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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 73, Summer 1997

Response to Nancy Cole's Report on The Dark Tower

This is Kathryn Lindskoog’s analysis of Nancy Cole’s unpublished 20-page essay written in 1995 and first circulated in manuscript form in March 1997.

Errors in Nancy Cole’s Essay
“An Investigation into the Authorship of The Dark Tower” Nancy H. Cole, M.A.

701 Welch Road, Suite 2214, Palo Alto, CA 94304 Phone (415) 325-3440, Fax (415) 325-1603

This is Kathryn Lindskoog’s analysis of Nancy Cole’s unpublished 20-page essay written in 1995 and first circulated in manuscript form in March 1997. Section 6 is the most amusing section and the most important.

Nancy Cole is a California member of the Association of Forensic Document Examiners. She begins her essay by thanking the staff of the Bodleian Library for enabling her to see documents there. “I am also indebted to Dr. J. Stanley Mattson, President of the C. S. Lewis Foundation, Redlands, CA, and to Mr. Walter Hooper of Oxford, U.K.” Her list of acknowledgments ends with Mr. Michael Logsdon, editor of The Lamp-Post of the Southern California C. S. Lewis Society, who in 1997 heaped accolades on her report and offered copies of the article to readers at cost.

Cole’s Section 1: “Scope of this paper”
Here Cole states the assumption behind her report: “questions raised concerning authorship [of The Dark Tower] could be answered by visual inspection [of the manuscript]. ” She does not try to explain or defend this assumption, which flies in the face of today’s balanced forgery detection procedures.

Cole’s Section 2: “Background”
After identifying C. S. Lewis and The Dark Tower in her first three paragraphs, Cole launches into a series of errors. She claims that authenticity of The Dark Tower was disputed shortly after its 1977 publication. But it was never disputed until 1988.

She claims that the dispute was “partly due to the fervid devotion of Lewis fans to whom he had become almost a cult figure.” But she does not identify those legendary fans and does not explain how their fervid, almost cultish devotion contributed to the authenticity dispute.

Next Cole claims “There were and are numerous Lewis societies, notonly in the U.K. and the United States, but also throughout Europe, in Canada, and in Asia–all of them peopled by vocal fans.” If that were true it would be irrelevant to her subject, but it is an exaggeration.

“One of the loudest and most fervent of these voices is that of…Kathryn Lindskoog.” My authorial voice has been commended for its civility, its friendly wit, and its pleasant tone. In contrast, a “loud” authorial voice from a female is assumed to be strident, overbearing, and even bombastic.

“She first expressed this view [that The Dark Tower is not by C. S. Lewis] in an article in 1979…” Cole is evidently referring to my 1978 article in Christianity and Literature and confusing it with the 1988 book where I first expressed this view.

“She reiterated her theories and expanded upon them in the far more strident volume, Light in the Shadowlands.” By calling Light in the Shadowlands “strident” Cole contradicts the judgment of Richard Wilbur printed on the third page: “I much admire the tone of humane amusement…” Wilbur is the second United States Poet Laureate, twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the National Book Award and the Bolingen Prize.

“An entire volume, Fakes, Frauds, and Other Malarkey (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993) sets forth her theories…” To the contrary, in that book there is not one reference of any kind to The Dark Tower or to my forgery charges. The book does not even mention my opinion that there are deceptions in Lewis affairs.

“Ah, [Lindskoog] replies, … she will go back to her special knowledge of what Lewis could have done or might have included in content. If she considers an inclusion ‘not like Lewis,’ it can’t be his.” Cole has a right to resort to the rhetoric of sarcasm if she chooses, but this grotesque caricature flatly contradicts both my position and my sentiments.

“TDT is a handwritten manuscript. Has Mrs. Lindskoog seen it? No, she says she requested it in 1984 at the Bodleian and was told she could not have access to it. Dr. Judith Priestman, the Keeper of the Keys at the Bodleian, says that she never requested it.” During the noon hour on June 22, 1984, Dennis Porter, Keeper of Western Manuscripts, informed me that I could not see the Dark Tower manuscript because it was the personal property of Walter Hooper and not available to researchers. Bodleian records prove that Porter’s claim was true and that Hooper did not allow researchers to see the manuscript until 1989. (For me to see the manuscript in 1984 would have been pointless anyway, because as I explained in Light in the Shadowlands, the idea that the story was forged never crossed my mind until 1986. Since then I have seen the manuscript in photocopy and discovered an atypical letter I near the beginning.)

