To Pseudonym or not to Pseudonym: The case of Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770)

And More…..

Thomas Chatterton (20 November 1752 – 24 August 1770) was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He committed suicide, dying of arsenic poisoning, and these are my thoughts on the matter.

In the case of Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), I feel that although he composed the poetry and attributed the works to an ancient monk, it could have occurred for one of two reasons, or maybe both. The first and obvious reason some-one might attribute work as; being primary documentations of a bygone era, would be for gain, possibly money and fame. The second reason could be much deeper than the obvious, and could be that because western society mostly stems frompatriarchal domination, with the practice of poetry or prose by a male, however good, would be, in some communities, looked sternly upon by a dominant figure, be they either male or female. Patriarchy may be the base to our cultural understandings and struggles, but in early times, many women would have behave in a manner consistent with a domination to which was normalised in our ancestries. Some one with an obvious talent for ‘word-smithing’ receiving a lack of support for their gift, support that a lot of young boys receive today, would find a way to share their craft with others, even if it meant that he could not take credit for his craft.

True Artists do not require money or fame to understand that they create, so if Thomas did write the poetry himself then the reason for his suicide could have stemmed from misunderstanding a gentle spirit with a  male form during the 1700s.

Its a nice habit to adopt when checking the facts, to check for yourself and see what else was/is happening during the years that certain things are said to have occurred. By placing the dates: 1752-1770 into a Google search, apart from the top two, which refer to Catholic deaths, the first page to load is entirely about Thomas Chatterton, interesting.

Thomas’ only deception I feel, was to produce  poetry to the world as someone else’s work. Granted he went to a lot of effort to conceal there age, but it is hard to gain recognition for artistic greatness in any period and/or genre. There have been many great forges who, in their own right, are great artists. We are able to say: imitation is one of the highest forms of flattery, but that is only really intend for the music industry. Why is that I wonder?

The cover of Angry Penguins was illustrated by Sidney Nolan (1917 – 1992)
The cover of Angry Penguins was illustrated by Sidney Nolan (1917 – 1992)

  The Angry Penguins ( an Australian literary and artistic avant-garde movement of the 1940s), published a ‘literary experiment’ in 1944, that revealed for me the following thought: “The publisher should have verified authenticity before publication.” I know how hard this can be, but this was going to remain in print and not forgotten for around seventy years. Many people use pseudonym’s still today, for many different reasons. I began with a pseudonym because of the situation I was in at the time, there was no permission granted for the production of art in any form. I actually had to destroy some Arts, not because they were offensive, but because they drew attention. Also the manner in which they wrote their poetry was not too alien, I would never use and entire line, nor a phrase, of someone else’s work, regardless of where it came from, without giving reference to that source, the emerald tablet wasn’t easy to source to locate, but they were trying to prove a point and used what they could to see the effects. Most times others complain because they feel like fools or, they feel they were made to look like fools, for not knowing.

The Jonah Lehrer Scandal. The Journalist Who Exposed the Writer's Fraud Says He's 'Baffled'
The Jonah Lehrer Scandal. The Journalist Who Exposed the Writer’s Fraud Says He’s ‘Baffled’

As for the ‘Shattered Glass ( journalistic fraud ),’ sensationalised features, fabricated for ‘fiction’ not ‘fact’ begs the question of: is this a form of creativity as it is the creation of the writer? As for ‘Memoirs,’ if it is not true, it is fiction, but how many lies within a true story can be told before it becomes fiction? Where is the line of lie and creativity in life? As for blurring within a story, fact or fiction, I once more ask, where does the line get drawn?

To write my memoirs, the tales that I could relate would be considered fanciful, or outlandish, but they are real. Yet in writing my memoirs, I would have to create a story about my life so that a reader will want to read about my life. In short, I would need to fill in the blank spaces with connector words like; and, the, when, where etc… My thoughts would also be included concerning what was occurring, I would have to ‘sell’ my life to ‘you.’ A certain amount of enframing would have to occur so that I could compress my life into, lets say 500 pages, and that is quite big for a novel.

You only get to Fool Oprah Once...
You only get to Fool Oprah Once…

After inviting Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat on her show not once, but twice, to promote his memoir Angel at the Fence, Oprah Winfrey proclaimed his memoir “the single greatest love story” she had ever heard.

Best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show.

As for Oprah’s Faux pas, she should have had someone ensure that she was endorsing something she wished to look sympathetic doing, some one to validate the Misha Mémoires.

Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years is a literary hoax by Misha Defonseca, first published in 1997. The book was fraudulently published as a memoir telling the supposed true story of how the author survived The Holocaust as a young Jewish girl, wandering Europe searching for her deported parents

Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years is a literary hoax by Misha Defonseca, first published in 1997. The book was fraudulently published as a memoir telling the supposed true story of how the author survived The Holocaust as a young Jewish girl, wandering Europe searching for her deported parents.

Of Misha’s memoirs, … Obvious fiction! But draw in social and regretful devastations such as the Jewish holocaust, victims and survivors, and it makes for tentative conclusions. If it looks as if there is open doubt or even anger at this type of plagiarism before its truth is revealed, could lead to some very ugly accusations, law suits etc… The outline given of this book shows a betrayal to the memories of holocaust victims and survivors.

So, after my lengthy diatribe I view that to take a pseudonym is fine but if you use this ‘freedom from self’ to malign, deceive,  or seek to harm others, then that is wrong. Most merely seek fame and money, the few seek to create, some need to hide who they are, so that they can create, some hide who they are to cause harm through anonymisation of ‘their self.’ A true Artist however, no matter their field of expertise, or natural abilities, creates, because that is who they are, Art is an essential component to their biological makeup.

Karen Eastland

Dark Eyes Watch

Cut down swiftly

and scattered on the wind.

Cut down neatly

floating on feathered wings.

Shut down from me

all hopes and dreams.

Shot down quickly

fall from grace in screams.

Dark eyes watch fear take hold.

Dark eyes see my mortal coil.

Darkness lies within black holes.

Darkness looms over my soul.