Cover image for Final drafts : suicides of world-famous authors
Final drafts : suicides of world-famous authors
Seinfelt, Mark.
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Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 1999.
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456 pages ; 24 cm
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PN452 .S45 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Until the twentieth century, Seinfelt speculates, the "ultimate taboo" against suicide kept many writers who experienced depression and wrote about suicide in their fiction from committing the deed, but, as the taboo has lost its force, all too many twentieth-century writers have ended their own lives. Collected here are brief discussions of more than 50 writers: 25, from Henry James' friend Constance Woolson to Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Plath, Yukio Mishima, Berryman, Koestler, and Kosinski, are given a thorough discussion; the remainder, which includes Jack London, William Inge, Richard Brautigan, Primo Levi, F. O. Matthiessen, Michael Dorris, and J. Anthony Lukas, are discussed more briefly. A final section, "Seven Possibles," includes Ambrose Bierce, T. E. Lawrence, Randall Jarrell, and Eugene Izzi. There are some surprises among Seinfelt's selections, for example, Hitler, Bruno Bettelheim, and Carole Landis. Ideally, Seinfelt's biographies should send readers back to his subjects' own works. Includes a foreword by Paul West and a thoughtful introduction by the author as well as a brief bibliography. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

A collection of biographical essays for the morbidly curious, this pedestrian book relates, in term-paper fashion, the lives, works and self-inflicted deaths of about 40 reasonably memorable authors. (The term "author" is employed rather looselyÄHitler earns a chapter courtesy of Mein Kampf.) Presented chronologically by year of suicide, the essays begin in 1894 with Henry James's anxious friend Constance Fenimore Woolson and end in 1991 with Polish ‚migr‚ novelist Jerzy Kosinski. Yet, perhaps unwilling to throw away any of his accumulated notes, Seinfelt adds appendixes of "Other Notables," "More Suicides Still" and "Seven Possibles" to the 25 corpses on his main stage, among them Hemingway, Plath and Koestler. The essays include short bios, plot summaries of the authors' works, and the methods of suicide. Unquestionably, Seinfelt has read a great many biographiesÄand obituariesÄin his research, but he offers nothing factually new. His only message seems to be that writing is dangerous to one's mental health. Nevertheless, readers may find this a handy source for checking their favorite authorial suicidesÄas well as an inadvertently amusing collection of clich‚s and unintended implications: "He of the least suited writers ever to show up in California," Seinfelt writes of Ross Lockridge, author of Raintree County, "He did not have a thick skin."(Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Constance F. Woolson Her mother was a niece of James Fenimore Cooper, her father a Yankee businessman who throughout his life suffered from chronic depression, a susceptibility which she would inherit from him. In later life, she claimed that her own melancholia was a sort of family curse. She felt particularly vulnerable in winter and preferred the warmth and brightness of southern climes to the dark and chill of the north. "Every year proves to me more and more decidedly ... that it is entirely a matter of warmth.... The minute it is warm, all the wretchedness, no matter what serious and dignified name it may have borne, vanishes into nothing, and never comes back until it is cold again." She also suffered from a distressing physical affliction. For much of her life, Woolson was extremely hard of hearing. Completely deaf in one ear, she would constantly have to turn her head so her good side faced anyone speaking to her. Her condition chagrined and embarrassed her. She felt isolated and cut off from others, especially when caught in a crowd or while attending a social function where many people were speaking simultaneously. For a great many years, Constance F. Woolson led a solitary, lonely life.     Born in New Hampshire in 1840, she was the sixth of nine children, eight of whom were girls. When she was a small child, her family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. Until 1879, she would dwell not only in the American North and Midwest but also, for fifteen years, in the deep South. She came to know all three regions intimately, describing each with meticulous exactness in her prose. Adept at evoking local color through minute description, Woolson discovered her literary vocation early in life. Prior to attending finishing school in New York City, she already knew she wanted to be a writer, to follow the trail blazed by her granduncle. As a young girl, she accompanied her father on his many business trips. Together, in his buggy, they crisscrossed the Lake Country, often wandering deep into isolated and secluded neighborhoods. As a result of these