Arthur Crew Inman

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Arthur Crew Inman (May 11, 1895 – December 5, 1963) was a reclusive and unsuccessful American poet whose 17-million word diary, extending from 1919 to 1963, is one of the longest English language diaries on record.[1]


Inman was born May 11, 1895 in Atlanta to one of the city's wealthiest families. His father Samuel Martin Inman owned part of the Atlanta Constitution but derived his wealth from cotton trade and manufacturing.[2][3]

He left Atlanta to attend the Haverford School and then Haverford College leaving college after 2 years because of a nervous breakdown, and he never returned to the South after 1915.[2]

He married Evelyn Yates in 1923.[2]

Inman published several volumes of undistinguished poetry.[4] A critic has described Inman as "a mediocre talent, wholly lacking in the sophisticated literary and philosophical education of the Ransom generation."[5]

In 1928 he edited and published Soldier of the South: General Pickett's War Letters to his Wife.[6]

He moved to Boston, where he became increasingly obsessed with his health. He lived for much of his life in dark, soundproofed apartments. He owned several apartments in order to surround himself with noiseless spaces.[7] Having inherited wealth, he was able to cater to his hypochondria and other eccentric ways and afford servants and others hired to come and talk with him. His wife, Evelyn, appears to have accepted that he would have sex with some of these so-called "talkers." He attempted suicide on several occasions. On December 5, 1963, when he found the noise from the construction of the Prudential Tower near his apartment unbearable, he committed suicide with a revolver in Brookline, Massachusetts. According to one theory, he suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy and may have been experiencing aspects of reality that the normal brain filters out.[8]

He left 155 handwritten volumes of the diary when he died, entirely unpublished. Inman's diary is not only considered unique by some but historian David Herbert Donald called it "the most remarkable diary ever published by an American."[7] Through its many volumes, Inman provides a panoramic record of people, events, and observations from more than four decades of the twentieth century. The extent of his writing suggests he suffered from hypergraphia.

His wife Evelyn died in 1985.

The Inman Diaries[edit]

Harvard professor of English and American literature Daniel Aaron published a two-volume edition of selections in 1985.[9] A one-volume version appeared in 1996.[10] Reviewing the two-volume edition, Time described Inman as a "megalomaniacal bigot misogynist Peeping Tom hypochondriac," who "hated Jews, Italians and Roosevelt while admiring Hitler."[7] The reviewer for the New York Times enjoyed Inman's many portraits of working class and middle class visitors with interesting stories, but thought less of his self-revelations, "that mostly meant giving vent to bristling prejudices about lesser breeds (lesser than Nordic, that is to say)."[11]

Playwright Lorenzo DeStefano authored a play based on the diaries, Camera Obscura, which has been performed at the Seattle Repertory Theatre (2001) and at London's Almeida Theatre (2002). English director Jonathan Miller directed both of those productions.[12]

Lorenzo DeStefano's feature film adaptation, Diary of a Nobody is in active development.[13]

The Inman Diaries, an opera by Thomas Oboe Lee, based on the diary and DeStefano's play, was commissioned and produced by Intermezzo Opera of Boston. The world premiere took place there in September 2007.[14][15]

In popular culture[edit]

According to Harley Peyton, producer of the television series Twin Peaks, the character and behavior of the recluse Harold Smith were based on Inman.[16]


  1. ^ Longer American diaries include those of Robert W. Shields and Edward Robb Ellis. New York Times Douglas Martin, "Robert Shields, Wordy Diarist, Dies at 89," October 29, 2007, accessed December 21, 2010
  2. ^ a b c Ruppersburg, "Inman", Georgia Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Tammy Harden Galloway, The Inman Family: An Atlanta Family from Reconstruction to World War I (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2002)
  4. ^ One who Dreamed: Songs and Lyrics (1917); Red Autumn (1920); Of Castle Terror (1923); American Silhouettes (1925); Shadows of Men (1925); Frost Fire (1926); Silhouettes against the Sun (1926); The Night Express (1927) None Now are Quietly Wise (1939); Where to Find Sanctuary (1940); The Moon Drifter (1940); Three Moods: This I know, Hokusai saw, The maples are red (1941); American Portrait: A Poem Series (1955)
  5. ^ Simpson, 157. The reference is to John Crowe Ransom.
  6. ^ Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1928
  7. ^ a b c Time: Gregory Jaynes, "In Boston: Inside a Tortured Mind," June 21, 2005, accessed December 21, 2010
  8. ^ Anthony Peake, The Daemon: A Guide to Your Extraordinary Secret Self (2008, Arcturus), 74
  9. ^ Inman, Arthur Crew; Aaron, Daniel (1985). The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674454453. 
  10. ^ Daniel Aaron, ed., From a Darkened Room: The Inman Diary (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996)
  11. ^ New York Times: John Goss, Review of The Inman Diary, October 1, 1985, accessed December 21, 2010
  12. ^ The Guardian/Observer (London) : Kate Kellaway, "The turtle, the librarian and the Barbie dolls," May 25, 2002
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Boston Globe: Matthew Guerrieri, "'Diaries' has some very fine passages," September 17, 2007, accessed December 21, 2010
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Thorne, John (2016). The Essential Wrapped in Plastic: Pathways to Twin Peaks. Self-published. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-0-9971081-0-1. 


  • Georgia Encyclopedia: Hugh Ruppersburg, "Arthur Crew Inman (1895-1963)", accessed December 21, 2010
  • Lewis P. Simpson, "The Last Casualty of the Civil War: Arthur Crew Inman," The Fable of the Southern Writer (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994), 155-82
  • Bob Summer, "An Inman's Private Life Becomes Public," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 13, 1985
  • Philip Zaleski, "The Inman Diary," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 27, 1985

External links[edit]