In The Picture of Dorian Gray, we learn about Dorian’s mysterious family history through Lord Henry’s uncle, Lord George Fremor. As Lord Henry leaves his uncle’s house, Wilde writes, “Lord Henry passed up the low arcade into Burlington Street, and turned his steps in the direction of Berkeley Square. Upon leaving his uncle, Lord Henry tells him how he will be having lunch with Aunt Agatha’s, who seems to live in the same well-off area as Berkeley Square is in. Burlington Street, which is actually called Old Burlington Street, runs parallel to Burlington Garden, which parallel to, yet accessible through the Burlington Arcade.
The Burlington Arcade, which was started in May 1815, serves as the entranceway for The Royal Academy of Arts, the Burlington House, and the University of London. This area is extremely well off, as we can see on the Booth Poverty Map.
The Burlington Arcade, which is virtually the only passageway into Burlington Gardens, was one of the first confined establishment of high-end shops, as explained in the article “Burlington Arcade:”
aba-c-aba-c-aba-c-aba-d: Here ‘a’ represents a ‘double’ shop, with small display window flanked by doors and by larger display windows, and one storey visible above where one plain window is flanked by two bay windows; ‘b’ represents two smaller, separate shops, or ‘single’ shops, with one visible storey above them, where two plain windows are between two bay windows; ‘c’ is a heightened version of ‘a’ and takes the place of the ‘inter-shop’ spaces or ‘saloons’ earlier proposed, the three-storey fronts being set back from the building line; and ‘d’, between street entrance and first arch, represents one ‘single’ shop plus one double shop splayed back from the street entrance. The width of the passage at each arch is constant, some 12 feet.
Burlington Arcade was most known for its architecture and ability to house so many small shops. This is significant to Wilde’s story because it really exhibits how well off Lord Henry and Dorian Gray seem to be. Lord Henry’s route through Burlington Arcade and (Old) Burlington Street may be related to the story he just heard about Dorian’s family. Upon hearing the oddly mysterious story, Lord Henry walks toward an extremely well off area of London, which could represent Dorian Gray’s wealth, despite his obscure family history.
“Booth Poverty Map. Charles Booth Online Archive. London School of Economics and Political Science. Web. 27 November 2015.
‘Burlington Arcade.’ Survey of London: Volumes 31 and 32, St James Westminster, Part 2. Ed. F H W Sheppard. London: London County Council, 1963. 430-434. British History Online. Web. 27 November 2015.
Victorian Google Maps.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2003. Print.