The Picture of Dorian Gray in Context:
Intertextuality and Lippincott's Monthly Magazine
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Despite important intersections with Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, the dynamic exchanges and conversations within the July 1890 Lippincott's have remained largely unexplored. This essay therefore takes the July 1890 Lippincott's, inwhich Wilde's novel first appeared, as the text for study. The goal in treating the periodical as text is neither to create a linear narrative of meaning for the entire issue of the magazine nor to connect the dots between every item. Instead, this approach enables an exploration of a cultural moment captured and shaped by the periodical. Returning to this issue of Lippincott's uncovers importantintertextual relationships between composite texts, including provocative discussions on the occult, morality, science, and art.
In his 1988 biography of Oscar Wilde, Richard Ellmann wrote, "The publication of Dorian Gray, though it had taken place only in a magazine, brought Wilde all the attention he could desire."1 Perhaps following out of this brief assessment, which suggests the controversysurrounding the publication of the novel at the same time as it undermines the original periodical publication, literary scholars have largely overlooked the July 1890 Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, in which The Picture of Dorian Gray first appeared.2 Although scholars do frequently mention the Lippincott's printing and name other works that appeared in the magazine alongside Wilde's novel, sometimeseven including facsimiles of the magazine's table of contents, the significance of the other texts in the magazine and potential connections to Dorian Gray remain unstudied. Further, a number of scholars have explored extensively the textual differences between the Dorian Gray that appeared in Lippincott's and its later book publication, and there is a reviving interest in the 1890 text of novel.But nearly all of the studies of Dorian Gray fully remove the novel from the magazine for their investigations. These strategies allow the scholar to focus exclusively on the text of Wilde's novel, a pursuit both logical and pragmatic for the textual editor.3 When methods of excision become the privileged approach to dealing with periodical printings, however, they do so to the detriment of amore complex understanding of literary texts and cultural and intellectual history.4 In fact, no one has attempted to explore the question of what it may mean for our understanding of the novel and the late nineteenth century that Dorian Gray first appeared in this particular issue of the newly transatlantic Lippincott's. In this essay, I argue for taking the July 1890 Lippincott's, of which ThePicture of Dorian Gray is an integral part, as the text for study. The goal in treating the periodical as text is neither to create a linear [End Page 19] narrative of meaning for the entire issue of the magazine nor to connect the dots between every item. Instead, this approach enables an exploration of a worldview or cultural moment captured and shaped by the periodical. Returning to Lippincott's ofJuly 1890 uncovers important intertextual relationships between composite parts, including provocative discussions on the occult, morality, science, and art.
Lippincott's Magazine of Literature, Science and Education was founded by the Philadelphia-based publisher J. B. Lippincott & Company in 1868, at the beginning of the post-Civil War publishing boom in the United States.5 Originallydesigned to compete with quality American monthlies like the Century and Harper's, Lippincott's established a firm reputation as a respectable middle-class, general interest magazine. By the mid-1880s, the magazine was in a slightly tenuous financial position, and the editors chose to eliminate illustrations, further removing the magazine from the ranks of the quality illustrated monthlies. This...
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