excursions, not only would she develop a knowledge of both the plant and wildlife of the area--while her father dickered and bargained with the locals, she would traipse down Indian trials leading to Erie's marshy shores--but her imagination would carry her backwards into time. As a result of these transports and revels, Woolson began, in her own fanciful romantic fashion, to fathom the self-sacrificing character and pioneer spirit of the first colonists, the early settlers her granduncle had written about, those hearty explorers and frontiersmen who had foraged in the wild and braved the unknown. She had an inkling of the great solitude in which these men and women abode and suffered. Having found her corner of the country, she began to work it in the manner of her granduncle. Her Northern sketches started appearing in fashionable American periodicals in the 1870s. They were favorably received and brought her to the attention of John Hay and William Dean Howells, who would promote and publish her future work. She achieved recognition and popular success, but that was not enough for her. She aspired to lasting literary achievement.     After her father's death, Woolson devoted her best years to the care of her mother. Thinking that a more temperate climate would be beneficial to that lady's delicate health, she persuaded her to take up residence in Florida and accompanied her there, acting as her nurse and companion. At first hand, Woolson observed the devastation wrought by the Civil War and the struggle of the Southerners to reconstruct their society. She grew to admire the rugged determination of the vanquished enemy who had suffered so bitterly both during and then following the war. She vowed that, despite her Yankee heritage and her resultant prejudices, she would provide a tongue for all the mute, conquered mouths she encountered on her Southern travels. She could "hear" their silent lament, and it saddened her that no artist had taken up the theme, that the Southern song had largely gone untranscribed. She would do her best to remedy this in her subsequent work. At the same time, she remained sympathetic to the negro. Despite her hearing defect, Woolson was among the first American writers to reproduce faithfully black speech patterns in her prose. She made a proper philological study of black dialect, and in her writing tried especially hard to "take their words straight from their lips." While much of what she saw in the South seemed bleak and sad--the ruined plantations, the endless war cemeteries which she went out of her way to visit and described to Thomas Bailey Aldrich as "poor lonely unvisited spots, the very perfection of their order only increasing their solitariness"--she also found great natural beauty in the region and attempted to depict it faithfully in the tales and sketches that she set there. Again, her precise attention to detail and her talent for close observation served her well, just as they had previously done in her Northern sketches. On a regular basis, she took long walks by herself, even on the hottest afternoons, through the rice fields and on to the rim of the huge, brackish swamps, the home of beautiful birds such as the green and the blue heron but also of poisonous snakes and short and broad-snouted crocodilians. She took in everything that she could on these excursions and with time developed an intimate knowledge of Woolson's surroundings. The great friend of her later years would praise Woolson's Southern stories by remarking that she knew "every vague odour and sound, the song and flight of every bird, every tint of the sky and murmur of the forest." Her writing was marked and distinguished by its verisimilitude, by its many minute touches and fine nuances.     After the death of her mother, new possibilities opened for Woolson, but by then she had reached an age where the prospect for marriage and motherhood had greatly diminished if not altogether disappeared. The handicap of her near deafness, she realized, also lessened the likelihood of anyone asking for her hand. Her sisters had married and she had been blessed with numerous nieces and nephews. It appeared, however, that she would never have a child of her own. Still, she had her vocation and could nonetheless be fertile in her own way. Apart from the numerous tales and sketches which had appeared in the magazines, she had, by 1879, published both a long narrative poem entitled Two Women and a collection of her Northern stories, Castle Nowhere , whose title perhaps reflected a feeling of rootlessness on Woolson's part, of her not having a home to call her own. At this time, she was also putting the finishing touches to a volume of Southern tales, Rodham the Keeper , which would bring her more recognition than any of her previous efforts. Moreover, she had that year reached a major crossroad in her life. At age thirty-nine, with the encouragement of Hay and William Dean Howells, she had come to the decision to make an Atlantic crossing, to leave the United States, and take up permanent residence in Europe.     