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Children in Prison

Oscar Wilde

Book Overview: 

This is a letter that Oscar Wilde wrote about the cruel treatment of children in prisons after a prison guard was dismissed from his post for feeding a starving child.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Sir,—I learn with great regret, through an extract from the columns of your paper, that the warder Martin, of Reading Prison, has been dismissed by the Prison Commissioners for having given some sweet biscuits to a little hungry child. I saw the three children myself on the Monday preceding my release. They had just been convicted, and were standing in a row in the central hall in their prison dress, carrying their sheets under the arms previous to their being sent to the cells allotted to them. I happened to be passing along one of the galleries on my way to the reception room, where I was to have an interview with a friend. They were quite small children, the youngest—the one to whom the warder gave the biscuits—being a tiny little chap, for whom they had evidently been unable to find clothes small enough to fit. I had, of course, seen many children in prison during the two years during which I was myself confined. Wandsworth Prison, especially, contain. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A heartfelt letter written by Oscar Wilde to the editor of a London newspaper wherein he calls up attention to the way children and mentally challenged prisoners are treated in English prisons. The letter is deeply moving and appeals to the sympathy of the reader. It is interesting to note that W...more

"Children in prison and other cruelties of prison life" is a letter that Oscar Wilde wrote to the editor of the London Daily Chronicle after a warder (guard) in the prison in Reading (one of the prisons where Wilde himself was incarcorated) was dismissed after having fed a starving child that was...more

Incredible scenes in English prisons--children under 14 incarcerated? He does not say what were their "crimes". Other contributors here did fine reviews.

In most of the biographies I have read (most recently David M. Friedman's fun "Wilde in America"), Oscar Wilde is portrayed as a man utterly broken by his prison experience. This letter to the editor shows that despite illness and hardship he had quite a bit of bite left in him.

Save for a few par...more

None can read this book without quivering, and having the highest contempt for authority.

“What is inhuman in modern life is officialism. Authority is as destructive to those who exercise it as it is to those on whom it is exercised."

“A child can understand a punishment inflicted by an individual...more

"Wherever there is centralisation there is stupidity"

A sad short story telling us how cruelties of prison life are.

``People nowadays do not understand what cruelty is. They regard it as a sort of terrible mediavel passion, and connect it with the race of men like Eccelin da Romano, and others, t...more