THE GREAT PRETENDERS; Starting Today, a Fascinating New Series That Opens Up the Bizarre World of Impostors and Reveals Just How Misleading Appearances Can Be

Daily Mail (London), March 22, 2000 | Go to article overview

THE GREAT PRETENDERS; Starting Today, a Fascinating New Series That Opens Up the Bizarre World of Impostors and Reveals Just How Misleading Appearances Can Be


Byline: SARAH BURTON

Billy Tipton was a top jazzman, a Scoutmaster, husband to four wives and father to three sons * Harry Stokes was a pipe-smoking bricklayer who married one woman and lived with another * But all three men shared one astonishing secret ... they were really women living out a lie * Dr James Barry was an eminent physician who left female admirers swooning in his wake MOST of us have told a fib or two in our time - embroidered our CV to get a job, perhaps, or exaggerated our achievements to impress a lover. But what happens when the fibs spiral out of control? And how can we ever be sure that someone is what they seem to be? This is the fascinating world of impostors - exposed in a new book that reveals exactly how misleading appearances can be.

In an exclusive serialisation, continuing tomorrow, the Mail explores this murky world ... beginning with three people whose entire lives were built on the most fundamental deception of all.

EARLY one October morning in 1859, a Salford man was walking along the River Irwell on his way to work when he noticed a hat in the water. Closer inspection revealed that the hat was firmly lodged on the head of a dead body, standing upright in the water.

The body was conveyed to a nearby public house, where it was quickly identified as that of a well-known local character, Harry Stokes.

Stokes was a master bricklayer whose special skill was in constructing chimneys and fire-grates; some of the tallest chimneys in the Manchester and Salford area were his work.

He was respected locally, and had been sworn in as a special constable during the Chartist riots.

Although his brief marriage had ended in separation, he had been living for many years with a widow who kept a pub. There Harry was a familiar, congenial figure, smoking, drinking and bantering with his friends.

The coroner's inquest would have been a mere formality, and Harry Stokes's death have gone unremarked, had not one of the jurors recalled a scandal at the time of his marriage.

On their wedding night, Harry's wife had complained that her husband was 'not a man' and had immediately left him.

The coroner duly directed two women to examine the body. They returned, tittering, to say Harry Stokes had indeed been a woman.

How many Harry Stokeses are there, what motivates them, and how do they get away with it?

When we talk about impostors, we are necessarily talking about those who have ultimately failed as such, simply by virtue of the fact that we now know they were impostors.

Those who succeeded remain undetected.

And there must be many of them.

The most notorious are often motivated by fame and fortune, but these are not the only motives. If imposture often ends in failure, it is also born out of it. The real lives impostors leave behind are almost uniformly intolerable and oppressive. The impostor is an escapolo-gist as much as an adventurer.

CREATIVE and often highly intelligent, impostors recognise the limitations of the hand life has dealt them: they cannot change the world into which they were born, so they change themselves.

Harry Stokes was not unmasked as a woman in his lifetime, but, like so many other gender impostors, his death revealed his secret.

Here he was just unlucky. As a pauper, Stokes would have been buried in his clothes were it not for the keen memory of one juror.

History does not relate how it was that, after the failure of his marriage, Stokes was nevertheless able to live for many apparently harmonious years with another woman, Frances Collins. She later steadfastly insisted that she had never discovered his secret.

We do know a little more about Harry's motives for living a lie.

Early in the 19th century, an eight-year-old girl found herself tramping a dusty lane into the village of Whitby, near Doncaster. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

THE GREAT PRETENDERS; Starting Today, a Fascinating New Series That Opens Up the Bizarre World of Impostors and Reveals Just How Misleading Appearances Can Be
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.