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Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature by John Mullan

By John Mullan

Many of the maximum works in English literature have been first released with no their authors' names. Why did such a lot of authors are looking to be anonymous--and what used to be it prefer to learn their books with no understanding for sure who had written them? In Anonymity, John Mullan supplies a desirable and unique heritage of hidden identification in English literature. From the 16th century to this present day, he explores how the disguises of writers have been first used and finally penetrated, how anonymity teased readers and bamboozled critics--and how, while booklet reports have been additionally nameless, reviewers performed methods in their personal in go back. at the present time we've got forgotten that the 1st readers of Gulliver's Travels and experience and Sensibility needed to wager who their authors can be, and that writers like Sir Walter Scott and Charlotte Bront went to tricky lengths to maintain mystery their authorship of the best-selling books in their instances. yet, actually, anonymity is all over the place in English literature. Spenser, Donne, Marvell, Defoe, fast, Fanny Burney, Austen, Byron, Thackeray, Lewis Carroll, Tennyson, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, and Doris Lessing--all concealed their names. With nice lucidity and wit, Anonymity tells the tales of those and plenty of different writers, offering a fast moving, wonderful, and informative journey during the heritage of English literature.

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Dodgson’s obstinacy about his pseudonym was a proof of this claim – a proof as much to himself as to any friend or admirer. ‘Modesty’ would be a traditional word for his sense of the privacy of his authorship. And there is certainly a long tradition of ‘modest’ anonymity and pseudonymity in English literature. The 10:37:15:11:07 Page 46 Page 47 modesty 47 English literary renaissance is sometimes taken to have begun with a work, Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender (), that modestly appeared without its author’s name.

To a Scott aficionado, some of the oddest insights are also the shrewdest. ’ It gives us examples of how observant both the author of Marmion and the Waverley novelist are of the behaviour of dogs.  10:37:15:11:07 Page 23 Page 24 24 anonymity Adolphus was pursuing to far greater lengths than most readers a common urge for attribution. It is clear from the hidden author’s response that he was not exactly trying to remain hidden. Far from being irritated by the attempt to ‘prove’ that he had written all those novels, Scott was flattered and intrigued.

Yet ‘Anonymous’ was risking breaking his fiction’s contract, which promised real secrets. Announcing ‘the kind of truth that only fiction can tell’, the dust-jacket proclaimed that the book was not fiction at all. The unprecedented (but actually age-old) device of anonymity did not of itself guarantee the truth of the narrative, but it helped it come to life. A few months after publication this ‘secret history’ had a million readers, but, by the author’s mischievous selfconcealment, it was still ‘secret’.

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