The biographical deets Cliffs Notes never told you

The Secret Sex Lives of 4 Famous Writers

We all hope to keep the intimate details of our sex lives in the bedroom, but not all are successful at doing so—especially those who achieve fame. That includes literary fame. The following writers embarked on sexual careers remarkable enough to rival anything found in their novels.


1. Victor Hugo

Hugo is best known today for his lengthy novels, Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Less known is that Hugo’s sex life was nearly as long and just thrilling as anything the French writer dreamed up for his work. Upon marrying his neighborhood sweetheart, Adele Foucher at age 20, the virginal Hugo reportedly copulated with his new wife nine times on their wedding night. Adele eventually called for a sex-breather after five pregnancies in eight years, but Hugo was only getting started. He soon took up with the beautiful actress Juliette Drouet, and, according to the Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People, “It was not unusual for him to make love to a young prostitute in the morning, an appreciative actress before lunch, a compliant courtesan as an aperitif, and then join the also indefatigable Juliette for a night of sex.”

Upon his death in 1885 at the age of 83, the brothels reportedly shut down in mourning and “the whores of Paris had draped their pudenda in black crepe as a mark of respect” for the man who had been their most active supporter—publically AND privately.


2.  H.P. Lovecraft

Not every author shares Hugo’s love for lovemaking—not even the ones with “love” in their names! H.P. Lovecraft, known today for his pioneering works of horror fiction and his creation of the monster Cthulhu, was a thirty-four-year-old virgin and complete sexual novice when he married in 1924.  The bookish Lovecraft spent a great deal of time studying books about sex in order to prepare for his big night. He must not have been too pleased, as his wife Sonia later stated that she had to initiate all future sexual activity. She claimed:

“The very mention of the word sex seemed to upset him. He did, however, make the statement once that if a man cannot be or is not married at the greatest height of his sex-desire, which in his case, he said, was at age 19, he became somewhat unappreciative of it after he passed thirty. I was somewhat shocked but held my peace.”


3. Virginia Woolf

Molested by her older half-brothers as a child, Woolf was in the middle of a happy yet sexless marriage to Leonard Woolf when she fell in love with Vita Sackville-West, a fellow writer ten years her junior. Over the course of their five-year affair, the two women slept together nearly a dozen times—the longest sexual relationship Woolf would ever have. Leonard, for his part, could not have cared less, knowing his relationship with his wife was still secure.

The years of Woolf’s relationship with Sackville-West correspond directly to her most fruitful years as a writer, during which Woolf churned out the back-to-back masterpieces Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando. The latter was a fictionalized biography of Vita that her husband Harold called “the longest and most charming love letter in history.”


4. Honoré de Balzac


The chronicler of several beloved accounts of French life post-Napoleon, Balzac found inspiration from an unexpected source: his penis. According to Harper’s Magazine, Balzac would “masturbate to the very edge of orgasm, but not over, and that state—agitated, excited to the point of near-madness—was Balzac’s sweet spot, in terms of composing.” Balzac found his masturbation sessions were a nice intensification of his already hyperactive coffee binges, which he credited as vital to his writing.


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