You are on page 1of 135

OSCAR WILDE

(1854-1900)
I have nothing to declare
except my genius!

Oscar Wilde three days


before his death in Hotel
dAlsace, Paris
Some said my life
was a lie but I
always knew it to
be the truth; for
like the truth it
was rarely pure and
never simple.

Oscar Wildes Paradoxes


I am not young enough to know everything.
A thing is not necessarily true because a
man dies for it.
Do you really think it is weakness that
yields to temptation? I tell you that there
are terrible temptations which it requires
strength, strength and courage to yield to.
Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

Women are made to be loved, not to


be understood.
It is absurd to have a hard and fast
rule about what one should read and
what one shouldn't. More than half
of modern culture depends on what
one shouldn't read.

Women, as someone says, love with their


ears, just as men love with their eyes, if
they ever love at all.
It is better to be beautiful than to be
good, but it is better to be good than to
be ugly.
Nothing looks so like innocence as an
indiscretion.

Women have a wonderful instinct


about things. They discover
everything except the obvious.
To the philosopher women represent
the triumph of matter over mind,
just as men represent the triumph of
mind over morals.

The soul is born old, but grows young.


That is the comedy of life. The body
is born young, and grows old. That is
life's tragedy.
Men become old, but they never
become good.
I like men with a future and women
with a past.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has


a future.
Men marry because they are tired; women,
because they are curious; both are
disappointed.
Experience is the name everyone gives to
their mistakes.
A cynic is a man who knows the price of
everything and the value of nothing.

Men become old, but they never become


good.
Rich bachelors should be heavily taxed. It
is not fair that some men should be
happier than others.
Every good man nowadays has his disciples,
and it is always Judas who writes the
biography.

One should always be in love. This is


the reason one should never marry.
I can resist anything except
temptation.
We are all in the gutter, but some of
us are looking at the stars.
There is no sin except stupidity.

To lose one parent may be regarded as a


misfortune; to lose both looks like
carelessness.
Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are
better.
One can always be kind to people about
whom one cares nothing.
Illusion is the first of all pleasures.

In all matters of opinion, our adversaries


are insane.
Bad manners make a journalist.
It is a very sad thing that nowadays
there is so little useless information.
One should always play fairly when one
has the winning cards.

Selfishness is not living as one wishes


to live, it is asking others to live as
one wishes to live.
The English public take no interest in a
work of art until it is told that the
work in question is obscene.
Genius is born, not paid.

She wore far too much rouge last


night and not quite enough clothes.
That is always a sign of despair in a
woman.

Brilliant talker, poet, writer and aesthete,


Oscar Wildes destiny was often compared
to that of Byron; both had troubled family
histories, both were wild in heart and
temperament, both liked to shock the
surrounding world with their manners and
behavior, both displayed the same
discontent for their contemporary codes
of moral and social conduct.

Both Oscar Wilde and Byron were followed


by scandals in their lives, both were cruelly
judged by the British law and both were
considered unworthy for burial in
Westminster Abbey. Like Byron, Oscar
Wilde travelled abroad to visit and lecture;
unlike Byron, Oscar Wilde did not take
part passionately in the events of his time.

Oscar Fingal OFlahertie


Wills Wilde
was born in Dublin on October 16, 1854, the
son of Dr. William (later Sir William)
Wilde, a surgeon, and Jane Francesca
Elgee, who liked to call herself Speranza,in
order to associate herself with Dante
Alighieri and the Italian aristocracy, from
which she believed she was descended.

Wilde Family
home on
Merrion
Square

Merrion Square House


and Merion Square

Lady Jane Wilde


She also instilled in
Wilde a love of
paradox.Lady Jane
Wilde was an affected
lady, who passionately
defended the idea of
Irish liberty.

William Wilde

In 1864, Wilde was knighted, but his


reputation suffered severely when Mary
Travers, a long-term patient of his and the
daughter of a colleague, brought a case
against him, accusing him of having raped her
while she was anaesthetised under
chloroform. Oscar Wilde later recalled the
incident and blamed his father not for
bending the rules of ethics but for the vulgar
publicity the event had caused.

