The Picture of Dorian Gray

Colm Tóibín writes:

As Nicholas Frankel writes in his superbly annotated new edition of Wilde’s novel, the magazine version ‘is more explicit in its sexual references and allusions than the revised 1891 book version, in which Wilde, in response to his critics and at the insistence of his publisher, toned down the novel’s homosexual content’. In Wilde’s original version, Basil Hallward says to Dorian: ‘It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend.’ The magazine editors changed ‘should ever give’ to ‘usually gives’. The sentence wasn’t included at all in the book. At Wilde’s trial, Edward Carson used the text of Dorian as evidence against Wilde, and made a clear distinction between the two versions, referring to the book as ‘the purged edition’. But the story, as Frankel makes clear, is not as simple as that. Lippincott’s, using a number of readers in their office in Philadelphia, also made serious cuts and changes to the original text, removing ‘objectionable passages’. They changed ‘Why is it that every young man that you take up seems to come to grief, to go to the bad at once?’ to ‘Why is your friendship so fatal to young men?’ and cut a scene in which Dorian is walking at night when ‘a man with curious eyes had suddenly peered into his face, and then dogged him with stealthy footsteps, passing and repassing him many times.’

(LRB 10 May 2012)

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