‘Colours More Than Sentences’

An exhibition of illustrated editions of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol, curated with Michael Seeney, and held in the 120th anniversary year of the Ballad’s first publication

Opens Wednesday, 14th March 2018 at Berkshire Record Office, Coley Avenue, Reading RG1 6AF.


On 13 February 1898 the first edition of The Ballad of Reading Gaol was published in London. It was attributed to an anonymous author, ‘C.3.3’, which was the cell occupied by the writer Oscar Wilde. Wilde’s poem dealt with his experience of prison as filtered through the death sentence passed on a fellow convict, Trooper Charles Wooldridge, for the murder of his wife, Ellen. ‘Yet each man kills the thing he loves’ is the Ballad’s famous conclusion, and that line and others have inspired artists across the globe to translate the Ballad’s stanzas into imagery. Wilde once remarked to a friend that he liked ‘lines more than words, and colours more than sentences’. Exhibiting the illustrated Ballads means we can enjoy all of these together.

About English Literature at Reading

The Department of English Literature at Reading has been an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching in English Studies for over a hundred years. Our teaching system, with its emphasis on seminars and tutorial work, encourages our students to discuss ideas with tutors and other students in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. All of our students have access to dedicated study advisors; our academic placement scheme and 'professional track' programme provide invaluable preparation for subsequent careers.
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