Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray Has Been Republished In Full
And All Was Right With the World
When it was first published in 1890, Oscar Wilde‘s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was heavily censored by his editor J.M. Stoddart for its “vulgar” and “objectionable” content. Specifically, content about the relationship between the eponymous character and Basil Hallward, because they were both men. But now, the novel has been reissued and restored with much of Wilde’s original content that drove those with delicate sensibilities positively mad.
In addition to the homoerotic content, Stoddart also took out several references to heterosexual relations.
Deciding that the novel as it stood contained “a number of things which an innocent woman would make an exception to,” and assuring his employer Craige Lippincott that he would make the book “acceptable to the most fastidious taste,” Stoddart also removed references to Gray’s female lovers as his “mistresses.” He went on to cut “many passages that smacked of decadence more generally,” said Nicholas Frankel, editor of the new edition, for Harvard University Press.
Frankel went on to say that it was about time to release the full novel, “bringing it out of the closet a little more.”
When it was first released, there was a great deal of public outcry about the lifestyles and attitudes of Wilde’s characters. For example: “[I]t is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents -– a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction,” wrote the Daily Chronicle. (Oh, those nasty French types.)
Much of the restored text reveals a different level of the relationship between Gray and Hallward. But some still argue that the current version is superior to this new one. Author and columnist Brooke Allen said:
“Some of Wilde’s original material may have been lost in the latter … but much was gained, too,” she wrote. “This annotated version, though a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism, should serve as a supplement to the standard text rather than a replacement.”
So, whether you think it’s better with “smut” or without “smut,” at least now you have a choice!