Free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook. This is a letter written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas. During its first half Wilde. Note that later editions of De Profundis contained more material. De Profundis was written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading. De profundis by Oscar Wilde; 72 editions; First published in ; Subjects: Correspondence, In Library, Accessible book, English literature.
|Language:||English, Spanish, French|
|Genre:||Science & Research|
|ePub File Size:||15.47 MB|
|PDF File Size:||14.66 MB|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Regsitration Required]|
De Profundis by Oscar Wilde. De Profundis Suffering is one very long moment . We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle. Project Gutenberg · 59, free ebooks · 65 by Oscar Wilde. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde. No cover available. Download; Bibrec. De Profundis (Latin: "from the depths") is a letter written by Oscar Wilde Wilde wrote the letter between January and March , close to the.
In , Wilde's son Vyvyan Holland published the full text, but used a faulty typescript bequeathed to him by Ross. It is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an irremediable wrong. But to Christ it was not so. At Christmas I managed to get hold of a Greek Testament, and every morning, after I had cleaned my cell and polished my tins, I read a little of the Gospels, a dozen verses taken by chance anywhere. Of course there are many things of which I was convicted that I had not done, but then there are many things of which I was convicted that I had done, and a still greater number of things in my life for which I was never indicted at all.
Times 19th century. De Profundis June 20, , Book Jungle. De Profundis November 20, , Filiquarian. De Profundis August 1, , Aegypan. De Profundis July 1, , Aegypan. De Profundis November 30, , Dodo Press.
De Profundis , NuVision Publications. De Profundis , Fictionwise, Inc. De Profundis: De profundis , Modern Library. De profundis , Overlook Press. De profundis , Dover Publications. Readers waiting for this title: De profundis , Musson. De profundis , Folio Society. De Profundis August 1, , Avon Books. De profundis , Meulenhoff. De profundis. De profundis , Philosophical Library. De profundis: With an introd. De profundis , Methuen. De profundis , The Modern library.
De Profundis , Methuen. Epistola in carcere et vinculis , S. De profundis , S. De profundis , G. Putnam's Sons. De profundis , Putnam's. My nature is seeking a fresh mode of self-realisation. That is all I am concerned with. And the first thing that I have got to do is to free myself from any possible bitterness of feeling against the world.
I am completely penniless, and absolutely homeless. Yet there are worse things in the world than that. I am quite candid when I say that rather than go out from this prison with bitterness in my heart against the world, I would gladly and readily beg my bread from door to door.
If I got nothing from the house of the rich I would get something at the house of the poor. Those who have much are often greedy; those who have little always share. I would not a bit mind sleeping in the cool grass in summer, and when winter came on sheltering myself by the warm close-thatched rick, or under the penthouse of a great barn, provided I had love in my heart. The external things of life seem to me now of no importance at all. Of course I know that to ask alms on the highway is not to be my lot, and that if ever I lie in the cool grass at night-time it will be to write sonnets to the moon.
When I go out of prison, R—— will be waiting for me on the other side of the big iron-studded gate, and he is the symbol, not merely of his own affection, but of the affection of many others besides.
I believe I am to have enough to live on for about eighteen months at any rate, so that if I may not write beautiful books, I may at least read beautiful books; and what joy can be greater?
After that, I hope to be able to recreate my creative faculty. But were things different: And I really shall have no difficulty. When you really want love you will find it waiting for you. I need not say that my task does not end there. It would be comparatively easy if it did. There is much more before me.
I have hills far steeper to climb, valleys much darker to pass through. And I have to get it all out of myself. Neither religion, morality, nor reason can help me at all. Morality does not help me. I am a born antinomian. I am one of those who are made for exceptions, not for laws. But while I see that there is nothing wrong in what one does, I see that there is something wrong in what one becomes.
It is well to have learned that.
Religion does not help me. The faith that others give to what is unseen, I give to what one can touch, and look at. My gods dwell in temples made with hands; and within the circle of actual experience is my creed made perfect and complete: When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: Every thing to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith. It has sown its martyrs, it should reap its saints, and praise God daily for having hidden Himself from man.
But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must be nothing external to me. Its symbols must be of my own creating. Only that is spiritual which makes its own form.
