Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Writer's Life 10/18 - Pillory

Here are ten books written at least in part while the author was in prison. It's from, heavily edited by yours truly:
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, published The Shortest Way with the Dissenters in 1702. It satirized those intolerant of Protestant nonconformists. In it, he proposed it would be more expedient to kill all dissenters rather than passing any laws against them. He was arrested for seditious libel. In Newgate Prison, he composed A Hymn to the Pillory, which was sold in the streets during one of his sessions in one. The poem is believed to have won the crowd over to such an extent that instead of pelting him with rotten food and cutting off his ears - the fate of a prior dissenter, spectators decorated the device with flowers. A biographer said: “no man in England but Defoe ever stood in the pillory and later rose to eminence among his fellow men.”
John Bunyan was sentenced to 12 years for refusing to stop preaching non-conformism. In prison, he completed his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in 1666 and set to work on The Pilgrim’s Progress, the hugely popular allegory that follows the protagonist, Christian, on a journey from the decadent “City of Destruction” (Earth) to the “Celestial City” (Heaven). The second part of the book follows Christian’s wife, Christiana, on a similar journey.
Thomas Paine's Common Sense political pamphlet played a significant part in the American Revolution. He was convicted of seditious libel against the British government after defending the French Revolution in Rights of Man (1791). In France he was elected to the French National Convention—despite not speaking French—as an ally to the Girondists and enemy of the more radical Montagnards led by Maximilien Robespierre. As the Reign of Terror ensued, Paine was taken prisoner in Paris. From his cell he worked on The Age of Reason, which challenged the authority of organized religion and advocated for deism. Miraculously, he avoided execution, was released after the fall of Robespierre, and returned to America at Thomas Jefferson’s invitation.
The novel, 120 Days of Sodom, was written in 1785 during the Marquis de Sade’s imprisonment in the Bastille. During the famous storming four years later, the work was taken. He lived the rest of his life not knowing what happened to it, dying in 1814. The manuscript was eventually found and published in 1905. Sade described it as “the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began.” The original piece has since sold for millions of euros. The terms “sadism” and “masochism” derive from it.
Under Gandhi’s mentorship, Jawaharlal Nehru was a prominent leader in the Indian Independence movement, which began the partition of India and the end of the British Raj in 1947. In the years leading up to independence, Nehru was taken prisoner for his involvement in the Quit India movement. He wrote The Discovery of India during his incarceration, 1942–46, with contributions from fellow political prisoners. The book explores much of the history, culture, and philosophy of the country, and argues for sovereignty.
Bertrand Russell, a lifelong pacifist, went to jail as a conscientious objector during World War I. He spent most of his six-month sentence writing Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. One of the 20th century’s foremost intellectuals, he won the 1950 Nobel Prize for Literature “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”
Miguel de Cervantes wrote in the prologue to Don Quixote that the epic tale was “begotten in a prison.” He was locked up for failing to pay his debts, ironically, as he'd served as bookkeeper and tax collector for the Spanish crown after a distinguished military career. The title character is the origin of the adjective “quixotic,” meaning “extremely idealistic and impractical.”
Dominican Friar Girolamo Savonarola was the de facto ruler of Florence for five years. He waged a puritanical campaign against Pope Alexander VI. After denouncing the Vatican’s corruption in 1497, he was excommunicated and jailed for preaching blasphemy. He was tortured on the rack until he confessed that he'd invented his visions and prophecies. His right arm was left intact so he could sign the confession. He was burned at the stake two weeks later. During his time behind bars, he composed Infelix Ego, known in English as “Alas, wretch that I am,” which begs forgiveness from God for his having betrayed, under torture, his deeply held beliefs.
Much of Nelson Mandela's autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom, is based on the manuscript he wrote during his 27 years in prison. It is one of the best-selling political memoirs of all time. Mandela will forever be remembered as the father figure of post-apartheid South Africa.

Pop quiz: Pillory rhymes with ...? Sorry, couldn't resist.

My thanks to the three ladies who made purchases on this gorgeous indian summer day, and to my Tuesday benefactress, who donated another batch of books that include pictorials on Van Gogh and Georgia O'Keefe, as well as four Hollywood-themed works.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:
Read Vic's Stories, free:


  1. Victor, are you contemplating a prison sentence so you can write a book and earn a Noble prize?

    1. They're more likely to burn my books.