Writers Discussing Other Writers
  • Charles Baudelaire, in all his sartorial splendor

    Charles Baudelaire spent two hours a day getting dressed.

    When Edgar Allen Poe married his cousin Virginia, he was twenty-seven, and she was thirteen. And consumptive.

    The genius poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins wanted to change his name to Pook Tunks.

    Robert Frost had only five poems accepted in his first seventeen years of writing and submitting poetry.

    The poetess Sara Teasdale committed suicide with sleeping pills.

    The poetess Anne Sexton, who sexually abused her older daughter, slowly committed suicide by locking herself in her garage, starting the engine of her car, and inhaling carbon monoxide. She drank vodka all the while as she waited to die.

    Ann Sexton: vodka and carbon monoxide

    “Pouring out liquor is like burning books,” said William Faulkner.

    René Descartes (1596 – 1650), generally regarded as the first modern philosopher, whose influence on philosophy was monumental, almost never read anything except the Bible and the work of Thomas Aquinas. He called the classics “a waste of time.”


    “A man will turn over half a library to make one book,” said Samuel Johnson, who singlehandedly compiled A Dictionary of the English Language, which took him nearly nine years to complete.

    “Rat-eyed” Virginia Woolf described Somerset Maugham as.

    “No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word,” said Eudora Welty of William Faulkner.

    “Curiously dull, furiously commonplace, and often meaningless,” Alfred Kazin said of William Faulkner.

    “Hemingway never climbed out on a limb and never used a word where the reader might check his usage by a dictionary,” William Faulkner said of Ernest Hemingway.

    In response to which Hemingway:

    “Does Faulkner really think big emotions come from big words?”

    Thales of Miletus (624 BC – 546 BC), generally considered the father of western philosophy, is believed to have predicted an eclipse of the sun for May 28th, 585 BC.

    Sir Thomas Browne wished that men could produce without intercourse: “Like trees,” he said. Which, however, did not preclude him fathering twelve children.

    Daniel Defoe

    Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, was for many years a hosier.

    John Keats wrote all four of his great odes in one month.

    As an adult, T.S. Eliot powdered his face with greenish make-up — to make himself look as if he were suffering, Edith Stillwell suggested.

    Lord Alfred Tennyson yanked his son out of Cambridge to be his biographer.

    John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, once visited Galileo.

    Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677), Dutch philosopher of great genius, died at age 44 of tuberculosis, which was aggravated by the glass dust in his lungs from his twenty years of grinding lenses for a living.

    The poet John Masefield, off a ship at 18, worked for a while in a Greenwich Village saloon.

    “He wore a gray suit, black shoes, white shirt, tie and vest. His appearance never changed. He came down in the morning in his suit, and he would still be wearing it the last thing at night,” said John Huston of John Paul Sartre.

    “Reedy and kind,” Truman Capote once described Albert Camus as.

    Kind and reedy Camus

    “As a writer, he chews more than he bites off,” said Whistler of Henry James.

    “An illiterate, underbred book,” Virginia Woolf called James Joyce’s Ulysses — which, however, she and her husband Leonard published.

    “You have written a good book,” Victor Hugo told Gustav Flaubert in a letter, regarding Madame Bovary.

    “A damned good poet and a fair critic; but he can kiss my ass as a man,” Ernest Hemingway said of T.S. Eliot.

    “I find it impossible to take him seriously as a major writer and have never ceased to be amazed at the number of people who can,” said Edmund Wilson of Franz Kafka.

    “A cursed, conceited, wily heathen,” said Martin Luther of Aristotle.

    “He was a bum poet, of course, being a bum person,” Robert Graves said of D.H. Lawrence.

    Like many of us he was rather disgusting
    with his deliberate dirtiness, his myopia, his smell,
    his undying enmity for unfavorable reviewers,
    his stinginess, his coy greed for titles, money, and gowns,
    his contempt for Cockneys and Americans,
    Sallow, greasy, handsome … but whose prosody
    for practitioners still astounds.

    Said the poet Karl Shapiro of the poet Lord Alfred Tennyson.

    Lord Alfred Tennyson: sallow, greasy, handsome

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • Kevin Faulkner 08.08.2011

    This statement by Browne is often seized upon out of context and ridiculed as he continues-

    ‘Nor is there anything which will more deject his cooled imagination when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath committed’..

    As ever Browne’s statements on sex are not to be taken out of context but as Coleridge recommended in a ‘soft and flexible’ sense, as he continues ..-

    ‘I speak not in prejudice against that fair sex but am naturally amorous of all that is beautiful’.

  • I wasn’t ridiculing Sir Thomas Browne, and I wasn’t denigrating him. Nor do I think the full context you helpfully provide really changes anything.

    Thank you for dropping by.

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