The book records the letters that Oscar Wilde wrote from the very beginning of his prison life to almost the very end of his life, including the very famous letter De Profundis, which he wrote to his lover, Alfred Douglas.
It reads really sad after one year of hard prison life Wilde had changed so much. His once passionate love “Never has anyone in my life been dearer than you, never has any love been greater, more sacred, more beautiful…” became the very bitterness like “suffering from the most horrible form of eromomania, which made him forget his wife and children,… his very humanity,…the most revolting passions,…hedious ruin”.
De Profundis reads differently than any other letter in the book. It probably is the best love letter I could ever seen, even though it was not meant to be one. However, I feel a person cannot write such a beautiful, sincere and deep letter if all he had was bitterness.
The first part of the letter is the introspection of their two years relationship. While I was reading, I kept wondering how could Wilde love a person like that so much? Wilde answered himself: "But love does not traffic in a marketplace, nor use a hucksters’ scales. Its joy, like the joy of the intellect, is to feel itself alive. The aim of Love is to love: no more, and no less."
The second part of the letter is the introspection on himself. He said “…the two great turning points of my were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society sent me to prison. …I lived on honeycomb. But to have continued the same life would have been wrong because it would have been limiting.” He repeated again and again “the supreme vice and shallowness. Everything that is realized is right”. I am deeply touched by the strength of humanity: even in the most difficult situation with the saddest heart, we can still find meaning and hope out of it. Wilde’s discussion about love, sorrow, suffering and Christ is extremely sincere and spiritual.
Another reason I like the letter so much is because its introspection is full of compassion to himself and probably only by so then to others. “…one of the things I shall have to teach myself is not to be ashamed of it (note: being the common prisoner of a common gaol). …And if I then am not ashamed of my punishments, as I hope not to be, I shall be able to think, and walk, and live with freedom.” I tend to think only when people fully accept who they are are they able to truly know themselves and share their story in the most sincere way. That’s how I feel in De Profundis, and also what I want to do to myself.
BTW, the language is extremely beautiful. You can see how Wilde’s tone and words varied with different correspondents. The language was powerfully and elegantly controlled. I will read the book again some point later in my life.