In 1911, a young poet committed suicide. His death, while not a huge blow to the literary establishment, made a permanent impression on an acquaintance, an American aspiring writer who had been living in London, submitting poems and stories to magazines. Deeming the young poet’s death a "suicide of despair," the aspiring writer decided to put aside his literary ambitions, get realistic about his need to support himself, and move back to America to find a real job. Recalling his friend’s suicide he later said, "The incident made a great impression on me, because (he) struck me as having far more talent than I was ever likely to possess; and if he couldn’t make a go of it, it wasn’t very likely that I could." The poet, whose name was Richard Middleton, has largely been forgotten, except for his inadvertent influence on the writer Raymond Chandler, who was born this day in 1888. If it hadn’t been for Middleton’s death convincing Chandler to give up verse, we might never have had the hard-boiled, gritty, urban poetry of detective classics The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye.

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