Basil Hallward Quotes

"To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self," he replied, touching the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine-pointed fingers. "Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life – that is the important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, Individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality."
"But, surely, if one lives merely for one’s self, Harry, one pays a terrible price for doing so?" suggested the painter.
"Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy that the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich."

– Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 6. Lord Henry makes this response when asked by Basil and Dorian what did he mean by good. Henry preaches the gospel of individualism, dismisses self-denial as something for the poor, rejects modern morality and says that beautiful sins are the privilege of the wealthy. He continues his efforts to weave his corruptive web of influence over Dorian, who just before this criticized Henry’s "poisonous" theories. The very moral Basil suggests that a person will pay a terrible price for living a completely selfish life.

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.

– Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 9. Dorian wishes to be the spectator of his own life and review his experiences and impressions like you assess a work of art. He admits to Basil that he is a changed man. But is it for the better? We think not. He speaks of indulging his "new passions, new thoughts, new ideas" brought about under the influence of self-proclaimed hedonist and unremitting pleasure seeker Lord Henry. In the new Dorian there are few signs of guilt or self-awareness or a conscience at work. He will be a spectator of his own sins as he watches them manifest themselves in the changing face of Basil’s portrait of him. Appealing to Basil to always remain his friend, he compares him with Lord Henry and tells him that he is too afraid of life. This is rather ironic, as Dorian will kill his friend Basil with a knife of Chapter 20.
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