Prior to leaving America, Woolson had made the acquaintance of the work of an American author, three years younger than herself, who had already been living abroad for quite some time, and whose works dealing with the adventures of American expatriates living in Europe had excited her unlike those of any other contemporary she had previously encountered. Woolson was prescient enough to realize that he already possessed a mastery of style that rivaled, perhaps already surpassed, that of any other American, living or dead. She had gushed and effused about his work--albeit anonymously--in the "Contributor's Club" of the Atlantic , and she desperately wanted to meet this man, whose prose she had pondered and studied, and whose style she had already tried to emulate in her own writing. Prior to embarking on her ocean voyage, she obtained a letter of introduction to Henry James from his cousin Henrietta Pell-Clark, the sister of Minny Temple, the favorite cousin of James's youth who had died nine years before. In 1879, Mrs. Pell-Clark resided in Cooperstown, New York, the town founded on Otsego Lake by the father of Woolson's famous granduncle, and where the latter, as a young man, gained his insight into frontier life and learned the ways and virtues of the American Indian. When Woolson arrived in London that winter, she took rooms in Clarges Street which abutted Bolton Street, the avenue where James maintained his London flat. Armed with Pell-Clark's document, she strode up to his front door to present herself, only to be told that Henry James was currently not at home, but in Paris. She would not catch up with him until the following spring. Since he was on the continent and England proved as bleak, damp, and cold as the Lake Country of her girlhood, she headed southward almost immediately, stopping for the next several months at a hotel on the Riviera, where the climate was much more to her satisfaction. Here she had the opportunity to observe closely the various wealthy European types who congregated there and to travel and sightsee, but she also applied herself to her various writing projects, diligently spending her mornings working. She drafted poems and composed stories, but also began a novel, Anne , which would prove to be her greatest popular success and yet also the work Henry James considered her weakest. He found the early chapters set in a country boarding house full of promise and thought the novel's heroine, Tita Douglas, exerted great charm on the reader, but felt that Woolson had her marry far too early in the book. He wrote that Woolson resorted to the device of marriage altogether too often in her fiction: "She likes the unmarried, as I have mentioned, but she likes marriages even better, and also sometimes hurries them forward in advance of the reader's exaction."     Constance F. Woolson's and Henry James's paths would finally cross in Florence in April 1880. Just prior to their meeting, she would finish one of her better stories, "Miss Grief," published in the May 1880 issue of Lippincott's . Set in Rome, it concerned the first encounter between a world-famous male author and a forty-three-year-old spinster, Aarona Moncrief--or Crief, as the novelist dubs her--who has literary pretensions herself and who, although she greatly admires the work of the novelist--indeed, she has read every word that he has written--nonetheless feels that she can compete with him when it comes to literary endeavors. After she recites a scene from one of the writer's books by heart, the author comes to the conclusion that she understands him perhaps better than he understands himself. She lends him the manuscript of one of her plays, he reads it, and compliments her on her work. Afterward she confesses to him that she would have committed suicide had he not found the play to his liking. Privately, the author feels that one of the lesser characters is poorly drawn and, editing the play, attempts to remove this character but discovers that "to take him out was like taking out one especial figure in the carpet: that it is impossible unless you unravel the whole." At one point in the story, Crief tells her friend that while he had greater success in his career, she had "greater power." After her death he concedes this. However, he notes that he, with less power, succeeded, whereas she, with more, failed. A number of years later, James would give one of his most famous stories the title "The Figure in the Carpet."     