‘Blind in my mask and tripped by my disguises’: deception and disguise in the writing of A.S.J. Tessimond

Bainbridge, James
(2015) ‘Blind in my mask and tripped by my disguises’: deception and disguise in the writing of A.S.J. Tessimond. Deception: An Interdisciplinary Exploration. 45 - 54.

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In 1985, A.S.J. Tessimond’s literary executor received a letter accusing the late poet of plagiarism. The correspondent noted that a poem in Tessimond’s recently published Collected Poems, was already in print in Robin Skelton’s Penguin anthology, Poetry of the Forties, but there it appeared under the name Peter Black. Using the recently discovered manuscript of Tessimond’s Memoir, this paper reveals that Black was in fact one of at least twenty-one identities that the poet lived by. These names were more than pseudonyms to write under; they were used to evade conscription during the Second World War and to conduct a series of secret existences with different groups of people. Tessimond’s deception ran as deep as having a fictitious name by which to pay his gas bill. The motif of the secret identity stands at the heart of Tessimond’s work, and this paper explores some of the fictions that the poet created about himself in both his personal life and his unpublished memoir. It pays particular attention to the memoir’s account of the events of May 1960, when Tessimond invited two unknown people to live with him in his one-room flat. Over the course of several weeks the poet recounts how he allowed the couple to begin posing as ‘Mr and Mrs Tessimond’ until their various frauds were detected by the police. This testimony of ‘true events’ is presented through a number of narrative deceptions – false names, obscured dates – the paper explores how the memoir, and its fabricated destruction, was a fulfilment of what Tessimond hints at in one of his poems: ‘a cipher diary [...] great inventions in an attic drawer.’

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: issn: 978-1-84888-354-3
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2015 10:08
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2021 08:45
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/2014619