- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
De Profundis (Dover Thrift Editions) Mass Market Paperback – 21 May 1997
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
Poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (18541900) remains best known for his comedies of the 1890s, includingThe Importance of Being Earnest, and for his tragic imprisonment and untimely death.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
De Profundis, which roughly translated means `out of the depths', is one of Wilde's most serious pieces of prose writing. Anyone looking for the jaunty humour of his popular plays or the quipping of his many quotations will not find them here.
The reader should know this is a slim volume comprising a letter, written from his prison cell, to his erstwhile friend and companion Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), in which Wilde bemoans the treatment he received at the hands of that man. He sets outs a litany of complaints against Douglas not least of which is Douglas' wanton spending of Wilde's money without much thought to thanks or repayment.
However, this is only a part of the letter and by far the least beautiful. The rest is magical and deeply moving. Wilde sets out the progress of his thoughts and emotions as they developed during his prison term of two years hard labour. He tells of the profound despair that took him, the manner in which he dealt with his situation and how he tried to gain something worthwhile and noble from it. He explores such human features as humility, sorrow, hope and emotional progress, and goes on to discuss his feelings towards Christ in some detail, with a lovely exploration of The Passion of Christ.
Such subject matter can make one occasionally pause in sadness, but the manner of his writing, the images he creates and the similes and metaphors he draws can take your breathe away. Wilde himself said of his play Salome (written in French), that it was like a piece of music. At times, De Profundis is like a beautiful and haunting ballad. It echoes with a love of nature, a tortured soul, a deep sadness, but also with hope, crushed but living still. To give one example: Wilde recalls an act of kindness -
' ... It is not a thing for which one can render formal thanks in formal words. I store it in the treasure-house of my heart. I keep it there as a secret debt that I am glad to think I can never possibly repay. It is embalmed and kept sweet by the myrrh and cassia of many tears. When wisdom has been profitless to me, philosophy barren, and the proverbs and phrases of those who have sought to give me consolation as dust and ashes in my mouth, the memory of that little, lovely, silent act of love has unsealed for me all the wells of pity: made the desert blossom like a rose, and brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the
wounded, broken, and great heart of the world.' - just one lovely example of many.
I have learnt more about English composition from De Profundis than from any other single work - even from The Bard himself. Anyone who has a sensitivity to beauty in English prose form, cannot help but be truly enriched by this majestic, magnificent piece of work.
This is Wilde's letter to his former friend Lord Alfred Douglass whose father was the person who brought the charges against Wilde that lead to his prison term. Wild never mentions in detail his relationship with Douglass other than the fact that the latter lived out of his pocket and on the eve of Wilde's bankruptcy and arrest failed to help him.
Wilde's bitterness and sense of unfairness permeates every page of the letter- concentrating on what Douglass cost him both financially and in terms of liberty and finally setting his thoughts down on Jesus Christ. The term "hate blinded you" is constantly declared by Wilde but despite the authors own profusions of love we are left wondering how far Wilde is blinded by hate- or love?
This is a fast read at only eighty pages long but even so Wilde's self pity and sorrow can be exhausting to the reader. De Profundis is brilliant insight into the mind of one of the twentieth century's best love writers but is quite a draining read. Recommended to those who are fans of Wilde but may be too heavy for those with just a casual interest.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Last summer though, I came across this letter by accident and found myself unable to stop reading it until I was done. The glimpse into someone's vulnerable privacy was intoxicating. Having read (and loved) "The Importance of Being Earnest", "The Ideal Husband", and other light pieces, or even "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"--a more somber but still very controlled story, I was shocked by this letter--tortured by emotion and so uneven--by the same author.
The previous reviewer mentioned that he found the letter somewhat contrived. But the insincerity makes it all the more fascinating ! Not even the insincerity in itself, but the bits where the true emotion bursts through. I could imagine so vividly the great author, the person of wit and fashion, stripped of the glamor, in jail, trying to clear up his name in the public letter to his lover. He starts out with calm and controlled prose, trying to put his Christian-repentance-and-forgiveness scheme on paper... And, I am sure, he believes the things he plans to write. However, as he gets deeper into the narrative, as his pen takes a hold of him, he starts writing what he did not mean--the truth, full of bile and unrequited passion. In a while he notices it and collects himself, and the prose becomes controlled and witty and intellectual. But he is in jail, the time for writing is precious and does not permit the luxury of extensive editing. It lets soul nudity that would normally be edited out remain to seduce shamless readers like me.
It is not only the breakaway emotion that I found so compelling in the letter. It is also the very alternating nature of the narrative--from the polished and righteous to the true and base, and back. Is it not how our mind always works: how it thinks what we wish it to think and then breaks away to find something deeper in us, until we catch it and put it back to its proper controlled place...
There is a long and intricate novel hidden in this letter. It is a story of the rise and fall of a great man, of the universally human desire and its treacherous waters, of stoicism and weakness, of the fine society and jailed outcasts, and we see it through the eyes of the main hero who actually lived. It is presented fully on meager ninety pages. Wilde was a genius indeed.
I only very recently read it--and "got" it. It rings true to me, and is very, very moving and "profound." It ain't summer beach reading.
Wilde is still and will probably always be best known as a "Personality"--that and the author of a couple of decent period plays, a short novel, a few stories, and lots of forgettable poems and such. But THIS--THIS is IT.
He really WAS a great writer, it turns out, after all.