absolution formal remission of sin after confession; in the Roman Catholic church, it is a part of the sacrament of penance.
abstruse difficult to understand; obscure.
the Academy The Royal Academy of Arts in London, founded in 1768. Its annual exhibition, which has been held every summer without a break since 1769, features the best 1,500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and engravings from those submitted for judging.
Achilles the hero of Homer's Iliad.
Adonis in Greek mythology, a youth of astonishing beauty, favored by the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
Adrian Publius Aelius Hadrianus (76–138 A.D.), popularly known as Hadrian, or Adrian, Roman emperor (117–38 A.D.); had strong ties to Egypt and lost a close friend to drowning in the Nile.
affluence a plentiful supply of wealth or goods.
ague chills, or shivering.
alchemist one who tries to turn base metals into gold.
Although I joy . . . when next we meet a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2, 116-22.
anchorite a religious recluse.
Anglomanie a combination of New Latin and French, the term indicates a mania for things English.
annihilated completely destroyed.
Apollo in Greek mythology, the god of the sun, music, and poetry; a young man of great physical beauty.
arbiter elegantiarum Latin, "judge of elegance."
Arden a forest in As You Like It, in which Sibyl performed the previous night.
argot specialized language used by a particular group.
Artemis in Greek mythology, the goddess of the hunt.
articles the articles of agreement, or contract, signed by James, to undergo the journey to Australia.
ascetic a person who renounces comforts to live a life of self-disci-pline, sometimes for a religious reason.
asphodel a Mediterranean plant that in Greek mythology is linked with death.
beater someone who is hired to flush wild game from cover for hunters; on some hunts, they beat percussion instruments.
Beatrice a leading character in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), German composer.
bismuth a white, crystalline, metallic element used in alloys to form castings; here, used as powder.
blossoms of a laburnum a small, spreading tree with golden flowers and highly poisonous seeds.
Bologna a city in northern Italy.
the bourdon note of a distant organ a bourdon note is an extremely low, droning note.
brocade a heavy fabric interwoven with a raised design.
brougham a four-wheeled, closed carriage with an open driver's seat in front.
Buonarotti Michelangelo Buonarotti, better known as simply "Michelangelo" (1475–1564), Italian painter, sculptor, and architect.
Burgundy a wine, usually red, produced in the Burgundy ("Bourgogne") region of southeastern France.
Caliban a savage who is half-man, half-beast in The Tempest.
calumnies false statements meant to injure someone.
candor frankness, straightforwardness.
caprice something done impulsively or whimsically.
cassone Italian, "large cabinet."
censure an expression of blame or disapproval.
chaud-froid French, meaning "hot-cold"; a molded, jellied cold meat or fish dish with a jellied sauce.
Chopin Frédéric François Chopin (1810–49), Polish pianist and composer of works for piano and orchestra; resident of France from 1829 until his death.
Chopin Frédérick Francois Chopin (1810–49), Polish pianist and composer; resident in France from 1829 until his death.
coaling filling up with coal.
collieries coal mines.
conjugal having to do with marriage.
Cordelia a leading character in William Shakespeare's King Lear.
curate a clergyman in charge of a parish or one who assists a rector.
Cyril Tourneur (1575–1626), British dramatist and tragedian.
Dante Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), Italian poet; author of The Divine Comedy.
de la vieille roche French, "of the old rock."
death by misadventure The phrase does not specify suicide but implies some degree of fault or responsibility.
début French, meaning "beginning" or "coming out."
décolletée French, meaning "in a low-cut dress."
Desdemona a leading character in William Shakespeare's Othello.
édition de luxe French, meaning "luxury edition."
dogma a system of beliefs supported by authority.
doigts de faune French, "fingers of the faun."
dowagers rich widows.
dowdy shabby; lacking style or neatness.
drudgee a person who does tedious or menial labor.
drugged with poppies a reference to opium, which is prepared from dried juice of unripe pods of the opium poppy.
Dryad Greek mythology, a wood nymph.
du supplice encore mal lavée French, "not (yet) cleansed from torment."
the East End the industrial or working class area of London, east of the banking and commercial section of London, referred to as "the City."
efficacy ability to produce a specific effect.
elocution the art of public speaking.
English Blue Book an official publication of the British government, so called for the color of its covers; a social registry.
ennui French, "boredom."
ensconced settled securely or comfortably.
entrées French, "entries"; in North America, it is the main dish of the meal; in England, during Wilde's era, it was a dish served between the meat and fish courses.
espirit French, "spirit" or "wit"; usually spelled "esprit."
Eton Eton College, a school for boys in Buckinghamshire, England.
faun in Roman mythology, a royal deity having the body of a man but the horns, ears, tail, and sometimes the legs of a goat.
felicity blissful happiness.
fin de siècle French, meaning "end of the century"; a phrase especially applied to the 1890s.
fin du globe French, meaning "end of the world."
flaccid lacking firmness; lacking energy.
fop a dandy; a man excessively concerned about his clothes and appearance to the exclusion of deeper values.