If I may not find its secret within myself, I shall never find it: Reason does not help me. It tells me that the laws under which I am convicted are wrong and unjust laws, and the system under which I have suffered a wrong and unjust system. But, somehow, I have got to make both of these things just and right to me.
I have got to make everything that has happened to me good for me. There is not a single degradation of the body which I must not try and make into a spiritualising of the soul. I want to get to the point when I shall be able to say quite simply, and without affectation that the two great turning-points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society sent me to prison.
I will not say that prison is the best thing that could have happened to me: What is said, however, by myself or by others, matters little. The important thing, the thing that lies before me, the thing that I have to do, if the brief remainder of my days is not to be maimed, marred, and incomplete, is to absorb into my nature all that has been done to me, to make it part of me, to accept it without complaint, fear, or reluctance.
The supreme vice is shallowness. Whatever is realised is right. When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else — the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver — would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy.
It is no less than a denial of the soul. For just as the body absorbs things of all kinds, things common and unclean no less than those that the priest or a vision has cleansed, and converts them into swiftness or strength, into the play of beautiful muscles and the moulding of fair flesh, into the curves and colours of the hair, the lips, the eye; so the soul in its turn has its nutritive functions also, and can transform into noble moods of thought and passions of high import what in itself is base, cruel and degrading; nay, more, may find in these its most august modes of assertion, and can often reveal itself most perfectly through what was intended to desecrate or destroy.
The fact of my having been the common prisoner of a common gaol I must frankly accept, and, curious as it may seem, one of the things I shall have to teach myself is not to be ashamed of it. I must accept it as a punishment, and if one is ashamed of having been punished, one might just as well never have been punished at all.
Of course there are many things of which I was convicted that I had not done, but then there are many things of which I was convicted that I had done, and a still greater number of things in my life for which I was never indicted at all. And as the gods are strange, and punish us for what is good and humane in us as much as for what is evil and perverse, I must accept the fact that one is punished for the good as well as for the evil that one does.
I have no doubt that it is quite right one should be. It helps one, or should help one, to realise both, and not to be too conceited about either. And if I then am not ashamed of my punishment, as I hope not to be, I shall be able to think, and walk, and live with freedom. Many men on their release carry their prison about with them into the air, and hide it as a secret disgrace in their hearts, and at length, like poor poisoned things, creep into some hole and die.
It is wretched that they should have to do so, and it is wrong, terribly wrong, of society that it should force them to do so. Society takes upon itself the right to inflict appalling punishment on the individual, but it also has the supreme vice of shallowness, and fails to realise what it has done.
It is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an irremediable wrong. I can claim on my side that if I realise what I have suffered, society should realise what it has inflicted on me; and that there should be no bitterness or hate on either side.
Of course I know that from one point of view things will be made different for me than for others; must indeed, by the very nature of the case, be made so. The poor thieves and outcasts who are imprisoned here with me are in many respects more fortunate than I am. The little way in grey city or green field that saw their sin is small; to find those who know nothing of what they have done they need go no further than a bird might fly between the twilight and the dawn; but for me the world is shrivelled to a handsbreadth, and everywhere I turn my name is written on the rocks in lead.
For I have come, not from obscurity into the momentary notoriety of crime, but from a sort of eternity of fame to a sort of eternity of infamy, and sometimes seem to myself to have shown, if indeed it required showing, that between the famous and the infamous there is but one step, if as much as one.
Still, in the very fact that people will recognise me wherever I go, and know all about my life, as far as its follies go, I can discern something good for me. It will force on me the necessity of again asserting myself as an artist, and as soon as I possibly can.
If I can produce only one beautiful work of art I shall be able to rob malice of its venom, and cowardice of its sneer, and to pluck out the tongue of scorn by the roots. And if life be, as it surely is, a problem to me, I am no less a problem to life. People must adopt some attitude towards me, and so pass judgment, both on themselves and me. I need not say I am not talking of particular individuals.
The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: Nor am I making any demands on life. In all that I have said I am simply concerned with my own mental attitude towards life as a whole; and I feel that not to be ashamed of having been punished is one of the first points I must attain to, for the sake of my own perfection, and because I am so imperfect.
