Sunday, October 01, 2006


Beware The Fake Dentist

Over in The Scotsman, Stuart Kelly reviews Magnus Magnusson's Fakes, Forgers, and Phoneys, which notes such delights as "The Odontist (a poor 19th-century dentist who became a literary sensation despite the fact all his poems were jokes made up by Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law)." But it also brings up an interesting subset of forgery: the real that appears to be fake.

One of the loveliest parts of Magnusson's book is the account of Ellen and William Craft. Their autobiography - Running A Thousand Miles For Freedom - related how they escaped from the Southern States disguised as a white master and his servant. Part of the problem with reading about fakers is the suspicious cast of mind it gives the reader. Was this a faked piece of abolitionist propaganda? A cynical tug on the heart strings, albeit for a worthy cause? No. Ellen did pass herself off as a white man, and escape from slavery with her husband.

Judge for yourself -- U Virginia has the entire text online.

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