« AnteriorContinuar »
advice over and over again, under the most embarrassing circumstances; and he has always taken my advice in preference to that of any one else.”
Was it mere coincidence, or was the author acquainted with this poem of Heine's ?
They gave me advice and counsel in store,
Offered their patronage, too, with a smile.
Offered theichly should wait aware and more:
But, with all their honor and approbation,
Good fellow ! he got me the food I ate,
Mystification and Imposture. The mystifier and the impostor have the same end in view,-the deluding of the public. But the foriner does it in a harmless, hoaxing spirit, the latter as a deliberate fraud for purposes of gain or glory. The mystifier only amuses, he piques curiosity, when he does what is disgraceful in the impostor. Let us take the Bacon-Shakespeare theory as proved. Bacon, in that light, is the greatest and most successful mystifier in literary history, Shakespeare the most contemptible impostor,-an impostor all the more degraded because the consent of the true author robbed his act of any redeeming boldness or audacity. The Shakespeare of the North,-or will the time come when we shall call him the Bacon of the North ?--the good Sir Walter, in short, found a great and altogether justifiable delight in provoking the public curiosity anent the Waverley Novels in seeking all means of throwing that curiosity off the right scent, even writing a critical review of one of the novels which distributed blame as well as praise, even denying point-blank a point-blank and impertinent interrogatory. There were wheels within wheels in the great Waverley mystification. Not only were the public for a period deceived as to the authorship of the books, but it was not till after his death that they discovered that a large number of the most striking mottoes to the chapter-heads, variously purporting to be extracts from old plays, the composition of anonymous writers, etc., were composed by Sir Walter Scott himself. Lockbart, in the “ Life," vol. v. p. 145, thus explains the beginning of this practice :
It was in correcting the proof-sheets of the “ Antiquary” that Scott first took to equipping his chapters with mottoes of his own fabrication. On one occasion he happened to ask John Ballantyne, who was sitting by him, to hunt for a particular passage in Beaumont and Fletcher. John did as he was bid, but he did not succeed in discovering the lines. “Hang it, Johnny !" cried Scott, "I believe I can make a motto sooner than you will find one." He did so accordingly; and from that hour, whenever memory failed to suggest an appropriate epigraph, he had recourse to the inexhaustible mines of “old play" or " old ballad," to which we owe some of the most exquisite verses that ever flowed from his pen.
These were gathered as “Miscellaneous and Lyrical Pieces" in the popular edition of the poems, to which Lockhart in 1841 prefixed a short notice giving the collection his im primatur. Among them all there are none more famous than this quatrain,
Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
To all the sensual world proclaim,
Is worth an age without a name,-which forms the motto to the concluding chapter of “Old Mortality,” and is credited to Anon. The verses have the true Scott ring in them, yet even
to this day inquirers of the Notes and Queries order are continually requesting information as to whether the anonymity has ever been solved.
One cannot be so certain of the morality of that German would-be imitator of Scott, G. W. Häring, who, making a wager that he could produce a novel which would be accepted as a genuine Waverley, published at Leipsic in 1824 the romance of " Walladmor" as an actual translation from Sir Walter Scott, and deceived many Continental readers into the belief of its genuineness. The scene is laid in Wales; the tale itself is crude and ill compacted,—not, indeed, without some weird attractions in parts, but mostly a clumsy imitation of incidents and characters such as the Enchanter had in his time conjured with. By a curious coincidence, Scott was then engaged on "The Betrothed," the scene of which is laid in the same part of Britain, and it was naturally supposed by him and his publishers that the unknown pretender to his name had in some way gained an inkling of this fact and used it to give the fabrication a greater air of probability. In the mock introduction to “ The Betrothed" (1825) a good-humored conjecture is made that “ Walladmor" was “the work of Dousterswivel, by the help of the steam-engine," though it is allowed that “there are good things in it, had the writer known anything about the country in which he laid the scene.” De Quincey, however, found almost no good in the work. He had undertaken its translation for a London publisher, and realized when too late the hopelessness of the task. "Such rubbish such .almighty' nonsense (to speak transatlanticé)-no eye has ever beheld as nine hundred and fifty, to say the very least, of these thousand pages. To translate them was perfectly out of the question ; the very devils and runners of the press would have mutinied against being parties to such atrocious absurdities." He saw nothing for it, therefore, but to rewrite the whole in his own way, “and hence arose this singular result : that, without any original intention to do so, I had been gradually led by circumstances to build upon this German hoax a second and equally complete English hoax. The German . Walladmor professed to be a translation from the English of Sir Walter Scott; my ‘Walladmor' professed to be a translation from the German ; but, for the reason I have given, it was no more a translation from the German than the German from the English.”
