Wilde wrote this book-length letter while he was imprisoned at Reading Gaol for sodomy and gross indecency, in short for homosexual behavior. The letter, whose title means “from the depths,” is addressed to Lord Alfred Douglas. Under advisement from Lord Alfred, Wilde brought libel charges against Lord Alfred’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, who had called Wilde a Sodomite. The whole situation got turned on its head when Queensberry provided proof that his allegations were true, and Wilde ended up in prison. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but Wilde himself discloses the whole history in the letter.
Wilde recounts his whole relationship and history with Lord Alfred in the first half of the letter. It’s gut-wrenching to read, honestly. The relationship is so toxic from the very start, that it’s not so much full of red flags as full of giant red banners pulled by airplanes. Lord Alfred used Wilde for money and fame, and clearly didn’t care about Wilde at all. The best example of this is during a vacation abroad when Lord Alfred came down with the flu and Wilde nursed him back to health: when Wilde himself caught the flu, Alfred straight up left, saying that Wilde was boring when he was sick. Lord Alfred seems a textbook case of narcissist behavior. It broke my heart reading this book and knowing that Wilde was stuck in such an unhealthy relationship.
The latter part of the letter is more uplifting. Here, Wilde discusses his own spiritual growth while in prison. He talks about his suicidal period, yes, but also how he has moved beyond that. He also likens Christ to a poet, perhaps the greatest poet who ever lived. This is the part where Wilde really hits is stride and the beauty of his writing truly shines. Oscar Wilde was posthumously pardoned in 2017.
Review by Jessica A.