Everyone stopped talking, and Rose drew in her breath sharply. "There has never been anything like it in the world," she said. "There never will be."

Mr. Smith put his arm around his wife's waist and Tootie and Agnes clung to Grandpa Prophater. "And just think," Mrs. Smith said, her voice soft and awe-stricken. "It's all right here where we live."

Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier Williams, later known as Tennessee, moved here with his family in 1918 and lived here for nearly twenty years, but he never felt at home. "I found St. Louisans cold, smug, complacent, intolerant, stupid, and provincial," he wrote as an adult, once he had escaped. "I hate the place."

Still, Williams' first plays were produced here, when he was a student at Washington University, and he immortalized his family's cramped apartment at 6254 Enright Avenue in University City in his first great success, 1944's The Glass Menagerie. (He also had an affair with the playwright William Inge, then the theater critic for the St. Louis Star-Times.)

Click here for a full-sized map of Literary St. Louis
Dan Zettwoch
Click here for a full-sized map of Literary St. Louis

In 1968, Williams returned to St. Louis — which he called "St. Pollution" — when his brother Dakin checked him into Barnes Hospital, mostly against his will, for drug and alcohol rehab.

And then I was in the house on Wydown Boulevard in Clayton, Mom's old Spanish stucco dwelling, and it was morning and I had firmly decided not to enter a hospital.

"Mother, have you ever heard of sibling envy?"

"Oh yes, I think so," said Miss Edwina coldly.

A bit later I said I would go to the hospital provided an ambulance was summoned to take me. Dakin talked me out of that. He got me into his car and drove me to Barnacle Hospital. At first, that first day, I was put in the Queen's Division — and I didn't make up that name, that's just what it's called. It is the rather posh division for the "mildly disturbed." I was placed under the "care" of three neurologists and an internist.

The treatment at Barnes likely saved Williams' life, but it caused a permanent rift between him and his brother. When Williams finally died in 1983, Dakin, knowing his hatred of St. Louis, had him buried in Calvary Cemetery.

John Burroughs School
Founded in 1923, John Burroughs School has long been considered one of the best — and most exclusive — private schools in the city. Among its distinguished alumni are the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley (whose latest book, Private Life, is partially set in St. Louis), class of 1967; the novelist and junkie William S. Burroughs, class of 1931; and the journalist Martha Gellhorn, class of 1926.

Burroughs was no relation to John Burroughs; his grandfather, also named William S. Burroughs, founded the Burroughs Adding Machine Company. Our Burroughs grew up in luxury in the Central West End; his family later moved to Ladue. He was subsequently stationed at Jefferson Barracks during a brief stint in the Army, which ended abruptly when Burroughs, in an attempt to impress a friend, cut off part of one of his own fingers with poultry shears.

After that unfortunate incident, Burroughs left St. Louis and became famous as a charter member of the Beat generation, writing the novels Junkie and Naked Lunch. He achieved infamy for accidentally shooting his wife while drunkenly trying to reenact the legend of William Tell with a martini glass in place of an apple (though Burroughs would later claim it didn't happen that way). He also collaborated with Jack Kerouac on a mystery called And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, allegedly inspired by a news report about a fire at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Like Mark Twain, Burroughs was distressed by changes to St. Louis in his absence: "But what had happened to Market Street, the skid row of my adolescent years?" he wrote in 1965. "Where are the tattoo parlors, novelty stores, hock shops — brass knuckles in a dusty window — the seedy pitchmen — Where are the old junkies hawking and spitting on street corners under the glass lights?"

Martha Gellhorn was among the first students to attend Burroughs; her mother, Edna, a noted suffragist, was one of the founders. As an adult, Gellhorn didn't return here much; she later formulated a theory about St. Louisans abroad, which she shared with her then-husband, Ernest Hemingway, known as U.C., or Unwilling Companion, in her book Travels With Myself and Another:

I had seen another Caucasian board the train at Shaokwan and made a bet with U.C.

"Bet you 20 dollars Chinese he comes from St. Louis."


"I think it's a law. When you get to the worst farthest places, the stranger has come from St. Louis.'"

"Done." I moved along the unsteady train until I saw the man, reading alone in his cindery compartment. I asked if he was American. Yes. Did he come from St. Louis? He looked only slightly surprised and said Yes. I said thank you and left and collected twenty Chinese dollars. U.C. thought about that. Hours later he said, "Maybe it's something you catch from the water. Maybe it's not your fault."

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