What Does The Title "De Profundis" Mean?


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Will Martin answered
This Latin phrase means "from the depths, and originally comes from the Bible. Oscar Wilde used it as the title of his long letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, or "Bosie," while he was serving a prison sentence in Reading Gaol for homosexuality. It was not published in full until after his death.

Much of the letter is a bitter accusation against Douglas, whom Wilde accuses of dragging him into his own family feuds and ruining his life in the process (his prison sentence was the end result of a libel action that he had brought – egged on by a vindictive Douglas – against the latter's father, the Marquess of Queensberry.) He exclaims that Douglas was never worthy of the love Wilde gave him; but this leads him into a long dicussion on the nature of human and divine love, and the letter ends on a note of reconciliation. In fact the two men were eventually reunited after Wilde left prison, though their relationship was never happy.

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