From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray published
Wednesday 27 April 2011 16.46 BST
Revised after it was condemned in the British press over 120 years ago as “vulgar”, “unclean”, “poisonous” and “discreditable”, an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray has finally been published.
Wilde’s editor JM Stoddart had already deleted a host of “objectionable” text from the novel before it made its first appearance in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in June 1890, cutting out material which made more explicit the homoerotic nature of artist Basil Hallward’s feelings for Dorian, and accentuated elements of homosexuality in Dorian himself.
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 Dorian’s female lovers as his “mistresses”, and cut “many passages that smacked of decadence more generally,” said Nicholas Frankel, editor of the new edition.
The public outcry which followed the novel’s appearance – “it 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 – forced Wilde to revise the novel still further before it appeared in book form in 1891.
“It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman,” Hallward tells Dorian, in one passage that was changed.
“From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me … I adored you madly, extravagantly, absurdly. I was jealous of everyone to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you.”
Now Harvard University Press is publishing the uncensored text for the first time, 120 years after the novel first appeared. “In a day when ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is no longer tolerated in policy, the time is ripe for the publication of Wilde’s novel in its uncensored form,” said Frankel, associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University “It is the version of the novel that Wilde, I believe, would want us to be reading in the 21st century.”
Harvard University Press said the differences between Wilde’s original text and the published version of the novel “have until now been evident to only the handful of scholars who have examined Wilde’s typescript”. Frankel writes in his introduction that publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition reveals “a more daring and scandalous novel, more explicit in its sexual content, and for that reason less content than either of the two subsequent published versions in adhering to Victorian conventions of representation”.
“[It’s] a fitting, timely embodiment of what Wilde meant when he confessed that Dorian Gray is “what I would like to be – in other ages, perhaps’,” said Frankel.
Reviewing the new edition, author and columnist Brooke Allen said that “whether the original text is actually ‘better’ than the book version published in 1891 is a moot point”. “Some of Wilde’s original material may have been lost in the latter … but much was gained, too, in the expanded version Wilde prepared in 1891, with the brilliant Lord Henry being given some wonderful new material,” 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.”
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