The Nation: Holy Horatio!

Since 1928, Herbert R. Mayes' Alger; A Biography Without a Hero has served as the standard reference work on Horatio Alger Jr., the 19th century author of 109 novels about poor but honest boys who rise to success. Mayes, then a young journalist, went on to become a successful magazine editor (Good Housekeeping, McCall's). But he did not quite live up to the example of Alger heroes. The book that has been consulted by scholars for decades, Mayes has quietly revealed, is — gads! — a hoax.

"Nobody bothered to do any digging," explains...

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