Was Moby-Dick’s First Edition Printed Without the Ending?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Moby-Dick was printed in England without the Epilogue.

As I noted in a legend years ago (about how the “piracy” in Pirates of Penzance was a reference to COPYRIGHT piracy), in the 19th Century, copyright piracy was rampant. Something would be printed in England and then people would rush it over to the United States, which did not recognize British copyrights, and then print up copies here and be legally allowed to do so.

So while people continued to always publish in England first, what authors began to do was to publish essentially simultaneously in both England and the United States, to gain copyrights in both places at the same time.

That is what happened with Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby-Dick, about an ill-fated whaling crew hunting down a great white whale. However, in the process, there was a major chunk of the book actually left out of its initial printing!

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Did Sir Thomas Malory Write Le Morte d’Arthur While in Prison?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Sir Thomas Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur while in prison.

The very first Novel Legends Revealed that I did was about whether Cervanted wrote Don Quixote while in prison. That legend was not true (saved you a click, I guess), but reader Mike B. wrote in about ANOTHER famous novel that was supposedly written in prison!

Did Sir Thomas Malory really write the most famous book about King Arthur, Le Morte d’Arthur, while in prison?

Find out!
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Did Graham Greene Enter and Then LOSE a “Write Like Graham Greene” Contest?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Graham Greene came in second in a contest to parody Graham Greene’s writing style.

Graham Greene was a popular and critically acclaimed novelist, playwright, screenwriter and critic during the 20th Century (he was born in 1904 and died in 1991).

Many of his works have been turned into films.

Perhaps the most famous movie based on a Graham Greene story is Carol Reed’s The Third Man…

While his works tended to be quite serious in nature, Greene also had a sense of humor about himself.

This was especially noted in 1949, when the British magazine, The New Statesman (below is a recent cover)…

ran a contest asking readers to submit their best parodies of Greene’s writing style.
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Did the CIA Really Help the Author of Doctor Zhivago Win a Nobel Prize?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aided Boris Pasternak’s Nobel Prize chances in 1958 for his novel Doctor Zhivago.

While he began work on it decades earlier, it was not until after World War II that Boris Pasternak seriously began to devote time to finishing his novel, which ultimately became known as Doctor Zhivago, about a man torn between two women during the Russian Revolution and the Civil War that followed.

The story is now best known for the epic film adaptation by David Lean during the 1960s…

but in 1958, the year following its release, it was also noteworthy for winning its author the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Sadly, due to disapproval from the Soviet Union, where Pasternak and his family lived, Pasternak was forced to turn down the Nobel Prize.

Initially, he received the news of his award with great interest, sending a telegram (after being informed of his victory) that he was “Immensely thankful, touched, proud, astonished, abashed” but a few days later he wrote another one, “Considering the meaning this award has been given in the society to which I belong, I must reject this undeserved prize which has been presented to me. Please do not receive my voluntary rejection with displeasure.”

This was because the novel was seen as somewhat derogatory toward the Communist view on life. It was banned from the Soviet Union, and in fact, after Pasternak’s death in 1960, his mistress, Olga Ivinskaya (who may have been the inspiration for the Lara character in Zhivago), and their daughter, were later sent to prison for allegedly receiving money from the sale of Doctor Zhivago outside the Soviet Union. That’s how hardcore the Soviets were about this book.

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was that interested in helping the book get MORE notice outside the USSR!
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Was Charles Dickens Really Paid by the Word?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Charles Dickens was paid by the word.

Reader Audrey sent in this one awhile back, and it’s a very popular one – the notion that noted novelist Charles Dickens was paid by the word for his work.

This one is a bit tricky, as I suppose depending on the way you look at it, you could make some sort of argument to that effect, but I think it is such a stretch that it is effectively so misleading that “false” is still the best option.
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Were the Bronte Sisters Raised as Vegans?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: The Brontë sisters were forbidden by the their father from eating meat.

The three Brontë sisters (not counting their two older sisters who died in their youth) were all novelists in the early 19th Century (here they are in a painting by their brother, Branwell)

The youngest, Anne, wrote a couple of novels, but her two sisters each wrote one of the most well-known and beloved novels of Western Literature.

The middle sister, Emily, wrote Wuthering Heights…

while the eldest, Charlotte, wrote Jane Eyre, which is one of the most popular novels of all-time (and was the most popular novel of the three sisters back then, as well).

