Lots of people know about the relationship between fantasy writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but who know Bram Stoker stole Oscar Wilde's true love out from under his nose? I didn't, at least, so I think these relationships between classic authors are terribly interesting. I included Lewis and Tolkien for those who didn't know about their friendship. There are a lot more where this came from - I might make this a two-parter. And if you're impatient and don't want to wait for my second part, check out the book Secret Lives of Great Authors by Robert Schnakenberg. Very interesting read.
1. Bram Stoker was a frequent guest at Oscar Wilde’s parents’ house. Oscar’s mom, Lady Jane, was a poet who liked to keep literary company. Bram found himself in Lady Jane’s circle, and eventually met Florence Balcombe, who had previously been Lady Jane’s daughter-in-law to be. Yep, Florence was once engaged to Oscar Wilde. At least, by some accounts. Other accounts say they dated seriously and Oscar merely wanted to marry her. At any rate, Florence ended up marrying Bram Stoker instead. When Oscar heard she was engaged, he wrote her a letter and said that he was leaving Ireland and would never come back. He mostly stayed true to his word – he only came back twice for a brief visits.
2. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were good friends since they first met at Oxford and belonged to the Inklings group together. But they hated one another’s books. When Tolkien was writing a new character for Lord of the Rings and tried to describe the character to Lewis, Lewis famously responded, “Not another frigging dwarf!” Except, you know, he actually swore. But this is a family blog.
3. Louisa May Alcott loved Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Really loved them. Like Alcott, they were residents of Concord, Massachusetts, so she had friendships with both. She and Thoreau used to exchange ideas and he would play his flute for her. The Emerson infatuation may have started when Ralph Waldo gave her the book Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child, which involves a young girl in love with a horny old poet. You can see why Louisa may have been flattered and sort of started stalking him – she would leave flowers on his doorstep, write him love letters but never send them, and sit outside of his window and sing him songs in German. He was married and had a daughter just six years younger than Louisa and never returned her affections.
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were just three years apart in age. They met at the Dingo Bar in Paris in 1925, when Hemingway was 25 and Fitzgerald was 28. The Great Gatsby had just been published and looked to be a big hit; Hemingway, on the other hand, was a relatively unknown author. They were close friends for a while – Fitzgerald was notoriously insecure about himself in almost every aspect, and when his wife once insulted the size of his manhood, Fitz actually dropped trou and asked Hemingway if everything looked normal to him. Hemingway assured his friend that things appeared to be up to par. But the friendship quickly deteriorated. As Fitzgerald’s career fell and he descended further into alcoholism, Hemingway’s work started picking up. Hemingway started making fun of Fitzgerald to newspapers and magazines, to the point that Fitzgerald actually pleaded with his old friend to stop. The reason for the sudden cold shoulder? Hemingway was said to have been disgusted by Fitzgerald’s alcoholism, because he would make huge public scenes and embarrass himself and everyone around him when he was drunk.
5. And, speaking of Hemingway, he was also once very good friends with Gertrude Stein. He met her in Paris as well, at the introduction of their mutual friend, writer Sherwood Anderson (Anderson also introduced Hemingway to Ezra Pound). She reminded him of his mother both physically and otherwise. He even openly used Gertrude to try to work out some of his issues with his mother. She ended up introducing him to bullfighting, Spain, and prose. He used her as his sounding board and would completely rewrite something at her suggestion. He even made her the Godmother of his first son, Jack.