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Letters on Dorian Gray
by [?]


(St. James’s Gazette, June 26, 1890.)

To the Editor of the St. James’s Gazette.

SIR,–I have read your criticism of my story, The Picture of Dorian Gray; and I need hardly say that I do not propose to discuss its merits or demerits, its personalities or its lack of personality. England is a free country, and ordinary English criticism is perfectly free and easy. Besides, I must admit that, either from temperament or taste, or from both, I am quite incapable of understanding how any work of art can be criticised from a moral standpoint. The sphere of art and the sphere of ethics are absolutely distinct and separate; and it is to the confusion between the two that we owe the appearance of Mrs. Grundy, that amusing old lady who represents the only original form of humour that the middle classes of this country have been able to produce.

What I do object to most strongly is that you should have placarded the town with posters on which was printed in large letters:–


Whether the expression ‘A Bad Case’ refers to my book or to the present position of the Government, I cannot tell. What was silly and unnecessary was the use of the term ‘advertisement.’

I think I may say without vanity–though I do not wish to appear to run vanity down–that of all men in England I am the one who requires least advertisement. I am tired to death of being advertised–I feel no thrill when I see my name in a paper. The chronicle does not interest me any more. I wrote this book entirely for my own pleasure, and it gave me very great pleasure to write it. Whether it becomes popular or not is a matter of absolute indifference to me. I am afraid, Sir, that the real advertisement is your cleverly written article. The English public, as a mass, takes no interest in a work of art until it is told that the work in question is immoral, and your reclame will, I have no doubt, largely increase the sale of the magazine; in which sale I may mention with some regret, I have no pecuniary interest.–I remain, Sir, your obedient servant, OSCAR WILDE.



(St. James’s Gazette, June 27, 1890.)

SIR,–In your issue of today you state that my brief letter published in your columns is the ‘best reply’ I can make to your article upon Dorian Gray. This is not so. I do not propose to discuss fully the matter here, but I feel bound to say that your article contains the most unjustifiable attack that has been made upon any man of letters for many years.

The writer of it, who is quite incapable of concealing his personal malice, and so in some measure destroys the effect he wishes to produce, seems not to have the slightest idea of the temper in which a work of art should be approached. To say that such a book as mine should be ‘chucked into the fire’ is silly. That is what one does with newspapers.

Of the value of pseudo-ethical criticism in dealing with artistic work I have spoken already. But as your writer has ventured into the perilous grounds of literary criticism I ask you to allow me, in fairness not merely to myself but to all men to whom literature is a fine art, to say a few words about his critical method.

He begins by assailing me with much ridiculous virulence because the chief personages in my story are puppies. They are puppies. Does he think that literature went to the dogs when Thackeray wrote about puppydom? I think that puppies are extremely interesting from an artistic as well as from a psychological point of view.