Then I must learn how to be happy. Once I knew it, or thought I knew it, by instinct. It was always springtime once in my heart. My temperament was akin to joy. I filled my life to the very brim with pleasure, as one might fill a cup to the very brim with wine.
Now I am approaching life from a completely new standpoint, and even to conceive happiness is often extremely difficult for me. I knew the church condemned accidia , but the whole idea seemed to me quite fantastic, just the sort of sin, I fancied, a priest who knew nothing about real life would invent.
I had no idea that some day this would become to me one of the greatest temptations of my life. While I was in Wandsworth prison I longed to die.
It was my one desire. When after two months in the infirmary I was transferred here, and found myself growing gradually better in physical health, I was filled with rage. I determined to commit suicide on the very day on which I left prison. After a time that evil mood passed away, and I made up my mind to live, but to wear gloom as a king wears purple: Now I feel quite differently. I see it would be both ungrateful and unkind of me to pull so long a face that when my friends came to see me they would have to make their faces still longer in order to show their sympathy; or, if I desired to entertain them, to invite them to sit down silently to bitter herbs and funeral baked meats.
I must learn how to be cheerful and happy. The last two occasions on which I was allowed to see my friends here, I tried to be as cheerful as possible, and to show my cheerfulness, in order to make them some slight return for their trouble in coming all the way from town to see me. It is only a slight return, I know, but it is the one, I feel certain, that pleases them most.
I saw R—— for an hour on Saturday week, and I tried to give the fullest possible expression of the delight I really felt at our meeting. And that, in the views and ideas I am here shaping for myself, I am quite right is shown to me by the fact that now for the first time since my imprisonment I have a real desire for life.
There is before me so much to do, that I would regard it as a terrible tragedy if I died before I was allowed to complete at any rate a little of it.
I see new developments in art and life, each one of which is a fresh mode of perfection. I long to live so that I can explore what is no less than a new world to me. Do you want to know what this new world is? I think you can guess what it is. It is the world in which I have been living. Sorrow, then, and all that it teaches one, is my new world. I used to live entirely for pleasure. I shunned suffering and sorrow of every kind. I hated both. I resolved to ignore them as far as possible: They were not part of my scheme of life.
They had no place in my philosophy. They were the lines which that noble Queen of Prussia, whom Napoleon treated with such coarse brutality, used to quote in her humiliation and exile; they were the lines my mother often quoted in the troubles of her later life. I absolutely declined to accept or admit the enormous truth hidden in them. I could not understand it. I remember quite well how I used to tell her that I did not want to eat my bread in sorrow, or to pass any night weeping and watching for a more bitter dawn.
I had no idea that it was one of the special things that the Fates had in store for me: But so has my portion been meted out to me; and during the last few months I have, after terrible difficulties and struggles, been able to comprehend some of the lessons hidden in the heart of pain.
Clergymen and people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery. It is really a revelation. One discerns things one never discerned before. One approaches the whole of history from a different standpoint.
What one had felt dimly, through instinct, about art, is intellectually and emotionally realised with perfect clearness of vision and absolute intensity of apprehension. I now see that sorrow, being the supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of all great art.
What the artist is always looking for is the mode of existence in which soul and body are one and indivisible: Of such modes of existence there are not a few: Music, in which all subject is absorbed in expression and cannot be separated from it, is a complex example, and a flower or a child a simple example, of what I mean; but sorrow is the ultimate type both in life and art. Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous.
But behind sorrow there is always sorrow. Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask. Truth in art is not any correspondence between the essential idea and the accidental existence; it is not the resemblance of shape to shadow, or of the form mirrored in the crystal to the form itself; it is no echo coming from a hollow hill, any more than it is a silver well of water in the valley that shows the moon to the moon and Narcissus to Narcissus.
Truth in art is the unity of a thing with itself: For this reason there is no truth comparable to sorrow. There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth. Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.
More than this, there is about sorrow an intense, an extraordinary reality. I have said of myself that I was one who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age.
There is not a single wretched man in this wretched place along with me who does not stand in symbolic relation to the very secret of life. For the secret of life is suffering. It is what is hidden behind everything. I remember talking once on this subject to one of the most beautiful personalities I have ever known: On the occasion of which I am thinking I recall distinctly how I said to her that there was enough suffering in one narrow London lane to show that God did not love man, and that wherever there was any sorrow, though but that of a child, in some little garden weeping over a fault that it had or had not committed, the whole face of creation was completely marred.