Ford John Ford (c. 1586–1639), major English dramatist.
four-in-hand a vehicle, pulled by four horses, driven by one person.
frangipanni (sometimes spelled "frangipani") a tropical American shrub with fragrant flowers; perfume from or resembling the flowers.
fresco the art of painting on fresh, moist plaster with earth colors dissolved in water and pressed into the plaster.
garrulous habitually talkative.
Gautier Théophile Gautier (1811–72), French poet and critic.
genial having a friendly, pleasant disposition. obsequious here, complacently complying.
gilt covered with gold or something resembling gold.
Giordano Bruno (1548?–1600) Italian philosopher.
Gladstone bag light hand luggage consisting of two hinged compartments.
Good pilgrim . . . holy palmer's kiss a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 5, 99–102.
greenroom a waiting room or lounge in a theatre, used by performers when off-stage.
the Grosvenor For thirteen years, from 1877 to 1890, the Grosvenor Gallery was one of London's most prestigious galleries. During its heyday it often featured works from the Aesthetic movement, mentioned in Wilde's novel.
hautboy an oboe.
He is a Narcissus a self-centered person who is exceedingly fond of his appearance.
Hedonism This ethical doctrine, accepted by many in the Aesthetic movement, advocates the intrinsic goodness of pleasure.
Hellenic pertaining to the ancient Greeks or their language.
hock a white Rhine wine; wine from Hochheim in Germany.
I went to a crush a cocktail party.
idolatrous excessively adoring.
idyll a scene or event of rural simplicity.
inveterate firmly established by long standing; deep-rooted.
Isabella refers to Isabella II (1830–1904), Queen of Spain from 1833 until the revolution of 1868.
Jacobean relating to drama or literature during the reign of James I of England (1603–25).
jarvies slang for cabmen.
Jav an island of Indonesia.
Juliet the leading female role in William Shakespeare's (1564–1616)
la consolation des arts French, "the consolation of the arts."
Lady Capulet the mother of Juliet in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
languid lacking energy or spirit.
les grandpères ont toujours tort French, meaning "Grandfathers are always wrong."
Lido an island off Venice.
Like the painting of a sorrow, / A face without a heart from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 7, 108–09.
lilas blanc French, meaning "white lilac."
listless lacking energy or effort.
lithe supple; easily bent; flexible.
the long tussore-silk curtains brown silk from India, usually stronger but more coarsely woven than Chinese silk.
Louis Quatorze Louis XIV (1638–1715), King of France (1643–1715), known as "the Sun King." The novel's reference is to a style of furniture.
Louis-Quinze Louis the Fifteenth (1710–74), king of France 1715–74; a fashion style named after him.
macaroni here, a term used in eighteenth-century England to describe a well-to-do young man who dressed in Continental fashions rather than in staid, bland English clothing.
mackintosh a waterproof raincoat.
Madame, je suis tout joyeux French, "Madam, I am quite happy."
Majorca largest of Spain's Balearic Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea, about 120 miles southeast of Barcelona.
Malays native people of Malaysia, Indonesia, and surrounding areas.
marionettes puppets manipulated by strings.
Marsyas in Greek mythology, he lost a music contest and his life to Apollo.
martyr one who suffers death rather than compromise principles; one who sacrifices greatly.
merchantman a commercial ship.
Messalina third wife of Claudius I of Rome (10 B.C.–54 A.D.); she was noted for lascivious behavior.
Michelangelo Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Italian painter, sculptor, architect, and poet.
Miranda a leading character in William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
misanthrope a person who scorns or hates mankind.
monstre charmant French, "charming monster."
Montaigne Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533–92), French author.
Moorish regarding the Moslems of mixed Berber and Arab descent living mostly in northern Africa.
morose gloomy; very melancholy; sullen.
moue French, meaning "pout."
munificent very generous.
myriad a large, indefinite number.
narcissus This narrow-leafed plant with its white or yellow, trumpet-shaped blossom, is an apt flower for Dorian to adore. It is named for Narcissus of Greek mythology, a young man who spurned the attentions of Echo and fell in love with his own image in a pool of water; he was turned into the flower.
nil a contraction of the Latin nihil, "nothing."
Nile the longest river in Africa, running from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean.
nitric acid a fuming, corrosive liquid.
nocturne a musical composition intended to evoke thoughts or feelings of night.
Ophelia a leading character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Ophelia a leading character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet; she dies by drowning, although Shakespeare leaves unclear if her drowning is a suicide or an accident.
Oxford one of the two most revered British universities; the other is Cambridge.
palate the roof of the mouth.
pall a cover for a coffin.
pallid ashen, or pale.
panegyric a formal expression of praise, sometimes for the dead.
panis caelistis Latin, "bread of Heaven."
paradox an apparently contradictory statement that yet may be true.
Paris in Greek mythology, the son of King Priam of Troy and his wife, Hecuba; his choice of Helen as the winner of a beauty contest, and his refusal to return her, caused the Trojan War; later, he shot the arrow that caused the death of Achilles.
Parma violet a variety cultivated for its fragrance; after Parma, a city in northern Italy.
parody a mocking imitation of a literary or an artistic work.
