Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography by Ian Hamilton
Many of our most treasured works of literature, including John Donne's sonnets and Shakespeare's plays, have been preserved more by accident than by design. Key writings from the past have been burned, stolen, suppressed or "edited" by widows or friends anxious to preserve a sanitized image of the writer in question, sometimes for profit or self-aggrandizement. This book unravels the secret history behind the "greats" of modern literature, showing how their reputations have been made, tarnished or falsified. Beginning in the 17th century, the author examines the cases of authors such as Marvell, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Boswell, Burns, Shelley, Byron, Forster, Dickens, Tennyson, Swinburne, Stevenson, Henry James, Kipling, T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath and Philip Larkin. The book also looks at the role of copyright law, libraries, publishers and literary agents, adding to the modern debate on the moral issues of modern biography.