- Category : Writers-Fiction
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Rulership 3
American author, one of America's favorite short story writers and one of the top selling writers of the early 20th century. His career was largely compressed into the final nine years of his life. His adaptation of his pen name, like his refusal to allow his photo to be printed and his habit of giving out false biographical information, was intended to hide from the world, and especially from his daughter Margaret, a criminal record. He had been indicted for embezzlement of bank funds in Austin, Texas and sent to a prison in Columbus, Ohio 1898 to 1901. He spent his three years in prison writing so he could earn money to support his daughter.
The second of three sons, young William was a few days past age three when his mother died of tuberculosis, with his infant brother following a few days later. He and his older brother were raised primarily by Grandma Porter, known as a local character. Their physician father was a caring parents but a bit odd, his absent mindedness apparently aided by a bit of whiskey. To supplement the family income, Will worked in the family drugstore while becoming a registered pharmacist, relishing dime-novels about cowboys, Indians and the Wild West for recreation.
In 1881, he made a trip to Texas that changed his life. He learned to ride and rope and speak Spanish with the ranch hands while writing stories in his spare time. A few years later he returned to city life and a variety of jobs, finally serving as a teller at the First National Bank of Austin, TX. He already loved a drink, card playing, and singing in the choir, and added another love to his life, that of 17-year-old Athol Estes. The couple eloped. Athol was a good influence, encouraging Will to submit his stories for publication and he began to make sales. However, Athol was weakened by two pregnancies, a boy who died and a daughter, Margaret Worth Porter.
Bored with the bank, Will went to work for the Houston Daily Post. Shortly after, he was called to appear before a grand jury on charges of alleged embezzlement of $4,702.94 from the bank. He got on a banana boat to Honduras in July 1896 and remained there for seven months. When Will returned to Texas, he had to face the death of Athol in July 1897 and an arrest and trial. The 35-year-old vagabond pled not guilty on 2/17/1898 and was sentences to five years prison. He began his sentence on 4/25/1898, a weary and broken man. While in prison, he worked in the pharmacy and wrote in his free time. Three years later he was released as the famous and revered writer, O.Henry.
He rejoined his grown daughter in 1901, assuring her that he would not make any more "business trips" that took so long. Soon, however, he was called to New York by a publisher and while there, found that he loved the city; it was his town. It was the most prolific and successful period in his life and his first book came out in 1904. Detached, he had few friends and liked his drinking alone. He made a lot of money and spent it freely and generously. By 1902, it was said that he was putting away two quarts of whiskey a day.
O.Henry began a romantic correspondence with a childhood girl friend and they married in 1907. It lasted but a short haul when his Sara soon returned to Asheville, NC and he resumed his bachelor life in New York City. He joined her in 1909 when his health began to fail but in January 1910, returned to New York with advance money to write a play. It did not happen; he tried to write enough to pay the rent and keep a bottle on the table. A friend who visited was shocked at how wasted away and thin he was.
On the evening of June 3rd, 1910 he was overcome by pain. When taken to the hospital he emptied his pockets, finding that he had a total of 23 cents. His diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver were both far advanced. On the morning of June 5th, he stirred and said, "Turn up the lights. I don’t want to go home in the dark," and died at 7:06 AM. His headstone does not even mention the name by which he became famous and beloved, but reads William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910.