Little known by many readers of fiction, Oscar Wilde’s searing, heart-breaking, and introspective letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, made The Guardian’s 2011 list of the 100 greatest non-fiction books, because it is truly great. Although Wilde is famous for The Picture of Dorian Gray and his more successful plays, including The Importance of Being Earnest and Salome, De Profundis embodies an intense sense of emotional, physical and spiritual loss. Written during the time Wilde spent imprisoned in Reading Gaol (Jail), the letter details the history of a tumultuous relationship. It is typical of a letter we have all written, whether by pen or in our minds, in that the composer regrets things he cannot take back. It shows signs of the hand of an impeccable writer in detail, fluidity, and device throughout its ninety-six pages.
From the start, the reader is drawn in and falls helplessly into the moment and surroundings that Wilde found himself in when he wrote the letter. The emotions: empathy and guilt-he hopes to elicit from Douglas cause a chain reaction that only worsens as he makes a well-organized case for how and why their relationship failed him and continues to do so. Words that come difficultly for most people flow for Wilde. He describes his pain and troubled relationship with poetical phrases such as ‘lie in loneliness’ and ‘ancient affection.’ The author expresses sadness and regret, not by merely stating these facts, rather he discusses reasons for his feelings and ideas. Upon reflection, he has several points of dissatisfaction, not only with Douglas, but in his own actions and decisions.