They were both in the same European city. Resignedly, James felt that he had to meet Woolson, but he considered it an unpleasant social obligation forced upon him from outside. He wrote to his sister Alice that Florence was "a place where one is liable to tea-parties. I have to call, for instance, on Constance Fenimore Woolson, who has been pursuing me through Europe with a letter of introduction from (of all people in the world!) Henrietta Pell-Clark." Undoubtedly expecting the very worse, he mustered his courage and paid a visit to her pension, where much to his surprise instead of the dilettante dowager he expected to find, he discovered a not unattractive, intelligent kindred spirit, a true admirer of his work. She could be witty and ironic and had a somewhat exalted sense of her own worth as an author. Additionally, her manner was a touch pert: she did not hesitate to tweak him a little, but he rather liked that, and was in fact used to being pilloried both by his relations at home and in the American press for his somewhat stuffy pretensions. Moreover, James had arrived in Florence in April 1880 at an emotional ebb. He had come to Italy to reestablish his friendship with Paul Joukovski, a Russian painter he had been introduced to by Turgenev in Paris some five years before, and who now resided in the Naples suburb of Posillippo. To James's profound disappointment, Joukovski had degenerated into the slavish minion of the composer Richard Wagner. If the painter's hero worship was off-putting, his personal habits and fixations left even more to be desired. Joukovski had become openly homosexual. A number of the hangers-on in the composer's entourage shared the same tendency, if not Wagner himself. Joukovski wanted badly to introduce James to his idol, but Henry declined his offer and abruptly left Posillippo after spending only a few days there. The new acquaintance with Woolson helped to heal his still fresh wound. She moved in and filled the void left by the Russian, and he could rest assured that his relationship with her had a sure footing--was well within proper bounds. Their attachment would appear seemly and tasteful to all eyes, and he would emerge as a model of decorum and propriety. Finding Constance Woolson to his liking, James took on, in short order, the role of her guide and cicerone. Despite his numerous social obligations and his arduous writing schedule, he found time to visit frequently the middle-aged lady novelist and to supervise her sightseeing. They visited the galleries, palaces and churches, and James was amused by the fact that his new friend blushed at the nude statues in the sacristies. While James was always the perfect gentleman, his manner was nonetheless detached, altogether dispassionate. Despite his reserve, with time, he developed, in his own tepid fashion, a great fondness and liking for Woolson, or Fenimore as he came to call her, but it was "a virtuous attachment" on his part, whereas she had been enamored of James even before they met and afterward acquired an even greater passion for him as both writer and man. She knew that her feelings weren't reciprocated in the manner that she wished, but she was patient and hoped to win him over with time.     They would not meet again until the autumn of 1883, when Woolson would take up residence in England. Despite her dislike of the weather, she would stay three years and see James at regular, discreet intervals. They attended the theater together and, in each other's company, once paid a visit to Stonehenge. Woolson also made many excursions on her own to famous sites and spots throughout the English countryside and started working on a new novel, East Angels . James found this work her best production to date and said that it was "a substantial contribution to American letters," a novel that equalled that of any of her male contemporaries. It concerns a group of wealthy New Englanders who winter in Florida and who travel back and forth between Europe and the United States on a frequent basis. The novel shifts effortlessly between its various locales. The heroine is the self-sacrificing Margaret Harold who remains loyal to an unworthy husband instead of falling into the arms of the man who loves her and whom she herself secretly loves. To prevent forever the possibility of a lapse on her part, she contrives to bring about the marriage of her admirer to another woman. Although James felt that among the characters in East Angels , the "tender sentiment" usurped "a place even greater perhaps than that which it holds in life," he considered the "long, comprehensive, copious" work much more "elaborate than her other elaborations." It gave the definite promise of future high accomplishment. Despite her sightseeing and literary success, Woolson's chief compensation in England was her proximity to James. Nonetheless, after three years, she again felt the call of Italy. Perhaps her health dictated the move. When Woolson returned to Florence in the spring of 1886, James wrote his friend Francis Duveneck to keep an eye on her.     During the years that followed, there would be a number of private trysts and rendezvous between the two writers. Either James would travel to the continent or she would come to England. Beginning in 1890, she would for several years once more make her home there, at the end of which she would retreat to Italy a final time. James would be cajoled into promising annual visits prior to this last departure. However, for most of their lives, and even after Woolson had returned to England, the two remained largely apart. They maintained contact though letters. In later years, James insisted that they destroy each other's correspondence, and, as we shall see, after his friend's death, he retrieved those of his letters that she was unwilling to commit to her fireplace but spared instead