The Marble Arch, Final Project


The Marble Arch is a profound London landmark  designed by John Nash in 1827. It was originally designed to be the entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace. The arch was relocated however in 1851 by Thomas Cubitt to the North East corner of Hyde Park at Cumberland Gate.  The design of the arch was inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris. (The fact that the design was inspired by other countries’ works,  reminds me of Dorian Grey’s fascination with beauty and his collection of beautiful items, all from other parts of the world, like the design of the Arch.) This regal arch marked one of six entrances into Hyde Park, a Park where many nobility and important people of the Victorian Era went for downtime. Our beauty obsessed characters, Dorian and Henry, both enjoyed the Park as a place to watch beauty alive in front of them, and the arch marked the entrance and exit of the place they adored.

The Marble Arch then


The Marble Arch today

We see the Marble Arch for the first time in the novel in Chapter 5. Sybil and James Vane had just gone to Hyde Park for a walk. (Both had had to change to be presentable enough to be in the park.) They finished their walk and by the Marble Arch “they hailed an omnibus” to take them back to their “shabby home” 2 miles away on Euston Road. Here the arch can be seen as a symbol of change. As one enters the Park through the Arch they are in a beautiful world, full of beautiful people and the elite. As one exits the Park through the Arch they are back to the real London where they must go back to their own homes (possibly one that is too “shabby” to be near the Park itself.

The Marble Arch is mentioned in chapter 19 by Lord Henry when he is talking to Dorian. Henry had been walking through Hyde Park on a Sunday and noticed by the Marble Arch “a little crowd of shabby-looking people listening to some vulgar street-preacher.” As seen earlier in the novel, seeing shabby people in the park was very unlikely, so this would strike Lord Henry. He hears the preacher say “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Henry is asking Dorian to answer the question at first he then goes on to say how it “struck him”. He heard the question and thought it to be dramatic. He says that “London is very rich in curious effects of that kind” Henry paints us a picture of the preacher in a rain coat surrounded by “sickly white faces.” The dramatic phrase is thrown into the air as the beautiful arch looms over them.

marble arch

If we saw this scene through the eyes of Henry, we would see lower class Londoners huddled around a shrill preacher against the beautiful arch inspired by foreign pieces of beauty. We would hear the question of the preacher, almost in shock that such a question could come out of someone not as beautiful as the question itself. Henry is tempted to tell the preacher that “art had a soul but that man had not.” This line is crucial in the novel being an absolute allusion to Dorian’s painting that now has the soul of Dorian, taking on all of the pain and suffering that he has gone through.

When Henry asks Dorian this question that he heard about the Marble Arch, we see Dorian become suspicious that Lord Henry knows something about Dorian and the painting. This arch can represent a turning point in the relationship between Henry and Dorian at this point of the novel.














The Park (Hyde Park), Final Project





Hyde Park, one of the must see sites in London. Being one of the only places in London full of lush green as far as the eye can see it was a get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.


The Park was first meant to be a private hunting ground for Henry VIII. In 1637 the Park was opened to the public by Charles I. During the Victorian Era, the Park was a place of leisure for the “fashionable world”. You could be at leisure in Hyde Park but not for long. According to W.S. Gilbert, one was to be on their toes in the Park where there was action on every corner. He says, “in the inner mind you must be observant, prepared to enjoy either the solitude of the crowd, or to catch the quick glance, the silvery music of momentary merriment, then have a few seconds of rapid, acute dialogue, or perhaps be beckoned into a carriage by a friend with space to spare.” A time in the Park was a social gathering of the most fashionable in London, including Queen Victoria herself. She hated London but loved to be in the Park (R.D.Blumenfeld). Max Schlesinger says” By far more interesting, and indeed unrivalled, is Rotten-row, the long broad road for horsemen, where, on fine summer evenings, all the youth, beauty, celebrity, and wealth of London may be seen on horse-back.” Hyde Park was inhabited by the beautiful people of London and it was readily seen by all who went there.

hydepark poverty map
Hyde Park was surrounded by Upper Class, Upper Middle, and Middle Class


In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray, the Park is talked about a few times. Lord Henry brings up the Park first in chapter three. Dorian begs the Lord to allow him to go with him as he wants to listen to him talk some more. Lord Henry responds:

“Ah! I have talked quite enough for to-day,” said Lord Henry, smiling. “All I want now is to look at life. You may come and look at it with me, if you care to.”

