Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/381

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GENIUS AND SUICIDE.

Realf himself said that he thought his mind was obscured at the time. After some years of misery he procured a divorce and remarried. Happiness seemed to be near again, but after two years, upon some technical grounds, the Superior Court reversed the decision of the lower court and declared his divorce illegal. Misfortunes then began to fall thick and fast. His second wife and children, for he had become the father of triplets, grew ill. Additional heavy drains were made upon his purse by a widowed sister and a paralytic brother, and to add to his cup of bitterness his first wife followed him to California and insisted upon claiming support. At last, bowed down and broken by misfortune, worry, and overwork, he ended with laudanum his eventful and unhappy life in the autumn of 1878. He made two attempts before success resulted, and between them composed the poem beginning "De mortuis nil nisi bonum," thus reminding us of Marcus Lucanus, "the eminent Roman poet of the silver age," who repeated lines from his poems descriptive of death as his lifeblood ebbed away.

If we were to look carefully into the histories of the lives of men of genius, we should find many names to add to the number already mentioned, and still more to swell the list of those who had attempted the deed without meeting with success.

Haydon, the celebrated historical painter and writer, overcome by debt, disappointment, and ingratitude, laid down the brush with which he was at work upon his last great effort, Alfred and the Trial by Jury, wrote with a steady hand "Stretch me no longer upon this rough world," and then with a pistol-shot put an end to his unhappy existence.

Richard Payne Knight, the poet, Greek scholar, and antiquary, was a victim of melancholia, and finally destroyed himself with poison.

Burton, the vivacious author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, who had the reputation of being able to raise laughter in any company, however "mute and mopish," was in reality constitutionally depressed, and it is believed that he was at last so overcome by his malady that he ended his life in a fit of melancholy.

Kleist, poet and dramatist, brooded over suicide, attempted it once unsuccessfully, and finally, by agreement with Henriette Vogel, who believed herself affected with an incurable disease, repaired to a small inn near Potsdam, where they ended their lives together.

Lessmann, the humorous writer, like Burton, put an end to himself in a fit of melancholy.

Sir Samuel Romilly, a man of brilliant genius, by whose efforts the criminal laws of England were remodeled—a man loved for