“Since no one except Gervaise Mathews [sic], a friend of Lewis who had died before TDT’s publication, may have seen the work prior to publication, Lindskoog thinks this proves it didn’t exist during Lewis’s lifetime.”Cole goes on to remind readers that there is no reason to think Lewis always read his work aloud to friends. But Cole is confused; it is clear in The Dark Tower and in Light in the Shadowlands that Hooper claims that Gervase Mathew heard Lewis read a portion of The Dark Tower at an Inklings meeting, not that he saw the handwritten manuscript. And I have never thought that anything about this proves The Dark Tower didn’t exist in Lewis’s lifetime.

“No agreement was reached [about Cregiers’ attempt to co-sponsor an objective analysis of the Dark Tower manuscript], nor was the matter of my investigation pursued. Four years later, after my attention was brought to Light in the Shadowlands, I decided to pursue the examination myself, and the result is this paper.” The idea that an agreement was attempted is an error; Stanley Mattson refused to acknowledge or respond to the 1991 letters from Cregiers proposing unbiased manuscript analysis. Four years later he had dinner with Nancy Cole in an upscale Berkeley restaurant to discuss his opposition to Light in the Shadowlands. As a result, she travelled to the Bodleian to prepare a report defending the Dark Tower manuscript. This is not what her statement “I decided to pursue the examination myself” means to most readers. The predominance of error in Cole’s section called “Background” does not bode well for the rest of her essay. It could get better, but it’s going to get worse.

Cole’s Section 3: “Examinations and reports”
Nancy Cole says that before she examined the Dark Tower manuscript it was necessary for her to discover all the previous examinations and reports. She does not say why this was necessary, why she never looked at some of the most important ones, and why she devotes well over one-tenth of her essay to inconsequential results. Therefore I summarize all of Section 3. First Cole sought information about the much-publicized Warner Report, commissioned by Stanley Mattson and signed on January 24, 1989, by Francis Warner and R. E. Alton. The two were in favor of the manuscript’s authenticity, but Cole found their written report devoid of meaningful information. When she interviewed Mr. Alton for details, he resolutely declined to give any information about the examination except to reveal that the two men did not lay out the Dark Tower manuscript next to unquestioned Lewis documents to compare the handwriting as the report seemed to indicate. He would not say what they did instead; he told Cole he would reveal that only in a court case. In her report she seems to change Dr. Alton’s name to Dr. Wood, and concludes, “the thrust of the Warner report remains hidden.”

Next, Cole examined the second report commissioned by Stephen Schofieldin 1991, the one by Jacqueline Sawyer of Bristol. Sawyer was in favor of the manuscript’s authenticity, but Cole found her report unprofessional, “cursory, and a little silly.” (Cole neither examined nor mentioned the first report commissioned by Stephen Schofield, from a Cheshire detective named Pearson.)

Next, Cole mentions Stanley Mattson’s 1990 “colloquium” (in which a jury of 12 appointed by and including Mattson spent an average of under ten minutes each on 40 complex points in The C.S. Lewis Hoax and voted them all down). In fact, this event was neither an examination nor a report, and it took place in April 1989, not in 1990. She remarks “[a colloquium] which found TDT genuine and which, of course, Lindskoog discounts for various reasons.” This use of “of course” as a rhetorical device indicates erroneously that my critical analysis of the Mattson jury proceedings was reflexive rather than reasoned.

Next, Cole examined Stanley Mattson’s report from Julius Grant written in June 1990. (She seems to think it was dated 1989.) Grant was in favor of the authenticity of the Dark Tower manuscript, but his report was completely confused and insubstantial. Cole theorizes that Grant was saving his information for a possible court case in the future, but that idea seems untenable. For one thing, he was dying of old age when he wrote it.

Next, Cole considers the opinion of Nicolas Barker, Keeper of the British National Library, who looked at the manuscript in 1989 and considered it authentic. All she says at this point about Barker’s findings is that he found some post-1950 ink on the manuscript. She notes that perhaps the manuscript was written in 1950 or later rather than in 1938 as otherwise indicated.

