Eccentricity – Curse or Ally?

by |May 1, 2013

The 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill once remarked, “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.”

The world of writing is filled with just the eccentric folk Mill was talking about. We’ve picked 10 examples of some of the greatest writers having some strange sides to them. Enjoy.

J.M Barrie

The creator of Peter Pan would always order Brussels sprouts for lunch, but he never ate them. When asked the reason for this, he replied, “I just love saying the words.”

Samuel Johnson

Once called “the most distinguished man of letters in English history”, Johnson often shaved all the hairs off his body and document how long it would take for them to grow back again.

Charles Dickens

One of the greatest writers to ever live, Dickens used to get so excited performing his own work in front of audiences that he would faint.

Rudyard Kipling

The much-loved writer behind The Jungle Book would paint all of his golf balls red so he could play in the snow.

H.G. Wells

The father of Science-Fiction always carried two pens with him; a big one for long words and a smaller one for the little words.

Dorothy Parker

The Queen of Satire once bought herself a new typewriter for no better reason than the fact the ribbon on her old ran out and she didn’t know how to install the new one.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Despite his writing being one of Gandhi’s greatest inspirations to the path of passive resistance, Shelley hated cats so much that he once tied one to a kite in a thunderstorm in the hopes of seeing it electrocuted. (Poor Kitty!)

Giacomo Casanova

Literally the original Casanova, the womaniser used to grow the nail on his pinkie extra long specially so he could pick earwax out with it.

Thomas De Quincey

Would be so immersed in his writing (and perhaps other things) at night he set himself on fire more than once from the candle at his desk.

Samuel Beckett

Once said to an actor in one of his plays (regarding a pregnant pause in his script): “You’re playing two dots at the moment, the script calls for three!”

Do you know any other examples of writers going a bit balmy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

1 Comment Share:

About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

Follow Andrew: Twitter


  • Seth Itzkowitz

    May 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    H.G. Wells is not the only author called the “Father of Science Fiction.” So too are Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *