See Oscar Wilde’s Handwritten Edits to The Picture of Dorian Gray

Did Wilde Self-Censor the Earliest Version of His Only Novel?

November 9, 2018  By Literary Hub

This year, SP Books is publishing the original manuscript of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, originally submitted for publication in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1890. Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s grandson, worked closely with the publishers to decipher the handwriting and text in several pages of the manuscript and compare them to the final published version.

Wilde’s revisions in this original manuscript seem to show the writer self-censoring phrases that could be seen as homoerotic, according to SP Books, which lists several examples:

Basil Hallward’s use of the word “beauty” in reference to Dorian Gray is, for example, replaced by the softer “good looks.” The word “passion” becomes “feeling,” “boy” is replaced by “lad.” Passages are also crossed out, such as Basil’s confession: “The world becomes young to me when I hold [Dorian Gray’s] hand.”

In a foreword to the manuscript, Holland writes that the version that Lippincott’s published—after editor J.M. Stoddart removed additional passages—still provoked backlash, with one critic writing that it was “written ‘for outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys.'”

Page one of the original manuscript


Transcription of page one of the manuscript

Page 17 of the original manuscript

Transcription of page 17 of the manuscript


Page 20 of the original manuscript

Transcription of page 20 of the manuscript

Page 147 of the original manuscript

Transcription of page 147 of the manuscript

More Story
What Folk Music Misses About Actual Folks We were up on Minnesota’s Iron Range, where iron and taconite mining underpin not only the entire regional economy, but also...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.