Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Dec 12, 2013


Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, July 1890
– the first published version of The Picture of Dorian Gray for the grand price of 25 cents

The aphorism
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
stands at the head of the novel as a warning to critics by Oscar Wilde. 

 Priya

A single fateful wish for his youth to be preserved, and his aging transferred to a painting of him, causes Dorian Gray to descend into evil acts, that are only vaguely described in the novel.

 Kavita, KumKum, Talitha, Thommo, Mathew, Sunil

Throughout, the brilliance of Wilde’s wit and his ability to turn a dogma on its head is apparent. Whether this novel, his only one, is the best vehicle for his writing was debated. But there is no doubt about his mastery. Max Beerbohm, himself a well-known essayist with a graceful style, described Wilde once as "A Lord of Language," in an article with that title.

Talitha and Thommo

As to Wilde’s homosexuality, for which he was persecuted in his time (even as homosexuals are being persecuted today in India by the perverse judgment of a duet of lordships on the Supreme Court of India), he wrote:
I believe that God made a world for each separate man, and within that world, which is within us, one should seek to live.
(from De Profundis)

Preeti and Zakia

Here are the readers at the end of the session:

 Preeti, Kavita, KumKum, Priya, Talitha, Thommo, Mathew, Sunil, Zakia, Joe
Read on to savour our pronouncements and reflections on The Picture of Dorian Gray.



The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Full account of readings Dec 12, 2013


 Oscar Wilde

Present: Kavita, KumKum, Talitha, Thommo, Priya, Joe, Mathew, Sunil, Preeti, Zakia, Gopa (virtual)
Absent: Sivaram

We welcomed into our midst Ms. Preeti Nambiar, prospective KRG reader.

The date of the next reading (Poetry) was agreed: Jan 31, Friday.

Readers have to hand in their selections of fiction for the year 2014. All paired selectors may please submit their choices at the earliest. The target date of Dec 15 has gone by.

In order to make preparations for a week-long festival to mark the 450th  Shakespeare Birth Anniversary on April 23, 2014, a core committee will meet on Tues, Dec 17. It consists of Talitha, Thommo, Priya, Mathew, and Joe.


Kavita
The passage she read is a sort of tutorial on women for the benefit of his protégé, Dorian Gray (DG), by Lord Henry (LH). Kavita remarked how cynical it was and utterly dismissive of women’s capabilities: “there are only five women in London worth talking to.” Thommo opined that LH represents Oscar Wilde (OW) in the novel, the only one he wrote. Sunil quoted an observation of the author regarding the characters in the novel:
Dorian Gray “contains much of me”: Basil Hallward is “what I think I am,” Lord Henry “what the world thinks me,” and “Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”


Talitha said OW had a serious side – which is missing in LH. But the epigrams and witticisms of OW emanate from the mouth of LH, all right.





KumKum
In this passage LH is still at it, instructing DG about women. He complains that “women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a sixth act.” Joe discerned a great deal of misogyny being expressed. LH has a contempt for women; he uses them and discards them, and his lament is that they continue to pester him long after the passion is gone, and they have become stout.

Kumkum imagines that such was the general opinion of women in that era before their emancipation. They did not even have the vote then. She noted the irony of reading of this novel a few days after the 2-man bench of the Supreme Court of India re-criminalised homosexuality, which had been set aside by the Delhi High Court 4 years ago when it read down portions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Their lordships’ reasoning has been soundly knocked by Vikram Seth in two interviews, with Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Karan Thapar of CNN-IBN. Here is the first:

Vikram Seth observes, "I certainly do not propose to take permission of their lordships in deciding whom to love or whom to make love with." It is ironic that the yoke of a Victorian colonial law still weighs upon Indians 66 years after independence! Here is a second interview with Karan Thapar:

Mathew noted that the Supreme Court has curtailed freedom; it could have shown more percipience, a greater understanding of modern science and its researches into the nature of homosexuality, an dlearn that it is not a disorder in nature but a tendency that is found in a certain percentage of humans everywhere, to the extent of 5 percent or more. And indeed in other orders of animal species.

Priya thought the Supreme Court had passed the buck to Parliament, declaring that it found no ‘constitutional infirmity’ in Sec 377 IPC. In other words, that the law criminalised the loving acts of about 50 million or more Indians who had a certain orientation did not deprive them of their fundamental rights!

Thommo said it was strange that a Supreme Court that had been so activist in making rulings in matters that went beyond their purview, still chose to be so regressive when the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution against discrimination came under threat. Subramanian Swamy’s position is quite disappointing; but then he has had a history of speaking with prejudice against minorities. One such instance got him removed the instructing faculty at Harvard University.

Talitha
She read the fateful passage from Ch 19 where LH casually interrogates DG to find the secret of his youth. It is full of epigrams as much of LH’s speech is throughout the novel, KumKum noted. Indeed like too many plums in a pudding, said Talitha. But everything LH says is like a hammer blow to the guilty DG, who succumbs and discloses his secret later on. The painting held the secret.

Priya found the novel heavy going because she paused to ponder the meaning of each epigram so effortlessly cast off in profusion by LH. Thommo on the other hand, being familiar with much of OW’s epigrams and aphorisms, found the novel an easy read. Epigrams dot every page and issue like an unstoppable torrent from LH’s mouth; he is the voice of OW, indeed, said Priya.

KumKum found the use of nitric acid to dispose of Basil Hallward’s (BH) body most gruesome, but ingenious. Someone suggested the other option for removal without a trace would have been a tandoor oven.

