British Romantic literature descends from a line of impostors, forgers and frauds. Beginning with the golden age of forgery in the late eighteenth century and continuing through canonical Romanticism and its aftermath, Margaret Russett demonstrates how Romantic writers distinguished their fictions from the fakes surrounding them. The book includes works by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Walter Scott, John Clare, and James Hogg, as well as chapters on impostors in popular culture. Russett's interdisciplinary and wide-ranging study offers a major reinterpretation of Romanticism and its continuing influence in the present.
Introduction; 1. From fake to fiction: toward a Romantic theory of imposture; 2. Chatterton's primal scene of writing; 3. Unconscious plagiarism: from 'Christabel' to the Lay of the Last Minstrel; 4. The delusions of Hope; 5. The 'Caraboo' hoax: Romantic woman as mirror and mirage; 6. Clare Byron; 7. The Gothic violence of the letter; Bibliography.
"Fictions and Fakes is a provocative meditation on how textual bastardy pervaded all aspects of Romanticism, from the high-culture concern with poetic voice as the je ne sais quoi that defined something supposedly circumscribable in law, to the low-culture concern with early celebrities, either rising on delusive hopes, such as the Maid of Buttermere, or through determined imposture, such as the Princess Caraboo."
-Robert Miles, University of Victoria