Summary and Analysis
After the intensity of the previous three chapters, Wilde interjects this chapter as a dramatic pause. Like a light interlude in a play following profound action, Chapter 15 is more style than substance.
The opening scene of the chapter is a dinner party at Lady Narborough's. Dorian arrives only an hour or so after Campbell's departure from his home. At first, Dorian is bored with the party. It includes a flirtatious but elderly hostess and several guests whose only distinction is their mediocrity. Dorian is relieved when Lord Henry arrives.
At dinner, Dorian eats nothing but drinks several glasses of champagne; in fact, his thirst increases as he drinks, perhaps an allusion to his unquenchable passions. Lord Henry asks if his old protégé is feeling out of sorts; Lady Narborough concludes that Dorian must be in love. Dorian manages to mutter that he has not been in love for a whole week.
Despite the clever table talk, Dorian is distracted and irritable. For example, when Lord Henry questions him about his whereabouts the previous evening, Dorian becomes agitated and gives an excessively defensive and lengthy response. Lord Henry notes that there must be something wrong with Dorian, but he is characteristically unconcerned. Dorian continues to feel out of sorts, and he leaves the party early, asking Lord Henry to make excuses to the hostess for him. Again, readers should note that Dorian is so preoccupied with his secret life that he can't enjoy the pleasures for which he has given up his soul. Now Dorian has the weight of two secrets to bear — the portrait and Basil's death.
At home, Dorian burns Basil's hat and bag, the last of the evidence that Basil was ever there. He tries to relax, but a Florentine cabinet between two windows catches his attention. He stares at the cabinet, lights a cigarette, and then throws it away. Finally, he walks to the cabinet and removes a small Chinese box. In the box is a "green paste, waxy in lustre, the odour curiously heavy and persistent." The reader can assume that the paste is an opiate of some kind. Dorian dresses as a commoner, hails a cab, and takes off toward the river.
Parma violet a variety cultivated for its fragrance; after Parma, a city in northern Italy.
chaud-froid French, meaning "hot-cold"; a molded, jellied cold meat or fish dish with a jellied sauce.
décolletée French, meaning "in a low-cut dress."
édition de luxe French, meaning "luxury edition."
trop de zêle French, meaning "too much zeal."
trop d'audace French, meaning "too much audacity."
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."
peerage a book listing noblemen and their families; peers as a class; rank or title of nobility.
pastille French, meaning "drop"; a tablet containing aromatic substances.
sovereign a gold coin formerly used in Great Britain, worth one pound.