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A translation of Goethe's 'Faustus' by one of the greatest names in literary history is to be published in September.
Arifa Akbar traces an extraordinary 200-year-old story that began with a £100 advance and a broken promise The year was 1814 and Samuel Taylor Coleridge had not only confirmed his reputation as a literary genius but also as a chaotic figurehead of the Romantic movement who disappeared on opium-fuelled sojourns across the Somerset valleys for days.
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By the early part of the 19th century, Coleridge was beset by marital problems, increased opium dependency and a dampening of confidence in his creative powers.
So the publishers shelved the Goethe project and the translation work has been long forgotten since Coleridge's death in 1834.
But now, nearly 200 years later, an American academic claims to have discovered that astonishingly, the poet may well have fulfilled his promise to complete a meticulous translation of the classical German tale - but could not put his name to it due to his dubious financial dealings.
The story of the manuscript translated by Coleridge, which for decades lay unrecognised by Coleridge experts and ascribed to an "anonymous" author, has as much romance and mystique as the figurehead of the Romantics could have wished.
After computer analysis of the "anonymous" writer's "literary fingerprint" in the 1821 English translation of Faust, which tells the tale about a man who makes a pact with the devil, Professor James Mc Kusick, from the University of Montana, said he is confident the work was penned by the Romantic poet.
The Oxford University Press is set to publish Faustus: From the German of Goethe translated by Coleridge and edited by Professor Mc Kusick and Frederick Burwick, in September.According to Professor Mc Kusick's theory, Coleridge did not put his name on the work because he had previously failed to deliver on a contract for a Faust translation with another publisher for which he had also been paid an advance.Professor Mc Kusick and Professor Burwick believe the find is of such great value because the translation reveals revisions and re-workings of Coleridge's earlier works, and so impacts significantly to the understanding of his entire oeuvre.Professor Mc Kusick, who had spent 36 years pouring over the project, said the authentic voice of Coleridge "was hidden in plain sight"."Who knew that Coleridge had published a translation of the greatest dramatic work of the age?It changes our whole understanding of this towering literary figure," he added.