“’Can you remember any great error that you committed in your early days, Duchess?’ [Lord Henry] asked, looking at her across the table.
‘A great many, I fear,’ she cried.
‘Then commit them over and over again,’ he said, gravely. ‘To get back one’s youth, one has merely to repeat one’s follies.’ (Ch. 3 Pg. 37)”
As the dinner guests gather round and listen to Lord Henry, he outlines a philosophy riddled with selfishness and hedonism. Henry’s claim is basically that the fountain of youth can be found in one’s own attitude toward their past actions. He believes that one should not look upon past errors with disdain. Furthermore, he suggests that they should repeat these “follies” in order to feel young again. Mistakes are not about regret and self-loathing. To Lord Henry, mistakes are what exemplify the beauty and happiness of youth. In addition, the consequences of one’s actions are irrelevant. Lord Henry’s selfish notions appall the guests, however, both they and Dorian are fascinated by his thoughts. They speak directly to Dorian’s desire to preserve his youth and happiness. Ironically, it is this same philosophy that turns Dorian from an optimistic young man into a colder and more cynical one.
This passage is important because it foreshadows the emotional train wreck that will become of Dorian. This is one of the first times in the story Lord Henry is able to sink his thoughts into Dorian. In this passage, Henry plants the seeds in Dorian’s mind for the self-indulgence that will eventually consume him. Dorian’s lack of regard for his actions and their consequences, namely when he calls things off with Sybil Vane and is not bothered by her suicide, can all be attributed to this exchange. At one point in time he was convinced he was in love with this woman. However, her death ceases to affect him because at that point remorse for him is obsolete. Thanks to Lord Henry, Dorian is convinced that remorse for his actions is to be avoided at all costs in order to maintain his precious youth.