The Picture of Dorian Gray

by: Oscar Wilde

The Preface

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art andconceal the artist is art's aim. The critic is he who can translateinto another manner or a new material his impression of beautifulthings.

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt withoutbeing charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are thecultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whombeautiful things mean only beauty.

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

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeinghis own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Calibannot seeing his own face in a glass. The moral life of man forms partof the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consistsin the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to proveanything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist hasethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is anunpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artistcan express everything. Thought and language are to the artistinstruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials foran art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts isthe art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, theactor'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 readthe symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life,that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of artshows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree,the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for makinga useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse formaking a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.