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Famous Writers Who Died Young

Young, talented, and inspiring is what defines each of the writers whose names are featured in the following article. Despite their brief lifespan, these writers have left us a literary legacy in the form of their work. This Buzzle article remembers and salutes some famous writers who died young.
Famous writers who died young
People living deeply have no fear of death.
-Anaïs Nin

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Dumbledore famously says, "Death is but the next great adventure for the well-organized mind". Death is inevitable, and perhaps, the only certainty that life holds for us. The illustrious writers and poets featured here, had their lives extinguished a little too soon. But remarkable as they all were, they did manage to leave a lasting imprint on the world with their literary gems.

This Buzzle article chronicles the events leading up to their final days. In doing so, it eulogizes each writer's remarkable contribution to the world of prose and poetry.

For the sake of consistency, we've chosen to define 'young' as those who died before the age of 50. Also, this list certainly isn't exhaustive, and it centers around the more prominent names in the world of literature.

Great Writers Who Died Young
John Keats
1795-1821
(Aged 25)
Here lies one whose name was writ on water.
-As seen on the tombstone of John Keats

John Keats is a prominent name epitomizing Romanticism, along with Shelley and Byron. Keats' work was quite prolific, if one is to consider his premature death. Ironically, though, his poems found little appreciation when he was alive, causing him to lament, "I have left no immortal work behind me - nothing to make my friends proud of my memory - but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember'd". Things took a dramatic turn after his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25, and till date, Keats remains a much-appreciated English poet and writer of all time.

Stephen Crane
1871-1900
(Aged 28)
Perhaps an individual must consider his own death to be the final phenomenon of nature.
-Stephen Crane, The Open Boat and Other Stories

Author, poet, and journalist Stephen Crane had a towering presence in American literature, having prominently inspired the likes of Ernest Hemingway and other 20th century writers. Crane's Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage brought him international recognition. He spent a significant part of his brief life working as a war correspondent, first in Cuba, and later in Greece. He spent the final years of his life in England, battling financial difficulties and failing health. Crane passed away at the age of 28 in a Black Forest health resort, as a victim of tuberculosis.

Christopher Marlowe
1564-1593
(Aged 29)
And let these tears, distilling from mine eyes,
Be proof of my grief and innocency.
-Christopher Marlowe, Edward the Second

A rather mysterious character, Christopher Marlowe was an Elizabethan tragedian of repute, and a contemporary of none other than William Shakespeare. Shakespeare claimed to have been influenced heavily by Marlowe, and rose to prominence following his sudden death. During his lifetime, Marlowe was accused of blasphemy and spying, and was even arrested for the same. He was stabbed to death ten days later, having lived for a mere 29 years.

Percy Bysshe Shelley
1792-1822
(Aged 29)
Death is the veil which those who live call life;
They sleep, and it is lifted.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

As in the case of his contemporary Keats, Shelley attained a following only after his death. His woefully short life was spent creating memorable poetry in the form of Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, Music, When Soft Voices Die, The Cloud, and The Masque of Anarchy. His death came as a shock to his admirers and contemporaries, when his vessel capsized off the Sardinian coastline, a few days before his 30th birthday. Post his death, there were many who alleged that the incident wasn't accidental, but the fact remained that the world had lost a fine talent, far too early.

Anne Brontë
1820-1849
(Aged 29)
"There is perfect love in Heaven!"
-Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brontë was the youngest of the Brontë brood, which included her sisters Charlotte and Emily, both prominent writers as well. Anne chose to write under a pen name, Acton Bell, and wrote a volume of poems, along with two novels. Her last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is considered to be an iconic novel to have highlighted feminist ideals. Poor health besieged her throughout her life, and she died aged 29 of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Emily Brontë
1818-1848
(Aged 30)
She burned too bright for this world.
-Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Shy, unassuming, and immensely private, there is little that we know about the real Emily Brontë. Her only novel, Wuthering Heights, which was written under the pen name Ellis Bell is considered to be a classic piece of English literature. Emily's health condition throughout her lifetime was best described as delicate. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 30, having steadfastly refused any medical treatment through the course of her illness.

Sylvia Plath
1932-1963
(Aged 30)
Dying is an art.
Like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I have a call.
-Sylvia Plath, Ariel

Sylvia Plath is best remembered for her contributions to the genre of confessional poetry, following the path laid out by Robert Lowell and W. D. Snodgrass. She also authored a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.

Plath garnered considerable praise for her literary endeavors, The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. She won a Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1982 for The Collected Poems. Unfortunately, though, she was plagued by depression throughout her adult life, and committed suicide on February 11, 1963, at the young age of 30.

John Kennedy Toole
1937-1969
(Aged 31)
My life is a rather grim one. One day I shall perhaps describe it to you in great detail.
-John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Yet another tragic case of jilted talent, John Kennedy Toole was an American author, whose posthumous publication, A Confederacy of Dunces won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. Toole's abilities were worthy enough to be acknowledged by several among the literary world, but sadly, it never translated into complete acceptance. Toole's manuscript of the aforementioned novel was rejected by every publication house he went to, which ultimately caused his undoing. He suffered from paranoia and depression owing to the lack of success, and committed suicide at the age of 31.

Lord Byron
1788-1824
(Aged 36)
Death, so called, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass'd in sleep.
-Lord Byron, Don Juan

Poet, revolutionary, and politician - Lord Byron had multiple facets to his rather controversial personality. His exemplary poetic prowess was evident in his works like Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Besides his literary endeavors, he was a key figure in the Greek War of Independence fought against the Ottoman Empire. It was here in Greece that he met a premature end, aged 36 owing to a violent fever brought upon by sepsis.

Charlotte Brontë
1816-1855
(Aged 38)
I feel monotony and death to be almost the same.
-Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë was the eldest of the three Brontë sisters. Her novel, Jane Eyre was written under the pen name Currer Bell, and was well-received by critics and readers alike. Written as a first-person narrative from the point of view of a woman, the novel garnered positive reviews from various quarters, and the hype did not die down despite rife speculation that Currer Bell may actually be a woman. Charlotte, just like her siblings, Emily and Anne, suffered from ill-health for most of her adult life. She died at age 38, while she was pregnant with her first child.

Franz Kafka
1883-1924
(Aged 40)
The meaning of life is that it stops.
-Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka is remembered today as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, but it certainly wasn't so during his lifetime. Most of his work including Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle) is said to have influenced the genre of existentialism. Kafka's death came at age 40, from laryngeal tuberculosis.

Oscar Wilde
1854-1900
(Aged 46)
Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.
-Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost

As one of London's most admired playwrights, Oscar Wilde was a popular figure among the glitterati in the late 1800s, owing to his wild ways and sparkling wit. Following his alleged affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde was arrested for gross indecency with men, and spent a grueling two years in jail. After his release, Wilde set for France, never to return to England. He died a lonely death in Paris at the age of 46.

As is evident, the duration of life spent on Earth remains largely immaterial. What matters more is the quality of life we've led, and the legacy we choose to leave behind.
By
Published: September 16, 2013
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