One of the saddest things I’ve seen recently was the picture in a magazine of a cute little frog that is now extinct. This poor fellow and his kin will never again grace the earth. I felt the same sense of irretrievableness after reading a Smithsonian article called, “The Top Ten Books Lost to Time.” A comedy called Margites by Homer? Lost. Twenty titles mentioned in various books of the Bible? Missing. What other works do we know of that we only have a glimpse of?
Shakespeare’s Cardinio: There is some evidence that Will and John Fletcher, his collaborator for Henry VIII, wrote this play and that Shakespeare’s theatre group, The King’s Men, performed it. But no one knows where it is. Too bad, because there’s a character in Cervantes’ Don Quixote named Cardinio — and Shakespeare would have had access to a translation. Miguel and Will: what a literary duo!
Herman Melville’s The Isle of the Cross; Melville presented this tragic novel to Harper & Brothers in 1853, but for some mysterious reason, the publisher turned it down. No copy of the manuscript has ever been found.
Jane Austen’s Sanditon: When Jane died in 1817 at the age of 42, she left behind 11 chapters of this novel about a seaside town — and Austen aficionados have been lamenting ever since.
This sad tale raise a question for us all: What “lost stories” do we have floating around in our hearts and heads that we need to save from extinction? Write on.