I was entirely wrong. She told me so, but I could not believe her. I was not in the sphere in which such belief was to be attained to. Now it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world. I cannot conceive of any other explanation. I am convinced that there is no other, and that if the world has indeed, as I have said, been built of sorrow, it has been built by the hands of love, because in no other way could the soul of man, for whom the world was made, reach the full stature of its perfection.
Pleasure for the beautiful body, but pain for the beautiful soul. When I say that I am convinced of these things I speak with too much pride. Far off, like a perfect pearl, one can see the city of God. And so a child could. But with me and such as me it is different. One can realise a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long hours that follow with leaden feet. And, though at present my friends may find it a hard thing to believe, it is true none the less, that for them living in freedom and idleness and comfort it is more easy to learn the lessons of humility than it is for me, who begin the day by going down on my knees and washing the floor of my cell.
For prison life with its endless privations and restrictions makes one rebellious. One sometimes feels that it is only with a front of brass and a lip of scorn that one can get through the day at all. And he who is in a state of rebellion cannot receive grace, to use the phrase of which the Church is so fond — so rightly fond, I dare say — for in life as in art the mood of rebellion closes up the channels of the soul, and shuts out the airs of heaven.
This New Life, as through my love of Dante I like sometimes to call it, is of course no new life at all, but simply the continuance, by means of development, and evolution, of my former life.
And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom. Failure, disgrace, poverty, sorrow, despair, suffering, tears even, the broken words that come from lips in pain, remorse that makes one walk on thorns, conscience that condemns, self-abasement that punishes, the misery that puts ashes on its head, the anguish that chooses sack-cloth for its raiment and into its own drink puts gall: And as I had determined to know nothing of them, I was forced to taste each of them in turn, to feed on them, to have for a season, indeed, no other food at all.
I did it to the full, as one should do everything that one does. There was no pleasure I did not experience. I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine.
I went down the primrose path to the sound of flutes. I lived on honeycomb. But to have continued the same life would have been wrong because it would have been limiting. I had to pass on. The other half of the garden had its secrets for me also. Of course all this is foreshadowed and prefigured in my books.
It could not have been otherwise. Art is a symbol, because man is a symbol. It is, if I can fully attain to it, the ultimate realisation of the artistic life. For the artistic life is simply self-development.
Humility in the artist is his frank acceptance of all experiences, just as love in the artist is simply the sense of beauty that reveals to the world its body and its soul. In Marius the Epicurean Pater seeks to reconcile the artistic life with the life of religion, in the deep, sweet, and austere sense of the word.
But Marius is little more than a spectator: I see a far more intimate and immediate connection between the true life of Christ and the true life of the artist; and I take a keen pleasure in the reflection that long before sorrow had made my days her own and bound me to her wheel I had written in The Soul of Man that he who would lead a Christ-like life must be entirely and absolutely himself, and had taken as my types not merely the shepherd on the hillside and the prisoner in his cell, but also the painter to whom the world is a pageant and the poet for whom the world is a song.
Nor is it merely that we can discern in Christ that close union of personality with perfection which forms the real distinction between the classical and romantic movement in life, but the very basis of his nature was the same as that of the nature of the artist — an intense and flamelike imagination.
He realised in the entire sphere of human relations that imaginative sympathy which in the sphere of Art is the sole secret of creation. He understood the leprosy of the leper, the darkness of the blind, the fierce misery of those who live for pleasure, the strange poverty of the rich. His whole conception of Humanity sprang right out of the imagination and can only be realised by it. What God was to the pantheist, man was to Him.
He was the first to conceive the divided races as a unity.
Before his time there had been gods and men, and, feeling through the mysticism of sympathy that in himself each had been made incarnate, he calls himself the Son of the one or the Son of the other, according to his mood.
More than any one else in history he wakes in us that temper of wonder to which romance always appeals.
There is still something to me almost incredible in the idea of a young Galilean peasant imagining that he could bear on his own shoulders the burden of the entire world; all that had already been done and suffered, and all that was yet to be done and suffered: I had said of Christ that he ranks with the poets.
