Books: Victoriana Family Secrets: a Writer's Search for His Parents and

His Past by David Leitch Delacorte; 242 pages; $17.95

More than a century after Charles Dickens' pageant of nameless benefactors, twists of narrative, and startling revelations, Journalist David Leitch, 45, appears with a document that ratifies the conventions of the Victorian novel. In the first volume of his autobiography, God Stand Up for Bastards (1973), Leitch recalled his adoptive parents and the mysterious couple who secretly and illegally relinquished their nine-day-old infant. "This title might seem like a calculated insult to my mother," he began. "In a way it is. But I have a sneaking hunch--and hope--that hard words may entice her out of the shadows."

The lure worked. After...

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