The great British historian Paul Johnson, recognized how much more difficult it is for creative people to keep working despite challenges; “creative originality of outstanding quality often reflects huge resources of courage, especially when the artist will not bow to the final enemy: age or increasing debility. Thus Beethoven struggled against this deafness”, the painter Mary Cassatt her eye troubles as two operations for cataracts failed, as Johnson describes Henri Toulouse-Lautrec: Fragility at the growth node of his bones hindered normal development and caused pain, deformation, and weakness in his skeletal structure…as an adult, he had a normal torso but ‘his knock-kneed legs were comically short and his stocky arms had massive hands with club like fingers’. His bones were fragile and would break without apparent cause. He limped, and he had very large nostrils, bulbous lips, a thickened tongue, and a speech impediment. He sniffed continuously and drooled at the mouth. Most men with his afflictions would have done nothing with their lives but hide and brood. …..But he had courage, and his courage not only enabled him to fight against his ill health and debilities by hard work but also to do amazingly daring things with this pencil, pen, and brush.” Though he died at age 36, and was often too ill to work, he became one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Johnson calls him “a hero of creativity”. The writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Kidnapped and Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was another such hero; lung disease killed him when he was in his early forties, but he could never write without “a conscious effort of will, as Johnson describes. “Few writers have shown such constant courage over the whole course of a career.”

— Paul Johnson  

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