The Picture of Dorian Gray

Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray

Übersetzt von Hedwig Lachmann und Gustav Landauer
Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2012

























The artist is the cre­at­or of beau­ti­ful things.
To re­veal art and con­ceal the artist is art’s aim.
The crit­ic is he who can trans­late into an­oth­er man­ner or a new ma­ter­i­al his im­pres­sion of beau­ti­ful things.
The highest, as the low­est, form of cri­ti­cism is a mode of auto­bi­o­graphy.
Those who find ugly mean­ings in beau­ti­ful things are cor­rupt without be­ing charm­ing. This is a fault.
Those who find beau­ti­ful mean­ings in beau­ti­ful things are the cul­tiv­ated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beau­ti­ful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a mor­al or an im­mor­al book. Books are well writ­ten, or badly writ­ten. That is all.
The nine­teenth cen­tury dis­like of Real­ism is the rage of Caliban see­ing his own face in a glass.
The nine­teenth cen­tury dis­like of Ro­man­ti­cism is the rage of Caliban not see­ing his own face in a glass.
The mor­al life of man forms part of the sub­ject-mat­ter of the artist,
but the mor­al­ity of art con­sists in the per­fect use of an im­per­fect me­di­um.
No artist de­sires to prove any­thing. Even things that are true can be proved.
No artist has eth­ic­al sym­path­ies. An eth­ic­al sym­pathy in an artist is an un­par­don­able man­ner­ism of style.
No artist is ever mor­bid. The artist can ex­press everything.
Thought and lan­guage are to the artist in­stru­ments of an art.
Vice and vir­tue are to the artist ma­ter­i­als for an art.
From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the mu­si­cian.
From the point of view of feel­ing, the act­or’s craft is the type.
All art is at once sur­face and sym­bol. Those who go be­neath the sur­face do so at their per­il.
Those who read the sym­bol do so at their per­il.
It is the spec­tat­or, and not life, that art really mir­rors.
Di­versity of opin­ion about a work of art shows that the work is new, com­plex, and vi­tal.
When crit­ics dis­agree the artist is in ac­cord with him­self.
We can for­give a man for mak­ing a use­ful thing as long as he does not ad­mire it.
The only ex­cuse for mak­ing a use­less thing is that one ad­mires it in­tensely.
All art is quite use­less.
Oscar Wilde


