Modern Library Classics

De Profundis

Publisher: Modern Library
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.


Preface by Richard Ellmann

De Profundis is a kind of dramatic monologue, which constantly questions and takes into account the silent recipient's supposed responses. Given the place where it was written, Wilde might have been expected to confess his guilt. Instead he refuses to admit that his past...
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1. Richard Ellmann suggests that De Profundis is a love letter, above all else. Does De Profundis follow the conventional form of a love letter? In what specific ways does De Profundis read like a love letter? In what ways does it differ? What makes it romantic?

2. Examine the letter's...

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"Displays the insight, honesty, and unself-conscious style of a great writer."
--W. H. Auden