A successful form of mystification was invented by Father Prout, the other name of the witty Irish unfrocked priest Father Francis Mahony, and successfully practised by many of his co-contributors to the early Fraser. This was to translate a well-known poem into some foreign language, and then to pass off the translation as a much earlier work and the undoubted original. In his “Rogueries of Tom Moore" Prout gravely charges that Moore's song “Go where Glory waits thee" is but “a literal and servile translation of an old French ditty which is among my papers, and which I believe to have been composed by that beautiful and interesting ladye, Françoise de Foix, Comtesse de Chateaubriand, born in 1491, and the favorite of Francis I., who soon abandoned her;" that “ Lesbia hath a Beaming Eye" was stolen from “an old Latin song of my own, which I made when a boy, smitten with the charms of an Irish milkmaid ;" and so on through half a dozen of Moore's best-known poems. Here are the opening stanzas of the pretended “originals" side by side with the “translation :"
CHANSON DE LA COMTESSE DE CHÂTEAU
BRIAND À François I.
Ce cour, qu'il pense à moi !
Pense encore à moi !
Tom MOORE'S TRANSLATION OF THIS SONG
IN THE IRISH MELODIES.
Oh, still remember me !
Autres charmes peut-être
Régnera sur toi;
Méchant, pense à moi !
Other arms may press thee,
Dearer far may be ;
Oh, then remember me !
IN PULCHRAM LACTIFERAM.
To A BEAUTIFUL MILKMAID.
A Melody, by Thomas Moore.
Lesbia hath a beaming eye,
But no one knows for whom it beameth;
Right and left its arrows fly,
But what they aim at no one dreameth.
Sweeter 'tis to gaze upon
My Norah's lid that seldom rises.
Few her looks, but every one
Like unexpected light surprises.
O my Nora Creina dear,
My gentle, bashful Nora Creina,
Beauty lies in many eyes,
But love's in thine, my Nora Creina. In explanation of the manner in which Tom Moore got hold of these origi. nals, Father Prout circumstantially sets forth that the Blarney stone in his neighborhood has attracted many visitors, among whom none had been so assiduous a pilgrim as Tom Moore. “ While he was engaged in his best and most unexceptionable work on the melodious ballads of his country he came regularly every summer, and did me the honor to share my humble roof repeatedly. He knows well how often he plagued me to supply him with original songs which I had picked up in France among the merry troubadours and carol-loving inhabitants of that once-happy land, and to what extent he has transferred these foreign inventions into the Irish Melodies. Like the robber Cacus, he generally dragged the plundered cattle by the tail, so as that, moving backward into his cavern of stolen goods, the foot-tracks might not lead to detection. Some songs he would turn upside down by a figure in rhetoric called úotepov mpótepov; others he would disguise in various shapes; but he would still worry me to supply him with the productions of the Gallic muse : 'For, d'ye see, old Prout,' the rogue would say,
• The best of all ways
To lengthen our lays Is to steal a few thoughts from the French, my dear." Not content with these exploits, Father Prout accomplished the truly extraordinary feat of translating the “Groves of Blarney," by Milliken, into excellent Ítalian, French, Latin, and Greek versions, claiming that the first three with the English were variants of the Greek, probably by Tyrtæus or Callimachus, and proving thereby the immense antiquity of the Blarney stone. This tour de force, which appears among the published “Reliques of Father Prout" under the head “A plea for Pilgrimages,” was of course an obvious jest. But his similar attempt to prove that Wolfe's " Burial of Sir John Moore" was almost a literal translation of some French stanzas written in commemoration of a Colonel de Beaumanoir who was killed at Pondicherry in 1749, while the French stanzas in their turn were almost literally translated from a German poem of the seventeenth century in honor of the Swedish general Torstenson, who fell at the siege of Dantzic,—this attempt, made in two papers contributed to volumes i. and ï. of Bentley's Miscellany, but not included in his “Reliques,” has given some little trouble to scholars. In Putnam's Magazine for 1869 the two poems were republished in all apparent seriousness by Theodore Johnson, who claimed to have found them in foreign
periodicals, and who made no mention of their Proutian origin. Johnson may have been a plagiaristic fakir, but his article imposed upon many contemporaneous critics, and the few who, like the Nation, scented a hoax gave Johnson the credit of being the hoaxer.
