WHILE THE TWO YEARS he served in prison for having engaged in homosexual acts were very hard on Oscar Wilde, the greatest sorrow he experienced as a result of England’s stepped-up persecution of gay men in the 1890’s was the loss of his two young sons. As he wrote to Alfred Douglas in the text that came to be known as De Profundis:
But my two children are taken from me by legal procedure. That is and will remain to me a source of infinite distress, of infinite pain, of grief without end or limit. That the law should decide, and take upon itself to decide, that I am one unfit to be with my own children is something quite horrible to me. The disgrace of prison is as nothing compared to it. I envy the other men who tread the yard along with me. I am sure that their children wait for them, look for their coming, will be sweet to them.
After his release from prison in 1897, Wilde moved to France. Since homosexual acts were not criminal there, he was able to spend time with Douglas without fear of further legal proceedings; but he never saw his sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, again.