Most people know the story of Dorian Gray. What you may not know is that there is more than one version of this story.
When Oscar Wilde first wrote his novel he had to be careful. The laws against homosexuality which would eventually led to his downfall were already reigning over Victorian England, and so whilst he shamelessly hinted at the romantic interests and sexual practices of several of his primary characters he could never actually say anything outright.
This, however, was already too much for Victorian England and so when Oscar sent his novel to be published by J.B Lippincott & Company in 1890 the editor censored the parts of the novel which he felt were too ‘explicit’. When Oscar later extended his novel to be published in book form he ended up adding more characters, giving Dorian Gray a more sympathetic back story and he himself censored some of the more ‘controversial’ parts of his novel.
Even with these extra precautions the book succeeded in shocking its audience, many of whom believed it to be immoral. Even as the years went by and society slowly became more tolerant towards homosexuality this book continued to be sold in its abridged, censored form. Finally in 2011 the uncensored manuscript was published along with detailed analysis and information about the words, references and characters. You can now read Dorian Gray as Oscar Wilde intended it to be read.
By today’s standards this book is nowhere near explicit. It is, however, superior to any other addition because it flows better, it makes more sense and it gives a real (if coded) insight into the duplicity and hypocrisy of Victorian society.
This is a timeless novel which has managed to portray the sheer terror of getting older and the lengths we will go to to cling to youth better than any other piece of fiction or non fiction that I am aware of. This novel will challenge your perceptions of Victorian masculinity and in this respect it is perhaps more relevant than ever. Dorian Gray has it all: Faustian pacts, unrequited love, homo-eroticism, drug use, sin, murder, the complexity of redempton and it will leave you with the slightly disturbing realisation that you are more like Dorian Gray than you would perhaps like to be.
Review by Sophia Moss
Posted on 04/02/2017
by Sue Cawte filed under