literary frauds

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literary frauds,

manuscripts that are presented to the public as works of famous authors but that are actually forgeries or imitations. Literary frauds are perpetrated for various reasons—occasionally to sell a manuscript or book for large sums, often to win recognition for an original work that would not attract attention by itself, sometimes simply as a joke. Although such hoaxes were evident in classical times and during the Middle Ages, it was in the 18th cent. that literary frauds flourished. A man who pretended to be a native of Taiwan (then known as Formosa) published a Description of Formosa (1704) under an assumed name, George PsalmanazarPsalmanazar, George
, 1679?–1763, English literary imposter. His real name is not known. Born and educated in France, he developed a marked ability in learning languages. He traveled through Europe posing as a Japanese convert to Christianity.
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 (his real name is not known). In the 1760s James MacphersonMacpherson, James,
1736–96, Scottish author. Educated at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, he spent his early years as a schoolmaster. In later life he held a colonial secretaryship in West Florida (1764–66), and he was a member of Parliament from 1780 until his death.
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 wrote a group of poems that he claimed were translations of the 3d-century Celtic poet Ossian. Thomas ChattertonChatterton, Thomas,
1752–70, English poet. The posthumous son of a poor Bristol schoolmaster, he was already composing the "Rowley Poems" at the age of 12, claiming they were copies of 15th-century manuscripts at the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol.
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 wrote poems in an imitation of 15th-century English that he claimed were transcriptions from a manuscript of a poet-priest of that period. William IrelandIreland, William Henry,
1777–1835, English forger of Shakespearean documents and manuscripts. Besides forging deeds and signatures relating to Shakespeare, Ireland fabricated two plays, Vortigern and Rowena (1796) and Henry II (both pub.
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 falsely claimed to have found two lost plays of Shakespeare. The most famous 19th cent. literary frauds were spurious first editions of such famous writers as Tennyson, Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Browning, and Kipling. They were long considered genuine and were not definitely proved forgeries until 1934. In 1939 the author of these forgeries was shown to be Thomas WiseWise, Thomas James,
1859–1937, English bibliographer and book collector. His famous Ashley Library of rare editions and manuscripts was acquired by the British Museum in 1937.
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, a noted book dealer. An interesting literary fraud of the early 20th cent. was the "Spectra hoax." In 1916 the American poets Witter BynnerBynner, Witter
, 1881–1968, American poet, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., grad. Harvard, 1902. As a poet Bynner had a remarkable facility for catching the cadences of other writers and cultures.
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 and Arthur Davison Ficke published a book of parodies, Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments, satirizing such contemporary literary movements as the vorticists and the imagists. The book won acclaim from critics, and the Spectrists were publicly accepted as a valid literary school. Of more financial than literary interest was the Hughes hoax, when a writer named Clifford Irving received some $750,000 in 1972 from several publishers, including McGraw-Hill and Life magazine, after he deceitfully convinced them that the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes wished Irving to assist him in writing his autobiography. Irving was subsequently convicted of fraud and sent to prison. In 1984 the announcement of the discovery of manuscript diaries of Adolf Hitler created great interest: several prominent historians, including H. R. Trevor-Roper, vouched for their authenticity and were considerably embarrassed when the diaries were soon proved to be fraudulent.
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References in periodicals archive ?
"Literary forgery is criticism by other means," writes
The phrase "All the house of forgery are relations" generated controversy--did literary forgery indeed carry the same threat to economic and political stability as monetary forgery?--and though several writers turned Walpole's assertion to ridicule, it helped to make forgery a figure for subversion as well as genius.
While monetary forgery posed a direct threat to political and economic authority, and was punished accordingly, literary forgery was perceived as operating more indirectly.
Another troubling idea of Groom's lurks in these words: "The Romantic engagement with literary forgery not only produced a canon of forgers and maintained forgery as a site of inspiration but also provided means of disabling their work." The romantic poets did indeed come under the spell of an idealistic obsession with the underdog, the primitive, the rebellious.
Practice to Deceive: The Amazing Stories of Literary Forgery's Most Notorious Practitioners.
Farrer (1849-1925) published the classic account of some of the most famous forgers in his still highly important Literary Forgery, a book, alas, with no list of sources but nevertheless replete with scholarly details not discoverable elsewhere.
There is often a prankish element to it, especially with literary forgery. Document examination has necessarily become an important part of the science of history, yet debates about the authenticity of documents are often long drawn out controversies.
'Virtually all accounts of literary forgery', argues Paul
Pretending to be a collection of texts surviving from the hand of Dionysius the Areopagite, the putative philosopher whose conversion to Christianity is recorded in Acts 17, there can be no question of its success as a literary forgery; and, long after its claims to authenticity were finally overturned, in 1895, by Hugo Koch and Josef Stiglmayr, defenders of its orthodoxy are still to be found.
Ireland, was a notorious literary forgery of the late 18th century.
(9) In this essay I shall be examining the strains within the republic of letters as they arose as the result of the most audacious literary forgery in English history.