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Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson

November 13, 1850 - December 3, 1894

Stevenson was a novelist, poet, and travel writer.

Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Thomas Stevenson, a successful engineer, and Margaret Balfour. They were both very religious. Robert gave up the religion of his parents whilst at studying at Edinburgh University, but the teaching that he received as a child continued to influence him.

Although ill with tuberculosis from childhood, Stevenson had a full life. He began his education as an engineer (and his lighthouse designs were much praised). At the age of 18 he dropped the name Balfour and changed his middle name from Lewis to Louis (but retaining the original pronunciation); from this time on he began styling himself "RLS". He turned to the law because of poor health, but he never practiced. He ended as a tribal leader (called by his tribe Tusitala) and plantation owner at his residence "Vailima " in Samoa, all this in addition to his literary career.

Stevenson's novels of adventure, romance, and horror are of considerable psychological depth and have continued in popularity long after his death, both as books and as films.

Stevenson died of a brain haemorrhage in Vailima, aged 44. In his will, he bequeathed his birthday to a little girl who had been born on Christmas Day.


 

Vincent van Gogh

March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890

Van Gogh was a Dutch painter, generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history. He produced all of his work (some 900 paintings and 1100 drawings) during a period of only 10 years before he succumbed to mental illness  (possibly bipolar disorder, and committed suicide. He had little success during his lifetime, but his posthumous fame grew rapidly, especially following a showing of 71 of van Gogh's paintings in Paris on March 17, 1901 (11 years after his death). Despite Van Gogh's early-age death, he became a heavily popular painter with extremely popular paintings.

A few of his most famous paintings are Starry Night, a Self Portrait, Sunflowers and the Potato Eater.  He wrote to his brother Theo –

"I realize that these big, long canvases are hard to sell, but later on people will see that there's fresh air and good humour in them."

Vincent van Gogh
Letter 462
Summer, 1887


 

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG  (Order_of_the_Garter), OM (Order_of_Merit), CH (Order_of_the_Companions_of_Honour), FRS (Royal_Society)

November 30, 1874 - January 24, 1965

Churchill was a British politician, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. At various times an author, soldier, journalist, legislator and painter, Churchill is generally regarded as one of the most important leaders in British and world history.

Many attribute some of Churchill’s extraordinary abilities to his being affected
by bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression.  Churchill often referenced the depression he was experiencing, referring to it as “his black dog”.


 

Hermann Hesse

July 2, 1877 - August 9, 1962  

Hesse was a German author, and the winner of the 1946 Nobel Prize in literature. He is most famous for his novels Steppenwolf and Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game).

Hesse's interests in existential, spiritual, and mystical themes and Buddhist and Hindu  philosophy may be seen in his works.  German novelist, poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, whose main theme deals with man's breaking out of the established modes of civilization to find his essential spirit. He was hospitalized and attempted suicide at least once in his life.


 

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay

November 10, 1879 - December 5, 1931

Vachel Lindsay was an American poet born in Springfield, Illinois, known as the "Prairie Troubador."

Lindsay spent much of his life walking across the country, performing and distributing copies of his poetry in exchange for bed and board. Lindsay's poems were very rhythmic, and he performed them almost melodramatically -- chanting, shouting, gesturing, and even singing rather than merely reciting.

Lindsay married Elizabeth Connor in 1925 when he was 45 and she was 23. They had two children, Susan in 1926 and Nicholas in 1927. They settled in Vachel's family home in Springfield in 1929.

The poet's career declined during the 1920s. He began to believe that people were only impressed with his powerful performances, not the poetry itself.

Lindsay became severely depressed as both his creativity and his popularity waned; he committed suicide in 1931 by drinking poison.


 

Virginia Woolf

January 25, 1882 - March 28, 1941

Virginia Woolf was a British author and feminist. Between the world wars, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, Woolf was brought up and educated in a classically Victorian household at 22 Hyde Park Gate. In 1895, following the death of her mother, she had the first of several nervous breakdowns. She later indicated in an autobiographical account, "Moments of Being," that she and her sister, Vanessa Bell had been sexually abused by their half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth. Following the death of her father (Sir Leslie Stephen), a well-known editor and literary critic  in 1904, she and her sister, Vanessa, moved to a home in Bloomsbury, forming the initial kernel for the intellectual circle known as the Bloomsbury group. While nowhere near a simple recapitulation of the coterie's ideals, Woolf's work can be understood as consistently in dialogue with Bloomsbury, particularly its tendency (informed by G.E. Moore, (among others) towards doctrinaire rationalism.

She began writing professionally in 1905, initially for the Times Literary Supplement. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf, a civil servant and political theorist. Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915. She went on to publish novels and essays as a public intellectual to both critical and popular success. Much of her work was self-published through the Hogarth Press. She is hailed as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century and one of the foremost Modernists.

