The great unknown
January 12, 2008 11:54 AM   Subscribe

anonymity is often a sure route to notoriety. An article on anonymous authors from The Guardian.
posted by zingzangzung (10 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Very interesting—I had no idea about Scott's insistence on anonymity:
Anonymity cannily exploited could become a kind of game played with readers. This seems to be acknowledged by the title given to the author of the best-selling literary works of the early 19th century, the so-called Waverley Novels. Their anonymous author was called "the Great Unknown" and there was feverish speculation about his identity. He was, of course, Sir Walter Scott, and we now know the lengths to which he went to preserve his incognito. Believing that his handwriting would be recognised in the print-house, he had collaborators copy out his novels before they were submitted to the publisher. He kept the circle of those who knew the secret as small as possible. His son-in-law John Gibson Lockhart said that even five years after the publication of Waverley, Scott's wife was the only member of his family who knew that he was the author. When the subject of "the Great Unknown" came up at breakfast one day, his 16-year-old daughter Anne joked that the hidden author was Scott's friend James Ballantyne. Scott claimed 13 years later, when he finally confessed his authorship, that even then only 20 or so people were "participant of this secret".
Nice first post! (Say, who is "zingzangzung," anyway?)
posted by languagehat at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2008

languagehat, did you just review your own pseudonymous fpp?
posted by empath at 1:15 PM on January 12, 2008

I always thought the sacking of Joe Klein was a bit over the top, frankly. Although perhaps he shouldn't have denied it outright (anyone that familiar with politics should know how to dodge a question), it smacked a little of jealousy when the press turned on him for it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:17 PM on January 12, 2008

Sadly, with the dawn of the internet, anonymity just gets you jackasses now.
posted by blacklite at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bertrand Russell often used "The author of Waverley" as an example of a definite description one might use in lieu of a name. I didn't know why Waverley or Sir Walter Scott should be so interesting to him. Now it's clear that he wanted an example of a description of a person whose identity had been generally unknown--the example then serves to illustrate the possibility of using definite descriptions to eliminate the names of a language.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:34 PM on January 12, 2008

A review of the book of which this article is a precis from today's FT.
posted by shothotbot at 3:56 PM on January 12, 2008

Swift wrote:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my Acquaintance in London; that a young healthy Child, well nursed, is, at a Year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome Food; whether Stewed, Roasted, Baked, or Boiled; and, I make no doubt, that it will equally serve in a Fricasie, or a Ragoust

Is this why the word "fricasie" or "fricassee" is used for comedic effect in Looney Tunes cartoons?
posted by Tube at 4:08 PM on January 12, 2008

Sir Walter Scott actually was rumbled quite conclusively in 1821 by the lawyer John Leycester Adolphus. (Even Scott was impressed.)
posted by thomas j wise at 4:51 PM on January 12, 2008

That sort of sux if you actually really want to be anonymous tho.

“Swift's anonymity was also a creative resource. He liked to make trouble, and anonymity helped him to do so.”
Heh heh heh heh...*coughcough* I mean, uh, how interesting in a purely theoretical fashion.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2008

posted by davros42 at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2008

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