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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 20 Sep 1995 08:43:16 -0800
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Not all creative fire rises from madness, but that which does comes
from several origins including manic depressive.  Twain, for example,
is completely different from the troubled Poe.  Twain (I believe) was
literally driven mad on occasion because of the saturating hypocrisy
that surrounded him.  Poe, on the other hand, seems to have access to
madness as it was needed - until, of course, it got out of hand.  Poe,
for all his life, dearly wanted to be 'respectable'.  He wanted it
more than sex or notoriety or wealth.  In order to keep creating he
also managed to keep offending people so that he never could become
'respectable'.  He died young, though, and so we can't know how he
might have handled matters as he aged.
        Twain (I truly believe) was not really manic depressive, unless
as a youth.  His creative fire burned too steadily for too many years.
His humor and ready wit may well have risen from mild to moderate
depression; but, depression, and manic depression, are cats of
different colors.  Also, I'm compelled to add: just because a shrink
can name a thing doesn't mean that the shrink (or I) understand it.
        This post sounds awfully pedantic, and I apologize if I have
given offense.  It is simply that I take an interest in this stuff
because I've been coot-crazy too often during a lifetime of writing.
I won't swear to a general truth, but if we look at the big creators
who worked during the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, I
think we would find an authoritarian parent(s), a dogmatic religion,
and too many 4th of July picnics smeared heavily with platitudes.
That combination would drive a saint either into madness or art, leave
alone a man of Twain's sensibilities.  It's probably also true that
in his later years he felt smitten by heaven.  He wouldn't be the
first writer who ever cursed God, and he sure as ginger wouldn't be the
Jack Cady - [log in to unmask]