Woolf is considered one of the greatest innovators in the English language. In her works she experimented with stream-of-consciousness, the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters, and the various possibilities of fractured narrative and chronology. She has, in the words of E.M. Forster, pushed the English language "a little further against the dark," and her literary achievements and creativity are influential even today.

On March 28, 1941, Woolf filled her pockets with stones, and drowned herself in the River Ouse, near her home in Rodmell. She left a suicide note for her husband: "I feel certain that I am going mad again: I feel we cant go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness... I can't fight it any longer, I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work" (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, vol. VI, p. 481).


 

Sara Teasdale

August 8, 1884 - January 29, 1933,

Sara Teasdale wasS an American lyrical poet. She was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sara's major themes were love, nature's beauty, and death, and her poems were much loved during the early 20th century. In 1918 she won the Columbia University  Poetry Society prize (the forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the annual prize of the Poetry Society of America for her volume, Love Songs. Her style and lyricism are well illustrated in her poem, Spring Night (1915), from that collection.

On the morning of January 29, 1933, in her New York City apartment, Sara took an overdose of sleeping pills, lay down in a warm bath, fell asleep, and never woke up again. Her last, and some say her finest, collection of verse, Strange Victory, was published posthumously that same year.


 

Cole Porter

June 9, 1891 - October 15, 1964

Cole Porter was an American composer and songwriter. His works include the musical comedies Kiss Me, Kate (1948 (based on Shakespeare 's The Taming of the Shrew, Fifty Million Frenchmen and Anything Goes, as well as songs like "Night and Day," "I Get a Kick Out of You," and "I've Got You Under My Skin." He was noted for his sophisticated lyrics, clever rhymes, and complex forms. Irving Berlin used to refer to "Night and Day" as "that long, long song."


 

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

September 24, 1896-December 21, 1940  

Fitzgerald was a Jazz Age novelist.

Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century. The self-styled spokesman of the "Lost Generation " -- the Americans born in the 1890s who came of age during World War I -- crafted five novels and dozens of short stories that treat themes of youth, despair, and age with remarkable emotional honesty. His heroes -- handsome, confident, and doomed -- blaze brilliantly before exploding ("Show me a hero," he once said, "and I will write you a tragedy"), and his heroines are beautiful, intricate, and alluring.  Fitzgerald himself suffered from bipolar disorder.


 

WILLIAM FAULKNER

September 25, 1897 - July 6, 1962  

Faulkner was a novelist from the Southern United States. Though his works are sometimes challenging or even difficult, he is generally regarded as one of America's most important fiction writers.

William Faulkner wrote works of psychological drama and emotional depth, typically with long serpentine prose and high, meticulously-chosen diction. Like most prolific authors, he suffered the envy and scorn of others

Faulkner was known rather infamously for his drinking problem as well, and throughout his life was known to be an alcoholic (Covering his episodes of depression and mania?)  The American novelist won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1949. He is often lauded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Novels include, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom!

Ernest Hemingway

July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961 

Ernest Hemingway was an American author. He was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho.

The very last years, 1960 and 1961, were marked by severe paranoia. He feared FBI agents would be after him if Cuba turned to the Russians, that the "Feds" (Burgess (9.), p.??) would be checking his bank account, and that they wanted to arrest him for gross immorality and carrying alcohol. (The FBI was in fact surveilling Hemingway due to his activities in Cuba.)

Hemingway was upset by perfectly normal photographs in his Dangerous Summer article. He was receiving treatment in Ketchum for high blood pressure and liver problems - and also electroconvulsive therapy for depression and his continued paranoia.

By all accounts, Ernest Hemingway was a tormented man, much like his father before him, never at ease with himself. Drinking, insomnia, violent outbursts, a sense of dread, perpetual movement and traveling, and great guilt over his own roguish behavior--four wives, many liaisons--marked his personal life. Biographer Kenneth Lynn reports that by the late 1940s, when Papa, as he had long called himself, was in his late forties, "fantasies of suicide thronged his mind, intermingled with fears of insanity."

Helped by his huge physical presence, Hemingway had concocted the myth of his own toughness. "What is more likely the truth of his own odyssey," Norman Mailer has written, "is that he struggled with his cowardice and against a secret lust to suicide all his life, that his inner landscape was a nightmare." Although his own depression wasn't formally diagnosed until his last, paranoid days, because getting professional help went against the Hemingway persona, mental instability and manic-depressive personalities inhabit virtually every branch of the family tree; indeed Hemingway attempted suicide in the spring of 1961, and received treatment again, but this was unable to prevent his suicide on July 2, 1961 - at 5:00 AM, he died as a result of a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head.

He is interred in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho

(In 1996, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would take her own life; and is interred in the same cemetery.)


