Academic admits to profane hoax on literary rival
LONDON — A biographer of English poet John Betjeman has confessed to writing a hoax love letter that duped a rival author, a British newspaper reported Sunday.
The Sunday Times said Bevis Hiller admitted sending the fake letter to A.N. Wilson — complete with a coded four-letter insult aimed at Wilson.
“It's a fair cop,” the newspaper quoted Hillier saying when confronted about the letter.
Wilson thought the passionate letter — ostensibly written by Betjeman to a Second World War colleague, Honor Tracy — was evidence of a previously unknown extramarital affair and included it in his recently published book Betjeman.
Wilson acknowledged the letter must be fake last week, after the Sunday Times pointed out the first letter of each sentence spelled out “A.N. Wilson is a shit.”
The newspaper quoted Hillier saying the hoax was prompted by annoyance at the attention received by Wilson's book, published after his own three-volume biography of the poet.
“When a newspaper started billing Wilson's book as ‘the big one,' it was just too much,” Hillier was quoted saying.
The two men have a history of animosity. Hillier previously denied involvement in the letter hoax but told the newspaper he thought Wilson was “despicable.”
In a 2002 book review, Wilson said Hillier's biography of Betjeman was a “hopeless mishmash of a book.”
Wilson's publisher said the letter would be removed from reprints of Betjeman.