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

Caroline Webb caroline.webb at newcastle.edu.au
Sun Jun 18 01:02:55 EDT 2017

“Firm” definitely means “company” here.  I think that Lord Henry is suggesting that this double item (conscience/cowardice) goes by the name “conscience” because that’s more marketable/socially acceptable.


From: Vwoolf [mailto:vwoolf-bounces at lists.osu.edu] On Behalf Of Mary Ellen Foley
Sent: Saturday, 17 June 2017 12:30 AM
To: Sunjoo Lee <abgrund at naver.com>
Cc: vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] "Conscience is trade-name of the firm" : What is this a reference to, in Dorian Gray?

I wonder whether 'the name of the firm' was a period way to convey what we'd say today as 'the name of the game'?  In the absence of any real data, that's how I'd read it.

Mary Ellen

On Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 11:07 AM, Sunjoo Lee <abgrund at naver.com<mailto:abgrund at naver.com>> wrote:

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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