Last week I reviewed The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I wrote earlier that I was flabbergasted by the subtle poisonous theories that Lord Henry teaches Dorian. They sound clever and funny but within the context of the novel, they are deeply disturbing. Here are just a few examples.
The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well-written, or badly written. That is all.
Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.
I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
The people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call loyalty and fidelity, I call lack of imagination.
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it is forbidden to have.
Youth is the one thing worth having... Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing...
To be good is to be in harmony with one's self. Ones' own life - that is the important thing.
It is better to be beautiful than to be good.
The only horrible thing in the world is ennui. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.
Most of Lord Henry's audience do not agree with these ideas, but he spouts them out with such offhand charm, that it's hard to argue against him. Gray swallows them unreservedly and it leads to his ruin.