Some wrote too little, and others wrote too much, but all writers left behind forgotten works. What wouldn’t the world give to find the lost novels of Jane Austen, plays of William Shakespeare, or tales of Lord Byron?
In Stuart Kelly’s book The Book of Lost Books he researches the legendary lost works of dozens of the world’s most beloved writers. Dante, Sylvia Plath, Nikolai Gogol, Charles Dickens, John Milton, John Donne. He even gives the final word on Hemingway’s infamous lost manuscript.
Insatiable readers are always searching for the tiniest tidbits they can find of to prove that there is more to the world’s left behind by their favorite writers. One only has to check the box offices to see how a readership like that of Harry Potter can be unwilling to let go. Luckily, we have a writer alive and willing to keep up with demand. Sadly, the great authors of the past did not have the foresight or stamina of J.K. Rowling. Instead the devoted must piece together remnants of letters, half finished manuscripts, and diaries in order to lose themselves in the world of their beloved writers.
Kelly pieces together the most intriguing writings historians can find of these writers. Fascinating as it is, I can’t help but to wonder if it more a relief or a tragedy that these works have been lost over time. Some authors did not write enough, but there are those that wrote so much that the would be perfect image we have of them had been shattered. Who’s to say that a resurrected work by Moliere would not be the undoing of his reputation?
As interesting as it is to toy with the idea of what could have been, we quickly begin to play the role of necromancer. What has been buried in the past may sometimes be best left in the past. But who doesn’t love the call of the dark arts every once in a while? Perhaps you may find inspiration in continuing the lost works of your favorite writer.