Did you know that…about writers ?

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Barbara Taylor Bradford received a £17 million advance from Harper Collins in 1992 for her next three novels


Stephen King was offered an advance of £26 million for a three-book deal in 1989


Tom Clancy received $75 million for a two-book deal with Penguin




Edgar Allan Poe was offered $14 for Eureka towards the end of his life, with the proviso that if the book didn’t earn that amount, he had to make up the difference to the publisher. In 1846 he offered to sell the copyright of a collection of his short stories for as little as $50. The offer was rejected.


Thomas Wolfe received only $500 for his massive work Look Homeward, Angel, which works out at about 1 of your English pennies for every 100 words.


Jack London got a $2,000 flat fee for The Call of the Wild in 1903. The book sold so well that he lost upwards of $100,000 by giving up the royalties.


Burnt books


After his death Gerard Manly Hopkins’ final poems were burned on the instructions of his religious order


Copies of John Milton’s books were burned publicly in 1660 because he was critical of Charles II. He went on, of course, to write Paradise Lost, but after he died his widow sold the copyright of it for £8.


When Moliere was in the process of translating Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things, one of his servants casually picked up some of the pages and used them as curl papers for Moliere’s wig. So enraged was Moliere that he threw the rest of the manuscript into the fire.

After his death Sir Richard Burton’s wife Isabel burned his 1,282-page translation of The Perfumed Garden because she objected to its eroticism. Fired up, she went on to destroy 26 of his other books as well, including all his journals and diaries, making a pyre in the back garden of their villa in 1890.


Weird deaths of writers


Sherwood Anderson choked to death on a toothpick


Pietro Aretino literally laughed himself to death at the theatre one night in 1556, falling off his seat and fatally banging his head on the floor


Rainer Maria Rilke died at the age of 51 of blood poisoning after being cut by the thorn of a rose he had picked for a woman he knew


The Cistercian monk and theologian Thomas Merton was electrocuted by a faulty fan in his bedroom while attending a conference on Buddhism in Bangkok.


After death


After D. H. Lawrence died his wife Frieda had his ashes tipped into a concrete mixer and incorporated them into the altar of their private chapel.


After Percy B. Shelley was drowned his wife had his heart preserved. She wrapped it in silk and carried it with her wherever she went.


Hilaire Belloc was so distraught after the death of his wife that he wrote all of his subsequent works on mourning paper.


Roman poet Virgil once held a lavish funeral for his favourite pet fly.


Bizarre conduct


Rudyard Kipling once painted his golf balls red so that he could play in the snow.


One of Alfred Tennyson’s party pieces was imitating a person sitting on a lavatory (top right)


J. M. Barrie always ordered brussels sprouts for lunch but never ate them. When asked the reason for this he replied, “I love saying the words “.


Samuel Beckett said to an actor in one of his plays ( apropos a pregnant silence ): “ You’re playing two dots at the moment; the script says three”.


Brendan Behan put sacks over the windows of a woman he disliked so that when she awoke the next morning she’d think she was blind.


Algernon C. Swinburne outraged the company one day in Chelsea in the house he shared with the painter Rossetti by sliding naked down the banisters.




Aldous Huxley developed eye problems while at Eton which left him virtually blind and prevented him from pursuing a career in science.


Percy B. Shelley, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Dickens, Dr Martin Luther, Alex Pope and Thomas de Quincey all suffered from piles.


Guy de Maupassant hallucinated as a result of the syphilis that finally killed him at the age of 42.


John Ruskin ended up insane and while lecturing at Oxford had to be dragged screaming from the podium.


Dr Sigmund Freud suffered from agoraphobia and siderodromophobia, which is the fear of trains.


James Joyce was terrified of thunder, dogs and firearms.


Extracted from Stranger than fiction( 1999) by Aubrey Dillon Malone




One thought on “Did you know that…about writers ?

  1. Rawdon Crawley

    V.S. Naipaul proposed that some writers should be paid to stop writing. When he judged a story competition he decided that no works judged a first or second prize, but did award a third prize.


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