As a young boy, Oscar Wilde was


encouraged by both parents to sit among
such visitors asJohn Ruskin - later an
influential teacher and friend at Oxford
-and fetch books for his father, or amuse
adults with his stories.

Portora Royal School


At the age of 9
nine, Wilde was
sent to the Portora
Royal School, which
some years later
also cultivated
Samuel Beckett.

Wilde and his mother were very


superstitious people, and Wilde claimed to
have been visited by both his mother and
his wife on the eve of their deaths,
although on both occasions he was
separated by many miles.

This immersion in the supernatural


had an impact on Wildes stories,
particularly Dorian Gray and Lord
Arthur Saviles Crime, in which the
protagonist is driven to absurd
distraction by the prediction of a
white-knuckled fortune-teller.

He was also influenced in this stage by


Speranzas memory of her uncle Charles
Maturin, an early author in the horrorfantasy genre - and a source of great
pride for the family - and by Bram
Stoker (author of Dracula), who was a
frequent guest at Merrion Square.

Between 18711874, Wilde studied


classics at Trinity College, Dublin, and
then at Magdalen College, Oxford
(18741878), where in 1878 he won the
Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna.

Wilde became
devoted to
Aestheticism during
his Oxford Years,
when he also started
to create his image
and his cult by
wearing long hair and
dressing quite
peculiarly.

At a time when mens fashion favored dark


suits and classical ties, Wilde covered his
fingers with flashy rings, wore a huge bow
for a tie, and carried a cane for effect. He
dressed in white pants with matching
gloves, patent leather shoes, and a jacket
accessorized with a contrasting
handkerchief in the breast pocket.

His Oxford peers considered him


silly and insulted him, but his new
look succeeded in putting him at the
center of attention, which was what
he wanted.

Wilde cultivated good taste by decorating


his rooms lavishly with sunflowers, lilies,
peacock feathers, objects of art and blue
china, and, just like many Oxford students,
he found his pleasures with the local
prostitutes. Wilde was unlucky and fell ill
with syphilis.

Even though no effective treatment


had been discovered, his doctors
tried their best. They subjected him
to repeated doses of mercury, which
probably did the bacteria little harm
but did turn his teeth black.

The philosophical foundations of


Aestheticism were formulated in the 18th
century by Immanuel Kant, who spoke for
the autonomy of art. Art was to exist for
its own sake, for its own essence or beauty.

The artist was not to be concerned


about morality or utility or even the
pleasure that a work might bring to its
audience. Aestheticism was supported
in Germany by Goethe and in England by
Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas
Carlyle.

Decadent writers used the slogan Art for


Arts Sake (Lart pour lart), first used by
Benjamin Constant in 1804. Victor Cousin
popularized the words that became a
catch-phrase for Aestheticism in the
1890s. French writers such as Thophile
Gautier and Charles Pierre Baudelaire
contributed significantly to the movement.
Such writers asserted that there was no
connection between art and morality.

The artists and writers of the Aesthetic


movement tended to hold that the Arts
should provide refined sensuous pleasure,
rather than convey moral or sentimental
messages. They believed that Art did not
have any didactic purpose; it must only be
beautiful.

The Aesthetes developed the cult of


beauty, which they considered the basic
factor in art. Life should copy Art, they
asserted. The main characteristics of the
movement were: suggestion rather than
statement, sensuality, massive use of
symbols, and synaesthetic effects i.e.
association between words, colours and
music.

Wilde was especially influenced as a


college student by the works of the
English poet and critic Algernon
Charles Swinburne and the American
writer Edgar Allan Poe.

The English essayist Walter Pater, an


advocate of art for arts sake, helped to
form Wildes humanistic aesthetics in
which he was more concerned with the
individual, the self, than with popular
movements like Industrialism or Capitalism.
Art was not meant to instruct and should
not concern itself with social, moral, or
political guidance.

