There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. ~Aristotle
Some of the best writers – literary geniuses, even – have more than their fair share of mischief and periods of madness. While some were able to get off with nary a scratch (figuratively and literally speaking) – thanks to either their criminal lawyer or their specific circumstances, others have had to serve time in jail.
Here are some of the most popular writers who have been imprisoned. You might be surprised – or not.
St. Thomas More
Known best for his book “Utopia”, which he wrote in 1516, St. Thomas More is the Patron of Lawyers.
While one might have the initial impression that saints and crime (hence jail time) don’t go together, if you think about it, it actually makes sense. Saints stand up for their beliefs, which usually lead to their demise.
In St. Thomas More’s case, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London because he refused to sign the Act of Succession (to make Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church in England). Not long after that, he was beheaded.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Known more commonly as Cervantes, the Spanish writer gave us Don Quixote. He also wrote La Galatea, a pastoral novel.
What may not be as well known is the fact that he also worked as a tax collector. This was what led to his demise, as discrepancies were found in his accounts. The result was Cervantes spending time in the Crown Jail of Seville.
John Griffith “Jack” London
Unfortunately, he was charged with vagrancy at some point in his life and had to spend 30 days in the Eric County Penitentiary.
Joan Constance Anne Henry
This English novelist, playwright and screenwriter comes from a distinguished line – Prime Ministers John Russell (her great-great-grandfather) and Robert Peel. She started out writing romance novels but later on became famous for her work Who Lie in Gaol.
As you may surmise, the book is based on her experiences in prison.
Why did she go to jail?
Joan Henry’s marriage went to the dogs, and she got herself into gambling troubles. At one point, she accepted a forged check from a friend. She got found out, convicted, and sentenced to 12 months although she only served eight months.
American political activist, scholar, and author is a prominent figure in the radical feminist movement and the Communist Party USA. She was also a professor at U.C. Santa Cruz in the 90s. Before that, though, she faced some heavy charges – back in the 70s when her activism was at its peak.
Angela Davis was convicted of purchasing firearms which a 17-year-old (Jonathan Jackson) used to hijack a courtroom in which four people died, including a judge. After going into hiding for months, Davis spent almost a year in jail. She did get exonerated afterwards, though. Oh, and she made it to the FBI’s Most Wanted List!
Yes, creative and brilliant writers are not perfect and some have had serious legal issues. The next time you get a ticket for speeding, take consolation in this fact.