Finally, Cole considers the two formal examinations that provide evidence against the authenticity of The Dark Tower. She fails to point out that these two examinations have nothing to do with her subject area, which is authentication of physical documents. (Instead, they are products of the discipline of ascertaining authorship of texts directly, and no original documents are involved in that task.) First Cole dismisses Carla Faust Jones’s published 1986 computer analysis of letter and letter-pair frequencies in Lewis texts by claiming that it “only proves what the average reader could discern” about style. This statement shows that Cole has not read Jones’s article, which is readily available, and that she misunderstood what she read about it. Next, Cole dismisses A. Q. Morton’s 1991 cusum analysis of The Dark Tower by claiming that although Morton’s complex statistical technique of author identification is admissable in British courts, it only works on everyday speech (as in written confessions), not on literary compositions. But that is like claiming that fingerprints only identify people in everyday clothes, not those dressed in their Sunday best or costumes. Cole seems unaware that most of Morton’s cusum analysis work is in the field of literature (including ancient Greek texts as well as old and modern English texts).

Cole’s Section 4: “Weight of Handwriting Opinion”
Cole begins this section with a personal slur: “One cannot, of course, hope to convince Kathryn Lindskoog that an identification of the writer of TDT would hold any water at all.” Next, she states that my case against The Dark Tower is based upon a fallacy. After mentioning my “lack of understanding of a document examiner’s discipline” (a major error in itself), Cole explains the fallacy underlying my forgery charge:

A) Hooper could write like Lewis (at least his signature)

B) TDT looks like Lewis writing

C) TDT must have been written by Walter Hooper.

(I’m not making this up; it is her exact words and format.)

My fallacy, she continues, is much like that of the schoolchild who states:

A) Harry has hair

B) horses have hair

C) Harry is a horse

At this point Cole mentions the unresolved dispute about whose writing hand appeared in Hooper’s 1979 film “Through Joy and Beyond. “She says that I insist the hand signing Lewis’s name was Hooper’s. But the hand was writing a poem rather than signing Lewis’s name, and I was in no position to insist. I was able to show that Hooper’s hand was not bony and hairy in 1978 as he claimed, and that he refuses to identify anyone else as owner of the hand in his film.

Next, Cole refutes my claim that successful forgeries are not unusual.”[Lindskoog] fails to note that the ones she cites (the Hitler diaries, the Mormon papers, the Hughes Will, etc.) have all been exposed at the time of her writing.” She seems to believe that no matter how much a forger gains and how many people he fools, or for how long, once the forgery has been exposed it can’t be counted as a successful forgery. (And until it has been exposed, it can’t be counted as a forgery at all). Needless to say, this unusual approach turns the term “successful forgery” into an oxymoron. Document authenticators like Cole can assure the public that no such thing exists if they define the term away…

Cole tries to estimate how long it would take a forger to produce the suspect Lewis manuscripts. She does not say if she is imagining a gifted master forger at work or an average person without much skill. Her estimate is staggering: “A forger would have had to have been locked in a room for years to turn out the body of painstaking work that Lindskoog attributes to Hooper.” But the main part of that work, the Dark Tower manuscript, is only 62 pages long; and Konrad Kujau’s forged Hitler diaries were 64 volumes long. An array of handwriting experts vouched for the diaries, along with the German FBI, the former head of forensic services in Zurich, historian H. Trevor Roper, and the world’s foremost Hitler scholar, Gerhard Weinberg of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (alma mater of Walter Hooper and Stanley Mattson). Weinberg reasoned as Cole does; the diaries looked genuine, and it seemed implausible that anyone would forge so much. Thus handwriting examiners can be fooled by long, daring forgeries. I suspect that Cole wildly overestimates the time it takes an accomplished forger to create such a product.

Cole concludes this section by referring to evidence about style, content and provenance as “nearly weightless arguments” in contrast to handwriting analysis. (She prefers the term “document examination, “but handwriting is all she includes in her report.) Perhaps her statement “document examination produces demonstrable evidence that cannot and should not be dismissed out of hand” is understandably defensive. (In the University of Pennsylvania Law Review [summer 1989], law professor Michael Saks pointed out that there is no academic training for handwriting experts, no evaluation of their competence, and no certification. When proficiency tests were given to handwriting specialists by the Forensic Sciences Foundation, only 45 percent of the test cases were correctly analyzed. Saks has found no evidence that handwriting experts can do what they claim.)

