I suppose Holcroft Adams is the most famous man I have known. I imagine you have never heard of him. His star shone bright and fast, as they say. His poetry has been long out of print, is all but forgotten, but for a year or so in the early forties his was the name on every book-lovers lips. His three books (The Awakening, Puck’s Pontoon, and An Alphabet of Flying Whimsy) came out in quick succession and each was seen by the critics as a masterpiece.
So why did he fall from sight so quickly? It is a tragic story. Although Holcroft, due to a brush with what was then called consumption, avoided service in the war, his brother was not so lucky. Doubly so; as not only did Clarence fight for his country he also died for it. What is left of him lies in an untended graveyard somewhere in North Africa. His brother’s death broke Holcroft. He never wrote another word.
Then, seemingly from nowhere, a rumour started circulating that the reason that Holcroft was not producing new work was that he was not the writer but a front for his less glamorous, departed brother. Rumours grow more spiteful as they bustle along.
Soon, it was being said Holcroft had faked his illness. That he was a drunk, a homosexual, a fake. God it all seems so petty now doesn’t it? A homosexual. What on earth did that matter? Anyone who tells you that “things were better in the old days” is a bloody fool or a bloody liar.
“Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” Who doesn’t might be a more pertinent question. We are a wicked people en-masse are we not?
Have you ever watched a man drink himself to death? It takes so much longer than you imagine. Holcroft died, in my arms, on the fourteenth of August, nineteen eighty four. He was the sweetest man I ever knew. I miss him terribly.
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