"We have forgotten that water can cleanse, and fire purify, and that the Earth is mother to us all. As a consequence our art is of the moon and plays with shadows..."
De Profundis is an epistle written by Oscar during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol (that be ye olde spelling of jail, the big house, the hoosegow etc). The work was for the eyes of Lord Alfred Douglas, although he isn't mentioned by name. It’s a piece of writing which at times seems almost pitiful, full of both profound realisations and what seems to me to be obvious attempts at self-delusion. It’s also both self-effacing and at times supremely arrogant (although if arrogance was to ever be perceived as a kind of misunderstood virtue there is no one more deserving of it than Wilde). In short, it’s a monologue about the beauty of suffering and about the need for it in order to be born anew.
The religious tones get very heavy at times and it occasionally feels like he is clutching at illusory straws with which to weave himself a basket that he might sail away from the very real hardships into a world of literary flagellation, overseen by Christ as poet, offering salvation through escapism. Two years of eating black bread and scrubbing stone floors would do that to even the sturdiest individual. It offers a very real insight into his mindset during those last years but is perhaps much too gloomy to be of interest to anyone other than Wilde fans.
3½ fruits of experience grow on trees in shadow out of 5