If you don’t have access to ShowTime and you’ve wondered what Penny Dreadful is all about, let me clue you in. I enjoy the show and recommend it. Ethan Chandler a Wild Bill Cody type is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives to find and rescue his daughter, Mina Hunter, kidnapped by Dracula. Dr. Frankenstein teams up with them as well. And Dorian Gray is added to the mix.
In honor of Penney Dreadful and Halloween month, October, I’m writing my three posts this month on Bram Stoker who gave us Dracula, Mary Shelley, who gave us Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde who gave us Dorian Gray.
This post is for Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. “There is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise and cruel for that.”- from The Picture of Dorian Gray. It first came out as a serial story in July 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly, a literary and science magazine published in Philadelphia.
In Penny Dreadful, Dorian is the sexy character. No one, male or female, can resist him. Oscar Wilde wrote him as the corruptible sort that ruins many young men and young women’s lives. Many things can be said about Mr. Wilde, the main one is he could write. He was well skilled in the craft. As soon as I began to read Dorian Gray I noticed Oscar Wilde’s brilliant dialogue tags.
Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette. “Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion.”
Great writing is timeless. Without question, Oscar Wilde was a great writer. As shown above, he begins the story with a secret. The artist, Basil Hallward will not exhibit his exquisite painting of Dorian Gray. Later in the book it’s revealed it’s because he’s so obsessed with Dorian he fears people looking at the portrait will be able to detect his love for the man.
Dorian is incredibly attractive, easy going, and innocent. He falls in love with an actress in a second rate theatre who performs in several Shakespearean plays. When Dorian takes his friends to see one of her performances, her acting is off. She didn’t put her usual level of passion into her performance due to that fact that she’d fallen in love with Dorian and acting wasn’t important to her any more. Only Dorian was important to her. So he dumps her. He loved her because of her talent. When he comes home he finds the portrait has changed – there is a line of cruelty at the mouth. He recalls the day the picture was finished he thought it unfair the painting would always be so beautiful but he would age. He’d wished it could be the other way, he’d stay young and the portrait would age. Then Dorian discovered the actress committed suicide because of him and things slide downhill from there. The picture changes not only with each mark of age but with each sinful act he commits while Dorian appears as young and innocent as when he sat for the painting.
There is a quote from the book, “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” The intense raw pain of the author is something all three books: Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray have in common. In The Picture of Dorian Gray readers share the emotional split Oscar Wilde endured just like the two Dorian Grays: one a picture and one a man. The hidden picture is more real than the man. In the Victorian era homosexuality was not only considered repulsive by society it was a crime. While reading Dorian Gray we feel Oscar Wilde’s pain in having to hide his real self, the guilt he felt and the confusion of having desires considered at the time to be horrid and unnatural. The Picture of Dorian Gray was banned and also used against Oscar Wilde in his trail in 1895. Convicted of gross indecency, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor. The intense pain embedded in the story is one of the main things which make the book so timeless and so great.
~ ~ ~
Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus.