Emma Lazarus’s poem, The New Colossus, written in 1883 to raise money for the building of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, died when she was 38 of Hodgkins Lymphoma, never knowing her beautiful words would be immortalized on Liberty’s base.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, dying of a heart attack at the age of 44, never knew his book, The Great Gatsby, would be considered one of the greatest novels of all time.
Stephen Crane, who gave us The Red Badge of Courage about the American Civil War, died in at 29 of tuberculous.
Jane Austen dying at 41, possibly also of tuberculous, died unaware of her long lasting legacy thought of as the most brilliant female novelist to have ever graced a page.
John Kennedy Toole, just 31, took his life before his manuscript, The Confederacy of Dunces (Bill Hicks’s favorite book), went into print in 1981, earning the Pulitzer Prize that year for Fiction.
Michael Sharra winning the Pulitzer in 1975 for his historical novel, The Killer Angels, about The Battle of Gettysburg, never knew his manuscript, For Love of the Game, found in his desk drawer after dying of a heart attack at 59, would become such a best seller.
Poet John Keats left us at 25, another gentle great felled by tuberculous.
Poet, Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), and novelist, Emily Bronte (1818-1848), both died at 30, Bronte of tuberculous, Plath by her own hand linked in literature forever, unaware of their everlasting influence.
I’ll end with Anthony Bourdain, alas, calling it quits at 61, but unlike his predecessors, did know how great we thought he was.
A writer who knew.