(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

In 1935, Denton Welch, then twenty years old, was struck by a car while riding his bicycle. The injuries he sustained—a broken spine and damage to his internal organs—left him partially crippled and permanently susceptible to fevers, hemorrhaging, and the spinal tuberculosis that would eventually result in his death thirteen years later. The psychological effects of the accident were as catastrophic as the physical effects and were compounded as Welch grappled not only with his bodily ills but also with his limitations as a painter and with his homosexuality. The journal he began in 1942 and continued keeping until 1948 deals much less with his anguish over the accident and his long convalescence than with their aftermath. During those years, Welch developed into a writer of autobiographical novels and short stories, and he formed the second most important emotional bond of his life, with Eric Oliver. (The first was with his mother, who died in 1926.)

Given that Welch’s slender reputation rests almost entirely on three largely unread novels (Maiden Voyage, 1943; In Youth Is Pleasure, 1945; A Voice Through a Cloud, 1950), the publication of his journals may seem a curiosity of little interest to anyone other than the literary scholar. One may read the journals sentimentally for the pathos of a life circumscribed by a crippling accident and of an artistic career cut tragically short. These facts, coupled with the posthumous neglect...

(The entire section is 562 words.)