Laugh and cry at the Guardian's report of the test for publishers and agents set by David Lassman, director of the Jane Austen Festival. He typed out Jane's books, changing only the names, and submitted them as new manuscripts and all he received back were polite rejections.
Well, you might say, what publisher in their right mind would glance twice at a contemporary manuscript written in late-eighteenth century prose and steeped in eighteenth-century upper-middle-class values? Trouble is, though, it seems that in that one glance at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, only one publisher recognised it for what it was.
Laugh and cry as the publishers and agents tie themselves in knots explaining it away. Oh, but they did recognise it, claims a spokesman for agent Christopher Little: they might have sent out a polite rejection, but in fact there were 'discussions about plagiarism'. Excuse me while I fall off my chair imagining that po-faced discussion while the smelly rat ran riot beneath the table.
Excuse me while I fail to get up as I imagine the special x-ray process whereby Penguin, who say that they never actually said the manuscript was original, only that it 'seemed' so, can judge a manuscript when - as they also say, thus giving the whole game away - 'It would not have been read.'