Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray revision makes $185,000

Four pages from the original publication of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray were among the stars of a books and manuscripts sale at Bonhams.

They feature Wilde’s revisions in his own hand.

Portrait Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray was originally published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine

The novel was originally serialised in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890.

Even though the publication removed around 500 words it considered distasteful, the story still caused significant outrage.

While it’s regarded as a classic today, at the time its hedonistic and homoerotic undertones infuriated most of the more buttoned up reviewers.  

Wilde actually toned these elements down in his novel (published the following year in 1891), although it didn’t help his standing with the literary establishment.

Sales of the book were low and remained so until long after Wilde’s death.

Bonhams notes that the revisions include “the splendidly Wildean” passage: ’As for marriage, of course that would be silly, but there are other and far more interesting bonds between men and women.

’I shall certainly encourage them. They have the charm of being fashionable.’

Bonhams describes it as “likely the only remaining manuscript portion of this major cultural touchstone in private hands”, a factor that will have pushed up its value.

It realised $185,000 in the March 9 sale.

Ephemera connected with Wilde has always been popular, but there has been a noticeable upward trend in prices since the early 2010s.

In 2012, a first edition copy of The Importance of Being Ernest, made out to Wilde’s lover Robert Ross, sold for $360,000.

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