[Vwoolf] "Conscience is trade-name of the firm" : What is this a reference to, in Dorian Gray?

Stuart N. Clarke stuart.n.clarke at btinternet.com
Fri Jun 16 05:23:39 EDT 2017

“conscience doth make cowards of us all” –  in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Act III, sc. 1.


From: Sunjoo Lee 
Sent: Friday, June 16, 2017 10:07 AM
To: vwoolf at lists.osu.edu 
Subject: [Vwoolf] "Conscience is trade-name of the firm" : What is this a reference to, in Dorian Gray?

Dear Woolfians, 

In Chapter 1 of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry says this to Basil: 

"Conscience and cowardice are really the same thing, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all." 

In a French edition from folio, the line was translated as: 

"La conscience et la lâcheté sont une seule et même chose, Basil. La conscience est la raison sociale de la firme. C'est tout." 

This translation makes me thinking: Did Wilde really mean to say something like "Conscience is a name of a company"? 

Or, with the definite articles, "Conscience is that name of the company, which everybody used to know"? But, what could this mean? 

I had thought, with "firm," Wilde had qualities of one's character, something in the line of "headstrong," inflexible in moral judgments. 

I somehow really got curious to know about the (possible) reference of this line. Would someone let me know? 




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