Like Baudelaire, Wilde advocated freedom


from moral restraint and the limitations of
society. This point of view contradicted
Victorian convention in which the arts were
supposed to be spiritually uplifting and
instructive. Wilde went a step further and
stated that the artists life was even more
important than any work that he produced;
his life was to be his most important body
of work.

Wilde published his first work in verse,


Chorus of Cloud-Maidens, in the Dublin
University Magazine in November 1875.
A loose translation of songs from
Aristophanes The Clouds, the work
indicates Wildes interest in the classics.

His father died in 1876 and left the


family with a lot of debts and little
money. In 1878 he graduated from
Oxford and his mother moved to London
and established her Salon inChelsea.

To add to his problems, he was


disappointed in love by Florence Balcombe
- one of the three most beautiful
Victorian women - when she broke off the
relationship without telling him and
marriedBram Stoker. Wilde confessed
that he enjoyed the drama of his role as
the abandoned lover.

Florence Balcombe
the two sweet
years the sweetest
years of all my
youth Oscar Wilde

In 1881 Wilde published Poems, a volume


that was immensely successful. The poems
in the volume demonstrate eclectic
interests, numerous and very different
influences, attempting to reconstitute the
beauty of the details of spiritual life.

Requiescat, the poem he dedicated to his


sisters memory, Isola, who died of
meningitis at the age of 9, and whose
death affected him profoundly,
demonstrates in simple words the poets
inability to separate himself from his
sister.

Requiescat
Tread lightly, she is near All her bright golden
hair
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and
The daisies grow
fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as
snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy
stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear


Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

The success of the Poems led to a


lecture tour in the United States in
1882 which helped his fame. He found
himself in a interesting position: he was
famous and idolized in both UK and USA
on account of a single volume of Poems,
which were not very original.

In all his public appearances Wilde, who


proclaimed himself a disciple of Pater,
displayed a flamboyant aestheticism that
did much to increase his fame. Wilde
returned to the United States in 1883 in
order to attend an unsuccessful New York
production of his play Vera, written the
year before.

Vera, Wildes first play, and the first to


be performed, is a melodramatic
tragedyset inRussiaand is loosely based
on the story ofVera Zasulich, a maid in
her fathers tavern, situated on a road to
the prison camps in Siberia. Vera becomes
the top assassin of a group of Nihilists.

After a series of twisted events, she


is given the mission to kill the Tsar,
whom she has fallen in love with.
Instead, she stabs herself and dies
melodramatically claiming she has
saved Russia.

In 1880, an attempt was made for the


play to be performed in England, but it
never materialized. The first ever
public performance was in New Yorkin
1883 at the Union Square Theatre
based on revisions made by Wilde while
lecturing in America in 1882.

On May 29, 1884, at the age of 29,


after moving to London, he married
Constance Mary Lloyd, whom with he
enjoyed a horrible marriage and
Wilde ignored his two children.

Constance Lloyd and her


son Cyril in 1889

Constance, Wildes wife, died April 7, 1898.


They had two sons, Cyril (born June 5,
1885) and Vyvyan (born November 5,
1886). Wildes wife changed her name and
that of her sons to Holland in September
1895 because of her husbands trials and
imprisonment. Between 1887-1889, Wilde
was editor forWomans Worldmagazine,
and was less productive creatively.

In 1887 Wilde began The Portrait of Mr.


W. H, which he published inBlackwoods
Edinburgh Magazinein July 1889. It is a
short story, which advances the theory
that Shakespeares sonnets were written
out of the poets love of the boy actor
Willie Hughes.

The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a


volume of fairy tales written for his two
sons, appeared in 1888. Interpreted as
tales for children The Happy Prince and
Other Tales fully demonstrate the fact
that Wilde was still inconsistent in his
aesthetic thinking.

