The next day Lord Henry goes to visit his Uncle, an old nobleman with all the traits and hypocrisies typical of the English. His Uncle imagines that Henry has come to him wanting money, but Henry is interested in gaining some information instead, about Dorian Gray. He knows that the boy has come from the Devereux family and that his Uncle will surely know them.
The deviousness of Henry exceeds the playful, carefree interest he showed in Dorian at first. The way he is snooping into Dorian’s past, as if to discover the origin of his beauty, makes it seem like the boy is something of an obsession to him as well as to Basil.
It turns out Uncle George knew Dorian’s mother very well. He describes her as unusually good-looking. However, her marriage to Dorian’s father was fraught with disaster, he was beneath her in social status and her disapproving father arranged for him to be killed. The whole scandal was hushed up. Uncle George imagines that Dorian has inherited quite a lot of money and property. He hopes that Dorian will fall into good hands, remembering what an awful presence his grandfather Kelso had. From what Uncle George says, it seems that Lady Devereux was the most beautiful girl in the country, and had every nobleman wanting to marry her. They discuss unsuitable marriages for a while, George having heard that one of their friends is to marry an American.
The struggle of beauty against evil influence has been going a long time. The connection of Dorian to a familial lineage creates a story behind Dorian’s attractiveness and romantic, innocent nature that brings him somewhat down to earth. He appeared earlier as a kind of mythic figure, like a work of art, but now with parentage and genes explaining his beauty, he has become more real. The link between extreme beauty and misfortune reminds us of Henry’s warning to Dorian, and its evidence in history makes the threat all the more pressing.
Henry leaves to visit Aunt Agatha, who George berates for her incessant philanthropy. Leaving the old man to his grumbling, Lord Henry thinks about Dorian’s story as he walks to his Aunt’s house. He is now fascinated by the romance of Dorian’s origins. He remembers how impressionable Dorian had been listening to Henry’s ideas, how he was visibly moved by his curiosity. The possibilities of influence upon him seemed limitless. Lord Henry also thinks about Basil, and finds the whole story of secret influences and affections very exciting. He vows to make himself a part of it and become a kind of muse to Dorian.
The story of Dorian Gray, just like Basil’s picture, has elevated the boy to heroic, fictional status. To influence such a character would be an even bigger deal now, connecting Henry to the glamorous history of the Devereux ancestors. The uncaring outlook of Henry’s need to influence is illuminated here, as is the attractiveness of art and art’s ability to smooth and beautify life’s tragedies.
Lord Henry realizes he has missed his Aunt’s house in his distracted state. When he eventually arrives, the guests, including Dorian, are seated. Henry observes the crowd, summing each one up for his or her class and quirks. The Duchess of Harley brings up the marriage of their friend to the American girl. The Duchess mourns the increase in competition for eligible bachelors. One of the gentlemen compliments Americans for being a reasonable people. This sets Henry off. He detests reason as a virtue. Aunt Agatha scolds Henry for always being puzzling with his paradoxical arguments. She tells him off for trying to make Dorian leave the East End – she thinks Dorian should play the piano for the unhappy people there. The table begins a discussion of how to solve the East End’s poverty. Henry does not sympathize, claiming to prefer philosophy to philanthropy and doesn’t want to see the world changed in any way.
People in this society exist in categories of class, wealth, nationality, and these categories in turn are predetermined stereotypes, like the preconceived national identity of "American" tarnishing all Americans. We see beneath the surface of Lord Henry’s strongly-held beliefs: when the topic turns to something serious, he refuses to acknowledge it or pretends that it is not important. It seems that everybody is somewhat caught in this spell, Aunt Agatha believing that music will solve everything. Art and artfulness trumps politics.
The Duchess is on Henry’s side; he makes her feel a lot better about her mistakes and guilty pleasures. Henry tells her that the way to stay youthful is to always relive and repeat one’s mistakes. They are the only unregrettable things. Gathering momentum, Henry masterfully plays with his argument, running linguistic circles around his audience. Dorian observes him at work and is fascinated.
Henry’s art is his conversation. His artfulness seems to describe the nature of life, but in reality it merely covers up the ugliness of it by transforming ugliness into a desirable thing. The way Henry becomes wilder and more frantic and full of words, suggests to us that language is to him what the painting becomes to Dorian—it is his addiction.
Eventually, the party dissolves, agreeing to meet again soon. One of the lot, Mr. Erskine, tells Henry that he should write a book, but Henry does not have literary ambitions, he enjoys reading too much. Once he has ensured Lord Henry’s company for another occasion in order to continue the explanation of his strange opinions, Mr. Erskine departs. Lord Henry decides to head to the park. Dorian wishes to follow, even though he has made a prior engagement to visit Basil. Henry can’t promise him any more talking but says he may accompany him, and “look at life” for a while.
Henry acts and observes and comments as if preparing for a major work of literature or philosophy but since he believes that Life is the best form of art, he is stuck in an inactive life. The only way his views survive is by passing them on to his friends and prodigies—through influence.