01 A plate from the 1787 edition of Baron Munchausen's Gulliver Revived. Munchausen is synonymous with vainglorious boasting.

02 a rubber tank inflated to deceive the enemy and in use on East Anglian airfields by American forces up to the end of the Cold War.

03 An American newspaper photograph May 1949.

04 from Charles Cotton, The Complete Gamester, London Wilford 1725.

05 The Second and Last part of Conny-catching. 1592

06 an occupational hazrd explained by Punch, February 13th 1929, p.194 11 x 14cms by Ridgwell, "The Magician Who Failed To Produce His "Ticket"..

07 St.James visiting the Magician Hermogenes, engraving, 1565 ; 21 x 29cms.

08 anon., The History of Magicians, London 1805.

09 from Henri Decremps, The Conjuror Unmasked, Stalker [London] 1788

10 Rembrandt's great etching Faust, 16 x 21 c1652.

11 These illustrations are extraordinary in their clarity and ambition in showing the intricacies of the gulling of the customer. I show two illustrations from this classic of revelation - Walter B.Gibson, The Bunco Book, originally published in 1946.and recommend the Citadel Press reprint of 1986, from Lyle Stuart Inc., Secaucus, New Jersey. Gibson was a Master Magician, and author of the mythic series, The Shadow.



"It is an art to have so much judgment as to apparel a lie well, to give it a good dressing" Ben Jonson, Explorata: Mali Choragi Fuere

"The grifter is back and he's gunning for chumps.So you'd better zip up those pocket, pal." Gibson op.cit. beneath.

The lecture will look at the role of the narrator.In literature the role is richer, more ambiguous. How is the narrator to be pictured ?

• the narrator as a separate story teller outside the action .
• the narrator as a separate story teller inside the action; the narrator in Sondheim's Into the Woods.At one point in the narrative, the characters break through to the narrator's dimension and sacrifice him to the rampaging giantess. No, says the narrator, if you kill me, you won't know how the story ends. His pleading is in vain.
• the narrator above the action, narrator as puppet master. Nijinksi's staging of Petrouchka.
• the narrator as invisible presence, the voice over, the comic caption, the voice of the prompter.
• The Invisible narrator, the title card, the title page.
• The narrator tells the story in the picture, Millais' The Boyhood of Raleigh
• The narrator as God, the moral visitation.
• The author shows the narrator telling the story. The dimensions of possibilities, Nabokov's Pale Fire. Jackie Batey's favourite book.


The Bottle Hoax of 1749

a seance from John Farmer, Twixt Two Worlds, chromolithograph by J.J.Tissot

Faking Vermeers , van Meegeren 1945

The Picture Magazine - an invented Marching Band 1896

The Swindles of the World,'Pauli engraving c1590

Doctor Panurgus, Martin Droessout

The Quack Doctor , print by Willem Buyteweck

The Wonderful Pig of Knowledge, English popular Print c1810

Nicholas Blunt alias Nicholas Gennings, as Upright Man and Counterfeit Crank illustrated ballad

Faked Passport used by a Vagrant in England 1596

But what happens if the narrator lies ?

• Herman Melville, The Confidence Man ,
• Thomas Mann Felix Krull, The Confidence Man
• Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire,
• Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls,
• Edgar Alan Poe, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences.1843
• Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying.
• P.T.Barnum, The Autobiography of a Showman.
• N.Hawthorn,The House of the Seven Gables

• Escher; the optical illusion.
• Jan Steen, the card sharp.
• Duchamp, Rrose Selavy, altered ego.
• Bosch, the Trickster

• Mamet, The House of Games, 1987 and much recommended. Everyone has their tell.
• The Big Parade about Kim Il Sung.
• Ceaucescu documentary
• Orson Welles, broadcast The War of the Worlds.
• Kelly/Donen, Singing in the Rain
• Honoré Daumier, the invention of Robert Macaire.

Excerpt: House of Games,

The Tell; Mike, "Now the guy from Vegas (he points at the back room) has got a shitload of my money. He's got a 'tell'. OK ? When he's bluffing, okay, he plays with his little gold ring. Now I caught him doing it. N'he knows I did, so he stopped. He's conscious of himself. I want you to do me this favour. I want you to be my girlfriend for a while, come in the game, you stand behind me, watch me play. We get in a big hand okay ? I, uh, I go to pee you watch this guy, and tell me, does he play with his gold ring. I know he's bluffing. I win the big hand. I'll forget the eight hundred dollars your friend owes." David Mamet, House of Games, screenplay, Methuen London 1988.

Political Lies.