The stu­dio was filled with the rich odour 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 saddle­bags on which he was ly­ing, smoking, as was his cus­tom, in­nu­mer­able ci­gar­ettes,
Lord Henry Wot­ton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-col­oured blos­soms of a 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 of Tokio
who, through the me­di­um of 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 dusty gilt horns of the strag­gling wood­bine,
seemed to make the still­ness more op­press­ive. 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 strange con­jec­tures.
As the paint­er 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.
Whenev­er I have gone there, there have been either so many people that I have not been able to see the pic­tures, which was dread­ful,
or so many pic­tures that I have not been able to see the people, which was worse. The Gros­ven­or is really the only place.”
“I don’t think I shall 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 emo­tion.”
“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 him­self out on the di­van and laughed.
“Yes, I knew you would; 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 out 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 a mode of 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 as a nat­ur­al con­sequence 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 some brain­less, beau­ti­ful creature, 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,” answered the artist. “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 at their ease 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 art, whatever it may be worth; Dori­an Gray’s good looks
— we shall all suf­fer for what the gods have giv­en us, suf­fer ter­ribly.”
“Dori­an Gray? Is that his name?” asked 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 any­one.
It is like sur­ren­der­ing a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy.
It seems to be the one thing that can make mod­ern life mys­ter­i­ous or mar­vel­lous to us.
The com­mon­est thing is de­light­ful if one only hides it.
When I leave town now I nev­er tell my people where I am go­ing. If I did, I would lose all my pleas­ure.
It is a silly habit, I daresay, 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, “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 ab­so­lutely 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, 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 en­sconced them­selves on a long bam­boo seat that stood in the shade of a tall laurel bush.
The sun­light slipped over the pol­ished leaves. In the grass, white dais­ies were trem­u­lous.
After a 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?” said the paint­er, keep­ing his eyes fixed on the ground.
“You know quite well.”
“I do not, Harry.”
“Well, I will tell you what it is. I want you to ex­plain to me why you won’t ex­hib­it Dori­an Gray’s pic­ture. I want the real reas­on.”
“I told you the real reas­on.”
“No, you did not. You said it was be­cause there was too much of your­self in it. Now, that is child­ish.”
“Harry,” said Basil Hall­ward, look­ing him straight in the face, “every por­trait
that is painted with feel­ing is a por­trait of the artist, not of the sit­ter.
The sit­ter is merely the ac­ci­dent, the oc­ca­sion.
It is not he who is re­vealed by the paint­er; it is rather the paint­er who, on the col­oured can­vas, re­veals him­self.
The reas­on I will not ex­hib­it this pic­ture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.”
Lord Henry laughed. “And what is that?” he asked.
“I will tell you,” said Hall­ward; but an ex­pres­sion of per­plex­ity came over his face.
“I am all ex­pect­a­tion, Basil,” con­tin­ued his com­pan­ion, glan­cing at him.
“Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry,” answered the paint­er; “and I am afraid you will hardly un­der­stand it.
Per­haps you will hardly be­lieve it.”
Lord Henry smiled, and, lean­ing down, plucked a pink-pet­alled daisy from the grass, and ex­amined it.
“I am quite sure I shall un­der­stand it,” he replied, gaz­ing in­tently at the little golden white-feathered disk,
“and as for be­liev­ing things, I can be­lieve any­thing, provided that it is quite in­cred­ible.”
The wind shook some blos­soms from the trees, and the heavy lilac-blooms, with their clus­ter­ing stars, moved to and fro in the lan­guid air.
A grasshop­per began to chir­rup by the wall, and like a blue thread a long thin dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze wings.
Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hall­ward’s heart beat­ing, and wondered what was com­ing.
“The story is simply this,” said the paint­er after some time. “Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon’s.
You know we poor artists have to show ourselves in so­ci­ety from time to time, just to re­mind the pub­lic that we are not sav­ages.
With an even­ing coat and a white tie, as you told me once, any­body, even a stock­broker, can gain a repu­ta­tion for be­ing civ­il­ised.
Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talk­ing to huge over-dressed dow­agers
and te­di­ous Aca­dem­i­cians, I sud­denly be­came con­scious that someone was look­ing at me.
I turned halfway round, and saw Dori­an Gray for the first time.
When our eyes met, I felt that I was grow­ing pale. A curi­ous sen­sa­tion of ter­ror came over me.
I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere per­son­al­ity was so fas­cin­at­ing
that, if I al­lowed it to do so, it would ab­sorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art it­self.
I did not want any ex­tern­al in­flu­ence in my life. You know your­self, Harry, how in­de­pend­ent I am by nature.
I have al­ways been my own mas­ter; had at least al­ways been so, till I met Dori­an Gray.
Then — but I don’t know how to ex­plain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a ter­rible crisis in my life.
I had a strange feel­ing that Fate had in store for me ex­quis­ite joys and ex­quis­ite sor­rows.
I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. It was not con­science that made me do so; it was a sort of cow­ardice.
I take no cred­it to my­self for try­ing to es­cape.”
“Con­science and cow­ardice are really the same things, Basil. Con­science is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.”
“I don’t be­lieve that, Harry, and I don’t be­lieve you do either. However, whatever was my motive — and it may have been pride,
for I used to be very proud — I cer­tainly struggled to the door.
There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon.
‘You are not go­ing to run away so soon, Mr. Hall­ward?’ she screamed out. You know her curi­ously shrill voice?”
“Yes; she is a pea­cock in everything but beauty,” said Lord Henry, pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fin­gers.
“I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to Roy­al­ties, and people with Stars and Garters, and eld­erly ladles with gi­gant­ic tiaras and par­rot noses.
She spoke of me as her dearest friend. I had only met her once be­fore, but she took it into her head to li­on­ise me.
I be­lieve some pic­ture of mine had made a great suc­cess at the time,
at least had been chattered about in the penny news­pa­pers, which is the nine­teenth-cen­tury stand­ard of im­mor­tal­ity.
Sud­denly I found my­self face to face with the young man whose per­son­al­ity had so strangely stirred me.
We were quite close, al­most touch­ing. Our eyes met again.
It was reck­less of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to in­tro­duce me to him. Per­haps it was not so reck­less, after all.
It was simply in­ev­it­able. We would have spoken to each oth­er without any in­tro­duc­tion. I am sure of that.
Dori­an told me so af­ter­wards. He, too, felt that we were destined to know each oth­er.”

Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray / Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray
Zweisprachige Ausgabe
Übersetzt von Hedwig Lachmann und Gustav Landauer

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