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Literary forgery (also literary mystification, literary fraud or literary hoax) refers to writing, such as a manuscript or a literary work, which is either deliberately misattributed to a historical or invented author, or is a purported memoir presented as genuine.
Literary forgery may involve, for example, the work of a famous author whose writings have an established intrinsic, as well as monetary value. In the attempt to gain the rewards of such a reputation, the forger often engages in two distinct activities. The forger must produce a writing which resembles the style of the known reputable author to whom the fake is to be attributed. The forger may also fake the physical alleged original manuscript. This is less common as it requires a great deal of technical effort, such as imitating the ink and paper. The effect is in the physical result; the forger can thereby say not just that the style of writing is the same, but also that ink and paper is of the kind or type used by the famous author. Other common types of literary forgery may draw upon the potential historical cachet and novelty of a previously undiscovered author.
Literary forgery has a long history. Onomacritus (c. 530 - 480 BCE) is among the most ancient known literary forgers. In the 3rd Century a certain Septimius produced what appeared to be a Latin translation of an eye witness account to the Trojan War by Dictys of Crete. In the letter of dedication, the translator gave additional credence to the document by claiming the Greek original had come to light during Nero's reign when Dictys' tomb was opened by an earthquake and his diary discovered. Septimius then claimed the original had been handed to the governor of Crete, Rutilius Rufus (a name which no other records corroborate) who gave the diary to Nero during his tour of Greece in 66/67 CE. According to historian Miriam Griffin, such bogus and romantic claims to antiquity were not uncommon at the time.
One of the longest lasting literary forgeries is by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a 5th-6th century Syrian mystical writer who claimed to be a disciple of Paul the Apostle. Five hundred years later Abelard expressed doubts about the authorship, but it was not until after the Renaissance that there was general agreement that the attribution of the work was false. In the intervening thousand years the writings had much theological influence.
The English Mercurie appeared to be the first English newspaper when it was discovered in 1794. This was, ostensibly, an account of the English battle with the Spanish Armada of 1588, but was in fact written in the 18th century by Philip Yorke, the second Earl of Hardwicke, as a literary game with some friends.
Fake memoirs 
The genre of false and deceptive autobiography or fake memoirs has seen the rise of misery lit books, where the author claims to have suffered illness, abuse, and/or drugs during their upbringing. A recent example is a story about Los Angeles where a young girl was raised in a gangland culture involving drugs, forced sex and criminality. The author, Margaret Seltzer, has been exposed as a fraud by her elder sister; in fact she has lived a middle-class life without trauma, and received a good education (which also included a course in creative writing).
Danny Santiago, author of 'Famous All Over Town', published a novel in which he depicts life through the eyes of a young Hispanic boy growing up in East Los Angeles. The novel won the Rosenthal Award for Literary Achievement in 1984, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. When suspicion arose about the true identity of Danny Santiago, investigation revealed the writer was actually a middle-to-late-aged Caucasian male simply writing from the standpoint of a young Latino American boy. He received much grief from the literary community, and gave up writing for good.
James Frey, another author chastised for 'forging' his memoir, published A Million Little Pieces, a memoir about his struggle with drug addiction and his journey through the inner working of the legal system and rehabilitation. The truth about his 'imagined escapades' eventually leaked when close family and friends of Frey’s revealed that he had actually never been a drug addict or incarcerated. Frey eventually faced more than ten class action lawsuits including negligence, false advertising, and breach of contract, but at the heart of each suit was an allegation of fraud.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a forged document ignored by scholars until recently. The abridged version was available to the public in 1903. The unabridged version was later edited by a retired officer of the Russian Imperial Guard, G. V. Butmi. This forgery exploits Jews by stating that Jews were inevitably trying to coup Christianity to essentially rule the world. This anti-Semitic document was in effect written by members of the Russian secret police at the time. The document was exposed as plagiarism by English Journalist Philip Graves in 1921. Graves generally exposed the extreme similarities in the political satire by Maurice Joly, The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu. It was also supported by Henry Ford in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent.
During the Victorian Era, women were not afforded the same literary opportunities as men. The only way for Victorian women to publish their work was by using a pseudonym or a penname to avoid dismissal by male critics. George Eliot, one of the leading women writers in the Victorian Era and the author of renowned novels such as Scenes of Clerical Life (1857) and Adam Bede (1859), used a penname; her legal name was Mary Anne (or Mary Ann) Evans. One scholar claims Eliot was forced to forge rather than choosing to do so.
See also 
- Nero: The end of a Dynasty, Miram T. Griffin, 1984. Chapter 9. ISBN 0415214645
- Folkart, Burt A. "OBITUARIES : Daniel James : Writer Who Masqueraded as a Latino."Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 21 May 1988. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/1988-05-21/news/mn-2879_1_daniel-james>
- Stern, Simon. "Sentimental Frauds." Law & Social Inquiry 36.1 (2011): 83-113. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.
- Graves, Philip (1921). The Truth about the Protocols: A Literary Forgery. The Times of London.
- Ruthven, K.K (2001). Faking Literature. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. pp. 180–182. ISBN 0-521-66015-7.
- Anthony Grafton Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) ISBN 0-691-05544-0
- Melissa Katsoulis Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes (London: Constable, 2009) ISBN 978-1-84901-080-1
- Robin Myers Fakes and Frauds: Varieties of Deception In Print & Manuscript (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press 1996) ISBN 0-906795-77-X
- John Whitehead This Solemn Mockery: The Art of Literary Forgery (London: Arlington Books 1973) ISBN 0-85140-212-7
- Joseph Rosenblum Practice to Deceive: The Amazing Stories of Literary Forgery’s Most Notorious Practitioners (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2000) ISBN 1-58456-010-X