Thommo
Thommo chose for his first reading the Preface itself, which is a river of epigrams containing this famous one:
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
It is a manifesto for artists, and every curator of art should be given this to read.

From the second passage Thommo read, who can forget this:
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

OW is the terror of God, said KumKum, restating the aphorism in this passage that ‘the terror of God is the basis of religion.’ Mathew referred to the quotation, ‘It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.’  So it’s in total recall that sins are born.

Joe asked Thommo whether he liked the aphorisms so much that he read from the Preface. Yes, said Thommo, for his first acquaintance with OW was through the brilliance of his sayings. Aptly, Stephen Fry plays OW in the movie 'Wilde'

Stephen Fry (SF) preparing to play OW read widely and in an interview we come to understand the allure the author had for the acolyte, who says
not only was this man as I said before, a lord of language, (it’s a phrase of his own actually), but he was if you’d like a kind of secular messiah, a Bohemian prince of the most fantastic power and beauty and grace and gravity

SF attributes his own appreciation of literature to OW from whom he got
the idea that language could be used to dance, that it could be used to delight, that it could be used to enthrall quite so magnificently

You can read the full interview and see the video at

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973) is available as a complete movie on youtube:

Talitha’s view is that because of the aphorisms the ‘wrongness’ of what OW says is missed. Joe would rather credit OW for his aphorisms, of which that famous one above-noted about books is a fundamental realisation about the nature of the writer’s art that was totally misunderstood in Victorian times. Today, it is a given in literary criticism. Talitha, on the other hand, said that OW stands undone by the very book he wrote which is a moral one (in that the bad guy cops it). Joe thought that OW’s remark about books being neither moral nor immoral, was directed, not to his book, but to his moralistic critics who judged his books by his life, and understood neither.

The moral policing of books in contemporary India (indeed, of other art forms too) stems from failing to understand what OW said. They become book-burners merely because they disagree with something in the book. Thus, Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey was axed from Mumbai University's syllabus for having derogatory references to the Shiv Sena:


Priya
In this passage Basil is the voice of normalcy, when the death of Sybil Vane is revealed. Zakia wondered if DG understood he was so good-looking. The answer is yes, certainly, for otherwise why would he have made that fateful wish at the beginning that marks his downward spiral through the novel. Sunil laughed and said DG gets away with murder! His beauty caused his own downfall. However, through all his evil actions, he seems to have entertained no remorse, except at the end.

As Talitha pointed out DG’s attitude in this passage is toward oblivion as a cure for guilt:
And besides, my dear old Basil, if you really want to console me, teach me rather to forget what has happened, or to see it from a proper artistic point of view.

Joe
OW is the first author to be featured twice in our fiction readings. We previously read the play, The Importance of Being Earnest, in 2009. OW is at his epigrammatic best in this novel, and this faculty of his is represented in LH. Perhaps Wilde’s best known aphorism in this book is a riposte to all those who moralised against his decadence:
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
There are one or two aphorisms on every page:
Women are so fond of using ‘always.’ They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.
The great aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing.
His principles were out of date, but there was a good deal to be said for his prejudices.

When DG, a handsome young aristocrat, makes this wish, he can hardly guess that it will mark the beginning of a life descending into hedonism, debauchery, and murder.
 If only I could remain young while the picture grows old. For that I’d give anything…

But there is little made explicit in the novel as to what the nature was of the disrepute into which he fell, barring some opium smoking, perhaps a seduction or two of either sex, etc. Nothing criminal is made explicit except the murder of BH, and that was hidden from the world. It is a bit puzzling that the character of DG is said to have become loathsome to his circle, and yet the novel is virtually silent on his depravities. The reader has to guess.

The novel was censored by the publisher, as KumKum told Joe, but again, the passages replaced seem so mild. For instance:
BH tells DG, in one passage,
"It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman."
The censored version reads:
"From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me".

For heaven’s sake, what did the Victorians take readers to be: schoolboys who needed protection from sodomy?

Joe chose a passage that has no epigrams and belongs to the stage, like OW’s plays. DG is describing Sibyl Vane to LH.

Further into the novel, as DG waits for the arrival of Adrian Singleton to dispose of BH’s body, he takes up a book given him by the chemist, titled Émaux et Camées by Théophile Gautier, the 19th century French poet. Here are ‘those lovely stanzas upon Venice’ with a translation that does the poet credit.
Sur une gamme chromatique,
    Le sein de perles ruisselant,
La V
énus de l'Adriatique
    Sort de l'eau son corps rose et blanc.

Les dômes, sur l'azur des ondes
    Suivant la phrase au pur contour,
S'enflent comme des gorges rondes
    Que soul
ève un soupir d'amour.

L'esquif aborde et me dépose,
    Jetant son amarre au pilier,
Devant une fa
çade rose,
    Sur le marbre d'un escalier

To see, her bosom covered o'er 
With pearls, her body suave, 
The Adriatic Venus soar 
On sound's chromatic wave.

The domes that on the water dwell 
Pursue the melody 
In clear-drawn cadences, and swell 
Like breasts of love that sigh. 

My chains around a pillar cast, 
I land before a fair 
And rosy-pale facade at last, 
Upon a marble stair.

