“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.”
As Dorian prepares, in Chapter Six, to escort Lord Henry and Basil to the theater to see Sibyl Vane perform, Lord Henry chastises Dorian for dismissing, in the face of love, all of his “wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.” Here, Lord Henry expounds on the virtues of individualism, which dictate that one develop according to one’s own standards. His outlook relies on Darwinism, a fashionable theory at the time that asserted that an organism’s development would be altered or impaired if it were made to adjust to the standards of another organism. Lord Henry fancies that he and Dorian are creatures that require different standards than the masses in order to develop fully. Thus, he readily rejects modern morality, which governs the many, in favor of a self-determined morality that applies only to himself. Although far from a prig or a Puritan, Lord Henry does spend an inordinate amount of time worrying over Dorian’s development. Contrary to the principle of individualism he takes the time to relate, he not only does his best to insinuate himself between Dorian and Sibyl, but he also takes up Dorian’s proper social development as his pet cause.