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A. N. Wilson skewered — it couldn’t happen to a nicer credulous moron!

A. N. Wilson, the epitomy of English snootiness, recently fell for an elaborate prank that he could have avoided if he had drawn a design inference. Note that “Eve de Harben” doesn’t exist either, and the letters in “her” name are an anagram for “Ever been had?”

Why am I being so hard on Wilson? Here’s what he wrote back in 1999 about the good people of Kansas: “Their simple, idiotic credulity as a populace would have been the envy of Lenin. That is the tragic paradox. The Land of the Free, telly and burgerfed, has become the Land of the Credulous Moron.” (go here and scroll down) What goes around comes around.

The Sunday Times August 27, 2006

Betjeman love letter is horrid hoax
Richard Brooks, Arts Editor

HIS one regret, Sir John Betjeman once said, was that he had not had enough sex. So the late poet laureate’s biographer could be forgiven the thrill of discovery he felt when someone sent him a passionate love letter supposedly written by Betjeman to a mistress.

Now, however, it turns out that the poet, born 100 years ago tomorrow, never wrote the letter. Instead, AN Wilson, the biographer, admitted this weekend he had fallen victim to an elaborate hoax.

The trick was so successful that the letter has been published in Wilson’s new book Betjeman as evidence of the poet’s previously unknown “fling”.

The giveaway — and a clue that a bitter rival of Wilson’s may be behind the trick — is that the capital letters at the beginning of the sentences in the letter spell out a vivid personal insult to the biographer.

After a Sunday Times reporter pointed this out to him this weekend, Wilson reread the letter and said: “I should have smelt a rat . . . Obviously the letter is a joke, a hoax.”

The identity of the trickster is not known, but one acknowledged rival of Wilson has denied involvement. Bevis Hillier, author of a three-volume biography of Betjeman, said that, although he found Wilson “despicable”, he was “not guilty” of the hoax.

The “love letter” appeared to have been written by Betjeman in May 1944, 11 years after he had married Penelope Chetwode.

It was addressed to Honor Tracy, an Anglo-Irish writer with whom Betjeman worked at the Admiralty during the war.

The letter first came to light about two years ago as Wilson was researching the biography.

In a covering note, someone signing herself (or himself) “Eve de Harben”, with the address Résidence de la Mer, Avenue de la Plage, Roquebrune on the Côte D’Azur, wrote that she had received the letter from her father, a cousin of Tracy. Tracy herself died in 1989.

De Harben sent a typed copy of the letter. The original, according to the note, had been sold to an American collector of Betjemania.

The affair appeared all the more intriguing to Wilson because of Betjeman’s regret, expressed in a television interview in 1984, the year he died, when he said: “I haven’t had enough sex.”

The letter begins: “Darling Honor, I loved yesterday. All day I’ve thought of nothing else. No other love I’ve had means so much.”

Later on in the letter the poet waxed that “love has given me a miss for so long and now this miracle has happened. Sex is a part of it, of course.”

Betjeman then ended the letter: “Tinkerty-tonk, my Darling. I pray I’ll hear from you tomorrow. If I don’t I’ll visit your office in a fake beard. All love, JB.”

Close study of the letter, however, shows that the capital letters at the beginning of each sentence spell out a message: “AN Wilson is a shit”.

With hindsight, Wilson accepts he could have asked more questions.

He says he did think it strange that when he finally returned it to de Harben in France, the letter was returned soon after with “Addressee and address not known”.

Roquebrune exists, as does its Avenue de la Plage. There is a place called Résidence de la Mer, a block of flats near the pebbly beach. This weekend, Mario Ballestra, concierge at the block for the past 40 years, said he had never heard of de Harben or of Bevis Hillier.

“We have had just three English people living here in the last 30 years,” said Ballestra, “one called Mr Thompson who is in his 60s, and the others, a young couple who come here each summer. I have never met a Mme de Harben.”

The attention of The Sunday Times was drawn to the hoax a few days ago when a journalist also received a letter from de Harben.