Mirza Schaffy is a name well known in literature as that of the putative originator of the “Songs of Mirza Schaffy," a collection of Oriental poems pub. lished in 1850 and feigned to be a German translation from the Persian. They obtained an extraordinary popularity in Germany, and were rendered into nearly all the principal modern languages, and even into Servian and Hebrew. Then inquiries began to be made about the author. It was discovered that one Mirza Schaffy had lived not long before at Tiflis. Curious investigators even found his grave. But nobody in the East had ever heard of his poems. The little mystery, however, was soon dispelled. Friedrich Bodenstedt, who presented himself as the translator, was really the author of the songs. Yet Mirza Schaffy was no myth. “He was for a long time,” says Bodenstedt, “my teacher in Tartaric and Persian, and in that capacity was not without influence on the production of these songs, of which a great part would not have been written without my residence in the East.”
In 1800 a Spaniard named Marchena, attached to the army of the Rhine, amused himself during the winter which he passed at Basle by composing some fragments of Petronius. These were published soon after, and, in spite of the air of pleasantry which ran through the preface and notes, the author had so well imitated the style of his model that many very accomplished scholars were deceived, and were only set right by a declaration of the truth on the part of the publisher. The success of this mystification struck the fancy of Marchena, and in 1806 he published, under his own name, a fragment of Catullus, which he pretended to have been taken from a manuscript recently unrolled at Herculaneum. But this time he was beaten with his own weapon. A professor at Jena, Eichstädt, announced in the following year that the library of that city possessed a very ancient manuscript in which were the same verses of Catullus, with some important variations. The German, under pretence of correcting some errors of the copyist, pointed out several faults in prosody committed by Marchena, and made sundry improvements upon the political allusions of the Spaniard.
In 1803 a Frenchman named Vanderbourg published some charming poetry under the name of Clotilde de Surville, a feinale writer said to have been contemporary with Charles the Seventh of France. The editor pretended to have found the manuscript among the papers of one of her descendants, the Marquis de Surville, who was executed under the Directory. The public was at first the dupe of this deception, but the critics were not long in discovering the truth. “Independently,” says Charles Nodier, “of the purity of the language, of the choice variation of the metres, of the scrupulousness of the elisions, of the alternation of the genders in the rhymes,-a sacred rule in the present day, but unknown in the time of Clotilde, -of the perfection, in short, of every verse, the true author has suffered to escape some indications of deception which it is impossible to mistake.” Among these was her quotation from Lucretius, whose works had not been then discovered, and which, perhaps, did not penetrate into France until towards 1475; her mention of the seven satellites of Saturn, the first of which was observed for the first time by Huyghens in 1635, and the last by Herschel in 1789; and her translation of an ode of Sappho, the fragments of whose works were not then published. However, the poems attributed to Clotilde are full of grace and beauty.
Prosper Mérimée was one of the most skilful of literary mystifiers, using his talents for amusement rather than for deliberate deception. When a mere youth, he played a practical joke on Cuvier by manufacturing for him an original letter of Robespierre, which delighted that hunter of autographs as well as of truth. The deception was not found out until a rival collector held the autograph to the light and saw that the water-mark on the paper bore a date later than that of Robespierre's death. Mérimée's first published book was a collection of short dramas, pretended translations from a gifted Spanish lady, Clara Guzla, for whom he invented a biography. “Clara Guzla” was taken for a reality; her genius was gravely discussed by critics, and a Spaniard, ashamed to confess ignorance of so gifted a countrywoman, declared that, although the French translation was good, it was inferior to the original. Mérimée afterwards manufactured an Hungarian bard, songs and all. The deception made dupes of the German as well as the French critics, and set them wondering why so brilliant a writer had never been heard of beyond Hungary.
J. Whitcomb Riley, when comparatively unknown to fame, set afloat the following item in the Kokomo (Indiana) Dispatch :
In the house of a gentleman in this city we saw a poem written on the fly-leaf of an old book. Noticing the initials “ E. A. P." at the bottom, it struck us that possibly we had run across a bonanza,
The owner of the book said that he did not know who was the author of the poem. His grandfather, who gave him the book, kept an inn in Chesterfield, near Richmond, Virginia. One night a young man who showed plainly the marks of dissipation rapped at the door, asked if he could stay all night, and was shown to a room.
That was the last they saw of him. When they went next morning to call him to breakfast he had gone, but had left the book, on the fly-leaf of which he had written these verses :
And they took the light
And they made her hair of gloomy
Moonshine, and they brought her to me
When my heart of gloom
In the angels' tongue,
Matchless and supreme,
Every heart but mine seemed gifted
E. A. P. The verses went the rounds of the press, critics gravely discussed their genuineness, many lovers of Poe were duped. Finally the secret of the hoax