Writers Inspired by Their Own Lives or Others

By | November 7, 2018

Clipping of an engraving based on daguerreotype of American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).

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(Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Edgar Allan Poe is a good example of someone who got his inspirations from actual events that he came across. As a magazine editor, he kept up with all the latest murder trials, events and scandals and used them as a basis for his fiction. Here are just a few examples. In his tale of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Roderick Usher entombs his twin sister Madeline in the cellar of their home, in comparison with real life Usher twins, James Campbell Usher and Agnes Pye Usher, who went insane just like his characters did. After reading about some workmen who found a skeleton in the wall of a church, he writes “The Cask of Amontillado” portraying Fortunato, who ends up being bricked up alive in a catacomb wall for insulting Montressor. Another example is “The Pit and the Pendulum” in 1842 about a torture chamber, in which he probably got his inspiration from the “Inquisition,” where instruments of torture were used to cause a lingering death.

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Charles Dickens

A lot of Charles Dickens’ characters in his books can be traced back to his own life as a teenager in London. Bill Sikes in “Oliver Twist” and Jacob Marley in “Scrooge,” are reminiscent of people he knew that lived and/or worked close by to where he lived. It turns out that a trader named William Sykes had a shop on Marylebone Street, where Dickens lived when he was between 17 and 20 years old. A lot of other similarities have been found between the story of Oliver Twist and Dickens home life in London. Then there were two tradesmen by the names of Goodge and Marney that were misers. Those names are highly suspect to be Scrooge and Marley. He also used his own father as one of his characters, Micawber.