I was under the impression that in the original Oscar Wilde novel (The Picture of Dorian Grey) Dorian had the portrait painted and stopped physically ageing as a young man in the late 1880s.

Yet in the episode "Ebb Tide" (S3E7) of Penny Dreadful, he talks about witnessing the French revolution (for which he'd have to have been at least a hundred years old) and upheaval in Byzantium (a nation which fell to the Turks centuries before that).

Is Penny Dreadful's version of Dorian Grey really centuries old and if so, was this a departure (deliberate or otherwise) from Oscar Wilde's creation?


In Penny Dreadful, at least 400 years

DORAN: I've lived through so many revolutions, you see. It's all so familiar to me. The wild eyes and zealous ardor, the irresponsibility, and the clatter. The noise of it all, Lily. From the tumbrils on the way to the guillotine to the roaring mobs sacking the temples of Byzantium.

Since the fall of Byzantium (Constantinople) was in 1453, Dorian must be at least 400 years old.

In the novel, much younger

However, in the original novel he does seem to have lived (thus far) on an ordinary human timescale:

‘A terrible load to carry,’ murmured Dorian, as he unlocked the door that opened into the room that was to keep for him the curious secret of his life and hide his soul from the eyes of men.

He had not entered the place for more than four years—not, indeed, since he had used it first as a playroom when he was a child and then as a study when he grew somewhat older.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Hallward, who is an ordinary human, met Dorian when he was a boy:

‘What does this mean?’ cried Hallward, at last. His own voice sounded shrill and curious in his ears.

‘Years ago, when I was a boy,’ said Dorian Gray, ‘you met me, devoted yourself to me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my good looks.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Dorian is ten years the junior of Lord Henry, who is an elderly man who ages at the normal human rate:

You must have some secret. I am only ten years older than you are, and I am wrinkled, and bald, and yellow.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

And further, his actual age apppears to have been noted in society:

Curious stories became current about him after he had passed his twenty-fifth year. It was said that he had been seen brawling with foreign sailors in a low den in the distant parts of Whitechapel, and that he consorted with thieves and coiners and knew the mysteries of their trade.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

So yes, Dorian appears to be much older in Penny Dreadful than in the original novel.

  • Good answer. Beat me to the punch as my server is playing silly buggers. The number of perversions on Penny Dreadful is not restricted to Dorian Gray. – Cascabel Jun 14 '16 at 21:42
  • 1
    Istanbul was Constantinople; Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople; Been a long time gone, Constantinople... – miltonaut Jun 24 '16 at 8:57

I suspect that in Penny Dreadful Dorian Gray should be at least 1,500 years old if he remembers mobs sacking temples in Byzantium.

Emperor Theodosius I (reigned 379-395 AD) decreed many edicts against the traditional Hellenistic and Roman religions. Many pagan temples were destroyed by Christian mobs in his reign and his government ordered pagan temples closed.

So unless Dorian described Christian Churches as temples, he remembered anti pagan mobs sacking pagan temples in Byzantium no later than around 400 AD and thus should have been at least 1,500 years old in the late 19th century.

  • I wonder if this is a new "M.A. Golding"... – Möoz Jun 16 '16 at 3:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.