bloggers beware: learn from writers' suicides on Grub Street

In Old Regime France, literary elites cruelly abused hack writers even after their suicides.

What happened when a literary hack committed suicide?  Sadly, the lowly denizens of France’s Grub Street could expect little in the way of a posthumous career: no reflective éloges or well-attended funerals, no postmortem editions, no Festchriften by bereaved peers in the field.  In fact, the opposite generally occurred: the literary press often maliciously mocked the suffering and disappearance of a trivial man of letters, sensationalizing the circumstances of the death and turning tragedy into an entertaining fait divers.  When suicide came to Grub Street, the scurrilous press followed shortly behind.  Self-inflicted death, after all, afforded one last opportunity for the cultural establishment to exploit the tribulations of the ‘literary proletariat’.[*]

Bloggers, do not retreat into Twittering or Facebooking.  Do not commit suicide!  That will only make your situation worse.

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[*] Caradonna, Jeremy L. (2010), “Grub Street and Suicide: A View from the Literary Press in Late Eighteenth-Century France,” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, v. 33 n. 1, p. 23.

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