Oscar Wilde was trying to find, in the


surrounding world, the elements which
constitute the principle of beauty,
eliminating those of good and evil. In The
Happy Prince and Other Tales Wilde
proves unable to separate the notions of
good and beauty which coincide in the
volume.

The tales bring into light the moral values


of human existence; the Prince sacrifices
himself and dies trying to give humankind a
bit of happiness, suffering being caused in
here not by an aspiration for beauty but by
painful poverty. Being clearly influenced by
Andersen, Oscar Wilde recreates the
image of beauty, which he finds
symbolically only in statues.

His tales tackle fundamental issues


for social existence, highlight human
beings who need first and foremost
goodness, doubled by beauty, and
praise elementary ethical virtues such
as devotion, friendship, modesty and
human solidarity.

The Prince cries when seeing the pain


of his former fellow human beings;
Hans the hero in The Devoted Friend,
defends the ideal of friendship even if
he has to sacrifice himself and The
Remarkable Rocket demonstrates that
pride has a terrible price.

The Happy Prince and Other Tales was


followed by his only novel, The Picture of
Dorian Gray, which appeared in
Lippincotts Magazine in 1890 and in book
form in 1891. Also in 1891, Wildes play
The Duchess of Padua was produced in
New York under another title and
anonymously, without much success.

Wildes essay The Soul of Man under


Socialism, a plea for artistic freedom,
appeared in 1891, as did Intentions,
containing the critical dialogues The Decay
of Lying and Pen, Pencil and Poison, The
Critic as Artist; The Truth of Masks, Lord
Arthur Saviles Crime and Other Stories ;
and another collection of fairy tales, The
House of Pomegranates.

The Decay of Lying


An Observation
first published in January 1889.
Wilde called it a trumpet against the
gate of dullness in a letter to Kate
Terry Lewis. The dialogue, which
Wilde felt was his best, takes place
in the library of a country house in
Nottinghamshire.

The participants are Cyril and Vivian,


which were the names of Wildes sons
(the latter spelled Vyvyan). Almost
immediately, Vivian advocates one of
the doctrines of Wildes Aestheticism:
Art is superior to Nature.

Nature has good intentions but cant carry


them out, it is crude, monotonous, and
lacking in design when compared to Art.
According to Vivian, man needs the
temperament of the true liar with his
frank, fearless statements, his superb
irresponsibility, his healthy, natural
disdain of proof of any kind.

Artists with this attitude will not be


bound by sterile facts but will be
able to tell beautiful truths that
have nothing to do with fact.

Aestheticism, as summed up by
Vyvyan, has four doctrines:
1. Art never expresses anything but
itself;
2. All bad art comes from returning to
Life and Nature, and elevating them
into ideals;
3. Life imitates Art far more than Art
imitates Life;
4. Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue
things, is the proper aim of Art.

Pen, Pencil and Poison.


A Study in Green
first published in January 1889. It is
a biographical essay on the notorious
writer, murderer, and forger Thomas
Griffiths Wainewright, who used the
pen name Janus Weathercock.

Wilde asserts that Wainewrights criminal


activities reveal the soul of a true artist.
The artist must have a concentration of
vision and intensity of purpose that
exclude moral or ethical judgment. The
artist often will conceal his identity behind
a mask, but Wilde maintains that the mask
is more revealing than the actual face.

Disguises intensify the artists


personality. Life itself is an art, and the
true artist presents his life as his finest
work. Wilde, who attempted to make this
distinction in his own life through his
attempts to re-create himself, includes
this theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Critic as Artist


the longest of the essays in Intentions,
first appeared in two parts (July and
September 1890) with the significant
title, The True Function and Value in
Criticism; With Some Remarks on the
Importance of Doing Nothing: A Dialogue.

It is considered to be a response to
Matthew Arnolds essay The Function of
Criticism at the Present Time (1865).
Arnolds position is that the creative
faculty is higher than the critical. The
central thesis of Wildes essay is that the
critic must reach beyond the creative
work that he considers.

