Here is a note which Oscar Wilde wrote to Warder Martin towards the end of his imprisonment in Reading Gaol. Warder Martin, it will be remembered, was dismissed from his post for having given some sweet biscuits, bought with his own money, to some hungry little children confined in the prison.
Wilde happened to see the children and immediately wrote this note on a scrap of paper and slipped it under his door so that it should catch Warder Martin’s eye as he patrolled the corridor.
Please find out for me the name of A.2.11. Also, the names of the children who are in for the rabbits, and the amount of the fine.
Can I pay this and get them out? If so I will get them out tomorrow. Please, dear friend, do this for me. I must get them out.
Think what a thing for me it would be to be able to help three little children. I would be delighted beyond words: if I can do this by paying the fine tell the children that they are to be released tomorrow by a friend, and ask them to be happy and not to tell anyone.
Here is a second note which shows Oscar’s peculiar sensitiveness; what is ugly and terrible cannot, he thinks, furnish even the subject of art; he shrinks from whatever gives pain.
I hope to write about prison-life and to try and change it for others, but it is too terrible and ugly to make a work of art of. I have suffered too much in it to write plays about it.
A third note simply thanks Warder Martin for all his kindness. It ends with the words:
. . . Everyone tells me I am looking better and happier.
This is because I have a good friend who gives me The Chronicle and PROMISES me ginger biscuits. O.W.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:15