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the ballad of reading gaol by oscar wilde illustrated by arthur wragg

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde ; Illustrated by Arthur Wragg


London : Castle Press, 1948. First impression, Thus. Hardcover. 63 pages ; illustrated ; 23 cm. 8 shilling dust jacket with minimal wear. Owner name on flyleaf. Otherwise, a gently used copy with firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.


This ballad, which is at the same time a personal confession of the deepest sincerity, reveals a completely new facet of Wilde's character. He is here far removed from the world of flippant and frivolous social comedy. His prison experiences brought him into contact with a world so different and so at variance with his former life that he might have been expected to hold himself entirely aloof. But, on the contrary, Wilde was filled with compassion for his fellow-prisoners—''each in his separate hell—and with indignation at the system of punishment—and particularly capital punishment.

Both this personal aspect of the poem and its artistic qualities are emphasized and given fresh meaning in the black and white drawings of Arthur Wragg. In intimate liaison with the text, they express the same intense pity for human suffering, tempered by a concern for what is also beautiful. This union of style and deep feeling has produced a series of drawings that will be treasured by all lovers of art and all connoisseurs of Wilde.

Arthur Wragg has also contributed an introduction dealing with the origin of the poem. His account is based on contemporary records and includes a description of a recent visit to Wilde's cell at Reading Gaol.

THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL is the Second Volume in the Castle Press Edition of the Works of Oscar Wilde.

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