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 Was it worth it? Probably.

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Was it worth it? Probably.   Sat 27 Aug 2016, 23:40

Nordmann drew attention to Mr Selfridge having died in lonely penury. There was a colourful TV series of his erratic life. I did not last out to the end but already knew of his last days. If we sieve through our collected knowledge  we could probably mention a few others who ended colourful lives in ignominy and/or poverty. Did any ever reveal regrets of their glory days? By chance, on my return to live in UK, I befriended until death, such a one - whose real identity I couldn't possibly reveal here or anywhere else, who had no regrets.
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PostSubject: Re: Was it worth it? Probably.   Wed 28 Sep 2016, 14:21

The list of people who died in poverty, often having enjoyed considerable wealth earlier in life, is a long and illustrious one. Just listing them off would be boring, but what is very interesting from my point of view is in trying to find common threads - be it in behaviour, attitude or just bad dumb luck - which could historically unite people as diverse as Vermeer, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, Joe Louis, Schubert, Sammy Davis Junior, Stephen Foster and William Blake (amongst about a million others).

One thing does strike one immediately looking at brief biographies of many of these people, and that is generosity. Joe Louis famously paid back every welfare payment his family had received from the state when he was flush, only for the same state to then consign him to abject poverty in old age having set his tax levels permanently at those which applied when he was in a position to earn money. It took a supreme court case just to stop this practise, and even then he never got anything back. Wilde, despite his flamboyant lifestyle and manner, was extremely careful with money and donated the bulk of his earnings scrupulously to his wife Constance, who managed it completely from that point on. After prison his earnings were nil and though Constance had in fact managed to set aside a good sum for his welfare when he was released, her death two years before his own led to the funds being "sequestered" by the British Revenue for "suspected" tax duties owed by both (these were proved fictitious). Schubert and Poe, neither by any means solvent during life at any stage, still both managed to marshal some meagre savings into a fund to look after their loved ones, money that in both cases might have contributed to their own survival.

One could go on, but a certain lesson seems to be apparent with respect to altruism and selflessness in almost all these cases; as well of course as with Schubert, Blake, Vermeer and others, that those who pursue their own muse must take on board the fact that it comes at a huge personal cost (in every respect). Sam Allardyces these people weren't.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Was it worth it? Probably.   Wed 28 Sep 2016, 17:11

@nordmann wrote:
The list of people who died in poverty, often having enjoyed considerable wealth earlier in life, is a long and illustrious one. Just listing them off would be boring, but what is very interesting from my point of view is in trying to find common threads - be it in behaviour, attitude or just bad dumb luck - which could historically unite people as diverse as Vermeer, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, Joe Louis, Schubert, Sammy Davis Junior, Stephen Foster and William Blake (amongst about a million others)...

One thing does strike one immediately looking at brief biographies of many of these people, and that is generosity. ..




That's a nicely romantic notion, but I'm not so sure it was simply generosity (or altruism) that was the fatal flaw that led to the tragic ends of these people, but perhaps something else: something darker, needier, more complex. Guilt? An urge to self-destruct? Fatal flaws, after all, have to be flaws: a tragic artist whose fate moves us cannot just be an unfortunate character with a noble, if foolish, heart - the flaw must be there.  I'm still mulling this one over.


@nordmann wrote:
...but a certain lesson seems to be apparent with respect to altruism and selflessness in almost all these cases; as well of course as with Schubert, Blake, Vermeer and others, that those who pursue their own muse must take on board the fact that it comes at a huge personal cost (in every respect).



Not always, of course. Many great artists have followed their muse and still died, if not rich, but as comfortably-off members of the bourgeoisie. It always seems all wrong that Shakespeare was one such: according to recent research he was quite the ruthless and successful capitalist. It was his rival, Robert Greene, who had started his writing career as a successful and promising Cambridge graduate, who ended up dying in squalid, bohemian, alcoholic, abject poverty, living with the sister of a criminal known as "Cutting Ball". Harvey described Greene's woman as "a sorry ragged quean of whom [Greene] had his base son, Infortunatus Greene". Yet poor old Greene, who had been so unpleasant about the uneducated lad from Stratford, was not a bad writer - just wasn't a genius. And nobody cares very much about his end - or his writing - these days. One of the great losers of all time, remembered now - if at all -  only for his bitchiness about WW ("upstart crow" etc.).


http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/shakespeare-the-hard-headed-businessman-uncovered-8555996.html


Hoarder, moneylender, tax dodger — it's not how we usually think of William Shakespeare.

