Torpid at first, his nervous dyspepsia reappeared, and then this hot essence induced such an irritation in his stomach that Des Esseintes was quickly compelled to stop using it. The malady increased in strength; peculiar symptoms attended it. After the nightmares, hallucinations of smell, pains in the eye and deep coughing which recurred with clock-like regularity, after the pounding of his heart and arteries and the cold perspiration, arose illusions of hearing, those alterations which only reveal themselves in the last period of sickness. Attacked by a strong fever, Des Esseintes suddenly heard murmurings of water; then those sounds united into one and resembled a roaring which increased and then slowly resolved itself into a silvery bell sound.
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He has lived an extremely decadent life in Paris, which has left him disgusted with human society. Without telling anyone, he retreats to a house in the countryside, near Fontenay , and decides to spend the rest of his life in intellectual and aesthetic contemplation. Throughout his intellectual experiments, Des Esseintes recalls various debauched events and love affairs of his past in Paris.
He tries his hand at inventing perfumes and he creates a garden of poisonous tropical flowers. Illustrating his preference for artifice over nature a characteristic Decadent theme , Des Esseintes chooses real flowers that apparently imitate artificial ones. In another episode, he decides to visit London after reading the novels of Charles Dickens.
He dines at an English restaurant in Paris while waiting for his train and is delighted by the resemblance of the people to his notions derived from literature. He then cancels his trip and returns home, convinced that only disillusion would await him if he were to follow through with his plans.
Des Esseintes conducts a survey of French and Latin literature, rejecting the works approved by the mainstream critics of his day. He rejects the academically respectable Latin authors of the " Golden Age " such as Virgil and Cicero , preferring later " Silver Age " writers such as Petronius Des Esseintes praises the decadent Satyricon and Apuleius Metamorphoses, commonly known as The Golden Ass as well as works of early Christian literature, whose style was usually dismissed as the "barbarous" product of the Dark Ages.
Among French authors, he shows nothing but contempt for the Romantics but adores the poetry of Baudelaire. Eventually, his late nights and idiosyncratic diet take their toll on his health, requiring him to return to Paris or to forfeit his life. In the last lines of the book, he compares his return to human society to that of a non-believer trying to embrace religion.
Reception and influence[ edit ] Title page of the first complete English translation with the caption "the book that Dorian Gray loved and that inspired Oscar Wilde ".
It will be something nobody has ever done before, and I shall have said what I want to say Though many critics were scandalised, it appealed to a young generation of aesthetes and writers.
It was being reviewed everywhere as the guidebook of decadence. At the very moment that Wilde was falling in with social patterns, he was confronted with a book which even in its title defied them. In Chapter 10, Dorian examines a book sent to him by the hedonistic aristocrat Lord Henry Wotton: It was the strangest book that he had ever read.
It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him It was a novel without a plot, and with only one character, being, indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian, who spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own The style in which it was written was that curious jewelled style, vivid and obscure at once, full of argot and of archaisms, of technical expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that characterizes the work of some of the finest artists of the French school of Symbolistes.
There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids, and as subtle in colour. The life of the senses was described in the terms of mystical philosophy. One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner.
It was a poisonous book. The heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain. The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming The references in Dorian Gray to specific chapters are deliberately inaccurate.
However, when they met in July, Zola told Huysmans that the book had been a "terrible blow to Naturalism" and accused him of "leading the school astray" and "burning [his] boats with such a book", claiming that "no type of literature was possible in this genre, exhausted by a single volume".
Against the Grain
He has lived an extremely decadent life in Paris, which has left him disgusted with human society. Without telling anyone, he retreats to a house in the countryside, near Fontenay , and decides to spend the rest of his life in intellectual and aesthetic contemplation. Throughout his intellectual experiments, Des Esseintes recalls various debauched events and love affairs of his past in Paris. He tries his hand at inventing perfumes and he creates a garden of poisonous tropical flowers. Illustrating his preference for artifice over nature a characteristic Decadent theme , Des Esseintes chooses real flowers that apparently imitate artificial ones.