Altick, Richard D. The Scholar Adventurers. New York: Macmillan, 1951.
The adventurers are those scholars who have patiently tracked down - in the British Museum, in
old private libraries in Europe, Greece, America - the records of forgers, fakes and phonies of
English and American letters. This is a detective story: the discovery of the truth about Shelley,
Keats, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, et al. The work involved unraveling truth and myth using
whatever was available. These literary fakers and "hoaxers" include: Thomas J. Wise (of
Shakespeare and others), John Payne Collier (of Shakespeare and others), George Gordon Byron
(of Byron). These men were forgers who were highly regarded for their scholarship. They were
caught out and disgraced but they made it big for a long time. Even in their disgrace, there were
many who refused to believe that such men could have been frauds.
In addition to uncovering fraud, the "adventurers" of this book made significant discoveries by
taking the time to find out what the truth was. By calling upon medical men, they were able to get
some idea of what diseases really affected a writer; by calling on astronomers, they were able to
date the Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde; by summoning handwriting experts and chemists, they
were able to demonstrate certain documents as fraudulent. Patient and exasperating work in the
Public Records Office was required to learn how Marlowe died, but this kind of sleuthing paid
This is a fascinating account of fraud's exposure by hard work. It is a model of the sort of thing
that should be done in science.