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Letters on Dorian Gray
by [?]

You have yourself often spoken against Puritanism. Believe me, Sir, Puritanism is never so offensive and destructive as when it deals with art matters. It is there that it is radically wrong. It is this Puritanism, to which your critic has given expression, that is always marring the artistic instinct of the English. So far from encouraging it, you should set yourself against it, and should try to teach your critics to recognise the essential difference between art and life.

The gentleman who criticised my book is in a perfectly hopeless confusion about it, and your attempt to help him out by proposing that the subject- matter of art should be limited does not mend matters. It is proper that limitation should be placed on action. It is not proper that limitation should be placed on art. To art belong all things that are and all things that are not, and even the editor of a London paper has no right to restrain the freedom of art in the selection of subject-matter. I now trust, Sir, that these attacks on me and on my book will cease. There are forms of advertisement that are unwarranted and unwarrantable.–I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


16 TITE STREET, S. W., June 27.

IV. (St. James’s Gazette, June 30, 1890.)

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

SIR,–In your issue of this evening you publish a letter from ‘A London Editor’ which clearly insinuates in the last paragraph that I have in some way sanctioned the circulation of an expression of opinion, on the part of the proprietors of Lippincott’s Magazine, of the literary and artistic value of my story of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Allow me, Sir, to state that there are no grounds for this insinuation. I was not aware that any such document was being circulated; and I have written to the agents, Messrs. Ward and Lock–who cannot, I feel sure, be primarily responsible for its appearance–to ask them to withdraw it at once. No publisher should ever express an opinion of the value of what he publishes. That is a matter entirely for the literary critic to decide.

I must admit, as one to whom contemporary literature is constantly submitted for criticism, that the only thing that ever prejudices me against a book is the lack of literary style; but I can quite understand how any ordinary critic would be strongly prejudiced against a work that was accompanied by a premature and unnecessary panegyric from the publisher. A publisher is simply a useful middleman. It is not for him to anticipate the verdict of criticism.

I may, however, while expressing my thanks to the ‘London Editor’ for drawing my attention to this, I trust, purely American method of procedure, venture to differ from him in one of his criticisms. He states that he regards the expression ‘complete’ as applied to a story, as a specimen of the ‘adjectival exuberance of the puffer.’ Here, it seems to me, he sadly exaggerates. What my story is is an interesting problem. What my story is not is a ‘novelette’–a term which you have more than once applied to it. There is no such word in the English language as novelette. It should not be used. It is merely part of the slang of Fleet Street.

In another part of your paper, Sir, you state that I received your assurance of the lack of malice in your critic ‘somewhat grudgingly.’ This is not so. I frankly said that I accepted that assurance ‘quite readily,’ and that your own denial and that of your own critic were ‘sufficient.’

Nothing more generous could have been said. What I did feel was that you saved your critic from the charge of malice by convicting him of the unpardonable crime of lack of literary instinct. I still feel that. To call my book an ineffective attempt at allegory, that in the hands of Mr. Anstey might have been made striking, is absurd.