The word frequencies in the novel are interesting, and illustrate how OW chose with care to convey the peculiar atmosphere of the novel.
Word Frequency:
Life – 229
Death – 32

Romance – 25
Sense(s) – 57
Charm(s,ing) - 70
Sin(s) – 55

Beauty – 55
Beautiful – 44
Handsome – 4
Marvellous – 17
Delight(ful) – 36
Genius – 12
Passion(s) – 69
Soul – 68
Body – 27
Mind – 35
Intellect(ual) – 25

Love(s,ed,ing) – 140
Kiss(ed) – 16
Affection – 3
Lips – 57
Hair – 29
Eyes – 109
Blue – 28
Hand(s) – 118
Brain(s) – 26


Pleasure(s) – 50
Pain – 33
Horror – 24
Horrible – 48
Terror – 29
Terrible – 40

Art(s) – 81
Influence – 26
Scandal(s) – 11
Secret(s) – 50


Mathew
Mathew chose a delightful passage of banter among the crusty lords and ladies invited to lunch at Aunt Agatha’s. The exchange is full of the kind of spirited repartee that one encounters in OW’s plays. It elicited a great many chuckles among the readers. When Mathew tripped up by reading ‘hitting below the intellect’  as  ‘hitting below the belt,’ everyone appreciated how much we are programmed by our prior familiarity with figures of speech.

Mathew noted that for aristocrats there was no world outside England. For that matter, said Thommo, there was no world for them outside of London. You are tired of the world when you are tired of London, was the saying, Mathew recalled. Indeed if you came from Cornwall, you were a foreigner, Thommo adverted.

KumKum said she read this novel when she was young. Mathew himself was re-reading it. He said that he recalls some illustration in the Catechism or Moral Science book in primary school about good and evil based OW’s novel probably about how sin disfigures not only the soul, but the human visage of the sinner!


Sunil
Sunil chose the passage in which DG rejects Sybil Vane (SV) because she forgets her acting and puts on a poor performance. SV is shattered by the announcement. Obviously, DG loved her acting, not SV herself. Priya noted the selfishness (and self-importance) displayed by DG, expressed as, ‘I would have given you my name.’

Talitha explained SV’s decline in acting as the woman’s reaction to securing the real thing in her life (love), which was so far only imagined through her acting. The art seemed fake by comparison.


Preeti
Preeti had come unprepared, as she was appearing at KRG for the first time to get to know us. However, Thommo gave a piece for her to read which she gamely took up. It is from the end of the novel where DG has a pang of remorse at what he had become in the eyes of other people, and the ill deeds he had committed in his life. He longs once more for former times when he had been innocent.


Zakia
Zakia, having chosen the same passage as Sunil, stood down from her reading.


Gopa
Gopa was away but contributed her passage as a recording which Joe played. You can hear by clicking on the link below:

It was the passage for the fateful first encounter between DG and LH at BH’s studio. LH seems to take an immediate fancy to the DG, inspired by his youthful beauty and blue eyes.

A subsequent discussion between Gopa, KumKum and Joe was not played for lack of time. But Gopa said in her opinion KH does not manipulate DG artfully, but does influence him. Gopa agreed that it was curious that the novel is not explicit on what was the bad DG did. It is left to be imagined.

The question of censorship came up. The book had to be published in USA by Lippincott, and even so 500 hundred words were changed by the editor at the publishing firm without the knowledge of OW. We  agreed that the matter in the book is laughably mild by modern standards, but one must recall that a great battle against censorship had to be waged before the latitude available to modern authors was established. DH Lawrence faced it, Nabokov faced it, and in India we continue to face it because we are still like children who have not internalised OW’s great maxim, quoted earlier.

Joe also noticed how at the beginning of the book the men are calling each other beautiful - not men calling women beautiful, or women calling men handsome. Beauty seems personified in youthful men as other men see it, and that is a characteristic of the homosexual inclination common to anywhere from 5 to 12% of men worldwide. Men are infatuated by other men. And this homosexual underpinning was not lost on readers of this novel.

A difference arose on the quality of the writing, KumKum veering to great praise, and Gopa merely finding in OW a very natural flow of fluid prose.  KumKum claimed that to make epigrams in the quantity and quality of OW demanded a very exact knowledge of words and a wide learning; that is his charm, what made him a ‘lord of language,’ a term used by OW himself in another context.

Joe remarked that in the culture of English public schools and Oxford-Cambridge it was quite commonplace for young men to become very fond of each other, and even if not necessarily homosexual, indulge in the kind talk and carrying on as if it were the most natural thing in the world for men to disport with men, as in in the same universities, other men disported with women.





Readings


Kavita Ch 4. – Lord Henry imparts his cynical view of women to Dorian Gray.
"Never marry a woman with straw-coloured hair, Dorian," he said after a few puffs.
"Why, Harry?"
"Because they are so sentimental."
"But I like sentimental people."
"Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed."
"I don't think I am likely to marry, Harry. I am too much in love. That is one of your aphorisms. I am putting it into practice, as I do everything that you say."
"Who are you in love with?" asked Lord Henry after a pause.
"With an actress," said Dorian Gray, blushing.
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "That is a rather commonplace debut."
"You would not say so if you saw her, Harry."
"Who is she?"
"Her name is Sibyl Vane."
"Never heard of her."
"No one has. People will some day, however. She is a genius."
"My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals."
"Harry, how can you?"
"My dear Dorian, it is quite true. I am analysing women at present, so I ought to know. The subject is not so abstruse as I thought it was. I find that, ultimately, there are only two kinds of women, the plain and the coloured. The plain women are very useful. If you want to gain a reputation for respectability, you have merely to take them down to supper. The other women are very charming. They commit one mistake, however. They paint in order to try and look young. Our grandmothers painted in order to try and talk brilliantly. Rouge and esprit used to go together. That is all over now. As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied. As for conversation, there are only five women in London worth talking to, and two of these can't be admitted into decent society. However, tell me about your genius. How long have you known her?"