Parthian pertaining to a shot fired by one in actual or feigned retreat; after the tactics of the archers from Parthia in Western Asia.
pastille French, meaning "drop"; a tablet containing aromatic substances.
Patti Adelina Patti (1843–1919), world-renowned Italian coloratura soprano.
peerage a book listing noblemen and their families; peers as a class; rank or title of nobility.
penitent feeling or expressing remorse for one's misdeeds or sins.
Perdita and Florizel lovers in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.
Persian saddle-bags enormous leather bags laid across the backs of camels, behind the saddle; here, a number of them are stuffed and arranged together so that a person can lounge or recline on them.
petulant unreasonably irritable.
philanthropist one who attempts to benefit mankind through charitable aid.
Piccadilly a thoroughfare in London running from the Haymarket to Hyde Park Corner.
placid calm, peaceful.
Plato (d. 347 B.C.), Greek philosopher.
Portia a leading character in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
précis French, meaning "brief summary."
presentiment premonition; a sense that something is about to occur.
prig a person who is overly precise, arrogant, or smug.
Prim D. Juan Prim (1814–70) was a military leader and statesman in Spain who played a major role in deposing Queen Isabella in 1868.
profligate a person given over to excessive devotion to pleasure.
proletariat the poorest class of working people.
protégé French, a person whose training and welfare are under the influence of a mentor.
prussic acid hydrocyanic acid; a colorless, extremely poisonous solution of hydrogen cyanide (HCN).
quay a wharf where ships are loaded and unloaded.
querulous expressing complaint.
riposte French, "retort" or reply in a direct manner.
Rosalind a leading role in William Shakespeare's As You Like It.
rouge French, meaning "red," "lipstick," or "rouge"; artificial blush for facial cheeks.
Rubinstein Anton Rubinstein (1829–94), Russian concert pianist, composer, and educator.
salon French, meaning "living room" or "parlor"; here, it means a weekly or monthly gathering of artists and intellectuals.
sanguine healthy looking; optimistic.
Satyricon "Book of Satyrlike Adventures"; a first-century-A.D. comic novel attributed to Petronius.
Schubert Franz Schubert (1797–1828), Austrian composer.
Schumann Robert Schumann (1810–56) was a German composer.
Scotland Yard headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police, housed at New Scotland Yard on the Thames embankment.
scurf scaly or shredded dry skin.
Seine the river that runs through Paris.
sentinel one who keeps guard; a sentry.
Sèvres an exquisite porcelain made in Sèvres, France.
She brought me up to royalties Here, the reference is to frequent dinners and parties with the titled upper class.
skeins lengths of thread or yarn wound into long, loose coils.
sovereign a gold coin formerly used in Great Britain, worth one pound.
sphinx a figure with the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.
staccato here, rapid, short, crisp words.
stars and garters a reference to various public decorations such as the Order of the Garter, England's highest order of knighthood.
straggling woodbine In the United States, woodbine is called wild honeysuckle and is sometimes referred to as Virginia creeper.
subaltern the lowest rank of military officer.
super-cargo an officer on a merchant ship who is in charge of the cargo.
supercilious disdainful, scornful, acting superior.
Symbolistes French, meaning "Symbolists." The term refers to the literary and artistic movement begun by French poets in the nineteenth century that spread throughout Europe and America, influencing painting and drama; closely associated with Aestheticism, it advocated individual freedom even in themes of decay, ruin, and the bizarre.
tableau French, "picture"; a scene on stage in which the actors remain silent and motionless as if in a picture.
taedium vitae Latin, "tedium of life."
Tartuffe a hypocrite; the word comes from Molière's Le Tartuffe, a play in which the lead character — Tartuffe — almost destroys a family that has taken him in.
tawdry gaudy; cheap; vulgarly ornamental.
Thou knowest . . . speak tonight a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2, 85–87.
Tintoret Tintoretto; original name, Jacopo Robusti (1518–94), Italian painter.
trellis a support frame.
tremulous vibrating or quivering.
trop d'audace French, meaning "too much audacity."
trop de zêle French, meaning "too much zeal."
truculent savage, belligerent.
ulster a long, loose overcoat made of heavy, strong fabric; originally made in Ulster, Ireland.
Velasquez Diego Rodriquez de Silva y Velásquez (1599–1660), Spanish painter.
Verona a city in northeastern Italy, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, in which Sibyl will perform that night.
victoria a low, light, four-wheeled carriage for two with a folding top and an elevated driver's seat in front.
vinaigrette French, from Old French vinaigre, "vinegar"; a small, often decorated container used for aromatic restoratives, such as smelling salts or vinegar solutions.
visage facial expression; appearance.
Wagner Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813–83), German poet and composer, known for his stirring, nationalistic music.
wainscoting paneling; finishing the lower part of an interior wall with materials different from the upper part.
wan unnaturally pale; weary; ill.
Webster John Webster (1580–1625), English dramatist and tragedian whom many rate second only to Shakespeare in the early seventeenth century.
Winckelmann Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68), German philosopher, archaeologist, and art historian.