Autobiography and Biography

Burning with Creativity: Authors Who Suffer from Mental Illness

You don't have to have a mental disorder to be a great author, but those lightning leaps of imagination and hours spent constructing fascinating stories, multi-layered in meaning and unique in style, can sometimes be linked to mental illness.

Many of the 20th century's great writers, including Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and William Styron, suffered from mental illness. During May, which is Mental Health Month, take a moment to examine the difficult lives of these writers.

John Lee Pratt's Frigidaire

 This sizzling summer seems a fitting season to recall the almost forgotten story of John Lee Pratt and the Frigidaire, one of the first "mechanical" refrigerators.

In 1919 Mr. Pratt, a King George County boy who would become a multi-millionaire and owner of Chatham Manor, was a General Motors engineer.

That same year GM had produced the Frigidaire, one of the first mechanical refrigerators for home use. They were called "mechanical" because some were powered by electricity, others by gas.

William Forrest Halsey: Silent Scenarist of Fredericksburg

Forrest Halsey (who did not utilize the "William" assigned by his parents at his birth in New Jersey on the ninth of November, 1878) was a grandson of John and Martha Whittemore, onetime residents of Fredericksburg's imposing Hanover Street mansion, Federal Hill.

Well-known both in Fredericksburg and in international literary circles during the two decades of 1910-1930, he is to most--like his silent movies--a nearly forgotten shadow.

General Lewis Littlepage: Soldier, Spy, and King's Confidant, 1762-1802

To the Spaniards, he was known as young Litlpese. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette knew him as the charming Little Peche. In Russia, to Catherine the Great and her favorites, he was the clever and ambitious Litlpaz. The doomed monarch, Stanislas Augustus of Poland, knew him as his loyal Litelpecz. Whatever the name, this often penniless Virginian's brilliant intellect and exquisite manners won him entry into the chambers, gaming tables, and salons of the last decades of Europe's Age of Enlightenment.

The Young and Orphaned Genius

The Astounding Leigh Brackett

"Would it help if I got out and pushed?"
—Princess Leia to Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back

"She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up."
—Private detective Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep

From sharp-tongued space princesses to Bogey's grim gumshoe, some of Leigh Brackett's most enduring legacies are the scripts she wrote for movies that are considered among the 20th century's very best.

Arthur Miller: Modern Theater's Fiery Spirit

Throughout the 1950s, a generation of artists, many of whom had helped America triumph during World War II, recoiled in horror from the growth of faceless corporations, government watchdogs, and bigoted citizens' groups. The pounding of the keys of hundreds of typewriters sounded a cadence of rebellion. They resisted the new order and created a road of written pages which gave other rebellious souls encouragement for the revolution to come. Arthur Miller was in the forefront.

Robert Burns: Scotland's Own Poet

The 25th of January 1759 occasioned Scotland's most famous birthday, when, in a blast of snow and winter winds, Robert Burns was born in a humble cottage in Alloway. That birthday is still celebrated in Scotland, and by Scots and poetry lovers around the world.

Dr. Edward Alvey, Jr.: The Dean Who Lived and Chronicled a Century

When Dr. Edward Alvey, Jr., died at the age of 97 on July 11, 1999, generations of Mary Washington College students remembered him as their beloved Dean.

They -- and generations of Fredericksburgers -- also remembered him as a writer and historian who illuminated the life and times of our area.