KumKum Ch 8 LH continues to instruct DG on the tediousness of women
Lord Henry, who found an exquisite pleasure in playing on the lad's unconscious egotism, "an extremely interesting question. I fancy that the true explanation is this: It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that. Sometimes, however, a tragedy that possesses artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly we find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthralls us. In the present case, what is it that has really happened? Some one has killed herself for love of you. I wish that I had ever had such an experience. It would have made me in love with love for the rest of my life. The people who have adored me--there have not been very many, but there have been some--have always insisted on living on, long after I had ceased to care for them, or they to care for me. They have become stout and tedious, and when I meet them, they go in at once for reminiscences. That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar."

"I must sow poppies in my garden," sighed Dorian.

"There is no necessity," rejoined his companion. "Life has always poppies in her hands. Of course, now and then things linger. I once wore nothing but violets all through one season, as a form of artistic mourning for a romance that would not die. Ultimately, however, it did die. I forget what killed it. I think it was her proposing to sacrifice the whole world for me. That is always a dreadful moment. It fills one with the terror of eternity. Well--would you believe it?--a week ago, at Lady Hampshire's, I found myself seated at dinner next the lady in question, and she insisted on going over the whole thing again, and digging up the past, and raking up the future. I had buried my romance in a bed of asphodel. She dragged it out again and assured me that I had spoiled her life. I am bound to state that she ate an enormous dinner, so I did not feel any anxiety. But what a lack of taste she showed! The one charm of the past is that it is the past. But women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a sixth act, and as soon as the interest of the play is entirely over, they propose to continue it. If they were allowed their own way, every comedy would have a tragic ending, and every tragedy would culminate in a farce. They are charmingly artificial, but they have no sense of art. You are more fortunate than I am. I assure you, Dorian, that not one of the women I have known would have done for me what Sibyl Vane did for you. Ordinary women always console themselves. Some of them do it by going in for sentimental colours. Never trust a woman who wears mauve, whatever her age may be, or a woman over thirty-five who is fond of pink ribbons. It always means that they have a history. Others find a great consolation in suddenly discovering the good qualities of their husbands. They flaunt their conjugal felicity in one's face, as if it were the most fascinating of sins. Religion consoles some. Its mysteries have all the charm of a flirtation, a woman once told me, and I can quite understand it. Besides, nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner. Conscience makes egotists of us all. Yes; there is really no end to the consolations that women find in modern life. Indeed, I have not mentioned the most important one."

"What is that, Harry?" said the lad listlessly.

"Oh, the obvious consolation. Taking some one else's admirer when one loses one's own. In good society that always whitewashes a woman. But really, Dorian, how different Sibyl Vane must have been from all the women one meets! There is something to me quite beautiful about her death. I am glad I am living in a century when such wonders happen. They make one believe in the reality of the things we all play with, such as romance, passion, and love."


Talitha Ch 19 – LH and DG have a heart-to-heart talk about the soul, as LH tries to extract the secret of DG’s youth.
"Yes," he continued, turning round and taking his handkerchief out of his pocket; "his painting had quite gone off. It seemed to me to have lost something. It had lost an ideal. When you and he ceased to be great friends, he ceased to be a great artist. What was it separated you? I suppose he bored you. If so, he never forgave you. It's a habit bores have. By the way, what has become of that wonderful portrait he did of you? I don't think I have ever seen it since he finished it. Oh! I remember your telling me years ago that you had sent it down to Selby, and that it had got mislaid or stolen on the way. You never got it back? What a pity! it was really a masterpiece. I remember I wanted to buy it. I wish I had now. It belonged to Basil's best period. Since then, his work was that curious mixture of bad painting and good intentions that always entitles a man to be called a representative British artist. Did you advertise for it? You should."
"I forget," said Dorian. "I suppose I did. But I never really liked it. I am sorry I sat for it. The memory of the thing is hateful to me. Why do you talk of it? It used to remind me of those curious lines in some play--Hamlet, I think--how do they run?--
"Like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a heart."
Yes: that is what it was like."
Lord Henry laughed. "If a man treats life artistically, his brain is his heart," he answered, sinking into an arm-chair.
Dorian Gray shook his head and struck some soft chords on the piano. "'Like the painting of a sorrow,'" he repeated, "'a face without a heart.'"
The elder man lay back and looked at him with half-closed eyes. "By the way, Dorian," he said after a pause, "'what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose--how does the quotation run?--his own soul'?"
The music jarred, and Dorian Gray started and stared at his friend. "Why do you ask me that, Harry?"
"My dear fellow," said Lord Henry, elevating his eyebrows in surprise, "I asked you because I thought you might be able to give me an answer. That is all. I was going through the park last Sunday, and close by the Marble Arch there stood a little crowd of shabby-looking people listening to some vulgar street-preacher. As I passed by, I heard the man yelling out that question to his audience. It struck me as being rather dramatic. London is very rich in curious effects of that kind. A wet Sunday, an uncouth Christian in a mackintosh, a ring of sickly white faces under a broken roof of dripping umbrellas, and a wonderful phrase flung into the air by shrill hysterical lips--it was really very good in its way, quite a suggestion. I thought of telling the prophet that art had a soul, but that man had not. I am afraid, however, he would not have understood me."
"Don't, Harry. The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a soul in each one of us. I know it."
"Do you feel quite sure of that, Dorian?"
"Quite sure."
"Ah! then it must be an illusion. The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of faith, and the lesson of romance. How grave you are! Don't be so serious. What have you or I to do with the superstitions of our age? No: we have given up our belief in the soul. Play me something. Play me a nocturne, Dorian, and, as you play, tell me, in a low voice, how you have kept your youth. You must have some secret. I am only ten years older than you are, and I am wrinkled, and worn, and yellow. You are really wonderful, Dorian. You have never looked more charming than you do to-night. You remind me of the day I saw you first.

