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View Milton Rejected

Type: Literary Hoax
Summary: During the late nineteenth-century a hoaxer sent disguised copies of a work by John Milton to publishers, most of whom rejected it.

Text from:
Walsh, William. (1893). Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities. J.B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. 1893: 469-470.

A very different sort of hoax was recently practised upon English publishers and magazine-editors. A disappointed literary aspirant, weary of having his articles declined with thanks, and doubtful of his critics’ infallibility, copied out “Samson Agonistes,” which he rechristened “Like a Giant Refreshed,” and the manuscript, as an original work of his own, went the rounds of publishers and editors. It was declined on various pleas, and the letters he received afforded him so much amusement that he published them in the St. James’ Gazette. None of the critics discovered that the work was Milton’s. One, who had evidently not even looked at it, deemed it a sensational novel; another recognized a certain amount of merit, but thought it was disfigured by “Scotticisms;” a third was sufficiently pleased to offer to publish it, provided the author contributed forty pounds towards expenses.

Further Details

The “literary aspirant” who perpetrated this hoax is unknown. Nor is the date when it was perpetrated known. However, Walsh (writing in 1892) claims that the hoax was “recently practised,” and he also notes that the hoaxer discussed the results of his scheme in the St. James’s Gazette. The St. James’s Gazette commenced publication in May, 1880. Therefore, this hoax must have occurred sometime between 1880 and 1892. However, no further references to this hoax have been uncovered. No attempt has been made to search through the St. James’s Gazette.

This hoax is the earliest known example of a spurious submission hoax.