Zelda and Scott FitzGerald

The Top Five Doomed Literary Couples

We were as sad as everyone else to wake up this morning to the news of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt’s separation. Especially since their ‘getting-together’ story involves the adorable revelation that they both had dead-bug collections. So while Hollywood is in mourning, we put together a list of the top five doomed couples of the literary world. 



1. Zelda Sayre and F. Scott FitzGerald. 


FitzGerald, Sayre and their daughter Scottie

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This doomed couple of the roaring twenties are one of the most famous literary couples of all time; their relationship and penchant for partying almost as legendary as their work (I say ‘their work’ because, apart from Zelda writing a lesser known novel ‘Save Me The Waltz,’  much of Scott’s famous prose was lifted from Zelda’s diary…) Despite taking direct inspiration from his relationship with Sayre, FitzGerald was furious when ‘Save Me The Waltz’ appeared to divulge details of their relationship. Both parties were unfaithful to one another, with Sayre even accusing FitzGerald of having an affair with Ernest Hemingway. Due to Zelda’s ill health, she lived much of her later life in institutions, and, though the couple never divorced, they were living apart when FitzGerald when he died suddenly in 1940. 



2. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath 


Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

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Plath and Hughes’s relationship is often touted as one of the most dysfunctional in literature, ending with Plath’s suicide in 1963. At this stage, the two were estranged though not divorced. It has been alleged that Hughes’s philandering spurred Plath’s depression and recently, previously-unseen letters from Plath were discovered, accusing Hughes of physical violence towards her. Much of each other’s most famous work is inspired by their relationship including many of Plath’s poems in ‘Ariel,’ and Hughes’s collection ‘Birthday Letters.’



3. Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West


Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

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Woolf and Sackville-West met in 1922 when Woolf was forty and Sackville-West thirty. Both were married but had open relationships with their spouses. They instantly formed a bond which lasted until Woolf’s death in 1941, during which time West famously described herself, in what might be one of the most honest, beautiful comments anyone has ever made about love, as ‘reduced to a thing that wants Virginia.’ Though they were not lovers the entire time, they remained important to one another, with Sackville-West penning a heartfelt letter of condolence to Leonard Woolf when Virginia passed away. The relationship between Woolf and Sackville-West was far less tumultuous than some on this list, with the two enjoying a genuine love and respect for each other.



4. Mary Karr and David Foster Wallace 


Mary Karr and David Foster Wallace

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Poet Mary Karr and author David Foster Wallace had an affair in the early 90s. Foster Wallace had said before they got together that he had become obsessed with Karr, even tattooing her name on his body, and considering killing her husband. While the two were together, Karr alleged Foster Wallace’s behavior was sometimes violent and erratic. Karr was the inspiration behind Foster Wallace’s most famous work, the sprawling ‘Infinite Jest.’ When Foster Wallace died, Karr penned a deeply moving poem, Suicide’s Note: An Annual, in his honor. 



5. Arthur Rimbaud and Peter Verlaine


Verlaine and Rimbaud

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When poet extraordinaire Arthur Rimbaud was eighteen, he wrote to several poets hoping that one would take him on as an apprentice. He received a positive reply from Verlaine, who sent him a one-way ticket to Paris, accompanied by the message: “Come, dear great soul. We await you; we desire you.” Shortly after Rimbaud arrived, he and Verlaine began a short and disastrous affair, which, after Verlaine had left his young wife and infant son to move to London with Rimbaud, culminated in Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the wrist in a drunken rage. Verlaine was sentenced to two years in prison and the relationship between the two world renowned poets ended there. Rimbaud’s wrist healed and he went on to become one of the most famous poets in history. 


Featured Image Courtesy of NPR