Born over a stretch of four years between 1816 and 1820, all three sisters were dead by 1855, with the oldest of the three, Charlotte, living the longest (she died giving birth to her child at the age of 38 – both child and mother died).

What’s fascinating is that so much of the story of their life has been dictated by pretty much one biography, an 1857 biography of Charlotte, published two years after her death. Written by Elizabeth Gaskell, this bio formed the foundation for what the general public knew about the Brontës for over a century.

Which is fair enough, of course, except that Gaskell, as it turned out, was not a particularly faithful biographer!!
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Did Stephen King’s Wife Fish Carrie Out of the Trash and Compel Her Husband to Finish the Novel?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Stephen King’s wife fished his work on the novel Carrie out of the trash and forced him to finish it.

A major example of a matter of chance having a major effect on how a person’s life turned out was the case of Stephen King’s first published novel, Carrie.

Carrie is best known for the film adaptation staring Sissy Spacek…

but it was also Stephen King’s first published novel…

It was his first published novel, but it was not his first finished novel, and in fact, it was almost never finished at all!
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Was the Taser Really Invented Based on an Invention From a Tom Swift Novel?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: The taser was invented based on a device in a Tom Swift novel (the taser was actually named AFTER the novel)

Edward Stratemeyer invented the Tom Swift series of novels in 1910, along with the pseudonym Victor Appleton (which would be used as the collective pen name of the series of authors who worked on the title) as the author of the book.

The original series of books ran from 1910 until 1941, and a subsequent revival of the series (starring Tom Swift’s son) took place from 1954 until 1971 (the book series has since been revived a number of times, but no revival was as influential as the first one).

Tom Swift was a self-taught genius who would often invent new devices that would help him resolve whatever the plot was of that particular novel (his inventions started off pretty straightforward and got more fantastical as time went on).

The series of novels was a major influence on a number of science-minded people (legendary science fiction author Isaac Asimov cited the series as a major influence on his work).

One novel that was particularly influential was the tenth novel in the series, Tom Swift and His Electic Rifle, published in 1911.

In the novel, Tom and his friends go on an African safari, aided in great part by Tom’s invention of the titular device, a rifle that shoots electricity.

The book had a lasting affect on young Jack Cover (born 1920), and it stuck with him well into his adult years when he was working for NASA as a researcher (after years of working in the Aviation industry). Really, it is not too surprising, as the idea of a gun that shoots electricity is a pretty good one.

So what did Cover do with the idea?
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Did Robert B. Parker Invent a Character in a Novel Series for Helen Hunt?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Robert B. Parker created a popular series of novels just so an actress could have a good role – a role she never ended up playing.

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) began writing novels in 1971.

His most famous series of novels starred the Boston private eye known as Spenser.

Spenser was so popular that he received his own TV series called Spenser for Hire, starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks (whose character, Hawk, had a spin-off series after Spenser for Hire).

The show lasted three seasons from 1985-1988, and also had a series of TV movies in the 1990s.

One of Parker’s most recent lead characters was the female detective Sunny Randall, also a Boston P.I.

The character appeared in seven novels since her debut in 1999’s Family Honor (most recently, 2007’s Spare Change).

Randall had an odd genesis, though.

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Was Samuel Richardson’s Pamela Written as a Self-Help Book?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.

NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Pamela began originally as basically a self-help book.

What we now know as “self-help” books really have their root in the middle ages in what was called a “conduct book.”

Conduct books were books that were written in various forms (sermons, manuals, devotional writings). One of the more popular form were epistolary letters, that is, an instruction manual written in the form of familiar letters. Something along the lines of, “Dear Reader, you should always floss before you go to bed” – only with some more flowery speech and without any reference to modern oral hygiene.

So when Samuel Richardson sat down to come up with a work where he could instill in young ladies the virtues of remaining chaste, he began to do the work as a conduct book in the form of letters. However, after beginning the work, the idea came upon him – in doing a series of letters, he effectively was creating a character, was he not? Then why not use this character to tell a STORY, while still getting across the whole “Keep your pants on and you will go far in this world” message? The idea of novels were still fairly new when Richardson began his work in 1740 (well, 1740 was when it was published – he may have begun working on it a year earlier), so the idea behind turning the work into a novel was, well, novel.

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