It had the same French address and the same story that she had married a Frenchman. In the letter, de Harben confessed the love letter she had sent to Wilson was “spurious”.

She had made the whole thing up — including the rude message — to avenge an attack which Wilson himself had made some years ago on Humphrey Carpenter, a “dear friend of mine”. Carpenter was himself a distinguished biographer and book reviewer for The Sunday Times.

This explanation, however, appears to be yet another spoof. Carpenter’s widow Mari said this weekend she had never heard of de Harben. She also said Wilson and Carpenter had patched up their differences not long before her husband’s death.

Despite the French address, the padded envelope containing the letter was postmarked “west London” and a tiny sticker on the back indicated it had been bought at Warren & Son, a stationer in Winchester, which happens to be Hillier’s home city.

Hillier, however, was insistent. He said: “This isn’t the sort of lark I do . . . I am not guilty. But it is very Betjemanesque.”

He may deny involvement in the hoax, but Hillier does not like Wilson. “The man is despicable,” he said. “When my 2002 volume on Betjeman came out, Wilson wrote in The Spectator that Hillier is not really a writer at all. His book is a hopeless mish-mash.”

Hillier spent 25 years on his three-volume Betjeman biography, authorised by the poet before his death. He acknowledges that Tracy was close friends with Betjeman, who lived with a mistress for much of his marriage.

But Hillier is dubious about any sexual relationship with Tracy, pointing to a letter from the poet to her which reads “You forcibly illustrate my maxim that the ones we don’t sleep with are the dearest and the best.”

Wilson maintains the relationship was sexual. “I interviewed Tracy in an old people’s home not long before she died and she told me there had been an affair,” he said.

Wilson would not be drawn, however, on his suspicions over the true identity of de Harben. He said: “All I’d say is this person must know an amazing amount about Betjeman and his life. But I really don’t think I should name who I think it is.”

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2330457,00.html

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13 Responses to A. N. Wilson skewered — it couldn’t happen to a nicer credulous moron!

  1. Close study of the letter, however, shows that the capital letters at the beginning of each sentence spell out a message: “AN Wilson is a shit”.

    Did some disgruntled IDer from Kansas pull this prank on Wilson? If so, ROFL! (just kidding)

  2. “an elaborate prank that he could have avoided if he had drawn a design inference.”

    What design inference?

  3. Tom asked:

    What design inference?

    The detection of CSI in the pseudo-acronym formed in the sentence:

    AN Wilson is a shit

    The designer of the prank (the pranker) had to help the prankee (wilson) see the independent specification, a layer of CSI that was encoded in the text of the letter. But such assistance by the designer is consistent with design theory:

    Masters of stealth intent on concealing their actions may successfully evade the explanatory filter. But masters of self-promotion intent on making sure their intellectual property gets properly attributed find in the explanatory filter a ready friend.

    Mere Creation

    The Pranker was a master of self-promotion. With a little prodding from the designer (Eve de Harben), Wilson (the prankee) was able to see the CSI clearly evidenced by the physical artifact. There is no post diction in the specification, since this sort of trick has been done before.

    This incident is a beautiful illustration of what CSI is about, especially the idea of independent, non-postdictive specifications. The final design inference, is that Wilson has been had.

    Salvador

  4. Tom,

    I probably was a bit cryptic in what I wrote earlier. Wilson confesses he made a design inference:

    “I should have smelt a rat . . . Obviously the letter is a joke, a hoax.”

    Realizing he has been had is making a design inference. He needed a little prodding to sort through his list of independent specifications. In fact, the designer (Eve de Harben) sent a hint of that specification to Wilson via a reporter.

    Another way of looking at the situation is that (Eve de Harben’s) letter contained CSI that could be independently verified by the text of the hoax letter. I think this will be a classic discussion in ID circles to teach students what CSI is in future generations!

    If Wilson had made the design inference earlier without prodding, he would have authored a book which basically says of him “AN Wilson is a shit”. I hope someone sends complimentary copies of that book to John Calvert as trophy. :-)

    Salvador

  5. Correction

    If Wilson had made the design inference earlier without prodding, he would NOT have authored a book which basically says of him “AN Wilson is a shit”. I hope someone sends complimentary copies of that book to John Calvert as trophy.

