Academic journal article DQR Studies in Literature

George Moore and Collaborative Authorship

Academic journal article DQR Studies in Literature

George Moore and Collaborative Authorship

Article excerpt

Moore was so single-mindedly a literary person that life itself was for him essentially authorship, and he turned all relationships into literary collaborations. In George Moore on Parnassus, one of Helmut Gerber's editions of Moore's letters, the correspondents may be Secretaries, Publishers, Printers, Agents, Literati, Friends, and Acquaintances, but Moore uses them all as collaborators in his literary enterprizes.1 Secretaries such as Mona Kingdon he keeps busy taking down his dictation and typing up drafts of works-in-progress. He employs research assistants like Margaret Gough to go to the British Library and read up on subjects for him. He wheedles his old friends in the National Library of Ireland, W.K. Magee and Richard Best, to do research for his novels before they are written and to edit them after they are drafted. He pays Virginia Crawford to write letters in the person of the female teacher in The Lake (1906), letters he then incorporates verbatim into that novel. He supervises Lennox Robinson in a dramatization of Esther Waters, and suppresses Robinson's contribution; then passes the same novel on to Barrett Clark for a further attempt at making the novel stageworthy. He encourages the young American James Whitall to write a book modelled on Confessions of a Young Man and construed so as to lend credence to the fictional element of "Euphorion in Texas".2 In a weird literalization of the metaphor of literary offspring, Whitall was to pretend to be bom in Texas, as Moore's child by Honor Woulfe. In that particular arrangement, Moore insisted his own contribution be suppressed. He pays Irish writer James Stephens to put folk idioms into Moore's drafts of the stories by Alec Trusselby in A StoryTeller's Holiday.

In fact, from the late 1870s and the first play he wrote with Bernard Lopez, Martin Luther, Moore was at all times involved in at least one literary collaboration, sometimes on works that resulted from combined efforts but that he, and he alone, signed, sometimes on works of publicly acknowledged co-authorship, and sometimes on works in which by agreement Moore's own name does not appear.

Since the publication of Michel Foucault's essay, "What Is an Author?", there has been widespread interest in the exploration of how notions of authorship changed through history.3 At all times, the practice of authorship has been more complex than a relationship between a single person as cause and one text as effect. Shakespeare, for instance, was not the only author involved in writing Shakespeare's plays: contemporary London playwrights worked on parts of some of them, and the scripts for others were altered by actors and managers in production. But the actual varieties of collaborative activity in Moore's work match in number and complexity anything that has been proposed in literary theory or commonly found in the history of literature. He was a feverishly conspiratorial writer.

Just to take the case of drama, Moore divided the labour of composition between himself and others in many ingenious ways. With A Fashionable Beauty (1887), Moore teamed up with his brother Augustus to write the lyrics for the musical, but they stole the plot from a French play (a piece of involuntary collaboration by the French author), and assigned the musical element to Jimmy Glover. For The Strike at Arlingford (1893), Moore sketched out the story for a play about a strike, in which the labour leader is seduced by an aristocratic lady, and presented this to an actor-manager, but for progress beyond that point, he turned to professional dramatist Arthur Kennedy, who was evidently paid both for his labours and his silence.4 Moore had come to realize that while he could describe a scene in a novel, he could not write a scene in dialogue, and plays are, after all, on the face of it, dialogue.5 In these collaborations, the parts of the composition were shared out among specialists.

Behind the composition of The Bending of the Bough (1900) lies a novelistic degree of social complexity, in which composition rolls on in waves of rewriting. …

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