Swinburne's Dolores: A forgery by Thomas Wise

Swinburne's Dolores: A forgery by Thomas Wise

[Wise, Thomas James (1859-1937)] Swinburne, Algernon Charles (1837-1909). Dolores. London: John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, 1867 [i.e., T. J. Wise and Richard Clay, ca. 1895]. 23,(1)pp. Three signatures, folded, trimmed and pierced but never bound. In fine condition. In an old chemise. Nicholls & Wise (1896) II: 316-317; Wise (1919) I: 158-162; Carter & Pollard 285-86.

     An attractive example of one of the productions of the master forger T. J. Wise, whose audacity is legendary. This is what Wise referred to in his bibliography of Swinburne as the "remainder" issue, of unbound sheets. As John Carter and Graham Pollard explain in their painstaking expose, Wise's formula,

which is as simple as it is effective, consisted in taking some suitable piece from a published volume, printing it in pamphlet form with an earlier date, and thus creating a first edition. 

Dolores was a slight exception to the formula. The poem was printed in Poems and Ballads (1866), so its false date of 1867 ranked it only as the first separate edition, an honor to which this hoax in fact may justifiably lay claim. In the 1919 revision to his bibliography of Swinburne, Wise offered legitimacy to his edition of Dolores by noting that there was a copy in the Library of the British Museum at pressmark C.57.e.57. The BL's copy was, of course, a gift from Wise himself.

     Swinburne was alive and well when Wise perpetrated his forgeries and it is a mark of his extraordinary chutzpah that he drew attention to the poet's confusion. "Why [Dolores] should have been reprinted separately can only be conjectured," wrote Wise in 1896. "Mr. Swinburne himself has no recollection of the circumstances under which it was produced."

      A wonderful relic of the golden age of book collecting and confidence games.

Selected References

  • Barker, Nicolas & John Collins, A Sequel to An enquiry into the nature of certain nineteenth century pamphlets by John Carter and Graham Pollard: The Forgeries of H. Buxton Forman & T. J. Wise Re-examined. London & Berkeley: Scolar Press, 1983.
  • Carter, John and Graham Pollard, An enquiry into the nature of certain nineteenth century pamphlets. London New York: Constable & Co. and New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1934, p. 285
  • Nicoll, W. Robertson and T. J. Wise, Literary Anecdotes of the nineteenth century: contributions towards a literary history of the period, 2 vols.. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1895-1896.
  • Wise, T. J., A bibliography of the writings in prose and verse of Algernon Charles Swinburne, 2 vols. London, Richard Clay, 1919-20.

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