De Profundis (Oscar Wilde's Prison Letters and Memoirs)

De Profundis (Oscar Wilde's Prison Letters and Memoirs)

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by Oscar Wilde
     
 

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De Profundis (Latin: "from the depths") is an epistle written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas. During its first half Wilde recounts their previous relationship and extravagant lifestyle which eventually led to Wilde's conviction and imprisonment for gross indecency. He indicts both Lord Alfred's vanity and his own…  See more details below

Overview

De Profundis (Latin: "from the depths") is an epistle written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas. During its first half Wilde recounts their previous relationship and extravagant lifestyle which eventually led to Wilde's conviction and imprisonment for gross indecency. He indicts both Lord Alfred's vanity and his own weakness in acceding to those wishes. In the second half, Wilde charts his spiritual development in prison and identification with Jesus Christ, whom he characterises as a romantic, individualist artist.

Wilde wrote the letter between January and March 1897, close to the end of his imprisonment. Contact had lapsed between Douglas and Wilde and the latter had suffered from his physical labour and emotional isolation; a new warden thought that writing might be more cathartic than prison labour. Wilde's work was closely supervised and he was not allowed to send the letter, but took it with him upon release, whereupon he entrusted the manuscript to an ex-lover, the journalist Robert Ross, with instructions to have two copies made: one to be sent to the author himself and the other to Douglas. Ross published the letter in 1905, five years after Wilde's death, giving it the title "De Profundis" from Psalm 130. It was an incomplete version, excised of its autobiographical elements; various editions gave more text until 1962 when the complete and correct version appeared in a volume of Wilde's letters.

Wilde's work was written as a prose letter on twenty sheets of prison paper. It contains no formal divisions (save paragraphs) and is addressed and signed off as a letter. Scholars have distinguished a noticeable change in style, tone and content in the latter half of the letter, when Wilde addresses his spiritual journey in prison. In the first part, Wilde examines the time he and Lord Alfred had spent together, from 1892 until Wilde's trials in the spring of 1895. He examines Lord Alfred's behaviour and its detrimental effect on Wilde's work, and recounts Lord Alfred's constant demands on his attention and hospitality. Poignancy builds throughout this section as Wilde details the expenses of their sumptous dinners and hotel-stays, many costing over £1,000; it culminates in an account of Douglas's rage in Brighton whilst Wilde was ill. Though he was a constant presence at Wilde's side their relationship was intellectually sterile. Throughout Wilde's self-accusation is that he acceded to these demands instead of placing himself within quiet, intellectual company dedicated to the contemplation of beauty and ideas, but instead succumbed to an "imperfect world of coarse uncompleted passions, of appetite without distinction, desire without limit, and formless greed". This passage concludes with Wilde offering his forgiveness to Douglas. He repudiates him for what Wilde finally sees as his arrogance and vanity; he had not forgotten Douglas's remark, when he was ill, "When you are not on your pedestal you are not interesting."

Back ground to his imprisonment begins In 1892, when Wilde began an intimate friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, a young, vain aristocrat. As the two grew closer, family and friends on both sides urged Wilde and Douglas to lessen their contact. Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, often feuded with his son over the topic. Especially after the death of his eldest son, the Viscount Drumlanrig, Queensberry privately accused them of improper acts and threatened to cut off Lord Alfred's allowance. When they refused, he began publicly harassing Wilde. In early 1895 Wilde had reached the height of his fame and success with his plays An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest on stage in London. When Wilde returned from holidays after the premieres, he found Queensberry's card at his club with the inscription: "For Oscar Wilde, posing sodomite". He was later imprisoned for his homosexual activities.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940015515299
Publisher:
Balefire Publishing
Publication date:
10/15/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
175
File size:
8 MB

Meet the Author

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams and plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment which was followed by his early death.

Wilde's parents were successful Dublin intellectuals. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States of America and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art", and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, Wilde had become one of the most well-known personalities of his day.

At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, prosecuted for libel, a charge carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison. The trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years' hard labour. In prison he wrote De Profundis (written in 1897, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
October 16, 1854
Date of Death:
November 30, 1900
Place of Birth:
Dublin, Ireland
Place of Death:
Paris, France
Education:
The Royal School in Enniskillen, Dublin, 1864; Trinity College, Dublin, 1871; Magdalen College, Oxford, England, 1874

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De Profundis 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
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Missing the beginning and the end of the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story depicts the feelings of Oscar Wilde while imprisoned. Read is repetative and mostly correlates his feelings to the arts and religion.
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