Unconventional Wisdom of the Hedonist Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton

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Let’s feel the beauty of words on our skins, if not in our hearts.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – I might have read it sometime long ago because many things struck me as vaguely familiar when I accidentally stumbled upon this novel a few days back. And how immensely glad I am that I did. It is an absolutely fascinating and powerful work of art. And not ‘quite useless’ as Oscar Wilde sees all art to be. It made me happy; it can’t be useless.

I compiled a list of my favourite extracts from the novel, most of which are words of the hedonist par excellence Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton. His unconventional, libertine (even misogynist at times) worldview certainly drove Dorian to contaminate his soul and kill himself eventually, but well, Wotton is a conversational wizard and you cannot take that away from him. He is scandalous, but he’s charming. He is definitely the bad guy in this novel, I could still not hate him enough. As Dorian himself would say, “You are quite incorrigible Harry; but I don’t mind. It is impossible to be angry with you.” and refers to his opinions as “fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.” Certainly, they are. Very much so.

You’d certainly not go to Harry for marriage advice. Puts an interesting new spin on a lot of old things, if I may say.

(Click on the image where text is too small)

1

Basil speaks too. Oh, Basil.

2 3

Exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.

Henry, again.

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This one is a killer.

12 13 14 15

And then some literary criticism.

16 17

Humanity takes itself too seriously.

18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

 

Lord Henry speaks in Dorian Gray.

26

And then back to Harry.

27 28 29 30 31 32

Notion of fidelity in love has taken a serious hit.

And then of strong women.

33 34 35

Henry talks to Duchess Gladys.

36 37 38 39 40 41 42

43

So Dorian thinks of the woman he has loved and left.

44

Of course she cried and all that, but she never begged Dorian to stay. She was too proud to beg. For anything.

45

 

After all was said and done, Henry, the Prince of Paradox, expressed in passing that his life is not entirely happy. The more you seek pleasure, the more happiness eludes you. You get the pleasure, but do you really get the happiness? As he himself asks by the end, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?

I asked a friend if ‘always’ really is a dreadful world as Lord Henry wants us to believe.

I was told that it might be an interesting take on things but we might want to remain on our side of it, even though it might look elusive. What us our side? Hang on to hope, somewhere there might be an always, waiting to happen, that does not think itself quite dreadful.

But don’t you think hope is a dangerous thing, I asked; it drives people mad.

Because we are so sane as things stand? she mocked.

Certainly not sane. It’s difficult to make your choices. When life pushes you into a frightful chaos, you find yourself craving for an order. When there’s too much order you tend to find it too tedious for your taste.

But as one dear old long forgotten friend used to say “Who said life was going to be easy?”

Nonetheless there is priceless wisdom in Lord Henry’s lessons you would concede and take delight in his dangerous, poisonous theories, just as I did.

 

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