Dorian Gray's story would have been drastically different had he been granted amnesty for his sins.
Instead he died a deformed, barely human figure, resembling the ugliness of his immoral life.
While the cad Dorian felt no remorse for his evil acts, Harlean Hoffman Vision felt guilty for decades and thought she would be fined thousands of dollars, or even face legal consequences, for a book that was 78 years overdue.
But on Thursday she finally returned a limited-edition copy of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray."
"When I heard about the amnesty, I thought, 'This is it! This is my second chance,'" Vision said.
A second chance the fictional Dorian Gray never had.
For three weeks, ending Sept. 7, the Chicago Public Library system is offering an amnesty that forgives all fines for overdue materials.
Although having the book plagued Vision's conscience for decades, the wrongdoing was not hers. One of her mother's childhood friends checked out the book in 1934 and never returned it. The woman had written "Property of Libby Waller" on one of the book's first pages, ignoring the "Chicago Public Libraries" stamp.
Vision's mother, Sylvia Hoffman, originally from Chicago, somehow obtained the book. When Hoffman died in 1993, Vision, who now lives in Skokie, found the volume in a box in her mother's attic.
The Edinburgh Society in London published a 14-volume set of the writings of Oscar Wilde in 1911, Special Collections librarian Glenn Humphreys said. Only 480 copies of the set were printed, each volume numbered in ink. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was Volume 8.
The library purchased the set for $27.50 and it arrived on Nov. 15, 1917, as is marked in pencil in the book, Humphreys said. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $492.22 today.
It was the 392,456th book to enter the library, according to its accession number, and is assumed to have been well-circulated, Humphreys said. It had been rebound by the library before 1934.
The book includes a copy of a pencil portrait of Oscar Wilde from 1881 that originally belonged to a longtime friend of Wilde's, Robert Ross.
Vision said she never read the book cover to cover, but she does know the story well. When she was 6, her mother took her to see a movie version of the story.
"Half the time, she covered my eyes," Vision said of the dark story that was heavily censored when it was first published in 1890.
The library caps overdue book fines at $10. If it didn't, at its rate of 20 cents a day, a 78-year overdue book like this one would generate a fine of $5,694. That's enough for the library to buy about 284 books, spokeswoman Ruth Lednicer said.
Although the monetary value of the book is small, because it is rebound and heavily used, its historical value is high, Humphreys said.
"It's a neat story," Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon said. "People feel afraid, no matter how many times we tell them all is forgiven. ... But 78 years? It's hard to beat that."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times