Milton Rejected

In 1887 a "disappointed literary aspirant," hoping to illustrate the ignorance of publishers and the diffulties faced by unknown authors, copied out the text of Milton's drama "Samson Agonistes," retitled it "Like a Giant Refreshed," and sent it as an original work of his own to publishers and editors. None recognized the work. One rejected it because it was too like a sensational novel. Another said it was "disfigured by Scotticisms." A third offered to publish it, but only if the author contributed thirty pounds toward the expenses.

The literary aspirant (whose name is not known) published the results of his experiment in a letter sent to the St. James's Gazette.

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 "disguised masterpiece" hoax.
Links and References
  • "Samson and the Philistines." (January 1888). Book News. p. 229.
  • Walsh, William. (1893). Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities. J.B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. 1893: 469-470.


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