Oscar Wilde cell key valued at up to $7,500

The key to Oscar Wilde's cell at Reading Gaol is one of the most intriguing lots to head to auction this year.

It will cross the block at Sotheby's in London on December 13, with a valuation of £4,000-6,000 ($5,040-7,561).


Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for gross indecency in 1895

Wilde was sentenced to two years for gross indecency after an affair with the son of avowed homophobe Sir John Sholto Douglas in 1895.

Douglas accused Wilde of soliciting sodomy, a charge that Wide denied and took Douglas to court over. This backfired spectacularly and Wilde found himself facing down a two year sentence.

Prison in the 19th century was a tough place - particularly for gay men. But thanks to a sympathetic warden in Reading, Wilde was provided with pen and paper.

It was here that he wrote De Profundis (From the Depths), a letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas that is considered by many to be his greatest work.  

This key opened all the doors in cell block C, where Wilde was held (in cell C.3.3).

Other items associated with Wilde's time in prison have sold well in the past.

A copy of his play The Importance of Being Earnest, signed to the aforementioned warden, achieved £55,000 ($69,208) last year.

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