The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a poem by Oscar Wilde, written in exile in Berneval-le-Grand, after his release from Reading Gaol on 19 May 1897. Wilde had been incarcerated in Reading after being convicted of gross indecency with other men in 1895 and sentenced to two years' hard labour in prison. During his imprisonment, on Tuesday, 7 July 1896, a hanging took place. Charles Thomas Wooldridge had been a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards. He was convicted of cutting the throat of his wife, Laura Ellen, earlier that year at Clewer, near Windsor. He was aged 30 when executed. Wilde wrote the poem in mid-1897 while staying with Robert Ross in Berneval-le-Grand. The poem narrates the execution of Wooldridge; it moves from an objective story-telling to symbolic identification with the prisoners as a whole. No attempt is made to assess the justice of the laws which convicted them, but rather the poem highlights the brutalisation of the punishment that all convicts share. Wilde juxtaposes the executed man and himself with the line "Yet each man kills the thing he loves". Wilde too was separated from his wife and sons. He adopted the proletarian ballad form, and suggested it be published in Reynold's Magazine, "because it circulates widely among the criminal classes - to which I now belong - for once I will be read by my peers - a new experience for me". Wilde entered prison on 25 March 1895, sentenced to two years' hard labour-a punishment that was considered more severe than mere penal servitude. He was first sent, briefly, to Newgate Prison for initial processing, and the next week was moved to Pentonville prison, where "hard labour" consisted of many hours of pointless effort in walking a treadmill or picking oakum (separating the fibres in scraps of old navy ropes), and allowed to read only the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress. Prisoners were not allowed to speak to each other, and, out of their solitary cells, were required to wear a cap with a sort of thick veil so they would not be recognised by other prisoners. A few months later he was moved to Wandsworth Prison, which had a similar regimen. While he was there, he was required to declare bankruptcy, by which he lost virtually all his possessions including his books and manuscripts. On 23 November 1895 he was again moved, to the prison at Reading, which also had similar rules, where he spent the remainder of his sentence, and was assigned the third cell on the third floor of C ward-and thereafter addressed and identified only as "C.3.3.". Prisoners were identified only by their cell numbers and not by name. About five months after Wilde arrived at Reading Gaol, Charles Thomas Wooldridge, a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards, was brought to Reading to await his trial for murdering his common-law wife (and promptly presenting himself and confessing to a policeman) on 29 March 1896; on 17 June, Wooldridge was sentenced to death and returned to Reading for his execution, which took place on Tuesday, 7 July 1896-the first hanging at Reading in 18 years. Wilde was released from prison on 18 May 1897 and he promptly went to France, never returning to Britain. He died in Paris, at the age of 46, on 30 November 1900.