The ‘Other’ Side of Authors

People often make the mistake of making their favourite author, actor, singer or loved one into a saint, a perfect character that has no flaws, forgetting that by doing this they are dehumanising these figures, after all, every human being has faults and has committed plenty of mistakes. These flaws don’t diminish the artistic talents nor do it necessarily make us like them less.

Here are some literary figures who had a less desirable side that not many knew about:

Norman Mailer — He stabbed his wife

His daughter Elizabeth mentioned to the New York Times that her mother described him as “a monster” after his death. It was because Mailer tried killing his wife. When Adele, Mailer’s wife, said he wasn’t as brilliant a writer as Dostoyevsky, Mailer took a pocket knife and went to attack her, slashing her in the stomach area, narrowly missing her heart.

One of the guests tried to help her, but Mailer yelled, “Get away from her. Let the b— die.” Then he stormed out of the party and left her bleeding on the floor. In the end, his conscience got the best of him. Mailer went back for his wife and took her to the hospital, where they saved her life.

Charles Dickens — A terrible husband and compulsive liar

Dickens and his wife, Catherine, had 10 children together. After the woman birthed all 10 of his children he grew “bored” with her. Catherine was exhausted and obese after having too many kids, so Dickens at the age of 45 began a relationship with Ellen Ternan, an 18-year-old actress. He kept Ternan hidden in several houses so he could visit her quietly.

Dickens quickly realised he no longer wanted to be with his wife, but instead of simply divorcing her, he launched a big smear campaign against her in the press. He wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper critiquing her care-taking skills, alleging that she didn’t really love her children which was later proved to be absolutely false. Even worse, Dickens was granted sole custody of his children and didn’t allow the children to meet their mother.

William Golding — Attempted rape of a minor when he was 18 years old

The author of Lord of the Flies William Golding started writing a memoir where he openly confessed to attempted rape. It was disclosed in 2009 that Golding had documented his attempt to rape a 15-year-old young girl Dora when he was an 18-year-old college student.

The incident happened a few years after the two initially met. Golding explained his desire for a youngster by claiming that Dora was “as attractive as an ape” at the age of 14. The following year, when Dora was 15 and they were both out on a walk, he believed the young teen was certainly interested in him and attacked her! Golding “thought” she was into his aggressive attempts. She, on the other hand, was not willing to have sex and tried to fight back.

Ezra Pound – A Fascist

Pound was obsessed with Mussolini. Even though he was American, he was so impressed by the rise of fascism in Italy that he begged Mussolini to meet him in person. Eventually, Mussolini agreed, and Pound lavished him with gifts in appreciation.

When World War II started, Pound went on the radio and ranted about how Americans needed to stay out of the fascists’ way. He openly criticised America for siding against the Third Reich and then went into long rants saying that the Jews were responsible for every war. He even wrote multiple poems about how great fascism is. His “Italian Cantos” are odes to the fascist fighting spirit, while his “Pisan Cantos” are full of rants criticising the US Army for joining the war. By that point, though, he was just complaining. The “Pisan Cantos” were written behind bars, after Italian fascism had already fallen and Pound had been locked up for treason.

Victor Hugo – Addicted To Prostitutes

The author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was notorious for his promiscuity, soon after he got married he started having affairs with almost every woman he met, in particular prostitutes and married women. According to his favourite mistress, between 1848 and 1850 alone, Hugo slept with 200 different women. In the last four months of his life, Hugo’s diary—which he filled with lurid details of his sexual exploits—mentioned eight separate women he’d slept with. And at that point in his life, he was 83 years old. Every woman of the night in France knew him, and on the day Hugo died, the brothels of Paris all shut down so that the prostitutes could pay their respects to their most famous customers.

George Orwell – Sold His Friends Out To The Secret Service

The man who warned us about a grim future in which spies and secret police drag people away for having dangerous thoughts wasn’t exactly as staunch of a freedom-lover as he might seem. In real life, Orwell kept a secret list of people he’d met who he thought were secret communist sympathisers. Anyone he met who seemed a little too favourable to the idea of social welfare got their name jotted down on Orwell’s blacklist. And when he had enough names, he sent to the British Secret Service a little note telling them: Never trust these people. Orson Welles, Katherine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, and dozens of other major names showed up on Orwell’s list.

To many, George Orwell came close to being a secular saint and it wasn’t until 1996 when Foreign Office file FO 111/189 was made public under the 30-year rule, that people began to see the other contradictory side to Orwell.

The secret file revealed that in 1949 the great writer had, via his friend Celia Kirwan, given a semi-secret government propaganda unit called the Information Research Department (IRD) what became known as “Orwell’s List”.

Mary Shelley – Obsession of Her Mother’s Grave

Mary Shelley “carried her dead husband’s heart around in a jar for 30 years”. Mary and Percy Shelley’s relationship started with them making love on top of her dead mother’s grave. Apparently, the young Mary Shelley couldn’t think of any better place to lose her virginity than on top of the final resting place of the mother, who died giving birth to her. Her mother’s grave had already been the setting for a large number of her formative moments. Her father taught her to read by having her trace the letters on her mother’s tombstone.