The setting of the dialogue is a library in a


house in Londons Piccadilly area overlooking
Green Park, and the principal characters are
Gilbert and Ernest. Along with the central
theme of the importance of the critic,
Gilbert advocates the significance of the
individual. The man makes the times; the
times do not make the man.

Further, he advocates that sin is an


essential element of progress. Sin
helps assert individuality and avoid
the monotony of conformity. Rules of
morality are non-creative and, thus,
evil.

The Truth of Masks A Note on Illusion


first appeared in May 1885 under the
title Shakespeare and Stage Costume.
The essay originally was a response to an
article written by Lord Lytton in
December 1884, in which Lytton argues
that Shakespeare had little interest in
the costumes that his characters wear.

Wilde takes the opposite position. More


important within the context of
Intentions, Wilde himself always put great
emphasis on appearance and the masks, or
costumes, with which the artist or
individual confronts the world. Wilde also
raises the question of self-contradiction.

For in art there is no such thing as a


universal truth. A Truth in art is that whose
contradictory is also true. And just as it is
only in art-criticism, and through it, that we
can apprehend the Platonic theory of ideas,
so it is only in art-criticism, and through it,
that we can realise Hegels system of
contraries. The truths of metaphysics are
the truths of masks.

The Soul of Man Under


Socialism

first appeared in
February 1891. In it,
Wilde expresses his
Aesthetics primarily
through the emphasis
that the essay places on
the individual. In an
unusual interpretation of
socialism, Wilde believed
that the individual would
be allowed to flourish
under the system.

He thus warns against tyrannical rulers


and concludes that the best form of
government for the artist is no
government at all. In this essay, its easy
to see that Wilde loved to shock. While
Wilde wouldnt want to be accused of
sincerity, he was certainly devoted to
Aestheticism in his life as well as his art.

The Picture of Dorian


Gray
- the tale of a hedonistic Adonis
with the tormented soul of a satyr first appeared in Lippincotts
Magazine, June 1890. Revised and
extended in book form, published by
Ward, Lock and Company, April 1891.

Dorian is a beautiful young man who


attracts men and women alike. One day
while Basil Hallward, a painter who is
fascinated with Dorian, paints his portrait,
Dorian wishes that he might retain his
beauty, and that his portrait should bear
the marks of age in his stead. His wish is
miraculously granted, and he lives a life
devoted to beauty and pleasure at the
expense of the men and women who are
irresistibly attracted to him.

Dorian faces his


portrait in the
1945 "The Picture
of Dorian Gray", a
notable adaptation
of the novel

As Dorian ages, he realizes that the


portrait bears not just the marks of age,
but reveals his narcissistic soul in hideous
detail and he hides it under cover in a
locked room. At the books climax, Dorian
shows the portrait to Hallward, but he
cant stand to have his ugly interior
exposed, so he kills the painter.

The book ends when Dorian stabs the


portrait in a fit of rage and then dies
because the painting no longer
represents him, but has become his
wicked soul.

Ivan Albright The Picture of


Dorian Gray, oil on canvas 1943

Sources and influences

The Greek ideal of beauty, particularly


male beauty, seen in the myth of
Narcissus (Ovid) (Echo pursues Narcissus
without success, Narcissus falls in love
with his reflected image in the waters,
dies) -Narcissus in Art(includes
psychological analysis of narcissistic
personality disorder);
the myth of Adonis

Faust legends-Faustby Goethe (1790)


(man makes pact with the devil, selling his
soul in exchange for earthly pleasures);
The Castle of Otrantoby Horace Walpole
(1764);
Family Portraits by Jean Baptiste Benoit
Eyries (1812);
Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats
(beauty is truth, truth beauty, the credo
of aestheticism);

Melmoth the Wandererby Charles Maturin


(Wildes mothers uncle) (1820) (includes
the painting of an ancestor who made a
deal with the devil, lives 150 years without
aging, then suddenly ages and dies);
Le Peau de Chagrinby Honore de Balzac
(1831) (Raphael receives a talisman (asss
skin) that grants all his wishes, self
indulgence follows and the skin shrinks
gradually);

