December 9, 2011
“Delusional” St. Martin’s says passages and scenes from 1956 novel that reappeared in Lenore Hart’s new novel are not, er, plagiarised
by Dennis Johnson
St. Martin’s Press has announced that, despite the fact that much of the language of her book and several concocted scenes first appeared verbatim in someone else’s book, Lenore Hart did not commit plagiarism in her novel The Raven’s Bride.
As a MobyLives report detailed earlier, spy novelist Jeremy Duns, on his blog The Debrief, and the anonymous writer of the blog The World of Edgar Allan Poe, had both revealed numerous instances of passages in Hart’s novel, which is about the wife of Edgar Allan Poe, that were nearly word-for-word the same as passages in another novel about Poe’s wife called The Very Young Mrs. Poe by Cothburn O’Neal, first published in 1956.
Hart’s bizarre defense that such similarities were due to limited source material to invent from, a defense she articulated on her Facebook page when Duns challenged her there to explain herself, has since been taken down (although you can read lengthy quotes from it in our earlier report, not taken down).
In a New York Times report, Julie Bosman notes that Hart is no longer available for comment anymore, but her publisher, St. Martin’s, has released a statement saying:
As Ms. Hart’s publisher, we have taken time to consider the allegations carefully, rather than responding prematurely to demands for immediate action made by third parties.
In April 2011, when these allegations first came to our attention, Ms. Hart supplied a detailed response, which cited her research into biographical and historical sources, and explained why her novel and Cothburn O’Neal’s “The Very Young Mrs. Poe” contain certain details of place, description and incident. As Ms. Hart explained in her response, of course two novels about the same historical figure necessarily reliant on the same limited historical record will have similarities. We have reviewed that response and remain satisfied with Ms. Hart’s explanation.
But even Bosman notes the “markedly similar” passages. She also notes that Dun revealed that Hart’s plagiarism consisted of more than just stolen language: “‘As I repeatedly pointed out, Hart stole scenes and passages that O’Neal invented for his novel; i.e. they never happened.”
After the St. Martin’s statement, “Duns said that they are all in denial,” reports Bosoman. She writes: “It’s unbelievably plagiarized,” he said, sounding exasperated.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.