From Jonathan Swift to Joe Klein, writers have gone to great lengths to hide their identities and cannily exploited the ensuing public speculation. John Mullan on how anonymity is often a sure route to notoriety
Saturday January 12, 2008
Many of the great books of English literature were originally published without their authors' names. It is one of the most frequent facts about literary works from before the 20th century, yet it is rarely thought worth a comment. We have forgotten that the first readers of Gulliver's Travels or Sense and Sensibility had to guess who their authors might be, and that writers like Sir Walter Scott and Charlotte Brontë went to elaborate lengths to keep secret their authorship of the bestselling books of their times. From Spenser and Donne to Dickens and Tennyson, most of the great names of English fiction and poetry used anonymity at some time.