As an online companion to our article in the October 2012 issue, read more tales about writerly drinking legends Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allan Poe, and Dorothy Parker.
By Maija Zummo
“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
Drink of choice: Absinthe
While Wilde enjoyed iced champagne, he spent his time in Paris courting the green fairy, writing about absinthe’s hallucinogenic effects: “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage, where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.”
“An alcoholic is someone who you don’t like, who drinks as much as you do.”
Drink of choice: Whiskey
The Welsh poet, before going gentle into that good night, was mythologized like a rock star. Writer Elizabeth Hardwick once said of his readings, “Would he arrive only to break down on the stage? Would some dismaying scene take place at the faculty party? Would he be offensive, violent, obscene? These were alarming and yet exciting possibilities.”
EDGAR ALLAN POE
“Quaintest thoughts—queerest fancies / Come to life and fade away; / What care I how time advances? / I am drinking ale today.” —“Lines on Ale”
Drink of choice: Whatever he could afford
The first well-known American to try to earn a living through writing alone, Poe was frequently broke, and often discharged from editing jobs for drunkenness. In a mystery on par with such a dark legend, a black-cloaked stranger known as the "Poe Toaster" visited the author’s grave in the wee morning hours of his birthday for more than 60 years to toast him with a glass of French cognac.
"I like to have a Martini/ Two at the very most/ After three I'm under the table/ After four I'm under my host.”
Drink of choice: “A dear little whiskey sour”
This witty writer, poet and journalist enjoyed portraying drinking and Jazz Age nightlife in her writing. Despite her love for the whiskey sour, she immortalized the martini in the above quip, found on cocktail napkins everywhere.