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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, July 19, 1890   By:

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PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI

VOL. 99

JULY 19, 1890

OUR BOOKING OFFICE.

[Illustration: PARALLEL.

Joe, the Fat Boy in Pickwick, startles the Old Lady; Oscar, the Fad Boy in Lippincott's, startles Mrs. Grundy.

Oscar, the Fad Boy . "I want to make your flesh creep!"]

The Baron has read OSCAR WILDE'S Wildest and Oscarest work, called Dorian Gray , a weird sensational romance, complete in one number of Lippincott's Magazine . The Baron, recommends anybody who revels in diablerie , to begin it about half past ten, and to finish it at one sitting up; but those who do not so revel he advises either not to read it at all, or to choose the daytime, and take it in homoeopathic doses. The portrait represents the soul of the beautiful Ganymede like Dorian Gray , whose youth and beauty last to the end, while his soul, like JOHN BROWN'S, "goes marching on" into the Wilderness of Sin. It becomes at last a devilled soul. And then Dorian sticks a knife into it, as any ordinary mortal might do, and a fork also, and next morning

"Lifeless but 'hideous' he lay,"

while the portrait has recovered the perfect beauty which it possessed when it first left the artist's easel. If OSCAR intended an allegory, the finish is dreadfully wrong. Does he mean that, by sacrificing his earthly life, Dorian Gray atones for his infernal sins, and so purifies his soul by suicide? "Heavens! I am no preacher," says the Baron, "and perhaps OSCAR didn't mean anything at all, except to give us a sensation, to show how like BULWER LYTTON'S old world style he could make his descriptions and his dialogue, and what an easy thing it is to frighten the respectable Mrs. Grundy with a Bogie." The style is decidedly Lyttonerary. His aphorisms are Wilde, yet forced. Mr. OSCAR WILDE says of his story, "it is poisonous if you like, but you cannot deny that it is also perfect, and perfection is what we artists aim at." Perhaps; but "we artists" do not always hit what we aim at, and, despite his confident claim to unerring artistic marksmanship, one must hazard the opinion, that in this case Mr. WILDE has "shot wide." There is indeed more of "poison" than of "perfection" in Dorian Gray . The central idea is an excellent, if not exactly novel, one; and a finer art, say that of NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, would have made a striking and satisfying story of it. Dorian Gray is striking enough, in a sense, but it is not "satisfying" artistically, any more than it is so ethically. Mr. WILDE has preferred the sensuous and hyperdecorative manner of "Mademoiselle DE MAUPIN," and without GAUTIER'S power, has spoilt a promising conception by clumsy unideal treatment. His "decoration" (upon which he plumes himself) is indeed "laid on with a trowel." The luxuriously elaborate details of his "artistic hedonism" are too suggestive of South Kensington Museum and æsthetic Encyclopædias. A truer art would have avoided both the glittering conceits, which bedeck the body of the story, and the unsavoury suggestiveness which lurks in its spirit. Poisonous! Yes. But the loathly "leperous distilment" taints and spoils, without in any way subserving "perfection," artistic or otherwise. If Mrs. Grundy doesn't read it, the younger Grundies do; that is, the Grundies who belong to Clubs, and who care to shine in certain sets wherein this story will be much discussed. "I have read it, and, except for the ingenious idea, I wish to forget it," says the Baron.

The Baron has seen the new, lively, and eccentric newspaper, entitled The Whirlwind . It has reached the third number. "I am informed," says the Baron, "that, on payment of five guineas down, I can become a life subscriber to the Whirlwind . But what does life subscriber mean? Do I subscribe for the term of my life, or for the term of the Whirlwind's life? Suppose the Whirlwind has to be wound up, or whirl winded up, and suppose I am still going on, can I intervene to stop the proceedings, and insist on my contract to be supplied with a Whirlwind per week for the remainder of my natural or unnatural life being carried out? If the contract is for our lives, then, as a life subscriber, I should insist on the Whirlwind remaining co existent with me, so that, up to my latest breath, I might have a Whirlwind ... Continue reading book >>


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