Behind Bars: 12 Famous Authors Who Spent Time In Jails & Prisons

in life •  3 years ago

Well established and famous authors such as Oscar Wilde and Miguel de Cervantes are known for their literary works of art, however, what some might not know is that they also served time in jails and prisons.

As much as I love reading all of your amazing posts on Steemit, I also enjoy a classic here and there, and lately, I've been thinking about the lives of these famous authors, so I did a little research and I found out some interesting facts that some of you just might not know. Below I've compiled a list of famous authors who served time behind bars not only for their crimes but also for their ideologies.

Here’s the list of writers who served time behind bars:

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Best known for the classics "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray," Oscar Wilde filed a criminal libel suit against his lover’s father who accused him of homosexuality. Shortly after filing the suit, Wilde withdrew his case, and he was subsequently arrested and convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years behind bars. During his incarceration, he wrote the letter "De Profundis," which outlined his spiritual growth that resulted from his imprisonment.

Chester Himes (1909-1984)

Chester Himes, best know as the author of classics "If He Hollers Let Him Go" and "Cotton Comes to Harlem," served seven-and-a-half years in an Ohio State Penitentiary for armed robbery. While in imprisoned, Himes began writing short stories, eventually earning the respect of prison guards and other inmates and in that way shielding himself from violence.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

A tax collector, Cervantes was imprisoned at least twice for fiscal irregularities. During the second incarceration, he began his masterpiece "Don Quixote," the first part of which was published in 1605.

Nelson Algren (1909-1981)

As a youngster, Nelson Algren spent five months in jail for stealing a typewriter, and as an adult, he became the winner of the National Book award for his novel "The Man With the Golden Arm."

Joan Henry (1914-2000)

Author and playwright, Joan Henry, spent eight months in prison for passing fraudulent checks. Based on her experiences behind bars, she wrote "Who Lie In Gaol," which was an exposé of substandard prison conditions. The book instantly became a bestseller and was even later made into a movie titled "The Weak and the Wicked."

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

The author of classic "Robinson Crusoe" and "Moll Flanders," Daniel Dafoe, was sentenced to an indefinite term in London’s Newgate prison for his passing pamphlets on his partisan stand on public issues. While incarcerated, he also spent three days in the public pillory which legend has it that instead of rotten eggs and dead animals being thrown at him, the crowd threw roses at him as a result of reading his poem "Hymn to the Pillory."

Jack Henry Abbott (1944-2002)

While incarcerated​ for armed robbery, author Jack Abbott wrote the critically acclaimed book "In the Belly of the Beast." The book consisted of letters to author Norman Mailer who helped Abbott win parole, but only six weeks after his release, Abbott stabbed a man to death and was convicted of manslaughter.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)

Fyodor Dostoevsk, the great Russian writer was sentenced to death by firing squad, saved only by the Czar’s last-minute commutation of the sentence to four years in a Siberian labor camp for reading and circulating essays critical of the government. While in prison, he began his short novel "Notes from Underground," described by some as the first existentialist novel.

Jack London (1876-1916)

Jack London is the author of classics "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" spent thirty days in the Eric County Penitentiary for being homeless, an experience that he recalls as transformative. London's writing later influenced the likes of Ernest Hemingway and many others.

William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) (1862-1910)

William Sydney Porter was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement. During his incarceration, he had published fourteen short stories under several pseudonyms.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby (b. 1950)

Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff and author of "The Apprentice," Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was sentenced in 2007 to thirty months in federal prison for obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements in connection with the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. However, his sentence was commuted by President Bush, and he actually never served jail time, though many believe he should have.

John Cleland (1709-1789)

John Cleland, the author of "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, "was arrested for and sentenced to time behinds bars for obscenity. After his release, Cleland disavowed the novel, and it would not be legally published again for over a hundred years.

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The list of authors who have committed suicide is also very long. Something about those writers.


Yes, the list of authors who have committed suicide is also very long. You're absolutely right @sabot, there is something about those authors. Maybe their pain and suffering are what makes them great?

Thank you for sharing it with us

great post @albertfall......alot of good research and compilation !!