as treasured mementoes and keepsakes. Despite Henry's scrupulosity when it came to destroying his personal correspondence, four of Woolson's early letters to him were inadvertently preserved among William James's papers in America--the only survivors of what must have been a voluminous correspondence. They date from the period of Henry James's and Constance Woolson's earliest acquaintance, from the years between their first meeting in Florence and their subsequent reassociation in England. At the time, Henry was traveling in America. The letters were forwarded to his brother's address in Cambridge. They are long and diffuse. She harries him unmercifully for his neglect of her and protests that he is never in Italy but always either in England or America and she objects that he only writes her infrequently and not at length. She recognizes the value of his work and praises it lavishly, but nonetheless makes frequent criticisms as well--complains that he doesn't understand how a woman feels or thinks. She asks why he does not give his readers a female character for whom they can feel a real love. She writes "let her love very much, and let us see that she does.... If you will only care for her yourself, as you describe her, the thing is done." Despite the harshness of some of Woolson's remarks concerning James's writing, it is also evident that, not only does she stand in perfect awe of his ability, she is, in fact, quite envious of it. She despairs that he writes as well as he does at the first draft, whereas she revises constantly and to no avail; she laments that he is underappreciated. Others do not recognize his worth. "We little fish did!" she writes, "We little fish became worn to skeletons owing to the constant admonitions we received to regard the beauty, the grace, the incomparable perfection ... of the proud salmon of the pond; we ended by hating the salmon." * * * In December 1886, ten months after Woolson's abrupt flight from England following her first three-year residency there, James followed her to Florence, where he became her tenant for the remainder of the month, subletting rooms from her at the villa Brichieri-Colombi on the hilltop of the Bellosquardo. She had recently taken the villa on a two-year lease but presently was residing in an adjoining chateau, the villa Castellani, where she had rooms rented until the new year. Once her contract there expired, she would move into the Brichieri and Henry would take lodgings at a Florentine hotel. They were in close proximity to one another both during his tenancy of the villa when they were next-door neighbors and then, living somewhat farther apart, during his residency in town. He stayed in Florence until late February when he departed to Venice for seven weeks, at the end of which time (mid-April), he returned to Florence and moved back into Woolson's villa, where he would stay until the beginning of June. He and Woolson now lived under the same roof, and this, his second stay on the Bellosquardo, would mark the closest James would ever come in his life to entering a traditional domestic arrangement. She resided on the first floor of the spacious three-story mansion, he on the ground. They took their meals together, but spent much of the day apart, each at work writing. It was at this time that James first noticed what a "pack rat" Woolson had become. Apparently she never discarded anything. Her rooms were stuffed with trunks and boxes. She kept clothes she never wore, old magazines and books she never read. James marveled that she had managed to squirrel away so much having lived the migratory life she had. As he had never given her ground to hope, he had assumed that they had long come to a truce in their personal relations. James accepted Woolson as a sister artist, a gentlewoman of great sensibility. But now it became evident to him that she still perhaps cherished the idea of marriage. Both his outward circumstance and his private anxieties at that time are surely reflected in the novella he began writing and all but finished while living with Woolson in Florence: "The Aspern Papers." The narrator of the tale learns that certain papers of the famed American author Jeffrey Aspern are in the possession of his lover, the now very elderly Juliana Bordereau. She resides in a dilapidated Venetian palace with her grandniece Tita. Determined to come into possession of the papers, the narrator rents a suite of rooms from the elder Bordereau and courts the younger. Tita, however, realizes that his interest in her is feigned and, after her aunt's death, will give the narrator the papers only on the condition that he take her hand in marriage. Unwilling to take this step, he flees Venice, realizing that he had "unwittingly but none the less deplorably trifled." Woolson was, of course, the grandniece of James Fenimore Cooper, like the fictional Aspern, an early giant of American literature. Moreover, Tita was the first name of the heroine of her novel Anne . In a late revision of the story, perhaps out of guilt, Henry James changed the younger Bordereau's name to Tina. While Woolson's tenant in Florence, James came to the conclusion that he, too, had "deplorably trifled" and left Florence the beginning of June.     