Every now and then, an early death is a good career move. Take Kurt Cobain, for instance, or Lenin in 1922 (at the age of 52), or indeed Jesus himself.

But not always. Max Stirner (aka Johann Caspar Schmidt), author of the influential The Ego and Its Own (1845) came to his end as follows: while caring for his mad mother, and skipping from address to address to avoid creditors, he was stung in the neck by a winged insect (what a wimp: we get stung by winged insects every day over here). It was May 1856 and he was 49. He fell into a fever, went into remission and then keeled over on 25 June. No one noticed, not even his mother.

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