The Oval Portrait (1845) and William


Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe;
The Renaissance: Studies in Art and
Poetryby Walter Pater (1878);
Theophile Gautier and the French
symbolists;

A Reboursby Huysmans (1884) (the


protagonist Des Esseintes retreats from
the philistine real world, creates a world
of artifice and decadent self-indulgence in
his house )
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydeby Robert Louis
Stevenson (1887) (classic double-sided
personality story)

Sources from which Wilde drew for


his novel include the Faust legend and
the Narcissus myth from Ovids
Metamorphoses.

Critics cite various sources for the


changing portrait motif. One is that the
writer sat for a painter named Basil Ward,
who, after finishing the portrait, remarked
that it would be delightful if Wilde could
remain as he was while the picture aged.

However, there is no historical


indication that Wilde ever sat for a
Basil Ward. Another version of this
story links the concept of a portrait
aging to a Canadian artist named
Frances Richards.

Some critics remarked that the


politician and novelist Benjamin Disraeli
(1804-81) anonymously published a book
called Vivian Grey in the 1820s and
that this novel anticipates Wildes work.

Themes

corrupting influence; decadence; dandies;


new hedonism, carpe diem, Epicureanism;
relationship of art and morality/ethics;
narcissism; vanity; aestheticism (art for
arts sake); the doppelganger or double, the
secret double life, the gothic imagination,
poisonous books; Victorian gothic obsession
with evil, guilt, repression, conscience;

beauty and truth; scientific materialism


and determinism (world of sensation);
realism vs. romanticism;
physiognomy (the belief that appearance
reveals character), art and truth,
appearance versus essence,

public image-private shame, split self,


morality and immorality, youth,
experience, moral depravity, manipulation,
self-discovery, the dual nature of man, sin
and redemption.

Like his novels antihero, Dorian Gray,


Wilde did not understand identity as
a thing simple, permanent, reliable,
and of one essence but as a
succession of masks and guises to be
put on and taken off as he desired.

Wilde first found theatrical success


with his play Lady Windermeres Fan
A Play about a Good Woman (1892),
which combined social observation
with a witty, epigrammatic style.

The story features Lady Windermere, who


discovers that her husband may be having
an affair with another woman. She
confronts her husband but he instead
invites the other woman, Mrs Erlynne, the
woman with a past, to his wifes birthday
ball.

Angered by her husbands unfaithfulness,


Lady Windermere intends to leave her
husband and run away, thus repeating Mrs
Erlynnes (her mothers) mistake. After
discovering that, Mrs Erlynne follows Lady
Windermere and attempts to persuade her
to return to her husband and in the course
of this, Mrs Erlynne is discovered in a
compromising position.

It is then revealed Mrs Erlynne is


Lady Windermeres mother, who
abandoned her family twenty years
before the time the play is set. Mrs
Erlynne sacrifices herself and her
reputation in order to save her
daughters marriage.

This formula was pursued successfully


in the plays that followed, including A
Woman of No Importance (1893), An
Ideal Husband (1895), and The
Importance of Being Earnest (1895).

A Woman of No
Importance (1893)
is a play about money, innocence and past
secrets that are revealed to affect the
present. The main theme is the secrets of
the upper-classes: Lord Illingworth discovers
that the young man he has employed as a
secretary is in fact his illegitimate son, a
situation similar to the central plot of Lady
Windermeres Fan. Secrets would also affect
the characters ofThe Importance of Being
Earnest.

A Woman of No
Importance (1893)

An Ideal Husband (1895) is a comedy


set in London, revolving around such
topics as past sins, redemption,
blackmail, political corruption, public and
private honour, and the position of
women in society.

The Importance of Being


Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for
Serious People (1895),
the most popular of Wildes plays, is a
comedy in which the protagonists maintain
fictitious person in order to escape social
obligations. The play is a satire of society,
repeatedly attacking Victorian customs and
traditions, marriage and love.