For the next several years, Woolson still continued to hope. She kept writing and composed a series of international tales in the manner of her idol and beloved. Her productions never attained to his level of perfection, but were somewhat crasser and "magazineish" in character; in short they were usually nothing more than pale imitations or pastiches of James's earlier work. She had long realized that she would come out the loser in any literary competition between the two, but kept working anyway. When she took up residence in England a second time in 1890, Woolson elected to live near Oxford in the town of Cheltenham, where she began work on her last novel, Horace Chase . She and James would continue to exchange letters and he would pay her the occasional visit. At this time, Henry James's sister Alice was suffering through the last stages of her prolonged, final illness. Woolson had made Alice's acquaintance during her earlier stay in England, and the two got along famously from the first. Alice realized the extent of Woolson's attachment to her brother and during the last years of her life repeatedly urged Henry to marry her. Woolson grasped that, like herself, Alice stood in Henry's wide shadow, that his brilliance and striking success had obscured Alice's own great intellectual attainment; that she, too, had taken a backseat to him. Woolson summed up her sentiments to Alice's physician: "If she had had any health at all, what a brilliant woman she would have been." One day before her death on March 6, 1892, Alice James had her companion Kate Loring read her one of Woolson's stories. Alice's illness is reflected in the pages of the novel that Woolson was then writing. The heroine of Horace Chase and wife of the title character has an invalid sister who makes great demands on her time but serves as her advisor and confidante. Knowing that Mrs. Chase is not in love with her elderly husband but another, younger man who does not return her sentiment but for whom she nonetheless is willing to risk all, she sympathizes with her sister's predicament and comforts her the best that she can.     A year later, Constance Woolson wrote her nephew Samuel Mather that she would in the near future be leaving England and returning to Italy as she was "giving up being near [her] kind friend Mr. James." Before her departure, she had obtained his promise that he would visit her at least once a year. Perhaps, as a compensation for a failed union elsewhere, he had also offered to collaborate on a play with her, the only time in his career that he ever proposed to undertake such a joint venture.     The projected work would never be written. Woolson left England in June of 1893 ill with influenza. She had decided not to go to Florence--the city held too many sad memories for her--but to try to find happiness in Venice instead. When she arrived late in June, she rented a suite of rooms in the Casa Biodetti where she had a beautiful view of the Grand Canal. During the summer months, she arose at 4:30 A.M., wrote until breakfast, and then continued writing until late into the afternoon. The final installments of the serial of Horace Chase had appeared and now she was extensively revising the novel for publication in book form. At 4 P.M., she would lay aside her work and hire a gondola to ferry her out to the Lido, where she would swim. She would return to the casa to dine, then spend the evening on the canals listening to music and looking at the marble palaces. Her quarters at the Biodetti were too cramped for her taste, so she eventually moved into the Casa Semitecolo near the Palazzo Dario where she was able to lease two entire floors. For companionship, she purchased a small Pomeranian dog she named Tello. Woolson finished her revision of Horace Chase early in January and sent the manuscript to the publishers. As had often been the case when she finished a book, she grew melancholy and depressed, a psychical response shared by Virginia Woolf and others. When "a book is done," she wrote "I am pretty nearly done myself." In a letter to her nephew, Woolson confessed that it was her daily prayer that she would not live to be old. Although Christmas had been unseasonably warm, the weather had taken a turn for the worse in January. The casa was cold and she was subject to her usual winter despondency. "This deadly enemy of mine creeps in, and once in, he is master," she wrote to a friend. "I try to conquer it and sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't." By the middle of the month, Woolson had again contracted influenza and ran a high fever. A nurse had to be called in. A little after 1:00 A.M. on the morning of January 24, 1894, Woolson sent the nurse out of her room on the pretext of having her bring some article or other from one of the nearby drawing rooms. After she had left, Woolson got out of bed, opened the window of her second-story room and threw herself down to the cobbles below. She was still alive when her body was discovered by two men walking in the