Written from Wilde's prison cell at Reading Gaol to his friend and lover Lord Alfred Douglas, "De Profundis" explodes the conventions of the traditional love letter and offers a scathing indictment of Douglas's behavior, a mournful elegy for Wilde's own lost greatness, and an impassioned plea for reconciliation. At once a bracingly honest account of ruinous attachment and a profound meditation on human suffering, "De Profundis" is a classic of gay literature. Richard Ellmann calls "De Profundis" "a love letter...One of the greatest, and the longest, ever written."
This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition contains newly commissioned notes.
About the Author
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (b. Dublin, 1854) was an Irish playwright, who wrote one of the best loved comedies in the English language - "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895). A leading wit and conversationalist in London society, his career was destroyed at its height when he was imprisoned for homosexual offences. Wilde was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Settling in London, he became famous for his extravagant dress, long hair, and paradoxical views on art, literature, and morality. His first play, "Vera "(1880), a tragedy about Russian nihilists, was produced in New York to poor reviews. Success in the theatre came with the elegant drawing-room comedy "Lady Windermere's Fan". "A Woman of No Importance" (1893) was another success. Other works for the theatre were" An Ideal Husband" (1895) and the biblical "Salom "(1896), written in French for Sarah Bernhardt. Wilde flaunted his homosexual affairs, including his ill-fated liaison with Lord Alfred Douglas. Following a celebrated trial in 1895 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence led to public humiliation, poor health, and bankruptcy. On his release in 1897 he left for France and remained in exile there until his death in 1900.
Richard Ellmann was Goldsmiths Professor at Oxford University and Woodruff Professor at Emory University. He achieved world fame for his biography of Joyce and wrote many scholarly and critical works, including two on Yeats.
"Displays the insight, honesty, and unself-conscious style of a great writer."
--W. H. Auden