"A Note on Art and Neurosis." The Partisan Review, Winter 1945. Some new material appeared in The New Leader, December 13, 1947.
The question of the mental health of the artist has engaged the attention of our culture since the beginning of the Romantic Movement. Before that time it was commonly said that the poet was “mad,” but this was only a manner of speaking, a way of saying that the mind of the poet worked in a different fashion from the mind of the philosopher; it has no real reference to the mental hygiene of the man who was the poet. But in the early nineteenth century, with the development of a more elaborate psychology and a stricter and more literal view of mental and emotional normality, the statement was more strictly and literally intended. So much so, indeed, that Charles Lamb, who knew something about madness at close quarters and a great deal about art, undertook to refute in his brilliant essay “On the Sanity of True Genius,” the idea that the exercise of the imagination was a kind of insanity.
Part of “Neurosis and the Health of the Artist” was incorporated into this essay.