restricted access Pia fraus: Anachronisms, Fake Latin, and Stolen Colors in Wilhelm Meinhold’s Maria Schweidler, die Bernsteinhexe
Abstract

Wilhelm Meinhold wrote Die Bernsteinhexe (1843) as a Baroque chronicle in order to hoax the radical theologian David Friedrich Strauß, who declared the story of Jesus’ life to be a myth. His hope was to humiliate the biblical philologist by getting him to write a review declaring Meinhold’s forged “myth” to be authentic. When Strauß clear-sightedly refused to review the book and an anonymous newspaper critic demanded proof that the manuscript existed, Meinhold disclosed the hoax, but brazenly claimed victory. Henceforward he bragged at every opportunity that he had duped “doctors and professors of theology and philologists of the first rank,” not to mention all the reviewers. The cover-up hoax succeeded where the literary hoax had failed. To this day, scholars accept Meinhold’s boast that his forgery went undetected and, indeed, was undetectable. This article calls the bluff. It demonstrates that contemporary philologists would have uncovered the forgery with ease, if Meinhold had not forestalled them with his avowal. The fact is that Die Bernsteinhexe contains not only flagrant anachronisms and fake Latin, but also verses of a “carmen gratulatorium” that Meinhold—quite incompetently—plagiarized from the famed Erfurt humanist Helius Eobanus Hessus (1488–1540). (HV)


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