But we should, according to a group of academics who say the Bard was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine.

Researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales argue that we can't fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy.

"Shakespeare the grain-hoarder has been redacted from history so that Shakespeare the creative genius could be born," the researchers say in a paper due to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May.

Jayne Archer, a lecturer in medieval and Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth, said that oversight is the product of "a willful ignorance on behalf of critics and scholars who I think — perhaps through snobbery — cannot countenance the idea of a creative genius also being motivated by self-interest."



Have wandered off topic a bit, but don't think Priscilla will mind. All a bit muddled, but will send.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Was it worth it? Probably.   Wed 28 Sep 2016, 18:29

Temp wrote:
That's a nicely romantic notion, but I'm not so sure it was simply generosity (or altruism) that was the fatal flaw that led to the tragic ends of these people, but perhaps something else: something darker, needier, more complex. Guilt? An urge to self-destruct?

Maybe, but that's equally dissatisfying a theory to account for all of them either. I imagine it is simply futile to try to find such a basic attribute as a common factor in these lives, not all of which were sad or indeed particularly happy, and whose endings only share financial straits in common after all.

And of course I, and then you, have simply focused on the artistically gifted ones. The criteria of dying in poverty covers many more people, even when only taking eminence of a sorts into account. From the emperor Valerian to Saddam Hussein, politics has also thrown up more than its fair share of examples of once mighty and wealthy individuals ending up in extremely reduced circumstances, and few of them I'd wager could be accused of gross generosity.
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PostSubject: Re: Was it worth it? Probably.   Wed 28 Sep 2016, 20:39

Yes, your post made me think of "The Fall of Eagles": whatever happened to all those European rulers after 1918? The Kaiser ended up in Holland, I believe, surviving with his memories until 1941.

But the greatest fall must have been that of this man: pottering about in his garden on Saint Helena was a far cry from his glory days:

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PostSubject: Re: Was it worth it? Probably.   Thu 29 Sep 2016, 07:47

It depends on how you describe poverty, I suppose. As an incarcerated man with very limited freedom he still managed to maintain his - albeit in weird circumstances - middle class status, lifestyle and attitude right to the end. Many, many contemporaries living in more typical circumstances of the day might have gladly swapped with the guy, in fact. But yes, compared to where he had aimed to be, it was indeed quite a fall.

The category in which the majority of notable "riches to rags" incidents occurred must of course be in the world of commerce, as with the case cited by Priscilla in the opening post. Another notable one, though the case is very much disputed still, is that of Rudolf Diesel - the eponymous inventor of the engine still in use today. Or maybe not; part of the "to rags" theory in his case was that just about every patent he established in his life (and no one doubts original work on his part in designing the items patented) was challenged on the basis of a previous, and often superior one, already existing. Diesel was probably unfortunate to be operating in a period of great innovation and progress in car engine design at a time when there were obvious discrepancies between European, International and US patent processing. He was also unfortunate apparently in his choice of investors and business partners, Rudolf being very much a "hands on" inventor who left much of the commercial stuff to others. By the time he disappeared from the deck of a cross-channel mailboat he was on the verge of losing patent royalties on almost all the important designs he had produced (his lucrative American patents had been sold by his so-called friend and partner von Buz without his consent and then mysteriously reacquired by the same man in his own name) and his personal finances were almost totally being maintained in the form of a stipend from the same man. How galling must that have felt?

Like some other suicides mentioned above, Diesel did not go without making an effort to ensure his loved ones suffered as little as possible. His widow, two weeks after he died, opened a bag he had given her immediately prior to his voyage. It contained about a million dollars in German currency and a sheaf of documents indicating that all their bank accounts had been long empty. How he'd managed to scrape together the sum is not known, and there were suggestions of embezzlement from business partners like von Buz and Benz. However none of these cared to prosecute the widow for a return of the money. By then a million dollars to them was probably a fair investment in letting the whole business die down and thereby discourage investigation into their own role in Diesel's demise so they could continue enjoying the much larger "dividend" they had already acquired from their association with such a brilliant - if naive - individual in the past.
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