    Salvador

  6. Here is the letter with the CSI highlighted in bold

    Darling Honor,

    I loved yesterday. All day, I’ve thought of nothing else. No other love I’ve had means so much. Was it just an aberration on your part, or will you meet me at Mrs Holmes’s again – say on Saturday? I won’t be able to sleep until I have your answer.

    Love has given me a miss for so long, and now this miracle has happened. Sex is a part of it, of course, but I have a Romaunt of the Rose feeling about it too. On Saturday we could have lunch at Fortt’s, then go back to Mrs H’s. Never mind if you can’t make it then. I am free on Sunday too or Sunday week. Signal me tomorrow as to whether and when you can come.

    Anthony Powell has written to me, and mentions you admiringly. Some of his comments about the Army are v funny. He’s somebody I’d like to know better when the war is over. I find his letters funnier than his books. Tinkerty-tonk, my darling. I pray I’ll hear from you tomorrow. If I don’t I’ll visit your office in a fake beard.
    All love, JB

    There were two letters involved:

    1. The above letter
    2. The letter alerting wilson to the prank

    The CSI in #1 is revealed via an independent detachable specification described in #2.

    Letter #2 simply prodded Wilson to synthesize a specification using the concept of “acronym”. Since this specifcation is easily conceived and has been used before, Wilson readily recognized the design of the hoax. However, he was too late in making the design inference because the design was sufficiently subtle. The designer engineered the hoax such that the CSI would later be readily apparent with just a small amount of prodding.

  7. Made it to the front page of CNN too… http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBI.....index.html

  8. Notice that, in this case, just like in the Piltdown evolutionary hoax, it was possible to detect patterns best explained as the result intelligence without even knowing who is the designer of those hoaxes. I hope Dr Peter Ward, and Darwinists in general, read this blog so that they can get more material as what NOT to say when debating scientists who promote ID. (“Who is the Designer”?)

  9. LOOOOOOOOOL MUUHHAHAHAHAHAHA ROOOLF! WHAT CREATIVE MIND DESIGNED THIS! I LUV IT SO :)

  10. Please pardon my ignorance but I have spent much of my evening
    trying to find out what “CSI” is. Clear sign of intelligence?

    I have posted symmetry again on the cutting room floor.

    Zero

  11. Zero: “Please pardon my ignorance but I have spent much of my evening
    trying to find out what “CSI” is. Clear sign of intelligence?”

    As everyone with a television set knows, “CSI” stands for “Crime Scene Investigation”. The presence of CSI is unambiguous evidence of the presence of design, as crimes have never been shown to be carried out by inanimate objects. :)

    Seriously, it means “Complex Specified Information”. See, for instance the following link:

    http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_idtheory.htm

    You might also want to try google “CSI” and “intelligent design”.

  12. 12
    alfredrusselwallace2

    Although A.N. Wilson believes in Darwinism and is an atheist, he wrote in The Daily Telegraph (London, Jan 16, 2006) that Darwin “was surely the father, among other things, of European fascism.” He bases this conclusion on “the picture which Darwin presents in The Descent of Man”, and writes “Like any other Victorian of 1870, Darwin sees a world ruled by white men, and believes this state of things is very good. But he does so not merely as a rich, liberal gentleman, but as a scientist. The domination of one race over another is inherent in his story. This is not what most of us call humanism. Darwin, the product of British imperialism, was surely the father, among other things, of European fascism.” So, in spite of his many deficiencies, let’s give Wilson credit for honestly pointing out the Darwin-to-Nazis connection.

  13. SCheesman posted:
    “Seriously, it means “Complex Specified Information”.
    **********************************
    Thanks SCheesman, you mean like when Jesus said, ” I have choosen you twelve.”, he really meant, ” 12 + 12 + 12 + 12 foundations and as a whole, it’s a real booger.”?

    Blessings

    Zero

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