Nicholas Heiney was born in 1982, the son of the journalists Paul Heiney and Libby Purves and brother of the writer Rose Heiney.
He was educated at Coldfair Green Primary School, Suffolk, at the Abbey and (briefly)Woodbridge Schools, and the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook. In his last six years he sailed widely, crossing both the Atlantic and the Pacific as a deckhand aboard the square-rigged barque Europa, and training young Koreans in seamanship. He learned to dive, rowed for his Oxford college, and enthusiastically took part in cycle racing.
After his degree in English Language and Literature at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, he studied for a short while as a postgraduate at Liverpool University,specializing in Imagist poetry, but became disillusioned with the literary critical industry, writing that ‘Literature is often flamboyant and frivolous and should be written about in such a way’.
He took his life on the 26th June, 2006, after a long and well-concealed battle with severe mental disturbance.
From Nicholas’ notebook, aged about 19
Every life is a tragedy. Our end is inevitable from the very moment that our characters emerge, and the thrill of the thing is not in the end itself but in the route we take to reaching that end....
The notion of life as a tragedy is not one which should be taken in a negative sense. Far from it. Our lives represent, in the words of Milton, the highest form of Drama. Our deaths do not so much represent the end of our character but the completion of our character. There is nothing more to know about ourselves but that the tragic formula is complete. It is the perfect moment which one may call heaven.
The fact of the matter is, the people to whom we refer as lowlifes and consider to be below us, are not excluded from a tragic experience equally great to that of Aristotle or Milton. All life is one, and he who watches another man’s tragedy will gain the equivalent of the highest literary enlightenment. Inequality of expression is not inequality of mind.