calle . Their shouts roused the servants, and Woolson was quickly carried back into the house and placed in her bed. A doctor was summoned but could do nothing for her. She died before daybreak. * * * At the news of Woolson's death, Henry James was greatly grieved and tormented. At first, he thought that she had expired from natural causes and made travel plans to attend her funeral in Rome, but, in short order, the circumstance of her death was made known to him. His grief turned to dread and horror, and he could no longer bring himself to attend her funeral. He wrote John Hay that he had utterly collapsed with the "dreadful image" of Woolson's body before him: "I felt an intense nearness of participation in every circumstance of her tragic end and in every detail of the sequel. But it is just this nearness of emotion that has made--since yesterday--the immediate horrified rush to personally meet these things impossible to me." No doubt James felt that, at least in some measure, he could be held personally accountable for her death, realizing as he did that his inability over the year's to respond romantically to her was one of the chief frustrations of Woolson's life, if not the root cause of her late unhappiness. Although he did not attend the ceremony, he had flowers sent to her grave in his name. Woolson was interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, where James had laid his fictional heroine Daisy Miller to rest many years before.     The following March, James traveled to Venice where he offered Woolson's sister his assistance in sorting through her cluttered effects and abundant belongings. He would also examine the literary remains of his late colleague. Going through her papers, he retrieved the letters of his which she had kept as mementoes and promptly destroyed them. He also examined her notebooks and journals to see if there were any references there to her unhappiness at their problematical relations. He read her numerous reflections on art and literature and the sketches and notes she had made for future stories. He must have winced in self-recognition when he read the following jotting: Imagine a man endowed with an absolutely unswerving will; extremely intelligent, he comprehends passion, affection, unselfishness and self-sacrifice etc. perfectly, though he is himself cold and a pure egotist. He has a charming face, a charming voice, and he can, when he pleases, counterfeit all these feelings so exactly that he gets all the benefits that are to be obtained by them. It was in another of her notes, however, that James would find the seed for a future story. It is in Woolson's journal that we discover the genesis of The Beast in the Jungle : To imagine a man spending his life looking for and waiting for his "splendid moment." "Is this my moment?" "Will this state of things bring it to me?" But the moment never comes. When he is old and infirm it comes to a neighbour who never thought of it or cared for it. The comment of the first upon this. He would take her idea and make it his own.     After finishing with her papers, James had one last sad office to render her grieving relations--to dispose of his friend's seemingly endless black dresses. She had so many of them that, during her later years, she must have seemed to be in perpetual mourning. James had the dresses stacked into a gondola and then took a seat beside them. He had the gondolier row him and his cargo out into the middle of the lagoon, where, one by one, he tossed the dresses into the water. The garments, however, filling with air, immediately bobbed to the surface. With a stick, James tried to beat them under, but they kept coming up like hideous black balloons. Soon the gondola was surrounded by them. He struck at the dresses frantically but they simply refused to sink. Copyright © 1999 Mark Seinfelt. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Paul West
Acknowledgmentsp. 5
Forewordp. 7
Introductionp. 11
Constance F. Woolsonp. 23
John Davidsonp. 34
Georg Traklp. 51
Vladimir Mayakovskip. 67
Vachel Lindsayp. 89
Hart Cranep. 103
Sara Teasdalep. 133
Virginia Woolfp. 148
Stefan Zweigp. 156
Adolf Hitlerp. 167
Ross Lockridgep. 183
Klaus Mannp. 201
Cesare Pavesep. 210
Malcolm Lowryp. 218
Ernest Hemingwayp. 240
Sylvia Plathp. 248
Charles Jacksonp. 259
John Kennedy Toolep. 276
Yukio Mishimap. 286
Yasunari Kawabatap. 293
John Berrymanp. 303
Anne Sextonp. 322
Romain Garyp. 335
Arthur Koestlerp. 346
Jerzy Kosinskip. 362
Other Notablesp. 376
Jack London
Sergey Alexsandrovich Yesenin
Charlotte Mew
Ernst Toller
Stuart Engstrand
Paul Celan
Henry de Montherlant
William Inge
Richard Brautigan
Primo Levi
Bruno Bettelheim
Michael Dorris
More Suicides Stillp. 405
George Sterling
Harry Crosby
Robert E. Howard
Carole Landis
T. O. Heggen
F. O. Matthiessen
Louis Verneuil
Winfield T. Scott
Tom McHale
James Tiptree
Lewis B. Puller Jr.
Jay Anthony Lukas
Seven Possiblesp. 422
Ambrose Bierce
T. E. Lawrence
James W. Johnson
John Horne Burns
Randall Jarrell
Seth Morgan
Eugene Izzi
Envoi. Manic Depression: A Genetic Predisposition for Creativity and Suicide?p. 433
Bibliographyp. 443
Indexp. 453