Author(s): Paul Johnson
Wonderfully readable portraits of outstanding creators In his book Intellectuals (1988) Paul Johnson asked whether intellectuals were morally fit to give advice to humanity (no, was the usual answer). In contrast, this book is about the creative and heroic side of outstanding individuals. There are many themes but no typical creator. Courage is always required, and self-confidence. Some never lacked recognition or sales, like Turner and Victor Hugo, Picasso and Durer. For others, like Bach or Jane Austen, the scale of their achievement was unrecognised in their lifetime. Luck can play a crucial part - as in Wordsworth's meeting with Coleridge and T.S. Eliot's with Ezra Pound (Eliot needed strong martinis too). Fashion made some, like Tiffany, rich and famous before dumping them (although now, again, his pieces are worth a fortune). Ruthlessness is important too - Mark Twain was not even his own pseudonym, he pinched it from another Mississippi-pilot-turned-writer who he savaged so severely he gave up writing. If there is no one typical creator, there is a common theme: putting excellence before any other consideration. Walt Disney and Christian Dior did this in their own way as surely as Chaucer or Shakespeare, William Morris or Turner. First published 2006.