That is true. Shelley and Sophocles are of his company. But his entire life also is the most wonderful of poems. When one contemplates all this from the point of view of art alone one cannot but be grateful that the supreme office of the Church should be the playing of the tragedy without the shedding of blood: Yet the whole life of Christ — so entirely may sorrow and beauty be made one in their meaning and manifestation — is really an idyll, though it ends with the veil of the temple being rent, and the darkness coming over the face of the earth, and the stone rolled to the door of the sepulchre.
One always thinks of him as a young bridegroom with his companions, as indeed he somewhere describes himself; as a shepherd straying through a valley with his sheep in search of green meadow or cool stream; as a singer trying to build out of the music the walls of the City of God; or as a lover for whose love the whole world was too small.
His miracles seem to me to be as exquisite as the coming of spring, and quite as natural. Renan in his Vie de Jesus — that gracious fifth gospel, the gospel according to St.
And certainly, if his place is among the poets, he is the leader of all the lovers. He saw that love was the first secret of the world for which the wise men had been looking, and that it was only through love that one could approach either the heart of the leper or the feet of God. And above all, Christ is the most supreme of individualists.
Humility, like the artistic, acceptance of all experiences, is merely a mode of manifestation. He compares it to little things, to a tiny seed, to a handful of leaven, to a pearl. I bore up against everything with some stubbornness of will and much rebellion of nature, till I had absolutely nothing left in the world but one thing.
I had lost my name, my position, my happiness, my freedom, my wealth. I was a prisoner and a pauper. But I still had my children left. De Profundis and Other Writings. Penguin Classics, Cap XIII, 2: Hamilton Fyfe, Loeb Classical Library. William Heinemann Ltd. Harvard University Press, What prevents Sophocles from being put on the same level with Christ or, in other words, what exalts Christ towards an artistically superior category?
His whole conception of humanity sprang right out of the imagination and can only be realised by it. What God was to the pantheist, man was to him. He was the first to conceive the divided races as a unity. Not at all. The artist not only grasps the everlasting Idea, taking it as the form in order to model the bare and shapeless matter9, but he also surpasses the very same Idea, so that he creates and incarnates it in fact.
VI, The Decay of Lying. But I should underline now that, once again in the case of O. Indeed, the fictitious protagonists of his tragedies —he himself remains excluded, of course-, leaving aside that they inherit a congenital impurity, are implicitly accused because of their true incapacity to incarnate real suffering, and thus to become a valid reference as having been certainly lived and represented.
But Sophocles did create all of these and, although they are not the result of his sole imagination, they were presented by him as an artistic and beautiful image which, once it is contemplated, effects in its turn the purification of similar passions. Human suffering becomes incarnate and is made an image in them, i.
Indeed, he celebrates the will, talent and genius that he showed, thus becoming himself the image of Aestheticism, so that, mutatis mutandis, he tends to appreciate similar skills in other people or to regret the lack of them. We must not be afraid of such a phrase. Every single work of art is the fulfilment of a prophecy: Every single human being should be the fulfilment of a prophecy: To sum up, what really counts is the stimulus that Jesus himself represented for others to develop their own imagination, i.
When one contemplates all this from the point of view of art alone one cannot but be grateful that the supreme office of the Church should be the playing of the tragedy without the shedding of blood… and it is always a source of pleasure and awe to me to remember that the ultimate survival of the Greek chorus, lost elsewhere to art, is to be found in the servitor answering the priest at Mass… Yet the whole life of Christ -so entirely may sorrow and beauty be made one in their meaning and manifestation- is really an idyll, though it ends with the veil of the temple being rent, and the darkness coming over the face of the earth, and the stone rolled to the door of the sepulchre.
Gaunt, , p. After all, it might even seem that these last reflections of mine are already the result of a wrong choice. In spite of the coldness that is peculiar to any analysis, the former very often more detectable when the latter aims at being objective, by no means should I want to go the wrong way. Wilde himself, just as the tragic human experience, i. Christ, through some divine instinct in him, seems to have always loved the sinner as being the nearest possible approach to the perfection of man.
His primary desire was not to reform people, any more than his primary desire was to relieve suffering… in a manner not yet understood of the world he regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holy things and modes of perfection Therefore, Christ was essential for Wilde. It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.