Erik Satie
Erik Satie

Wikipedia lists people widely considered eccentric. Includes a definition of “eccentric” (“someone whose behaviour, beliefs and/or hobbies deviate in a significant way from the accepted norms of their society, but otherwise can function largely as normal in society”) and briefly annotated lists of people in these categories: Artists, architects and composers; Athletes; Businessmen; Entertainers; Inventors; Politicians, artistocrats and rulers; Religious figures and occultists; Scholars, philosophers and scientists; Writers; and others.

Some of my favourites:

  • Ferdinand Cheval, a French postman who spent 33 years building a huge palace from random stones found during his work

  • Mi Fu, Chinese painter who declared a stone to be his elder brother and bowed to it. (He was also a heavy drinker.)

  • Erik Satie, unconventional French composer who was found to have had a vast collection of umbrellas as well as musical compositions hidden “behind the piano, in the pockets of the velvet suits, etc.” Even better than this, he had “a peculiar secret hobby: in a filing cabinet he maintained a collection of imaginary buildings (most of them described as being made out of some kind of metal), which he drew on little cards. Occasionally, extending the game, he would publish anonymous small announcements in local journals, offering some of these buildings (e.g., a “castle in lead”) for sale or rent.” I include him also because I love his GymnopĂ©dies.

  • William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, 5th Duke of Portland, who liked to live underground, preferring not to be seen. He also built an entire underground mansion, painted it pink, and filled it with brown wigs packed lovingly in cardboard boxes.

  • Yoshiro Nakamatsu, “the Edison of Japan,” who has photographed and retrospectively analyzed every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting). I could see doing that.

  • Edith Sitwell, British poet who recited her first poem through a curtain and who supposedly said, “My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence” and “I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of goldfish.” Also known to be eccentric: her brother Osbert and her father Sir. George.

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