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January 08, 2013



Brooke's was not the only remarkable mosquito-related death recorded in the annals of literary and popular culture. George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon and noted Egyptologist who financed the successful search for King Tutankhamun's tomb, was another. He died from a mosquito bite on his face which he later cut into while shaving. The bite became infected and led to blood poisoning and his death from pneumonia in 1923. Some will also remember that Herbert's country home, Highclere Castle, was the setting for PBS's popular series Downton Abbey.

Other bizarre deaths involving figures in the literary or publishing world include: Sherwood Anderson (1941) who died of peritonitis of the colon after swallowing a toothpick; J.I. Rodale (1971), author, publisher, and organic farming exponent died of a heart attack at 72 on stage at a taping of the Dick Cavett talk show shortly after stating that he felt so good he would probably live to be 100; Tennessee Williams (1983) choked on an eyedrop bottle-cap that he put in his mouth before leaning his head back to place the drops in each eye; director, producer, and screenwriter of many Oscar-prone films Alan J. Pakula (1998) died on the Long Island Expressway when the driver in front of him struck a seven-foot-long pipe lying on the roadway that then bounced upward, smashed through Pakula's windshield, struck him in the head, caused the car to swerve across the road and into a fence, and killed him instantly. (This Metablog commenter had a similar if a lot less consequential brush with fate on the LIE when the Volkswagen he was driving was struck in the left headlight by a large clod of rock, grass, and earth set in motion -- rolling and bouncing -- over the dividing sward by a car going in the opposite direction. Terrifying smashed glass at high speed but it could have been much worse.)

Moral? Watch those 'skeets, be safe at home and in the fast lane, and don't brag.

Paul Agostinelli

Dulce et decorum est via mosquito mori

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