The Ballad of C3.3. Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in Reading after being convicted of homosexual offences in 1895 and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. During his imprisonment, he wrote the poem ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ which was published by Leonard Smithers in 1898 under the name C.3.3 which stood for cell block C, landing 3, cell 3. This ensured that Wilde’s name – by then notorious – did not appear on the poem’s front cover. It was not commonly known, until the 7th printing in June 1899, that C.3.3 was actually Wilde.
The Diary of a Madman. Set in St Petersburg at the time of the Czar, Gogol’s black comedy sees the clerk Poprishchin sharpening endless quills for his boss while fantasising wildly about the boss’s daughter. In the insane bureaucratic hierarchy of 19th century Russia, rung after rung stretches above and minion after minion competes below with our poor protagonist whose life is empty of everything but obsessive work and ambition.
Dulce Et Decorum Est. A touching glimpse into the experiences of the soldiers of the first world war. This series of letters from the front powerfully evokes the horrors and emotions of the men who fought and died on the battlefield, focusing on Wilfred Owen’s eternal question, is dying for your country an honour or a curse?