Thommo
(a) Preface – Epigrams advertising to the reader OW’s thinking on art, beauty, morality, etc.
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

(b) Ch 2 – DG poses for BH and they talk of morality, temptation, and the Hellenic ideal
Dorian Gray stepped up on the dais with the air of a young Greek martyr, and made a little moue of discontent to Lord Henry, to whom he had rather taken a fancy. He was so unlike Basil. They made a delightful contrast. And he had such a beautiful voice. After a few moments he said to him, "Have you really a very bad influence, Lord Henry? As bad as Basil says?"
"There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral -- immoral from the scientific point of view."
"Why?"
"Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course, they are charitable. They feed the hungry and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion--these are the two things that govern us. And yet--"
"Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy," said the painter, deep in his work and conscious only that a look had come into the lad's face that he had never seen there before.
"And yet," continued Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice, and with that graceful wave of the hand that was always so characteristic of him, and that he had even in his Eton days, "I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal--to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.


Priya Ch 9. – Sybil Vane is dead. Basil is upset.
"My dear Basil! Surely you don't think it was a vulgar accident? Of course she killed herself."
The elder man buried his face in his hands. "How fearful," he muttered, and a shudder ran through him.
"No," said Dorian Gray, "there is nothing fearful about it. It is one of the great romantic tragedies of the age. As a rule, people who act lead the most commonplace lives. They are good husbands, or faithful wives, or something tedious. You know what I mean--middle-class virtue and all that kind of thing. How different Sibyl was! She lived her finest tragedy. She was always a heroine. The last night she played--the night you saw her--she acted badly because she had known the reality of love. When she knew its unreality, she died, as Juliet might have died. She passed again into the sphere of art. There is something of the martyr about her. Her death has all the pathetic uselessness of martyrdom, all its wasted beauty. But, as I was saying, you must not think I have not suffered. If you had come in yesterday at a particular moment--about half-past five, perhaps, or a quarter to six--you would have found me in tears. Even Harry, who was here, who brought me the news, in fact, had no idea what I was going through. I suffered immensely. Then it passed away. I cannot repeat an emotion. No one can, except sentimentalists. And you are awfully unjust, Basil. You come down here to console me. That is charming of you. You find me consoled, and you are furious. How like a sympathetic person! You remind me of a story Harry told me about a certain philanthropist who spent twenty years of his life in trying to get some grievance redressed, or some unjust law altered--I forget exactly what it was. Finally he succeeded, and nothing could exceed his disappointment. He had absolutely nothing to do, almost died of ennui, and became a confirmed misanthrope. And besides, my dear old Basil, if you really want to console me, teach me rather to forget what has happened, or to see it from a proper artistic point of view. Was it not Gautier who used to write about la consolation des arts? I remember picking up a little vellum-covered book in your studio one day and chancing on that delightful phrase. Well, I am not like that young man you told me of when we were down at Marlow together, the young man who used to say that yellow satin could console one for all the miseries of life. I love beautiful things that one can touch and handle. Old brocades, green bronzes, lacquer-work, carved ivories, exquisite surroundings, luxury, pomp--there is much to be got from all these. But the artistic temperament that they create, or at any rate reveal, is still more to me. To become the spectator of one's own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life. I know you are surprised at my talking to you like this. You have not realized how I have developed. I was a schoolboy when you knew me. I am a man now. I have new passions, new thoughts, new ideas. I am different, but you must not like me less. I am changed, but you must always be my friend. Of course, I am very fond of Harry. But I know that you are better than he is. You are not stronger--you are too much afraid of life--but you are better. And how happy we used to be together! Don't leave me, Basil, and don't quarrel with me. I am what I am. There is nothing more to be said."

