The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the
light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came
through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more
delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.
From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was
lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton
could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored
blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able
to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and
then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long
tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge
window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him
think of those pallid jade-faced painters who, in an art that is
necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and
motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through
the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round
the black-crocketed spires of the early June hollyhocks, seemed to
make the stillness more oppressive, and the dim roar of London was
like the bourdon note of a distant organ.
In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the
full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty,
and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist
himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago
caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many
As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully
mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and
seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and,
closing  his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he
sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he
feared he might awake.
"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done,"
said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to
the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The
Grosvenor is the only place."
"I don't think I will send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his
head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him
at Oxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."
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
"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't
exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it."
Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook with
"Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same."
"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you
were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you,
with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young
Adonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why,
my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you--well, of course you have
an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty,
ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself
an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment
one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or
something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned
professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in
the Church. But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps
on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a
boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely
delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never
told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I
feel quite sure of that. He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who
should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at,
and always here in summer when we want something to chill our
intelligence. Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the
least like him."
"You don't understand me, Harry. Of course I am not like him. I
know that perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry to look like
him. You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth. There
is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction, the
sort of fatality that  seems to dog through history the faltering
steps of kings. It is better not to be different from one's fellows.
The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can
sit quietly and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory,
they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we
all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.
They neither bring ruin upon others nor ever receive it from alien
hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are,--my
fame, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks,--we will
all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly."
"Dorian Gray? is that his name?" said Lord Henry, walking across the
studio towards Basil Hallward.
"Yes; that is his name. I didn't intend to tell it to you."
"But why not?"
"Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely I never tell
their names to any one. It seems like surrendering a part of them.
You know how I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make
modern life wonderful or mysterious to us. The commonest thing is
delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town I never tell my
people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It
is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great
deal of romance into one's life. I suppose you think me awfully
foolish about it?"
"Not at all," answered Lord Henry, laying his hand upon his shoulder;
"not at all, my dear Basil. You seem to forget that I am married,
and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception
necessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my
wife never knows what I am doing. When we meet,--we do meet
occasionally, when we dine out together, or go down to the duke's,--
we tell each other the most absurd stories with the most serious
faces. My wife is very good at it,--much better, in fact, than I am.
She never gets confused over her dates, and I always do. But when
she does find me out, she makes no row at all. I sometimes wish she
would; but she merely laughs at me."
"I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said Basil
Hallward, shaking his hand off, and strolling towards the door that
led into the garden. "I believe that you are really a very good
husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues.
You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and
you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose."
"Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I
know," cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out
into the garden together, and for a time they did not speak.
After a long pause Lord Henry pulled out his watch. "I am afraid I
must be going, Basil," he murmured, "and before I go I insist on your
answering a question I put to you some time ago."
"What is that?" asked Basil Hallward, keeping his eyes fixed on the