Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Hermit of Peking


I met a relation of Sir Edmund Backhouse, the infamous fraudster who lived in Peking from 1899-1944. Sir Edmund duped many people about Chinese history and politics. One of his feats was sending historical manuscripts from the Imperial Court to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The first batch arrived in 1913 and Chinese scholars at Oxford were thrilled to read the documents. More manuscripts were sent over during the following ten years and by 1923 Oxford had received eight tons of paper from him. The scholars began to question how Sir Edmund had procured all the documents. They looked at them more closely and were overcome by a wave of nausea and horror: all the manuscripts were forged.

Sir Edmund's niece was 7 years old in 1944. She had heard many tales of her sinophile uncle in Peking but had never met him. One night she was awoken from her bed by a loud banging at the front door. She went downstairs into the hall and opened the large door. She saw a man in full Mandarin dress. "I am your Uncle Edmund," the man said, "and I've come to stay for a couple of months!" She showed him to a guest bedroom and went back to bed.

In the morning she rushed down to breakfast in a state of high excitement. "Mummy, guess what? Uncle Edmund arrived last night: he's staying for two months!" Her parents were disbelieving. They went upstairs to the guest bedroom. It was deserted. The girl was bewildered. The next day they received word that Sir Edmund had died in Peking two days before.

7 Comments:

Blogger Eurodog said...

OMG! I had goose bumps reading that, WW.

9:50 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

He deceived people right to the end...

7:24 am  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

Funny how people get their thrills doing this kind of thing.

11:55 pm  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

The first part reminded me of the "Hitler diaries" affair. The second part was really creepy!

7:01 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

That was Trevor-Roper as well, wasn't it, WL?

12:32 pm  
Blogger kinglear said...

Don't think he wrote the Hitler Diaries, merely authenticated them. On the other hand, if he HAD written them, he would be very unlikely to say they were fake...

6:17 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Welcome back, KL! I meant he thought they were authentic.

8:38 am  

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