‘Too Meeny’: Jude, Dorian and the Life of the Secondary



Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde would initially appear an unlikely combination in the last chapter of a book dealing with the role of gossip in nineteenth-century British fiction, especially given the divergence of esteem accorded each upon his death and the relative lengths of their productive lives. Hardy began his career writing a poem about Darwin and lived to write one which assuredly alludes to the work of Albert Einstein. Oscar Wilde’s oeuvre appears, from one perspective, as one endlessly self-allusive epic, incapable of transcending the demands of a manufactured celebrity. And yet, for a cultural ‘moment’ (within perhaps another cultural moment, the fin de siècle) their achievement would suggest some similarity of interests. The unrelieved declines in vocational and social ambition of Jude and Dorian share certain characteristic ‘stages’: an ideological seduction disguised as education at the hands of radical tutors; an increasing cynicism regarding civilized social values; deaths imagined as partially self-destructive; and the representation of guilt as a transmissible inscription, a body made into a quasi-text which can be read. Jude’s image, Father Time, and Dorian’s, Basil’s infamous portrait, both age before their time.


Literary History Social Reproduction Daily Telegraph Unauthorized Reproduction Aesthetic Production 
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Copyright information

© Jan B. Gordon 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tokyo University of Foreign StudiesJapan

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