Pet book post #3 Rogue Authors

In light of this week’s study on authorship both dubious and legitimate, I found Don Quixote very relevant. First of all, Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra was credited for his novel. He wrote the first half in 1605 and later completed it in 1615. However, what sped up the process of the novel’s completion was something similar to a “fugitive verse.” It was a “fugitive book.”

In their article, Ryan Cordell and Abby Mullen explain that often times poems in nineteenth century newspapers were reprints whose authorship was of questionable integrity. Sometimes there was no author at all. In the case for the poem “Beautiful Snow,” many consider there to be multiple authors due to the anonymity of its first publication. Eventually there were five people that were believed to be likely authors: Dora Shaw, Henry Faxon, William Sigourney, James W. Watson, and an unnamed Cincinnati prostitute. Regardless of its murky origins, the poem was wildly successful. The reason I bring this poem up is because Don Quixote also has more than one author. After completing the first volume of Don Quixote, Cervantes took a break. He planned on finishing his novel eventually, but had no set date in his mind. An unknown author under the pen name, Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda created a fraudulent sequel. Although this second author’s version of the book was not as successful, it echoes the 19th century sentiment that authorship is not that sacred. I also want to focus on the point that the fraudulent author’s real name is unknown; only his pen name is known. This is significant because it makes one wonder what the reason for a pen name in the earlier eras was. For the poem “The Children,” author Charles M. Dickinson’s name was only sometimes used. Other times he was credited as the “Village Schoolmaster.” Some times he was not credited at all. This makes one wonder what the reason for the use of pen names was before the modern era. Dickinson did not usually have a say as to whether or not his actual name was used. Therefore, one can assume that the reprinter of his poem had a specific purpose in mind. Perhaps he or she had a theme that they believed a schoolmaster would help perpetuate. Perhaps they had a personal grudge against the author, but the poem was too popular not to reprint.

However, the false author of Don Quixote did have a say. Although his was probably not due to thematic purposes. After all, in Spain in the 1600’s, authors were given no royalties. In this we find another similarity between Don Quixote and the fugitive verses: they provided no profit to their authors.

Approaching my pet book in the light of author’s legitimacy allowed me to question the purpose for writing without being known. The fraudulent author knew he would not make money from copying the original, so perhaps it points to the human desire to create. Similarly, the unknown authors of fugitive verses were most likely driven by a similar purpose. Create and write no matter the lack of fame.

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