Drunks, druggies, killers, debtors and shirt-stealers. What writers used to be like.

Dylan Thomas, possibly weaing someone else's shirt.

Dylan Thomas, having a drink while possibly wearing someone else’s shirt.

IT HAS OFTEN occurred to me what a bad lot so many writers have been: spongers, liars, defaulters, thieves, betrayers, turncoats, murderers, wife-beaters, child-abandoners, drunks, druggies, skirt-chasers and lunatics by the score. I have the feeling that this tradition is dying out here in Blighty. I’ve met a few writers and poets who were bores, serial adulterers and all-round egotists, but none has come close to the heights (or depths) of our ancestors.

The mediaeval French poet, Villon, for instance, killed a priest in a pub brawl (makes you wonder what kind of chap the priest was, frequenting an ale-house) and was basically a member of a criminal gang called la Coquille. Shakespeare’s mate, Ben Jonson, killed a player from a rival theatre company in a duel, and managed to escape punishment by pleading benefit of clergy…

Read on.

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