A stunning new reading of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis (adapted by Frank McGuinness, from the stage production directed by Mark Rosenblatt) and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, performed by one of Britain's greatest actors
One of the most famous and successful writers of his day, Oscar Wilde was celebrated as much for his flamboyant personality and his prodigious wit as for his provocative essays, touching fairy stories and satirical plays. But in May of 1895, shortly after the premiere of his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, he was sentenced to two years' hard labour for gross indecency after a trial that scandalised Britain, sending shock waves around the world, traumatising homosexuals everywhere and leading, in Britain, to 75 years of oppression of gay men.
Towards the end of the end of his sentence, when he was finally given access to pen and paper, Wilde wrote a long and terrible letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, meditating on their disastrous relationship and the circumstances which led to his incarceration, and on the spiritual journey he had undergone while in the prison. Given the title De Profundis when it was published (in heavily edited form) in 1905, five years after Wilde's death, it is one of the greatest, most far-ranging letters ever written. The distinguished Irish dramatist Frank McGuinness has crystallised its 120 pages into a devastating onslaught on the lover who Wilde believed had destroyed him; by the end, it is quite clear that it is at heart a love letter.
During his imprisonment, Wilde felt intense compassion for his fellow prisoners, which found expression in a number of eloquent letters to newspapers and finally in the great poem he started to write soon after his release, which was finally published anonymously in 1898. With its pounding rhythms and indelible rhyming scheme, The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a searing poetic exploration of the horrors of life in prison,as well as a reflection on that same spiritual transformation that characterised Wilde's time there.
In this brand-new recording,actor, author and director Simon Callow brings his lifelong love of Wilde's work to the fore in these unmissable readings. Fresh from performing a stage production of De Profundis in London and Edinburgh, Callow brings the same energy and passion to this electric performance. Whether you're new to Wilde or well acquainted with his work, this is a must-listen.
Mr Callow's performance in De Profundis originated on stage in a production directed by Mark Rosenblatt.
Includes exclusive bonus introduction by, and interview with, Simon Callow.
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Robert Mighall is a former research fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and has been the editor of the Penguin Classics series. He now works as a consultant and writer in London. His publications include A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction and editions of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.