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De Profundis | Study Guide

Oscar Wilde

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Course Hero. "De Profundis Study Guide." Course Hero. 14 Dec. 2020. Web. 27 Jan. 2023. <>.

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(Course Hero, 2020)



Course Hero. "De Profundis Study Guide." December 14, 2020. Accessed January 27, 2023.


Course Hero, "De Profundis Study Guide," December 14, 2020, accessed January 27, 2023,



Oscar Wilde

Year Published



Primary Source


Autobiography, Memoir

At a Glance

"De Profundis" describes the events that led to Irish writer Oscar Wilde's imprisonment in Reading Gaol. It takes the form of a letter written to Wilde's former friend and lover Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945). It analyzes the issues in their relationship that caused the scandal leading to Wilde's trial and conviction. "De Profundis" also contains Wilde's self-examination and meditations on suffering. Despite the harsh treatment he faced during his trial and prison sentence, Wilde upholds his belief in the transformative power of art. The work was not published until after Wilde's death due to the letter's sensitive content. Brief, censored excerpts from the text were published in 1905 but the text was first published in its entirety only in 1962. "De Profundis" has since come to be recognized as a powerful defense of Wilde's life and influential artistic beliefs.

Perspective and Narrator

"De Profundis" is a letter primarily written in the first-person voice by Oscar Wilde. He frequently uses the second-person voice to directly address the recipient of the letter, Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), who is also known as Bosie.

About the Title

"De profundis" is a Latin phrase meaning "from the depths." It is taken from the first line of Psalm 130 from the Book of Psalms in the Bible. The title was added to the text when it was published after Oscar Wilde's death.


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