A reader emails me with this fascinating story:
A string of publishers failed to spot blatant plagiarism of one of English literature's most famous authors, in a cheeky test to see if she would have secured a book deal today [...]
David Lassman, head of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, sent manuscripts to 18 editors seeking a publishing contract, using only slightly disguised versions of chapters from the iconic novelist's most famous works.
But only one publisher spotted the fakes, which included perhaps the most famous line in all English literature, the opening sentence of her 1813 work "Pride and Prejudice".
My reader's accompanying comments are spot on:
Publishing houses are notoriously snooty/snobbish but don’t even know the work of one of the most famous English writers of all time. The attempted cover-ups are indicative of the superior attitude held and most publishing houses are notoriously closed shops for non-celebrities whilst publishing large amounts of rubbish books from people who have become famous in other fields but are mediocre writers.
It's a sad, sad situation, but I can't really blame the publishers. Whether a book turns out to be a success is notoriously difficult to predict; going with a famous name removes a lot of the risk to a publisher's bottom line. And as for not being aware of 'that truth universally acknowledged', well, they would probably rather spend their fortune on something more modern.
Would Jane Austen fare better as a blogger?