Quote 3

Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to re-create life, and to save it from that harsh, uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly; yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.

This passage from Chapter Eleven describes how Dorian, adjusting to the strange privilege that his portrait affords him, devotes himself to acquiring as many experiences as possible. Here, in order to discover “the true nature of the senses,” Dorian studies rare musical instruments, the arts of jewelry and embroidery, and the psychological effects of perfume. In addition to these pursuits, he begins to devote his time to more sordid affairs, the nature of which is never perfectly clear. We learn, from Basil’s subsequent confrontation, that Dorian is connected with the downfall of numerous youths, all of whom have been brought to shame (and some even driven to suicide) by their associations with Dorian. Whether the outcome of these experiences is “sweet or bitter” is not the point of the philosophy by which Dorian lives; on the contrary, the experience itself is what matters. This “new Hedonism” is a form of resistance against the conventional morality that Lord Henry spends so much of his time criticizing.