Despite what Rich Kids of Instagram might imply, a legendary parent can sometimes cloud opportunities for their children. The offspring of the successful can feel impossible pressure to live up to the expectations set by their mothers and fathers. Look at Sean Lennon: No matter how good his music could possibly be, he cannot top John Lennon. In the public’s opinion, the respected parent almost always wins.
Authors can create the same setbacks for their children. Here are some writers whose offspring didn’t necessarily try to surpass their parents, but had intriguing lives anyway:
1. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Son: Julian, the Huckster
Like his father, Julian was a writer. He wrote fiction, worked as an editor and was even hired as a reporter by William Randolph Hearst. He was a friend to many authors, including Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde.
In 1908, though, Julian was in financial strains and began investing in and promoting new mining companies in Canada. The Hawthorne name became central to the stock-selling campaigns, with one company dubbing itself Hawthorne Silver and Iron Mines. Unfortunately, the company’s stock was worthless and the entire endeavour turned out to be a sham. Despite maintaining his innocence until his death, Julian was convicted of mail fraud after a four-month trial in 1913 and was sentenced to serve a year in prison. All things considered, the experience did help him write The Subterranean Brotherhood, a non-fiction book arguing against the penal conditions of the time, which became one of Julian’s most critically acclaimed works.
2. Mark Twain’s Daughter: Clara, the Only Child to Outlive Her Father
Twain (real name: Samuel Langhorne Clemens) and his wife Olivia had four children. Their only son Langdon died of diphtheria at 19 months; their oldest daughter, Susy, was 24 when she died of spinal meningitis; and Jean, the youngest child, was 29 when she died from drowning in a bathtub after suffering a heart attack. None of the children lived past 30 — except for Clara, who was born in 1874 and died in 1962 at 88 years old. In 1908, she was involved in a sleigh-riding accident that, surprisingly, left her unharmed despite being thrown from the ride. It seems she was immune to the accidents and health concerns that caused her siblings’ untimely deaths.
Clara became a singer and performer, later marrying a Russian conductor. She never aspired to be the writer her father was, and her daughter, Nina, was the last known lineal descendant of Twain. She died in 1966 of a suspected overdose.
3. Ernest Hemingway's Son-Turned-Daughter: Gregory/Gloria
Gregory had a mostly estranged relationship with his father, who blamed him for his mother Pauline’s death, supposedly caused by shock at Gregory’s arrest in 1951, when he was caught entering a women’s restroom in a theatre.
Gregory was, according to The Telegraph, a college dropout who “was discharged from the U.S. Army, drank heavily and could not hold down a job.” He fathered eight children during his first four marriages while simultaneously struggling with his sexual identity. His daughter, Lorian, wrote in her memoir Walk on Water: “I never had a clue until my mother told me that he sometimes wore her girdle and painted his nails a bright, clean red. ... I've seen pictures. He looks like Ethel Merman."
Gregory’s cross-dressing eventually led to a sex-change operation in 1995, after which he went by the name Gloria. Gloria spent her last five days alive in a woman’s prison after being arrested on Key Biscayne for indecent exposure, walking around without any clothes on, though holding a dress and high heels. She died in prison of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Iconic authors produce a problem for their children: What can the offspring do to distinguish themselves? These authors’ children had stories that separated them from their parents. Whether it be going to prison or cross-dressing or simply surviving, these kids carved their own paths, however tragic.
Know of any other interesting stories about children of famous authors? Share them with us in the comments below.