If I have any genius instead of talent (see one of the last reviews* a critic gave Edgar Allen Poe), then my luck will not make me rich and famous during my lifetime; as with Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, or George Martin. If I truly have the amazing artistic potential or merit that a true fan might believe, then to the rest of civilization I will most likely end up poor and infamous when I die; as with Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, or HP Lovecraft. In fact I realize I am no better than Henry Darger.
The real-life mystery of the death of Edgar Allen Poe makes clear how art imitates life, and life imitates art. Furthermore, there may be some problems with society, that makes the life of an artist such a torturous hell throughout history. Perhaps artistic and autistic handicaps are more similar than government support allows. Indeed Capitalism itself seems to be the enemy of human rights for those cursed with an excess of artistic mental ‘gifts’.
I create art, books, and music because I can do nothing else as well. For those that doubt whether I have tried to work paying jobs, see my resume. Yes I can socialize, exercise, and invest in the stock market; but none of those guarantee a living wage. I am lucky that I am smart enough to tie my shoes. I am lucky I can walk. I am lucky that I can enjoy food. I am lucky that I am alive, so perhaps the fact that no one can put a price on it, means that perhaps life is priceless. If life is priceless, and if all human life is worth funding to maintain (as many claim), then perhaps we should not only see the worthlessness of critics, but also we the people should contemplate whether government should direct an economy towards these ends?
– Drogo Empedocles
*EAP’s last lecture review was sympathetic to a dying poet “…no other writer in the USA has half the chance to be remembered. Had Mr. Poe possessed talent instead of genius, he might have been a money-making author; but his title to immortality could not be surer than it is.” – Charleston newspaper editor
Edgar Allen Poe – In 1849, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”, according to a stranger who found him. He was taken to a hospital where he died after a few days. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. He is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say that Poe’s final words were “Lord help my poor soul”. All medical records have been lost, including his death certificate. Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism. The actual cause of death remains a mystery. Speculation has included beatings, alcohol poisoning, delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, cholera, and rabies. One theory dating from 1872 suggests that ‘cooping’ was the cause of Poe’s death, a form of electoral fraud of forced voting, sometimes leading to violence and even murder. The author of his critical obituary hated him.
Vincent Van Gogh – suffered fits of despair and hallucination during which he could not work, between long clear months in which he did, punctuated works of extreme visionary ecstasy (like bi-polar). He was often too depressed and unable to write, but he was still able to paint and draw a little. In 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. The bullet was deflected by a rib and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs – probably stopped by his spine. Doctors tended to him as best they could, then left him alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning Theo rushed to his brother’s side, but Vincent was dead within hours resulting from the wound. According to Theo, Vincent’s last words were: “The sadness will last forever”.
HP Lovecraft – Throughout his life, selling stories and paid literary work for others did not provide enough to cover Lovecraft’s basic expenses. Living frugally, he subsisted on an inheritance that was nearly depleted by the time of his last years. He sometimes went without food to afford the cost of mailing letters. Eventually, he was forced to move to smaller and meaner lodgings with his surviving aunt. He was also deeply affected by the suicide of his correspondent Robert E. Howard. In early 1937, Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine, and so suffered from malnutrition. He lived in constant pain until his death in 1937, in Providence, RI.
Henry Darger – Famous only post-humously. Darger’s landlords, came across his work shortly before his death. No one seemed to know or care about his art or writing before, because he kept them secret. His book ‘Realms of the Unreal’ may be the longest book known at over 15,000 pages. He was known as a poor old crazy janitor.