1) Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned at sea in the Italian Gulf of Spezia. During cremation, his heart refused to burn due to apparent calcification. A female stole the heart from the flames and gave the crumbs to the Shelley’s wife, who stored the dusty remains in her desk for years. Answer: Author’s Death: Shelly’s wife, Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley, apparently kept her husband’s heart in her writing drawer.
2) Virginia Woolf filled her overcoat’s pockets with rocks, walked into the Ouse River and promptly drowned. In her suicide note to her husband, she wrote, “I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.” Answer: Author’s Death: Woolf struggled with depression for years with her first suicide attempt at age 22. She killed herself 40 years later.
3) Charles Dickens was incredibly close with his grandfather who owned an odds and ends shop. When his grandfather’s health ailed, Dicken’s led him to a safe haven to escape Dicken’s brother, who was after their grandfather’s money. The journey destroyed Dickens, who died shortly after. His grandfather sat by his grave every day until he too died. Answer: Work of Fiction: Dickens died of a simple stroke. The devoted grandpa belonged to Nell Trent of The Old Curiosity Shop fame.
4) After a heartbreaking relationship breakdown and the miscarriage of his child, Thomas Hardy’s long-term girlfriend left him for a more respectable but boring man. In a final bid to save his relationship, Hardy traveled in freezing weather to win her back, but died from exposure within the year. Answer: Work of Fiction: Hardy actually died from boring old age. It was Jude Fawley from Jude the Obscure who died with a cold and broken heart.
5) Italian poet Dante Alighieri died from malaria — so far, so boring. However, his body was subsequently hidden in a wall to prevent “corpse-napping” and forgotten about for 500 years, until a construction worker hammered through a wall and hit dry bone. Answer: Author’s Death: Dante’s body was discovered during church renovations in 1865. In 1878, a town clerk returned a box of Dante’s bones he’d stolen during the discovery of the body.
6) Sherwood Anderson, an American writer, died from complications after swallowing a toothpick at a restaurant. Answer: Author’s Death: Anderson should have waited to get home to brush his teeth.
7) Ingeborg Bachman, a poet and author, committed suicide by bashing her head against a pyramid in Egypt. Answer: Work of Fiction: The death was the fate of the lead character in Bachman’s book, The Book of Franza. Bachman died after a fire in her bedroom.
8) American children’s book writer Doris Buchanan Smith died on a blackberry picking expedition after an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Answer: Work of Fiction: The Taste of Blackberries is Smith’s final book left in print. A deadly bee sting populates the narrative.
9) Japanese author Yukio Mishima was beheaded after an attempt to take over a Japanese garrison. He failed. Answer: Author’s Death: Brutal.