Readers of the Victorian era would make the connection to the active social area that was Hyde Park. Lord Henry, who had a view of life that fascinated Dorian Gray, wanted to observe the life that would inevitably be happening in the Park.

The Park is mentioned again in chapter four.Dorian is talking to Lord Henry again and mentions how the Lord has inspired Dorian to observe those in the Park, as he did in the chapter before. He also mentions the Park when he is talking about his new found love, an Actress named Sibyl Vane. He describes her as an extraordinary woman, different than those fashionable women who “ride in the park in the morning and chatter at tea-parties in the afternoon”. Lord Henry and Dorian believe that beauty is what one needs to strive for in life. The ever changing beauty of the actress night to night appeals to Dorian more than the fashionable and traditional women who socialize in Hyde Park.

The Park is mentioned another time in chapter five. Sibyl and her brother James are planning to go for walk. Sibyl suggests a walk in Hyde Park but James says “I am too shabby,” he answered, frowning. “Only swell people go to the park.” Hyde Park’s reputation and normal visitors would be known by the reader and this line would ring true to them. The line also lends itself to an overwhelming theme of the importance of beauty in the novel. It is important to multiple characters to look their best and to stay that way, including the park.

In chapter 11 the Park is brought up again. Basil had just been question Dorian about his morals and how much he has changed. He talks about a past liaison of Dorian’s named Lady Gwendolen. Lady Gwendolen was an upstanding citizen until Dorian. Now not ” a single decent woman in London now who would drive with her in the park” (chapter 11). Dorian has apparently influenced this woman so much that she would not be able to be in the upstanding place that is Hyde Park. Basil saying these words and with what we know about Hyde Park, we know that Lady Gwendolen must have changed in a way that made her unfashionable and not suitable for the Park.
Dorian is back in the Park in chapter 18. He has joined a shooting-party with some elites of London. As they were shooting a hare had run in front of them into a bush where Sir Geoffrey Clouston then decided to shoot. When the shot rang out there were two screams, the one of the hare and the other of a man. In the end of the chapter we find out the man is none other then James Vane. James Vane had been stalking Dorian to get revenge for his sister death.When the hare had run past and Geoffrey Clouston readied himself to shoot at it, Dorian tried to get Geoffrey to not shoot at it. He had appreciated the look of the hare and did not want that to be taken away. When Clouston thought that to be ridiculous and shot anyway we are reminded that Dorian’s appreciation for beauty is much different then many others in the story. Vane himself had mentioned earlier in the story that he was too “shabby” to be in the Park. In a way it’s as if the Park has taken an extreme measure to retain it’s beauty when the “shabby” Vane is shot and killed instantly. 
In chapter 19 Lord Henry brings up the Park again when speaking to Dorian. In the end of the chapter Dorian is obviously not himself and Henry invites him to lunch and a visit to the Park the next day. Dorian does not want to go and asks if he must. Henry comes back and says of course he must, because “the Park is quite lovely this time of year” (chapter 19). Instead of saying something perhaps about spending time together or meeting with old friends it’s about seeing the beauty in the park because that is the only reason Henry wants to be there, to take in the natural beauty of the Park. 
The Park meant a lot to Dorian and Lord Henry alike. Mostly because the beauty that was there. Not only was the park naturally full of beautiful sights but only the beautiful people of London were there and both of our beauty obsessed characters knew that. They spent their time there to appreciate as much beauty as they could within England. 


Work Cited

Blumenfeld, R.D.B. “Diary: June 27, 1887”. Victorian London. Lee Jackson. Web. 17 December 2015.