A LITERARY HOAX.
L Since Mark Twaiii, whert- editing a San journal, published a verse of ?# % Assyrian came down like a wolf on j—3 declared that the production, -*Hv?*- not without merit, was not up to tfieliterary"'standard of his paper, thereby : -_** e * l -S down upon his head a shoal of ••-fcttcis from indignant eon— pondents Vin,\ f 0 t nc joke, who pointed out that - Eyron was the author of the rejected s«ses, no more r amusing .hoax has been recorded than is contained in "ne c f the last numbers .pf the '&• James's Gazette. A e*orrespondent, Went—ed with Robert -But— am_i, -writ—
to the editor:—The ex/Seriment noted below I found called for in tbe interests of my s . elf respect, and I dedicate ie to all Persons who would become litterateurs it <<ac publishers would let them. Having atnered W ith these literary police as to the i .- a of my own, I resolved to try them with a manuscript of somebody else's. So I copied out " Samson Agonistes," gave to it the taking title of ■Lii— a Giant-efr-hed," and sent it the round. Not for years have I enjoyed myself so much. The following are some of the replies J received:—" Pater-noster-square, E.C., II | 7 | 87.—Sir,— The -above manuscript has received our careful attention, but we regret to say that we would not care to publish it. The market is now so flooded with sensational stories in shilling form that it is questionable whether yours would find its way to the bookstalls, where alone it would be likely to sell. Although, however, we must decline your in te—sting tale, we may say that we consider it a work'of considerable promise, and that if, as we gather from certain discrepancies, it is a first work, you will probably do something much better yet. Kindly enclose stamps and we shall return it without delay." The next letter I quote because it is one of the few answers which referred to the work as a poem. I treasure it on that account. The address in this case would reveal the firm. " Sir,—By this post we regret to return your poem entitled " Like a Giant Refreshed," which you were so good as to submit for our consideration. When we say that we look upon it as a clever production you may wonder why we do not undertake its publication. The fact, however, is that the market is glutted with verse at present, much of it of considerable merit. In "Like a Giant Refreshed" we find writing equal in our opinion to the best of the minor poets (if you will pardon our saying so), but nothing to promise a sale. In prose a work may do well though it does not rise above a certain standard ; but there are so many versifiers nowadays that the same cannot be said of poetry. " Like a "G. R." is a smooth piece of verification and contains some musical lines as well as elegant turns of thought, but its reflections are somewhat trite and the meaning here and there is obscure. We fancy it might be improved by revision and the elimination of certain passages ; there are Scotticisms in it, for instance, which jar upon the ear. At the same time we cannot advise in this matter, nor undertake to say that it would be worth your while to rewrite the poem." After that the. manuscript was returned to Paternostersquare, and this time I had the gratification of being taken for a lady. The publishers, it will be observed, are too wary to classify it as a story or poem. They refer to it as " the book." " Dear Madam, —We have read your book with much pleasure, and consider it very bright and clever. We shall be happy to publish it in a small volume on the following terms. The risk in issuing a first work is, of course, considerable ; and, high as our opinion of the book is, we cojild not undertake to publish it entirely at our. own risk. We are, however, prepared -to take half the risknamely, £30, if you provide another £30 ; and on receipt of your cheque for that amount we shall forward you a printed form -■ to fill up, and go to press with the book at once. We wonld refcommend you to consider this offer seriously." With the above should be compared the follow ing:—" Sir, —In answer to your favour of the 14th, enclosing manuscript called * Like a Giant Fresh,' we are prepared to publish it if you take the entire risk of production. A thousand copies would cost you about £65. Should this arrangement not suit you, we shall return the M.S. on receipt of stamps.—Yours, &c." "Like a Giant Fresh" struck mc as good; but perhaps the worst affront we got (by "we " I mean Milton and myself) was from another publisher, who wrote as follows:—" Sir,—We have looked through the manuscript which you were so good as ■; to forward to us, and we herewith return it to you with many thanks. We by no means consider your poem devoid of merit; indeed, the closing scene is written with considerable poetical feeling. ' We have, however, already made out our list of new books for the coming season, and so many important works are to be found among them that we do not see our way to printing any thing this year that is not of the first merit. —We remain, &c." That publisher sent mc his printed list of books of the first merit inside the covers of the rejected manuscript. It included " There's the Rub !■" (three vols.), " Daisies Pied and Violets Blue," " Who Poisoned Mrs Marjoribanks? " " Telling Talks with Sunny Seers," " Peeps at Philosophy," and ' "What Can IDo with Sixpence?" It was no wonder that "Samson Agonistes" was crowded out. Then I tried some of the magazines. The general opinion was that the poem was too long; indeed, I came fcp to the conclusion that in some magazines you could get in anything if it was short enough. One editor, howl ever, wrote that though "the poem wasably written," the subject was arisky one; and another more than hinted that it was suggested by Mr Rider Haggard's works. "Sensationalism," he said, "is better wedded to prose." Then I tried one of the graver monthly miscellanies, and saw the manuscript no more. After the lapse of a month I got from the editor somebody else's manuscript with "Declined with thanks" written on it. I returned it, pointing out that there was a mistake, and then he sent mc some other body's j manuscript. It was an essay on Kant, j This also I sent back, and explained thaj? my manuscript was a poem. By return of post I got four long poems from him, but /none of them was mine. Since then Iha ye written him regularly every week in the hope that I annoy him. He neveranswers now though.—l am, Sir, your obedient servant, —B.
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Press, Press, Volume XLIV, Issue 6938, 19 December 1887
A LITERARY HOAX. Press, Volume XLIV, Issue 6938, 19 December 1887
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