Biography of Famous Alcoholic and Writer O. Henry

About the famous American writer and alcoholic O. Henry, about his struggle with the disease.

O. HENRY (1862-1910). William Sydney Porter, who wrote under the pseudonym of O. Henry, was an American short-story writer whose "surprise" endings set a trend in short fiction.

He was the son of a North Carolina doctor. As a young man, he worked as a ranch hand and then as a teller in a Texas bank. While employed at the bank he was accused of embezzlement, and fled to Honduras. In 1897 he returned to Texas and was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Throughout the years following his release from prison until his death at 48, he drank heavily and supported himself with his highly salable stories, which were much in demand by the magazines of the day.

"O. Henry had to be guarded and made to write," observed Upton Sinclair. "He could not write anything bad, it seemed, but it was agony for him to write at all." Magazine editors would send assistants to sober him up, watch over him, and compel him to meet publishing deadlines. His last years were spent roaming the streets of New York, drinking heavily and writing sporadically, but writing incomparably well.

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