Lost Manuscripts: The Works Of Literature That Could Have Been

Ernest Hemingway

First Posted: 2/03/2012 17:17 Updated: 2/03/2012 18:08

We all ache to know what could have been.

If only we'd caught that train, or took that job, or not acquiesced to that last flaming Sambuca... if only, if only.

In the case of some of the world's finest literary talents, the big 'if only' can often refer to the masterpieces they didn't publish - either because they were lost, stolen or burned in a fit of creative frustration.

For before the days of backed up computer files, automatic saves and 'cloud' stored documents, a writer's work was a tangible, vulnerable thing of paper and ink never more than a moment away from disaster.

Here we round up eight examples of the lost or sabotaged manuscripts we'd most be intrigued to discover...

William Shakespeare - Love's Labours Won
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Had the script to Love's Labours Won survived, who knows how celebrated a playwright William Shakespeare could have become? OK, so the bard's reputation hasn't exactly suffered for one of his manuscripts going missing, but for scholars, it remains a fascinating mystery.

First mentioned in a list of Shakespeare's comedies in 1598 and then again in a separate record in 1603, historians can quite decide whether Love's Labour Won was indeed an original play - probably a sequel to Love's Labour Lost - or an alternative name for The Taming of the Shrew. We prefer to believe the former.