There is no more striking illustration of the altering effect of circumstance than the question of forgery. In the world of finance the perpetrator goes to jail; in the world of letters he is received, when discovered, with applause. Chatterton, at the age of fifteen, fooled Horace Walpole completely, and has been hailed by subsequent generations as a genius. There is a modern case which is still being fought out. Although the dispute as to whether Daisy Ashford or Sir James Barrie wrote the "Young Visiters" was allowed for a time to slip into a state of lethargy, the authorship has not yet been settled. If proved forgery always brings in its train lasting fame, the point grows more interesting.
Fortunately there lives a man to keep the fires of controversy burning. Mr. Frank Swinnerton, well known British author and--be it remembered--friend of Sir James, has come over here with his tongue in his cheek and mischief in his eye, bearing a confirmation of faith for all wavering Ashfordites. Mr. Swinnerton has been well coached. His account of the origin of the "Young Visiters" coincides in all important respects with that of its distinguished, though whimsical, sponsor. According to his own statement, Mr. Swinnerton received the manuscript from a friend of Daisy Ashford's while he was a reader in a London publishing house. He showed it to friends and then, after much difficulty, persuaded Sir J. M. Barrie to write a preface for it. To lend artistic verisimilitude to this unconvincing narrative, he adds fascinating details of Miss Ashford's subsequent career, and even fells how she spent her royalties.
In spite of all this, however, Mr. Swinnerton's solemn declarations have not been received with all that seriousness usually accorded his remarks. "The report still persists that Barrie wrote the book," he complains. "The other day A. G. Gardiner poked me in the ribs and said that of course Barrie didn't write it and then he laughed." Did he, indeed? Oh, naughty Mr. Gardiner.