Salom- A Tragedy in
One Act,
published in French in 1893, is a tragedy
about religion and human nature, which tells
the story of Salome, the stepdaughter of
the Herod Antipas, who, to her
stepfathers dismay butmothers delight,
asks for the head of Jokanaan (John the
Baptist) on a silver platter as a reward for
dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils.

The play was translated into English by


Lord Alfred Douglas in 1894 and
performed in Paris by Sarah Bernhardt in
1896, after being denied a license in
England for depicting biblical characters.

Lord Alfred, whom Wilde had first met


in 1891, was Wildes lover, and their
relationship so disturbed the Marquess
of Queensberry, Lord Alfreds father,
that he publicly insulted Wilde on
several occasions beginning in 1894.

Oscar Wilde and


Lord Alfred
Douglas

Lord Alfred
Douglas, Bossie,
in 1903

This prompted Wilde to bring a charge of


criminal libel against Lord Queensberry, but
the suit was dismissed, and Wilde, after two
trials, was imprisoned for homosexual
offenses in 1895. In prison, where he
remained for two years, Wilde wrote a
letter to Lord Alfred that was partially
published in 1905 as De Profundis. It
contained his own justification for his
conduct.

De Profundis is an epistle written by


Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas.
Wildes work was closely supervised and
he was not allowed to send the letter, but
took it with him upon release, and he gave
the manuscript to the journalist Robert
Ross who published it in 1905 giving it its
present title from Psalm 130.

Beginning of
De Profundis
Suffering is one very long moment.
We cannot divide it by seasons.

Last Paragraph

All trials are trials for ones life, just as all sentences are
sentences of death; and three times have I been tried. The
first time I left the box to be arrested, the second time to be
led back to the house of detention, the third time to pass into
a prison for two years. Society, as we have constituted it, will
have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose
sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the
rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I
may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so
that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and
send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to
my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter
herbs make me whole.

After his release in


1897, Wilde went to
France, where he
published The Ballad
of Reading Gaol
(written 1897),
inspired by his prison
experiences.

The Reading Gaol


Published anonymously
(under the name C.3.3.,
indicating Wildes prison
number) on February 13,
1898, the poem was
reprinted the same
month. Seven editions
had been published by
June 1899, when Wildes
name first appeared on
the poem.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1897) is


dedicated to the memory of the
Royal Horse Guards trooper, Charles
Thomas Wooldridge, and the central
incident is Wooldridges execution
for the murder of his wife.

Wildes best-known poem,The Ballad of


Reading Gaol (1898), inspired by his twoyear imprisonment, is his most didactic
work, one that emerged from the clash of
various styles, as he himself said: The poem
suffers under the difficulty of a divided
aim in style. Some is realistic, some is
romantic: some poetry, some propaganda.

Nevertheless, its force remains


undisputed, and its skill in telling the
story of the last days of a Royal Horse
Guards trooper who killed his wife and
who was sentenced to hang evokes the
central theme of this deeply felt poem,
which echoes Wildes own selfdestruction:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

The autobiographical element is made


clear in Wildes pun on his own name
and societys exposure of Wildes own
double life - the successful married
writer leading the a subterranean life:

And all the woe that moved him so


That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the bloody
sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves


By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,


And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,


Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

In exile, he adopted the name Sebastian


Melmoth, taken from Charles Robert
Maturins gothic romance Melmoth the
Wanderer.

Wilde died of cerebral meningitis on


November 30, 1900, penniless, in a cheap
Paris hotel at the age of 46 and was buried
inCimetire de Bagneuxoutside Paris; in
1909 his remains were disinterred and
transferred toPre Lachaise Cemetery, in
a tomb designed by Sir Jacob Epstein.

Oscar Wildes Tomb in Pere


Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Oscar Wilde

Everything is going to be
fine in the end.
If it's not fine,
it's not the end.