Stage 4 (Sage): The Picture of Dorian Gray, preface

Author : Oscar Wilde

Retold by Molly Hoang


The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic(1) 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(2) without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated(3). For these there is hope.

There is no such thing as a moral(4) or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of realism(5) is the rage of Caliban(6) seeing his own face in a glass. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical(7) sympathies.  The artist can express everything. Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice(8) and virtue(9) are to the artist materials for an art. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril(10). 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(11). 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.




1/critic(n): person who gives comments for works of art

2/corrupt(Adj): immoral, not pure, tainted, wordly

3/cultivated(adj):  having or showing good education, taste, and manners

4/moral(adj): right, good

5/realism(n): a 19th-century artistic movement in Europe which aims to depict things as they really are, however beautiful or ugly

6/Caliban(n): one of the main antagonists in William Shakespeare‘s play The Tempest. He is the subhuman son of the malevolent witch Sycorax

7/ethical(adj): moral

8/vice(n): bad characteristics

9/virtue(n): good characteristics

10/peril(n): the possibility that you will be hurt or killed or that something unpleasant or bad will happen

11/vital(adj): lively

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