Joe Passage:Ch 4 – (DG’s description of SV to LH)
But Juliet! Harry, imagine a girl, hardly seventeen years of age, with a little, flowerlike face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of dark-brown hair, eyes that were violet wells of passion, lips that were like the petals of a rose. She was the loveliest thing I had ever seen in my life. You said to me once that pathos left you unmoved, but that beauty, mere beauty, could fill your eyes with tears. I tell you, Harry, I could hardly see this girl for the mist of tears that came across me. And her voice--I never heard such a voice. It was very low at first, with deep mellow notes that seemed to fall singly upon one's ear. Then it became a little louder, and sounded like a flute or a distant hautboy. In the garden-scene it had all the tremulous ecstasy that one hears just before dawn when nightingales are singing. There were moments, later on, when it had the wild passion of violins. You know how a voice can stir one. Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear them, and each of them says something different. I don't know which to follow. Why should I not love her? Harry, I do love her. She is everything to me in life. Night after night I go to see her play. One evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I have seen her die in the gloom of an Italian tomb, sucking the poison from her lover's lips. I have watched her wandering through the forest of Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and dainty cap. She has been mad, and has come into the presence of a guilty king, and given him rue to wear and bitter herbs to taste of. She has been innocent, and the black hands of jealousy have crushed her reedlike throat. I have seen her in every age and in every costume. Ordinary women never appeal to one's imagination. They are limited to their century. No glamour ever transfigures them. One knows their minds as easily as one knows their bonnets. One can always find them. There is no mystery in any of them. They ride in the park in the morning and chatter at tea-parties in the afternoon. They have their stereotyped smile and their fashionable manner. They are quite obvious. But an actress! How different an actress is! Harry! why didn't you tell me that the only thing worth loving is an actress?"
"Because I have loved so many of them, Dorian."
"Oh, yes, horrid people with dyed hair and painted faces."
"Don't run down dyed hair and painted faces. There is an extraordinary charm in them, sometimes," said Lord Henry.
"I wish now I had not told you about Sibyl Vane."
"You could not have helped telling me, Dorian. All through your life you will tell me everything you do."
"Yes, Harry, I believe that is true. I cannot help telling you things. You have a curious influence over me. If I ever did a crime, I would come and confess it to you. You would understand me."
"People like you--the wilful sunbeams of life--don't commit crimes, Dorian. But I am much obliged for the compliment, all the same. And now tell me--reach me the matches, like a good boy--thanks--what are your actual relations with Sibyl Vane?"

Mathew Ch 3 – Banter among the worthies invited to lunch at Aunt Agatha’s
"Late as usual, Harry," cried his aunt, shaking her head at him.
He invented a facile excuse, and having taken the vacant seat next to her, looked round to see who was there. Dorian bowed to him shyly from the end of the table, a flush of pleasure stealing into his cheek. Opposite was the Duchess of Harley, a lady of admirable good-nature and good temper, much liked by every one who knew her, and of those ample architectural proportions that in women who are not duchesses are described by contemporary historians as stoutness. Next to her sat, on her right, Sir Thomas Burdon, a Radical member of Parliament, who followed his leader in public life and in private life followed the best cooks, dining with the Tories and thinking with the Liberals, in accordance with a wise and well-known rule. The post on her left was occupied by Mr. Erskine of Treadley, an old gentleman of considerable charm and culture, who had fallen, however, into bad habits of silence, having, as he explained once to Lady Agatha, said everything that he had to say before he was thirty. His own neighbour was Mrs. Vandeleur, one of his aunt's oldest friends, a perfect saint amongst women, but so dreadfully dowdy that she reminded one of a badly bound hymn-book. Fortunately for him she had on the other side Lord Faudel, a most intelligent middle-aged mediocrity, as bald as a ministerial statement in the House of Commons, with whom she was conversing in that intensely earnest manner which is the one unpardonable error, as he remarked once himself, that all really good people fall into, and from which none of them ever quite escape.
"We are talking about poor Dartmoor, Lord Henry," cried the duchess, nodding pleasantly to him across the table. "Do you think he will really marry this fascinating young person?"
"I believe she has made up her mind to propose to him, Duchess."
"How dreadful!" exclaimed Lady Agatha. "Really, some one should interfere."
"I am told, on excellent authority, that her father keeps an American dry-goods store," said Sir Thomas Burdon, looking supercilious.
"My uncle has already suggested pork-packing, Sir Thomas."
"Dry-goods! What are American dry-goods?" asked the duchess, raising her large hands in wonder and accentuating the verb.
"American novels," answered Lord Henry, helping himself to some quail.
The duchess looked puzzled.
"Don't mind him, my dear," whispered Lady Agatha. "He never means anything that he says."
"When America was discovered," said the Radical member--and he began to give some wearisome facts. Like all people who try to exhaust a subject, he exhausted his listeners. The duchess sighed and exercised her privilege of interruption. "I wish to goodness it never had been discovered at all!" she exclaimed. "Really, our girls have no chance nowadays. It is most unfair."
"Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered," said Mr. Erskine; "I myself would say that it had merely been detected."
"Oh! but I have seen specimens of the inhabitants," answered the duchess vaguely. "I must confess that most of them are extremely pretty. And they dress well, too. They get all their dresses in Paris. I wish I could afford to do the same."
"They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris," chuckled Sir Thomas, who had a large wardrobe of Humour's cast-off clothes.
"Really! And where do bad Americans go to when they die?" inquired the duchess.
"They go to America," murmured Lord Henry.
Sir Thomas frowned. "I am afraid that your nephew is prejudiced against that great country," he said to Lady Agatha. "I have travelled all over it in cars provided by the directors, who, in such matters, are extremely civil. I assure you that it is an education to visit it."
"But must we really see Chicago in order to be educated?" asked Mr. Erskine plaintively. "I don't feel up to the journey."
Sir Thomas waved his hand. "Mr. Erskine of Treadley has the world on his shelves. We practical men like to see things, not to read about them. The Americans are an extremely interesting people. They are absolutely reasonable. I think that is their distinguishing characteristic. Yes, Mr. Erskine, an absolutely reasonable people. I assure you there is no nonsense about the Americans."
"How dreadful!" cried Lord Henry. "I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect."
"I do not understand you," said Sir Thomas, growing rather red.
"I do, Lord Henry," murmured Mr. Erskine, with a smile.
"Paradoxes are all very well in their way...." rejoined the baronet.
"Was that a paradox?" asked Mr. Erskine. "I did not think so. Perhaps it was. Well, the way of paradoxes is the way of truth. To test reality we must see it on the tight rope. When the verities become acrobats, we can judge them."
"Dear me!" said Lady Agatha, "how you men argue! I am sure I never can make out what you are talking about. Oh! Harry, I am quite vexed with you. Why do you try to persuade our nice Mr. Dorian Gray to give up the East End? I assure you he would be quite invaluable. They would love his playing."