 

Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby

May 3, 1903 - October 14, 1977

Bing Crosby was a popular American singer and actor whose career spanned multiple generations. His biggest musical hit was his recording of the Irving Berlin classic "White Christmas ", which he first sang in 1942, and which became one of the best-selling recordings of all time. He collected 21 other gold records, including "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Too-Ra-Lo-Ra-Loo-Ral" and "Swinging on a Star". In 1962 he became the first recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His popularity as a singer was matched only by his success as an actor. He appeared in dozens of movies from the 1930s -1960s, and received the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1944.

Crosby was a keen amateur golfer who appeared in many charity events. It was after playing a round of 18 holes at La Moraleja Golf Club outside of Madrid in 1977 that he collapsed and died from a massive heart attack at the age of 73 or 74. Crosby had been married twice (his second wife, actress Kathryn Grant, being considerably younger), and effectively had two families, his children from the marriages being of different generations. After his death, his eldest son from his first marriage, Gary, wrote a controversial memoir (Going My Own Way) depicting him as an autocratic and abusive father. Two of his children, Lindsay and Dennis, committed suicide.

Crosby recorded a version of Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie just one month prior to his death. The duet went on to attain cult status and charted well in countries around the world.

There is some uncertainty about the year in which Bing Crosby was born. Most reference works give his year of birth as 1903, but his gravestone - on the instructions of his family - gives his birth year as 1904.  On his passing, Bing Crosby was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery  in Culver City, California.


 

Burgess Meredith

November 16, 1909 - September 9, 1997

Meredith was an American  actor, perhaps best known for playing the Penguin on the television series Batman. The Penguin's trademark quacking laugh was actually Meredith's attempt to cover up coughing fits, as his part required him to smoke, something he had not done in years. He admitted in an interview it sounded more like a duck  than a penguin.

Meredith played Rocky Balboa 's trainer Mickey in the Rocky film series, and in his twilight years was Jack Lemmon 's character's father in Grumpy Old Men.


 

Tennessee Williams Thomas Lanier Williams

March 26, 1911 - February 25, 1983

Better known by the pen name Tennessee Williams, he was a noted playwright. The nickname "Tennessee" was given to him by schoolmates in St. Louis for his southern accent. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire  in 1948  and for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof  in 1955. Genre critics maintain that Williams writes in the Southern Gothic style. For many years Williams lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana

Tennessee was close to his sister, Rose Williams, who was perhaps the greatest influence on him. She was an elegant, slim beauty who was subject to severe nervous attacks and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Mentally ill and emotionally disturbed, she spent most of her adult life in mental hospitals. After various unsuccessful attempts at therapy, her parents eventually allowed a prefrontal lobotomy in an effort to treat her. The operation, performed in 1943, in Washington, D.C. went badly, and Rose remained incapacitated for the rest of her life.

Rose's failed lobotomy was a hard blow to Tennessee, who never forgave his parents for allowing the operation. It may have been one of the factors that drove him to alcoholism.

In his memoirs, the playwright claims he became sexually active as a teenager; his biographer Lyle Leverich maintained this actually occurred later, in his late 20s. His physical and emotional relationship with his secretary, Frank Merlo, lasted from 1947 until Merlo's death from cancer in 1961, and provided the stability during which Williams produced his most enduring works. Merlo was a balance to many of Williams's depressions, especially the fear that like his sister, Rose, he would become insane. The death of his lover drove Williams into a deep decade-long depression.

Tennessee Williams was the victim of a gay-bashing in January 1979 in Key West, being beaten by five teenaged boys, but was not seriously injured. The episode was part of a spate of anti-gay violence that had occurred after a local Baptist minister ran an anti-gay newspaper ad. Some of his literary critics spoke ill of the "excesses" present in his work, but these were, for the most part, merely attacks on Williams' sexuality.

Tennessee Williams died after he choked on a bottle cap at the age of 71. However, some (among them is Dakin Williams, his brother) believe he was murdered. Alternately, the police report from his death seems to indicate that drugs were involved, as it states that pills were found under his body.


 

Jackson Pollock

January 28, 1912 - August 11, 1956

Pollock was an influential American artist and a major force in the abstract expressionism  movement.

He was born in Cody, Wyoming, and later moved to New York  in 1929, where he studied under Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock moved away from figurative art, and developed techniques of splashing and dripping his paint onto canvas (action painting. Pollock was dubbed "Jack the Dripper" due to his painting style.

Considered a “central figure of American Abstract Expressionism,” Pollock’s art was an engaging collection of textures and lines as he let paint drip onto a canvas which he placed on the floor. Rejecting the need for outward inspiration, Pollock attempted to allow his own unconscious guide his work. The chaotic results reveal a complex soul of interwoven needs.

His primary needs were the usual ones for love and affirmation. Addicted to alcohol and struggling with a bipolar disorder, Pollock was first in a codependent relationship with his brother Sande). Though his codependency mimicked love, its dysfunctional dynamics left Pollock unable to find his way.  Pollock's career was cut short when he died in a car crash in 1956 at the age of only 44.

 

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