Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy
Here’s the thirty fifth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.
LiteratEye #35: Ghost Story: The Riddle of Who Wrote What
By W.J. Elvin III
October 16, 2009
It may come as a surprise to some that Sean Connery, in his recent book, Being A Scot, provides a truly enlightening cultural history lesson.
The book, issued by Phoenix Illustrated and as yet available only as an expensive import here in the States, surveys Scottish creativity, inventiveness and history. And, since it’s autobiographical in its own quirky way, there’s the necessarily egocentric focus on Connery.
Of particular interest to armchair detectives of the LiteratEye squad is the invitation to help solve a literary mystery.
Connery presents a gloom-and-doom quote, written two hundred years ago but obviously appropriate in the present day. Sorry if it’s a bit windy and profound, it’s Sir Sean’s puzzle, not mine:
“A democracy is always temporary, and therefore cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It will only exist until the voters discover that they can reward themselves with the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury. A democracy therefore always collapses over loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a great dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
Connery says the quote traces to the voluminous works of a fellow Scot, the historian Alexander Fraser Tytler. It was given new life in a speech by President Ronald Reagan (who, ironically, sparked massive raids on the public treasury to compensate for the economic crimes and disasters resulting from his deregulation debacles).
What Connery wants to know is just where in Tytler’s work does the quote appear? A search of Tytler archives in the U.S. and Scotland failed to turn up the exact source. (more…)