There is a similar posting and answers here:

An explanation of the preface in "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Still, I am confused about the expression "The highest as the lowest form". Is it "The highest as well as the lowest"? or "The highest from the lowest"? or other?

Here is the quote and context around it (click to see the context)

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. - Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gutenberg Edition

  • Note that this has some commas that set off "as the lowest" as a parenthetical. – Jim Apr 22 at 6:29
  • @Jim that's interesting. Checked three versions from archive.org and one from my bookshelf. "Uncesonred Dorian Gray ..". One version from archive.org contains the commas. I don't know which one is the original at this moment. Thanks for pointing this out. – msk Apr 24 at 8:30

The phrase "The highest as the lowest form of criticism" means that the highest and lowest forms of criticism (and by implication all the other shades of form between them) share a characteristic: in this case being a mode of autobiography.

It is similar to saying "The highest and lowest forms of criticism are both modes of autobiography" or "...are similar in that they are modes of autobiography". The closer of your two interpretations is "The highest as well as the lowest" but this does not quite encapsulate the idea that both forms of criticism share being a mode of autobiograhy as a fundamental characteristic.

Having said that "A as B are" is certainly not a common idiom. It sounds both stilted and dated and probably sounded a little unusual, if not downright odd, to Wilde's original Victorian readership. Wit though he was he took literature, himself, and his reputation very seriously and is known as The father of Aesthetics because of his involvement in, and development and promotion of, the Aesthetic movement so the use of an unusual turn of phrase is consistent with his general approach to life

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