So my current WIP has a stalker in it. I love to take matters from modern life, especially criminal matters, and bring them back to the Victorian period, so I can discover how Victorians would react. Actually, for me that’s often a major reason for writing at all—the discovery.
But before I discover I do need to do a little research and so there I was thinking, okay, I’ve got this stalker, but how does he stalk my heroine (I don’t call him a stalker by the way—that’s a modern term. He’s her secret admirer—gone horribly wrong!)? They don’t have email or cell phones or answering machines or even portable cameras. My characters might, conceivably have a phone as I’m writing in 1885 and the family is very wealthy. But still, that’s not a whole lot. And suddenly, I’ve got it! Vincent Van Gogh! He was so enamored by some woman that he cut off his ear and mailed it to her, right? He must have had some other stalking behavior beforehand. All I need to do is research Vincent, right?
Man—the best laid plans of writers almost always go awry, at least once. I always thought Van Gogh cut off his ear and mailed it to a woman. But I was wrong. Apparently he cut part of his ear off after an argument with Gauguin and gave it to a prostitute.
He seems like he might have been a little bit of a stalker—when rejected by one woman, he went to her house and put his hand over the open flame of an oil lamp. He swore to her father that he would keep his hand there until he got to see the woman. Her father simply put out the lamp. Thus ended Van Gogh’s stalking.
So there, that was also the end of my first attempt to find a Victorian stalker. But I thought I’d post about it anyway, because I know there are quite a few people who have my misconception about Van Gogh’s ear.
For more reading on Vincent Van Gogh—not a Victorian Stalker: