THE SECRET LIFE OF JOSEPH CRABTREE
Over the years many scholars have come to this room to reveal for the first time that some glorious passage in a work hitherto ascribed to a lesser Master was either plagiarised from an original Crabtree composition or cribbed wholesale in the vernacular or translated to another language. Yet no folio has been found to authenticate the original and year after year we are left with the tantalising ‘proof by induction’ which is so popular with teachers of mathematics and so unreliable in the hands of policemen and lawyers. Clues there are in plenty but so there are in crosswords and unless you can unlock the devious mind of the designer you are better to register your answers with a pencil than a fountain-pen! ‘Even Bacon left his mark in sundry codes and cryptograms although content to hide behind the mask of Shakespeare!’ So said Peake in 1970. He searched deeply for the code which could betray the hand of Crabtree and imagined he had found it when he observed that four consecutive lines in Shelley’s ‘Hellas’ began with the letters C, R, A, and B, but his doggedness was unrewarded: there was no tree! Confronted with what seemed an intractable problem, I remembered the advice of the Chief Constable of Essex and decided to take a deep breath and look for another vehicle.