I'm reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and found the phrase "what he saw in it of censure or rebuke" in the context below, difficult to understand. In particular, I don't know what relation the part of "of censure or rebuke" have to the rest of the sentence, and want to know it. I'd appreciate it if you would answer my question.

He took up from the couch the great purple-and-gold texture that covered it, and, holding it in his hands, passed behind the screen. Was the face on the canvas viler than before? It seemed to him that it was unchanged, and yet his loathing of it was intensified. Gold hair, blue eyes, and rose-red lips—they all were there. It was simply the expression that had altered. That was horrible in its cruelty. Compared to what he saw in it of censure or rebuke, how shallow Basil’s reproaches about Sibyl Vane had been!—how shallow, and of what little account!

:quoted from chapter 10 of the novel, which you can read the full text here(https://www.gutenberg.org/files/174/174-h/174-h.htm).

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    The expression of the face in the portrait had changed, and he felt as though it was cruelly rebuking him; much more severely than Basil had done in person. Nov 19, 2021 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


The phrase of censure or rebuke is a modifier of the relative clause what he saw in it, specifically, of that which is referred to by the pronoun what.

He saw something in the expression of the face on the canvas. Its expression was horribly cruel, and it had an element of censure or rebuke that was much deeper than Basil's reproaches about Sybil Vane.

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