The year was 1814 and Samuel Taylor Coleridge had not only confirmed his reputation as a literary genius but also as a chaotic figurehead of the Romantic movement who disappeared on opium- fuelled sojourns across the Somerset valleys for days.
So it may have come as little surprise to his publishers, who had paid Coleridge an advance of [pound]100 that year to translate Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's seminal poem, Faust, from its original German into English, when nothing was produced by the mercurial, and infamously unreliable poet.
It had been at least a decade since Coleridge's most fruitful years when he rose to literary fame, and infamy, with groundbreaking poems such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan - the latter composed as a result of an opium dream.
By the early part of the 19th century, Coleridge was beset by marital problems, increased opium dependency and a dampening of confidence in his creative powers. So the publishers shelved the Goethe project and the translation work has been long forgotten since Coleridge's death in 1834.
But now, nearly 200 years later, an American academic claims to have discovered that astonishingly, the poet may well have fulfilled his promise to complete a meticulous translation of the classical German tale - but could not put his name to it due to his dubious financial dealings.
The story of the manuscript translated by Coleridge, which for decades lay unrecognised by Coleridge experts and ascribed to an "anonymous" author, has as much romance and mystique as the figurehead of the Romantics could have wished.
After computer analysis of the "anonymous" writer's "literary fingerprint" in the 1821 English translation of Faust, which tells the tale about a man who makes a pact with the devil, Professor James McKusick, from the University of Montana, said he is confident the work was penned by the Romantic poet.
The Oxford University Press is set to publish Faustus: From the German of Goethe translated by Coleridge and edited by Professor McKusick and Professor Frederick Burwick, in September.
According to Professor McKusick's theory, Coleridge did not put his name on the work because he had previously failed to deliver on a contract for a Faust translation with another publisher for which he had also been paid an advance. Professor McKusick and Professor Bur-wick believe the find is of such great value because the translation reveals revisions and reworkings of Coleridge's earlier works, and so impacts significantly on the understanding of his entire oeuvre.
Professor McKusick, who had spent 36 years poring over the project, said the authentic voice of Coleridge "was hidden in plain sight". "Who knew that Coleridge had published a translation of the greatest dramatic work of the age? It changes our whole understanding of this towering literary figure," he added.
Professor McKusick said Coleridge had originally agreed with a London publisher, his friend John Murray, to translate Faust in 1814 and that he was given a [pound]100 advance. But the writer never produced the translation.
Then, some six years later, a collection of engravings to illustrate the figure of Faust arrived in England from Germany and the publisher Thomas Boosey, a rival of Murray's, began searching for a writer to compose the text to run alongside the precious engravings, and his sights were set on Coleridge.
The poet decided to accept the project, but knew he could not allow his name to go on the published piece, given his earlier abandoned translation, according to Professor McKusick.
"We don't have Coleridge's direct response," he said. "But I speculate it went something like this: Coleridge said, 'Yes, if you pay me, I can produce a verse translation quickly - because it's almost done - but you must swear never to reveal my name as the translator. …