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Friday, 5 July 2013

Heroic Failures

Heroic Failures in my Family?

I recently found out that my grandfather's brother on my mother's side was famous for having written the world's most rejected book. It was rejected no less than 105 times by publishers alone, including  a few in Russia. Agents?.... don't even go there.
His name was Gilbert Young and he lived in Bath, as did my grandparents. He spent most of his life honing the manuscript of his great work World Government Crusade and trying to get elected to parliament as the only representative of his own pary "World Governement and Old Age Pensioner Party." He stood for parliament three times, funded by my garnsfather to the tune of £30 in total.. a large sum in those days. Needless to say he lost his deposit every time. His book and his political platform centered on creating a single one government, a single compulsary language and currency. He also wanted to turn Buckingham Palace into an old folks home.

It set me to wondering what other happy failures there are, especially in the world of authorship and it didn't take too long to find a few.

Pedro Carolino wrote a an English to Portugese phrasebook without knowing any English at all, but did possess dictionaries in a number of languages that he xcross-referenced witout speaking most of the other languages as well.
He came out with such wonderful phrases as:
      Dress your hairs
      This hat go-well
      Undress you to
      Exculpate me by your brother's
      She make the prude
      So you cut the hairs
      He has lost his all good.
      Nothing of money. Nothing of Swiss.
      He eat to coaches
      A take is better than two you shall have
      The stone as roll not heap up not foam (that well-known pop group!).
The phrasebook was an immediate bestseller and is still available under the new title of English As It Is Spoke.

Author David Wilkins translated the New Testement from Coptic into Latin. It was published in 1716 and was eventually remaindered in 1907, by which time it had sold an amazing 193 copies, working out at one copy every 2 1/2 years. Even I can beat that!

William Gold, an Australian writer (?), wrote over 3 million words over 18 years, during which time he earned  the equivalent of 28p for his efforts. Again, even I can beat that.... I think!

Sometimes the world's failures are far more interesting than the best-selling authors, and my grandfather's brother is still remembered with fondness as a eccentric... and a man who owes us 30 quid!

Blog on, Dudes!


  1. Fascinating - and earning 28p for 3 million words just cheered me up enormously....ha!

  2. Good blog. I love heroic failures. It's all very interesting Richard but I still win. I have offered to pay people to buy my books, and even with the dangling carrot of the bribe, they refuse.

    1. I've read your books, Trevor, and those who haven't read them are the posers!

  3. Excellent. Love mistranslations: My dad, a chocolate importer, once received a consignment labelled ''Touchy Chocolates''

    On the failure front...amazing stuff. Glad it's not us!!

    1. Thanks, Carl. Love the Touvhe Chocolates!

  4. This is hilarious, Richard, and also strangely touching. Good on your grandfather's brother for pursuing what he believed in, even if he never got anywhere with it and no one agreed with him. I really admire that sort of stubborn integrity.

    1. Many thanks, Teresa.I found loads of incredible failures like my garndfather's brother, but I only had room for a very few!