Oscar Wilde: Imprisonment & Death
Wilde was released from prison in May 1897. Penniless and disgraced, he moved to France and lived the rest of his life in exile. He immediately reunited with Bosie, though all his friends told him this was a mistake. "Everyone is furious with me for going back to you, but they don't understand us. I feel that it is only with you that I can do anything at all. Do remake my ruined life for me, and then our friendship and love will have a different meaning to the world,"10 he wrote him in a letter. Soon, however, the two men split up.
Wilde wrote a poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," that expressed the despair and shame he felt in prison. Beyond that, he wrote little else. He contracted meningitis and his health failed rapidly. After converting to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed, Oscar Wilde died on 30 November 1900 at the age of 46. He is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, in a tomb now covered with the lipstick kisses of visitors.
During his incarceration at Reading Gaol, Wilde had written Alfred Douglas a long letter that meditated on anger, love and faith. It was published after his death as De Profundis. In it, Wilde reflects on the saga of his own life, and renders a conclusion more heartbreaking than anyone else could.
"I must say to myself that I ruined myself, and that nobody great or small can be ruined except by his own hand. I am quite ready to say so. I am trying to say so, though they may not think it at the present moment. This pitiless indictment I bring without pity against myself. Terrible as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still."11