Special Edition of “The Importance of Being Earnest” Sold at Auction


An edition of “The Importance Of Being Earnest” given by Oscar Wilde to the governor of the prison in which he was held has been sold for £55,000. Wilde sent the book, one of a run of 100 special copies, to Major James Nelson, governor of Reading Gaol during the time of his incarceration for gross indecency. Nelson had allowed his famous prisoner access to books. The edition was inscribed: ”To Major Nelson: from the author. A trivial recognition of a great and noble kindness. Feb, 99.”

Wilde was found guilty in May 1895 and transferred to Reading in November. By July of the following year, Major Ingram had taken over and allowed Wilde to not only read, but to begin writing once more. He also gave him back the manuscript to “De Profundis” on his release which ordinarily would have been retained by the prison. Following his release in May 1897, Wilde wrote “The Ballad Of Reading Gaol” which was published the following year.




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