William Lauder (forger)

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William Lauder (died 1771) was a Scottish literary forger.

He was born in the latter part of the 17th century (exact date unknown), and was educated at the University of Edinburgh,graduating in 1695. He applied unsuccessfully for the post of professor of humanity there, in succession to Adam Watt, whose assistant he had been for a time, and also for the keepership of the university library. He was a good scholar, and in 1739, published Poetarum Scotorum Musae Sacrae, a collection of poems by various writers, mostly paraphrased from the Bible.

In 1742 Lauder went to London. In 1747 he wrote an article for the Gentleman's Magazine suggesting that John Milton's Paradise Lost was largely a plagiarism from the Adamus Exul (1601) of Hugo Grotius, the Sarcolis (1654) of J Masen (Masenius, 1606-1681), and the Poemata Sacra (1633) of Andrew Ramsay (1574-1659). Lauder expounded his case in a series of articles, and in a book (1753) increased the list of plundered authors to nearly a hundred.

His success was short-lived. Several scholars, who had independently studied the alleged sources of Milton's inspiration, showed that Lauder had not only garbled most of his quotations, but had even inserted amongst them extracts from a Latin version of Paradise Lost. This led to his exposure, and he was obliged to write a complete confession at the dictation of his former friend, Samuel Johnson. After several vain endeavours to clear his character he emigrated to Barbados, where he remained until his death.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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