"The trouble with telling a lie is that you always have to remember it and be able to repeat it when necessary or risk embarrassing embarrassing inconsistency. Eventually the lie takes on a life of its own, with consequences that can snowball until they cannot be controlled.Kim Il Sung is a consummate liar. One of the longest running examples of his mendacity concerns his country's programme to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea thought it could bamboozle the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is why it agreed a couple of years ago to allow inspections of its facilities. But Kim underestimated American satellite intelligence...Risking discovery, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...The crisis that has triggered this has abated but the falsehoods on which North Korea's Communist society have been based continue, swollen to such a degree that they consume the entire country."The Great Leader and the Dear Leader". Leader in the Independent Newspaper just before Kim's Death.

Types of mendacity
• The creation of a narrative per se.
• The creation of a personality: Orpen, Duchamp, Lewis.
• The creation of a technology.
• The language of lying The Half Truth. Economical with the truth, the actualite.

Pale Fire; completed 1961, the mad comedy of two worlds in conjunction. The foreword, poem, commentary, and index.

The Confidence Man; the title leads to anticipations;the celebrated cavalcade of potential suspects on the river boat. "there was no lack of variety. Natives of all sorts and foreigners; men of business and men of pleasure; parlour men and backwoodsmen, farm-hunters and fame-hunters; heiress-hunters, gold-hunters, buffalo-hunters, bee-hunters, happiness-hunters, truth-hunters, and still keener, hunters after all these hunters. Fine ladies in slippers and moccasined squaws; Northern speculators and Eastern philosophers; English, Irish, German, Scot, Danes; Sante Fe traders in striped blankets, and Broad way bucks in cravats of cloth of gold; fine-looking Kentucky boatmen, and Japanese looking Mississippi cotton-planters; Quakers in full drab, and United States soldiers in full regimentals; slaves, black, mulatto, quadroon; modish young Spanish creoles and old fashioned French Jews; Mormons and Papists; Dives and Lazurus; jesters and mourners, teetotallers and convivialists, deacons and blacklegs; hard-shell Baptists and clay-eaters; Sioux chiefs as solemn as High Priests. In short a piebald Parliament, an Anarchasis Cloots congress of all kinds of that multiform pilgrim species, man." ; see also pp 229-231, Melville's characters discuss Autolycus.


Philip Kerr, The Penguin Book of Lies, Penguin London 1991; the basic collection of texts - Quintilian,How an orator should employ a lie; Niccolo Machiavelli, How Princes should honour their word; Michel Montaigne, A should have a good memory; Sir Richard Steele, On sustaining deceit; William Hazlitt, Puffing; R.L.Stevenson, Truth of intercourse; Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying; Hansard/Harold Nicholson, We lie Damnably; reference to the Piltdown Man, Chatterton and the account of how Rasputin was murdered.

Alexander Klein, Grand Deception,The World's Most Spectacular and Successful Hoaxes, Impostures, Ruses and Frauds, Faber and Faber, London 1956; including The Abyssian Princess who outwitted the British Navy; Orson Welles and the Men from Mars and Van Meergren

Walter B.Gibson, The Bunco Book, the Bunco Man from the Carnival Worker, Sharpers, Confidence man and schemer of the Get Rich Quick Variety, Citadel Press Seacaucus, NJ 1986 (1946) Gibson was the creator of the character The Shadow whom Orson Welles played on radio. Featured in this book include description of The Gold Brick, The Automatic Bowling Alley, The Three Pin Game, The Wheels of Chance; How Gamblers win at Poker;

Gary Lindberg, The Confidence Man in American Literature, OUP London 1982. "...the confidence man sees more opportunity in New World fluidity, not merely to improve his lot by cleverness and technical proficiency, but actually to recast the self through cunning imitation"

Tony Tanner, introduction to Melville's The Confidence Man, OUP Oxford 1989, an excellent analysis of the liar in a fluid social context.

R.L.Gregory and E.Gombrich, Illusion in Nature and Art, Duckworth London 1973, see "Illusion and Art"

and the best single publication is
Mark Jones (ed.) Fake ? The Art of Deception, University of California Press, Berkeley 1990 (also a British Edition, copyright the British Museum.

see also Carl Sifakis, Hoaxes and Scandals, A Compendium of Deceptions, Ruses and Swindles, Michael O'Mara Books, London 1993. Published under Licence from Facts on File.


The Big Parade, a documentary about the political pageantry and mythology of the North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

The War of the Worlds.

The House of Games

The Winter's Tale (the character of Autolycus)

Singing in the Rain.

Into the Woods.