But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid.
Lord Henry shares his thoughts about Basil’s portrait of Dorian after Basil says he has put too much of himself in the painting of Dorian. Lord Henry thinks Basil means the painting looks like him, and explains why he believes someone as intellectual as Basil could never have such beauty. This exchange, which occurs early in the novel, reveals the shallowness of Lord Henry, as he values beauty over art or intellect.
I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.
After Lord Henry talks of marriage as mutual deception from both spouses, Basil calls him out on how his talk and actions never seem to line up. While Lord Henry spends the novel spouting theories that might seem shocking to others, he never acts on what he says, though he encourages Dorian to do so.
Yes, he would try to be to Dorian Gray what, without knowing it, the lad was to the painter who had fashioned the wonderful portrait. He would seek to dominate him—had already, indeed, half done so. He would make that wonderful spirit his own.
The narrator reveals Lord Henry’s thoughts and plans after learning of Dorian’s history and lack of family ties. Lord Henry understands that he can mold and shape Dorian to his own liking. Just as Basil transformed Dorian into a work of art Basil could call his own, Lord Henry seeks to transform Dorian into an entity of his own making. His declaration to Dorian of the immorality of influence constitutes a malicious subterfuge to gain his trust, and Lord Henry engages in the immoral act of influence throughout the novel.
Besides, women were better suited to bear sorrow than men. They lived on their emotions. They only thought of their emotions. When they took lovers, it was merely to have some one with whom they could have scenes. Lord Henry had told him that, and Lord Henry knew what women were.
In an attempt to rationalize his rejection of Sibyl Vane, Dorian recalls Lord Henry’s theory of women. Dorian has only known Lord Henry a short time at this point, yet Lord Henry’s influence has quickly taken hold of Dorian’s thoughts. Lord Henry’s dismissal of women again shows his hypocrisy: Although a married man himself, he dissuades Dorian from marriage, with the likely motivation to prevent anyone else from counteracting his influence.
I would say, my dear fellow, that you were posing for a character that doesn’t suit you. All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder. I am sorry if I hurt your vanity by saying so, but I assure you it is true. Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders.
Lord Henry responds to Dorian’s all but confessing that he murdered Basil. Lord Henry immediately rejects the notion based on nothing more than Dorian’s social status and appearance. Even though Lord Henry was the one to plant seeds of evil in Dorian’s mind, he believes the persona of the Dorian he constructed incapable of committing serious crimes.