Escapism: Prison escapes and failed attempts by famous writers

Thrice Miguel de Cervantes spent time in jail, twice for unpaid debts, and once, for five years, as either a slave to pirates or a prisoner of the Ottoman army, depending on which account you believe. Four times he tried to escape.

On one of these escape attempts he gathered fourteen fellow prisoners and hid with them in a cave for months. A rescue ship came, but the first night was almost spotted by pirates/soldiers (depending on which account you believe) and was forced to wait. The second night it came again, but none of the sailors on board dared jump ashore to round up the prisoners hiding in their cave. And so Cervantes went unrescued, and was shortly after found by ten men on horseback and twenty-four with shotguns and scimitars and spears on foot.

It would be some time before his family paid to have him released.

(Image: Miguel de Cervantes imaginando El Quijote, Mariano de la Roca y Delgado, Public Domain)

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The Marquis de Sade was a horrible man and rightly spent a lot of time in jail – once in the Fort Miolans prison for sodomy and poisoning four women with Spanish fly. There, he discovered an unbarred window that he climbed out of, lowering himself the thirteen feet to the ground with a sheet. He left behind a note saying sorry to the guards, and asking them to send his things to his wife.

He later went back to prison, to the Bastille.

(Image: Marquis de Sade in prison, Public Domain)

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O Henry, aka William Sydney Potter, was all set to go to jail on charges of embezzlement, but on his train journey to the courthouse to stand trial, he ran away to Honduras. He lived there for six months and became friends with Al Jennings, the famous train robber. He invented the term banana republic while hiding out, but he returned to America and jail when his wife was ill with tuberculosis. He spent five years behind bars, writing and publishing a number of stories under various pseudonyms, including O Henry.

His daughter, Margaret, thought the whole time he was away on business.

(Image: O Henry, Austin History Center, Public Domain)

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