Sunil Ch 7 – DG rebuffs SV after she fails as an actress on stage
As soon as it was over, Dorian Gray rushed behind the scenes into the greenroom. The girl was standing there alone, with a look of triumph on her face. Her eyes were lit with an exquisite fire. There was a radiance about her. Her parted lips were smiling over some secret of their own.
When he entered, she looked at him, and an expression of infinite joy came over her. "How badly I acted to-night, Dorian!" she cried.
"Horribly!" he answered, gazing at her in amazement. "Horribly! It was dreadful. Are you ill? You have no idea what it was. You have no idea what I suffered."
The girl smiled. "Dorian," she answered, lingering over his name with long-drawn music in her voice, as though it were sweeter than honey to the red petals of her mouth. "Dorian, you should have understood. But you understand now, don't you?"
"Understand what?" he asked, angrily.
"Why I was so bad to-night. Why I shall always be bad. Why I shall never act well again."
He shrugged his shoulders. "You are ill, I suppose. When you are ill you shouldn't act. You make yourself ridiculous. My friends were bored. I was bored."
She seemed not to listen to him. She was transfigured with joy. An ecstasy of happiness dominated her.
"Dorian, Dorian," she cried, "before I knew you, acting was the one reality of my life. It was only in the theatre that I lived. I thought that it was all true. I was Rosalind one night and Portia the other. The joy of Beatrice was my joy, and the sorrows of Cordelia were mine also. I believed in everything. The common people who acted with me seemed to me to be godlike. The painted scenes were my world. I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them real. You came--oh, my beautiful love!--and you freed my soul from prison. You taught me what reality really is. To-night, for the first time in my life, I saw through the hollowness, the sham, the silliness of the empty pageant in which I had always played. To-night, for the first time, I became conscious that the Romeo was hideous, and old, and painted, that the moonlight in the orchard was false, that the scenery was vulgar, and that the words I had to speak were unreal, were not my words, were not what I wanted to say. You had brought me something higher, something of which all art is but a reflection. You had made me understand what love really is. My love! My love! Prince Charming! Prince of life! I have grown sick of shadows. You are more to me than all art can ever be. What have I to do with the puppets of a play? When I came on to-night, I could not understand how it was that everything had gone from me. I thought that I was going to be wonderful. I found that I could do nothing. Suddenly it dawned on my soul what it all meant. The knowledge was exquisite to me. I heard them hissing, and I smiled. What could they know of love such as ours? Take me away, Dorian--take me away with you, where we can be quite alone. I hate the stage. I might mimic a passion that I do not feel, but I cannot mimic one that burns me like fire. Oh, Dorian, Dorian, you understand now what it signifies? Even if I could do it, it would be profanation for me to play at being in love. You have made me see that."
He flung himself down on the sofa and turned away his face. "You have killed my love," he muttered.
She looked at him in wonder and laughed. He made no answer. She came across to him, and with her little fingers stroked his hair. She knelt down and pressed his hands to her lips. He drew them away, and a shudder ran through him.
Then he leaped up and went to the door. "Yes," he cried, "you have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don't even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid. My God! how mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again. I will never think of you. I will never mention your name. You don't know what you were to me, once. Why, once ... Oh, I can't bear to think of it! I wish I had never laid eyes upon you! You have spoiled the romance of my life. How little you can know of love, if you say it mars your art! Without your art, you are nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, and you would have borne my name. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face."
The girl grew white, and trembled. She clenched her hands together, and her voice seemed to catch in her throat. "You are not serious, Dorian?" she murmured. "You are acting."
"Acting! I leave that to you. You do it so well," he answered bitterly.
She rose from her knees and, with a piteous expression of pain in her face, came across the room to him. She put her hand upon his arm and looked into his eyes. He thrust her back. "Don't touch me!" he cried.
A low moan broke from her, and she flung herself at his feet and lay there like a trampled flower. "Dorian, Dorian, don't leave me!" she whispered. "I am so sorry I didn't act well. I was thinking of you all the time. But I will try--indeed, I will try. It came so suddenly across me, my love for you. I think I should never have known it if you had not kissed me--if we had not kissed each other. Kiss me again, my love. Don't go away from me. I couldn't bear it. Oh! don't go away from me. My brother ... No; never mind. He didn't mean it. He was in jest.... But you, oh! can't you forgive me for to-night? I will work so hard and try to improve. Don't be cruel to me, because I love you better than anything in the world. After all, it is only once that I have not pleased you. But you are quite right, Dorian. I should have shown myself more of an artist. It was foolish of me, and yet I couldn't help it. Oh, don't leave me, don't leave me." A fit of passionate sobbing choked her. She crouched on the floor like a wounded thing, and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down at her, and his chiselled lips curled in exquisite disdain. There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love. Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic. Her tears and sobs annoyed him.
"I am going," he said at last in his calm clear voice. "I don't wish to be unkind, but I can't see you again. You have disappointed me."