Cole’s Section 5: “Materials Examined”
Cole’s list of 14 items is surprising, in that she travelled all the way from California to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, and made use of only four of the many Lewis documents that would have been useful to her there. And it is surprising that although all four that she chose were on Lindskoog’s list of forgeries, Cole listed three of them in her “known” Lewis handwriting category. The most puzzling single item on her list is K-6, “Letter to Nancy Cole from Walter Hooper, typed with signature and four line handwritten note. Dated ’21 December 1990. ‘”This is the only indication that Cole and Hooper had such a long association. She fails to mention the nature of the letter or how she used it.

Cole’s Section 6: “Examination and Findings”
On p. 11 of her report Cole states that although Lewis’s handwriting was remarkably consistent throughout his career, it varied sometimes according to its content. “When Lewis was translating a classical poem, for instance, his writing assumed a more formal look, a more vertical slant and exhibited an even more regular rhythm.” Unfortunately, Cole does not reveal when or where she saw “a classical poem” that Lewis had translated into English using this alternative style of penmanship, so there is noway to check on its provenance (or its existence). Fortunately, however, she includes in her report a photocopy of three lines of this alternative penmanship; it is from an essay that Walter Hooper allegedly rescued from the 1964 manuscript bonfire, published in 1985 as “Encyclopedia Boxoniana.” This is one of the documents that I have challenged and that Nancy Cole is defending. The thrust of her defense is that the challenged documents display typical Lewis handwriting, and yet she openly admits that the handwriting on this one is atypical. She gives no indication that she notices the contradiction. (In my opinion the overly neat “Encyclopedia Boxoniana” document appears to be an early example of forged Lewis handwriting, before practice made it perfect.)

On p. 12 Cole says “The closest Lewis exhibits to a careless scrawl was found in the ‘LeFay fragment’.” Again she provides a three-line sample. Like “Encyclopedia Boxoniana,” the “LeFay fragment” is a document I consider a forgery. For some reason Cole seems to consider these divergences from Lewis’s normal penmanship as evidence that the documents in question are genuine rather than as evidence that they are early forgeries.

On p, 13 Cole describes the appearance of the Dark Tower manuscript, including the writing on the backs of pp. 1 and 2 in post-1950 ink: “the odd bits of Narnia and, I believe, Boxonian commentary that appear on the verso pages…” But there is nothing remotely connected to Boxen on those pages, and there are no “odd bits of Narnia.” There is an opening paragraph of the first chronicle of Narnia and an opening paragraph of Lewis’s autobiography. These are clear on the manuscript Cole examined and clearly described in the book she is refuting, Light in the Shadowlands.

On the left side of p. 15 of her report Cole displays photocopies of16 handwritten words from the Dark Tower manuscript, and on the right side she displays 34 words from “known” Lewis documents to show how well key letters match. But of the 34 handwritten words on the right, 30 are from Lewis documents without provenance, owned and thus possibly forged by Walter Hooper! (I am not making this up.)

On p. 16 Cole says “Lewis makes his commas backwards. Find another author who has this habit and another forger clever enough to notice and replicate it!” One might wonder what kind of forgers Cole is used to dealing with if they are not clever enough to spot distinctive characteriestics and replicate them. That is usually assumed to be the very nature of forgery.

Cole devotes the culmination of her report, pp. 13-17, to showing exactly what everyone has always agreed upon: that if the Dark Tower manuscript is a forgery it is an extremely good one, and that Walter Hooper’s usual handwriting differs from Lewis’s. (Perhaps Cole knows of a case where a forger’s usual handwriting does not differ from that of the person he forges, but such a case is hard to imagine.)

On p. 17 she states as her conclusion the same premise with which she began, that it would be impossible for anyone to be such a talented forger. She says she is sure Walter Hooper could not have produced these documents, that there is no base for such a charge. (I consider this begging the question.) Cole concludes that if I had engaged the services of a handwriting analyst before making charges of literary forgery, a great deal of grief could have been avoided. Whose, she does not say.