The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn…The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.
– Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 1. The novel begins with a scene where painter Basil Hallward and his aristocratic friend Lord Henry Wotton are seated in the artist’s studio. The opening lines are filled with evocative imagery and language that is sensuous, aesthetic and florid. Wilde was a standard-bearer of the aesthetic movement. The movement believed that art should not attempt to deliver a moral or educational message, but should give sensual pleasure. The opening passage sets out to deluge our senses. Much use of figurative language is made from the onomatopoeia of "sullen murmer" to the perfect simile of "like the bourdon note of a distant organ." Luxury and wealth are suggested by the sensory overload here. A mood of quiet decadence and atmosphere of oppressive stillness is introduced, as if to suggest that sometime in the near future all will be disrupted by the presence of evil.