Preeti Ch 20 – DG feels a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood
It was a lovely night, so warm that he threw his coat over his arm and did not even put his silk scarf round his throat. As he strolled home, smoking his cigarette, two young men in evening dress passed him. He heard one of them whisper to the other, "That is Dorian Gray." He remembered how pleased he used to be when he was pointed out, or stared at, or talked about. He was tired of hearing his own name now. Half the charm of the little village where he had been so often lately was that no one knew who he was. He had often told the girl whom he had lured to love him that he was poor, and she had believed him. He had told her once that he was wicked, and she had laughed at him and answered that wicked people were always very old and very ugly. What a laugh she had!--just like a thrush singing. And how pretty she had been in her cotton dresses and her large hats! She knew nothing, but she had everything that he had lost.
When he reached home, he found his servant waiting up for him. He sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library, and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said to him.
Was it really true that one could never change? He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood--his rose-white boyhood, as Lord Henry had once called it. He knew that he had tarnished himself, filled his mind with corruption and given horror to his fancy; that he had been an evil influence to others, and had experienced a terrible joy in being so; and that of the lives that had crossed his own, it had been the fairest and the most full of promise that he had brought to shame. But was it all irretrievable? Was there no hope for him?
Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride and passion he had prayed that the portrait should bear the burden of his days, and he keep the unsullied splendour of eternal youth! All his failure had been due to that. Better for him that each sin of his life had brought its sure swift penalty along with it. There was purification in punishment. Not "Forgive us our sins" but "Smite us for our iniquities" should be the prayer of man to a most just God.
The curiously carved mirror that Lord Henry had given to him, so many years ago now, was standing on the table, and the white-limbed Cupids laughed round it as of old. He took it up, as he had done on that night of horror when he had first noted the change in the fatal picture, and with wild, tear-dimmed eyes looked into its polished shield. Once, some one who had terribly loved him had written to him a mad letter, ending with these idolatrous words: "The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history." The phrases came back to his memory, and he repeated them over and over to himself. Then he loathed his own beauty, and flinging the mirror on the floor, crushed it into silver splinters beneath his heel. It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had spoiled him.


Gopa Ch 2 – DG first encounters LH in BH’s studio
As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann's "Forest Scenes." "You must lend me these, Basil," he cried. "I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming."
"That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian."
"Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don't want a life-sized portrait of myself," answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool in a wilful, petulant manner. When he caught sight of Lord Henry, a faint blush coloured his cheeks for a moment, and he started up. "I beg your pardon, Basil, but I didn't know you had any one with you."
"This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian, an old Oxford friend of mine. I have just been telling him what a capital sitter you were, and now you have spoiled everything."
"You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr. Gray," said Lord Henry, stepping forward and extending his hand. "My aunt has often spoken to me about you. You are one of her favourites, and, I am afraid, one of her victims also."
"I am in Lady Agatha's black books at present," answered Dorian with a funny look of penitence. "I promised to go to a club in Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it. We were to have played a duet together--three duets, I believe. I don't know what she will say to me. I am far too frightened to call."
"Oh, I will make your peace with my aunt. She is quite devoted to you. And I don't think it really matters about your not being there. The audience probably thought it was a duet. When Aunt Agatha sits down to the piano, she makes quite enough noise for two people."
"That is very horrid to her, and not very nice to me," answered Dorian, laughing.
Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth's passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him.
"You are too charming to go in for philanthropy, Mr. Gray--far too charming." And Lord Henry flung himself down on the divan and opened his cigarette-case.
The painter had been busy mixing his colours and getting his brushes ready. He was looking worried, and when he heard Lord Henry's last remark, he glanced at him, hesitated for a moment, and then said, "Harry, I want to finish this picture to-day. Would you think it awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?"
Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray. "Am I to go, Mr. Gray?" he asked.
"Oh, please don't, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky moods, and I can't bear him when he sulks. Besides, I want you to tell me why I should not go in for philanthropy."
"I don't know that I shall tell you that, Mr. Gray. It is so tedious a subject that one would have to talk seriously about it. But I certainly shall not run away, now that you have asked me to stop. You don't really mind, Basil, do you? You have often told me that you liked your sitters to have some one to chat to."
Hallward bit his lip. "If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay. Dorian's whims are laws to everybody, except himself."
Lord Henry took up his hat and gloves. "You are very pressing, Basil, but I am afraid I must go. I have promised to meet a man at the Orleans. Good-bye, Mr. Gray. Come and see me some afternoon in Curzon Street. I am nearly always at home at five o'clock. Write to me when you are coming. I should be sorry to miss you."
"Basil," cried Dorian Gray, "if Lord Henry Wotton goes, I shall go, too. You never open your lips while you are painting, and it is horribly dull standing on a platform and trying to look pleasant. Ask him to stay. I insist upon it."
"Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me," said Hallward, gazing intently at his picture. "It is quite true, I never talk when I am working, and never listen either, and it must be dreadfully tedious for my unfortunate sitters. I beg you to stay."
"But what about my man at the Orleans?"
The painter laughed. "I don't think there will be any difficulty about that. Sit down again, Harry. And now, Dorian, get up on the platform, and don't move about too much, or pay any attention to what Lord Henry says. He has a very bad influence over all his friends, with the single exception of myself."

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