Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Myth of the Suffering Artist

From Brain Pickings:
Since her girlhood, Barrett was bedeviled by intense spinal headaches and muscle pain that would plague her for the remaining four decades of her life, now believed to have been hypokalemic periodic paralysis — a rare disorder that depletes muscles of potassium and effects extreme weakness. A century and a half before scientists began to uncover how emotional stress affects our physical wellbeing, Barrett’s health deteriorated significantly after a close succession of tragedies just before her thirty-fourth birthday — one of her brothers died of fever and another, the most beloved of her eleven siblings, in a sailing accident for which she blamed herself. The following year, she was taken to London in an invalid carriage and spent spent seven years almost continuously bedridden in a darkened upstairs room alongside her beloved spaniel named Flush. In a testament to Rosanne Cash’s assertion that for many artists, “creativity comes from the same room as their deepest pain,” Barrett counterbalanced the stillness of her suffering with a ferocious pace of composition that led to her first major literary success and invited the courtship of the poet Robert Browning.

“I love your verses with all my heart, Dear Miss Barrett,” Browning, six years her junior, wrote to the stranger whose poetry had enchanted him beyond words. “I love these books with all my heart — and I love you too.” So began a courtship that would blossom into one of literature’s greatest loves. (Read more.)

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