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The Uncensored (and Almost Unknown) Version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Yesterday, during our Donostia Book Club meeting, we had with us a special guest. Miguel Ángel Pérez Pérez is not only a translator but was also a professor at the University of Alicante, where he taught English, translation and literature. Among the subjects he was teaching were: Great Figures of English Literatura, English Literature, Literary translation. We couldn't have dreamt of having a better expert with us. As a translator he specialises in English classics and among the authors he has translated are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins.

A special dinner with some of the book club members after the meeting. Miguel Ángel is the third one on the right.

We invited him to tell us a bit about his translation of Oscar Wilde's “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. The title might surprise you at first: there were many translations of this book, why a new one? Well, this one is different: it's an original version that was censored by the publisher and then by the author himself to hide the homosexual content and make it less obvious in the story. Below I'm trying to explain a little bit the fascinating history of this publication.

On 30 August 1889, J M Stoddart, managing editor of the Philadelphia-based Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, gave a dinner in London for Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle. His plan was to establish the relationship with both and publish their stories. It worked and a result of it is “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. Its first, 13-chapter version, was published both in US and in UK on 20 July 1890. However, that was not the exact same version as what Wilde had sent: after consulting advisors, Stoddart had removed nearly 500 words from the book, in most cases to mute the homo- and heterosexual content. Despite these changes, Britain’s largest bookseller, W H Smith & Son, refused to stock the July edition of the magazine.

One year later, in 1891, Ward, Lock & Co published a 20-chapter version of the novel as a single-volume book, complete with a new ‘Preface’ by Wilde, arguing for the separation of artistic and moral judgements. After reading both versions, I have to confess I like more the original, shorter one. The “indecent one”, according to the Victorian moralists. In 2011, Nicholas Frankel published that ‘uncensored’ version in English and that is what Miguel Ángel Pérez Pérez has translated for the Belevedere Publisher.

What are the differences between both books? Definitely in the second one the romance between Doran and Basil and then between Dorian and Henry are not so clear and some less attentive readers may be confused. Wilde also added parts that are talking more about the typical social life in the Victorian times: dinners, parties, the “accepted” entertainment. As much as I normally like this kind of information, in this case it doesn't add anything to the story, it stands out and is absolutely not necessary. Another thing that is new, is the background story of Sybil and her family. As much as the character is important for Dorian's evolution, we don't reallyneed that info about her.

But definitely, the most important change is the fragment that talks about “the yellow book”, the book that Harry gives Dorian and which changes his whole point of view on life. In the original the yellow book is described in more detail and is given a title, “Le Secret de Raoul par Catulle Sarrazin”. Curious choice, isn't it? It clearly refers to a double life that Dorian is leading. Also, “yellow book” was an important object in Wilde's life, but that is a story for another post. So, not to leave you with curiosity, I'm leaving you a link where you can read more about this subject:

I strongly recommend you reading the uncensored version. Below you havae the photos of the English edition and of Miguel Ángel's Spanish translation.


  1. hola! recién llegamos listas para quedarnos, espectacular tu entrada! saludosbuhos.

  2. Where can i read the original version online

    1. Hello, has a free copy but I believe it is the censored one. Not sure where you can find it for free. A Kindle copy on Amazon costs EUR 0,49


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