOST ENDURING WORK.
“In July 1890 Lippincott's Magazine published Wilde's first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. His critic's interest in Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde induced the idea of age and its spiritual effects expressing themselves in the portrait whose model walks free of either… In Dorian Gray nature imitates art with—literally—a vengeance, when in knifing the portrait Dorian kills himself and becomes the final horror to which its successive changes have evolved. Dorian Gray himself became a name as immortal as those of Jekyll and Hyde, his picture in the attic baring his self-obsessed soul as vital a symbol as the ‘madwoman in the attic’, the discarded first wife established in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847).
“The story itself, so far from vindicating art for art's sake, asks what it profiteth a man to gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul. His sexual sins, so far as we know them, are firmly heterosexual. He attracts two men, the artist Basil Hallward who has fallen in love with his appearance, and Lord Henry Wotton, whose scruples might be philosophically less nice than Hallward's but who never seems to go beyond repainting Dorian in epigrams. The fervent expression of Hallward's love (arguably the finest sentiment in the story) unleashed the venom of Wilde's Oxford classicist contemporary Samuel Henry Jeyes (1857–1911), who in the St James's Gazette (20 June 1890) demanded that the book be burnt and hinted that its author or publisher were liable to prosecution…; comparably, Charles Whibley in the Scots Observer accused Wilde of writing for 'none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys'.
“Wilde revised it, toning down a few passages for book publication, adding six new chapters to the book and about nineteen years to the action. His preface disposed of his critics in an epigram sequence. Technically the amendments are improvements. Wilde, contrary to what he liked to say, was a very hard worker when it came to revising his writings, and from Vera onwards could be ruthless in what he removed. Despite, or possibly because, W. H. Smith refused to stock it ('filthy' was his description), it was the most famous novel of its time.” (Dictionary of National Biography).
With correct first issue point, “nd” for “and” on p. 208. Mason 328. Note: This first trade edition is generally understood as preceding the signed limited issue.
London: Ward, Locke, & Co., 1891. Octavo, original gray beveled boards with gilt “ten butterfly” design by Charles Ricketts; elegantly rebacked with fine tan crushed morocco gilt. (The binding was poorly produced and has become notorious for problems with the original spine and joints.) Handsome bookplate of Sidney Harold Hargrove (apparently a c.1900 English lawyer) on front pastedown. A little wear to binding edges; text generally clean.
Price: $5,000 .