Sally Castle’s beautifully hand-lettered and illustrated edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince sets the story among Reading’s parks, squares, rooflines and churches – the town that’s shaped her and her artwork and where Oscar spent an unhappy period in gaol. This enchanting combination of fairy story with concrete urban reality, a tale of sacrificial love written with a flourish and swirl, turns a simple book into a gem as precious as the large red ruby that glowed on the Prince’s sword-hilt.
With an introduction by Michael Seeney, author and collector of Wilde’s work.
Author: Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Sally Castle. Paperback, 170 x 125 mm, 72 pages, October 2021.
Sally Castle writes:
Oscar Wilde’s story, ‘The Happy Prince’, was originally published in 1888 and is a tale about doing good deeds to help others. I began illustrating it as a personal project and decided to set the story in Reading – the town of my birth and a connection to Oscar through ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’. I’ve portrayed Reading’s buildings in my artwork over many years and designed public artworks that celebrate its built heritage.
After his release, Oscar Wilde was said to have remembered Reading Gaol as a sort of enchanted castle and I’ve depicted it as such in the Happy Prince’s tale. The Prince himself is based on the playing card, Jack of Hearts, who is believed to win his crown through sacrifice for love. I have a reputation for hand lettering and have set the text in a style loosely based on copperplate, written with a pen dipped in Quink ink to give the feel of a sketchbook. Perhaps this is how Oscar wrote it?