This map plots the settings and references in The Picture of Dorian Gray

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1890s London

The Picture of Dorian Gray opens in 1890, in London. 

In the 19 th century, London was the world’s largest city. Living conditions, which had been poor in previous centuries, were improving. The invention of the motor vehicle meant that traffic congestion had increased considerably, leading to the creation of the world’s first local urban rail network. 

The fin de siècle was a decadent time, as is typical in the last years of a culturally vibrant period (La Belle Époque). There was both excitement and despair at the rate of change at the end of the 19th century. 

Lord Henry Wooton’s house is in Mayfair. 

Location of Mayfair on Greater London outline map
GNU Free Documentation LicenseLocation of Mayfair on Greater London outline map - Credit: Deror avi, 30 October 2008

Bordered by Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the east, Piccadilly to the south and Hyde Park to the west, Mayfair was a fashionable residential district. Many of the properties were owned by landlords like the Grosvenor and Rothschild families.

Mayfair was named after the annual two week May Fair that took place in Shepherd Market. The fair moved to Fair Field in Bow in 1764, because the rich residents complained it ‘lowered the tone’ of the neighbourhood. 

 

Mayfair remains one of the most expensive areas of London. The United States embassy is located in Grosvenor Square. The Grosvenor House Hotel (where Lord Henry suggests Basil should send the portrait), the Royal Academy of Arts (which Lord Henry describes as ‘too large and too vulgar’), The Dorchester and Claridge’s are all in Mayfair. The costume balls which Dorian attends at the peak of his revelry take place here.