Famous (and not-so-famous) People with Disabilities
John Dos Passos on Randolph Bourne (from U.S.A. 1946)
He was a hunchback, grandson of a congregational minister, born in 1886 in Bloomfield, New Jersey; there he attended grammer school and high school. At the age of seventeen he went to work as a secretary to a Morristown businessman. He worked his way through Columbia working in a pianola record factory in Newark, working as proofreader, painotuner, accompanist in a vocal studio in Carnegie Hall.
At Columbia he studied with John Dewey, got a traveling fellowship that
took him to England Paris Rome Berlin Copenhagen, wrote a book on the
Gary schools. In Europe he heard music, a great deal of Wagner and Scriabine
Half musician, half educational theorist (weak health and being poor and twisted in body and on bad terms with his people hadn't spoiled the world for Randolph Bourne; he was a happy man, loved die Meistersinger and playing Bach with his long hands that stretched so easily over the keys and pretty girls and good food and evenings of talk. When he was dying of pneumonia a friend brought him an eggnog; Look at the yellow, its beautiful, he kept saying as his life ebbed into delirium and fever. He was a happy man.) Bourne seized with feverish intensity on the ideas then going around at Columbia he picked rosy glasses out of the turgid jumble of John Dewey's teaching through which he saw clear and sharp.
the shining capitol of reformed democracy,
He resigned from the New Republic; only The Seven Arts had the nerve
to publish his articles against the war. The backers of the Seven Arts
took their money elsewhere; friends didn't like to be seen with Bourne,
his father wrote him begging him not to disgrace the family name. The
rainbowtinted future of reformed democracy went pop like a pricked soapbubble.
He was cartooned, shadowed by the espionage service and the counter-espionage service; taking a walk with two girl friends at Wood's Hole he was arrested, a trunk full of manuscript and letters stolen from him in Connecticut. (Force to the utmost, thundered Schoolmaster Wilson).
He didn't live to see the big circus of the Peace of Versailles or the purplish normalcy of the Ohio Gang. Six weeks after the armistice he died planning an essay on the foundations of future radicalism in America.
If any man has a ghost
- John Dos Passos