Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 - 30 November 1900) was a poet, playwright, and author. Born in Dublin, Ireland and educated at Trinity College and Magdalen College, Oxford, he eventually settled in London and found widespread fame for plays filled with comic wit and satire. He published one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. It first appeared in 1890 in Lady Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. It was roundly criticized as being immoral and scandalous. Wilde revised the novel, adding a preface and several chapters and reissued the work in 1891. The preface attempted to address some of the criticisms aimed at the novel after its original publication and lays out Wilde's philosophy of art. This philosophy, called aestheticism, espouses the idea that art has intrinsic value and that its worth lies in its beauty, not necessarily in any lessons it might teach. This went against the prevailing Victorian views of art and creative endeavors.
In the novel, Dorian Gray is a handsome young man in London society. His sits for a portrait by Basil Hallward, a well-known artist. After the completion of the portrait, Hallward introduces the young and still-impressionable Gray to Lord Henry Wotton, a fixture of London society famous for his scandalous wit and Hedonist tendencies. Lord Henry agitates young Gray with a speech about the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, and Gray responds by offering his soul in exchange for perpetual youth, with the portrait to bear the marks of age.
Gray soon follows Lord Henry into a life of debauchery, but nothing leaves its mark on him. He remains beautiful as ever through eighteen years. His reputation suffers from rumors about his behavior, but he is allowed to remain in London society because he retains his youthful visage. The painting by Hallward, however, has become wrinkled and crooked with immoral deeds and wicked living. Hallward visits Gray one night and the two men argue. Gray offers to let Hallward see his portrait, and thus to see his soul. Hallward is horrified by the changes wrought on the painting and begs Gray to repent; Gray kills Hallward in a fit of anger. Eventually, Gray attempts to destroy the portrait using the knife he used to stab Hallward. Servants discover the unharmed portrait, showing a beautiful man in the prime of his life. Nearby is the body of Gray, wizened and disfigured.