Bloomsbury withdraws paperback accused of plagiarising 'Jane Eyre' and 'Brighton Rock'

Such was the success earlier this year of the memoir of a tragic childhood by a first-time author, Judith Kelly, that its publisher, Bloomsbury, laid down plans to produce a paperback edition to build on the 30,000 copies sold in hardback.

Until, that is, one reader noticed striking similarities between sections of the autobiographical work and text from a comic novel by a prominent British author. Yesterday, Bloomsbury, the publishing house behind the commercial phenomenon of Harry Potter, announced that it was indefinitely postponing the paperback edition of Rock Me Gently amid claims that it plagiarised not one but three other works, including Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. The book also appears to borrow from a section of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

A spokeswoman for Bloomsbury told The Independent: "We currently have no plans for a paperback edition. Judith is mortified by what has happened. We take responsibility for the book and we have withdrawn it until we can be certain there be will no further problems."

The alleged plagiarism came to light when another writer, Hilary Mantel, was told by a reader at the Cambridge Literary Festival in April that she might find it "interesting" to compare Kelly's work with her own novel Fludd, a darkly comical study of religious faith, and a collection of short stories, Learning To Talk. When Mantel, one of the 17 writers on the long-list for the Man Booker prize this year, read the book and catalogued 10 separate points where text from her work appears to a greater or less extent unchanged in Rock Me Gently, she wrote to challenge Bloomsbury.

One line from Fludd, published in 1989, reads: "'I could drink sleep,' she said, 'I could eat it. I could roll around in my dreams like a pig in mud'." In Rock Me Gently, the following sentence appears: "Now I could drink sleep. I could eat it. I could roll around in my dreams like a pig in mud."

In a letter to Mantel, Bloomsbury's senior editor, Alexandra Pringle, said Kelly, a graduate from Chelsea School of Art and a former television producer for Reuters and BSkyB, had inadvertently included the sentences because of her photographic memory.

Ms Pringle wrote: "[Judith Kelly] has a remarkable memory, and during the decade in which she was working on her book, some of her wide-ranging reading emerged in her own prose without her realising it."

Bloomsbury said it had no reason to doubt that the events described by Kelly in her book, a moving and shocking account of the cruelty of nuns running a convent orphanage in Sussex in the 1950s, had taken place.

Kelly, 61, was sent to the institution as an eight-year-old following the death of her alcoholic father because her mother could not cope on her own.

The memoir, which has won plaudits for bringing to light abuse at Nazareth House in Bexhill, East Sussex, has a graphic account of how Kelly's best friend at the institution drowned in the sea while the nuns looked on, praying. The author, who ran a helpline for victims of abuse by Catholic clergy, relates how she was blamed because she lost her friend's grip before she disappeared beneath the waves.

Mantel, who has won a number of literary awards, said that while the suffering of those in Nazareth House was not doubted, the plagiarism undermined the memoir's credibility.

She said: "What Judith Kelly has done is to misrepresent her past by passing off as her own memory conversations and descriptions that are taken from other authors. I have no desire to pursue her but it does compromise the authenticity of what she writes. To apparently take lines from my novel, which is about comic grotesques, and use them in a subject as deeply serious as hers is very surprising indeed. I would rather that the book was withdrawn."

Sources at another publisher, Virago, confirmed that they were seeking legal advice about the similarity of lines in Rock Me Gently to the acclaimed 1933 novel Frost In May by Antonia White.

The alleged similarities

Fludd, Hilary Mantel: "The parlour was both stuffy and cold, and smelled mysteriously of congealed gravy. Over the mantelpiece, Christ hung in a heavy gilt frame, thin yellow tongues of light streaming from his head. His ribcage was open, neatly split by the Roman spear, and with a pallid, pointed finger he indicated his exposed and perfectly shaped heart."

Rock Me Gently, Judith Kelly: "In the centre of the room hung a heavy gilt frame showing a picture of Christ with yellow beams of light streaming from his head. His ribcage was neatly split and with a pale pointed finger he indicated his exposed and perfectly heart-shaped heart. There was a mysterious smell of congealed gravy in the air."

King Billy is a Gentleman, Mantel: "My childhood seemed to belong to some much earlier, greyer world. It was my inner country, visited sometimes in dreams..."

Rock Me Gently: "My childhood had been consigned to some much earlier, greyer world. It was my inner country, rarely visited."

Brighton Rock, Graham Greene: "'But you believe, don't you,' Rose implored him, 'you think it's true?' 'Of course it's true,' the Boy said. 'What else could there be?' he went scornfully on. 'Why,' he said, 'it's the only thing that fits...' 'And Heaven too,' Rose said with anxiety..."

Rock Me Gently: "'But you believe, don't you?' I implored her. 'You think it's true.' 'Of course it's true. What else could there be?' she went on scornfully. 'Because it's the only thing that fits...' 'And Heaven too,' I said with anxiety."

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë: "That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog-bred pestilence, which ... breathed typhus through its crowded school-room and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the seminary into an hospital. Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of eighty girls lay ill at one time."

Rock Me Gently: "The convent was a cradle of fly bred infection at that time. With the oncoming of warm weather, disease had crept into the orphanage and breathed its foul breath through the kitchens and refectory. Lack of food, rat-ridden dormitories and clogged drains had primed the children to catch infections. Before May arrived, 45 out of 60 girls lay ill and classrooms stood almost empty."

Frost in May, Antonia White: "Her lids grew heavy and her crossed hands began to uncurl. She had just time to remember to whisper 'Jesus' before she was fast asleep."

Rock Me Gently: "My lids grew heavy and my crossed arms began to uncurl. I had just time to remember to whisper 'Jesus', when Ruth's gruff voice rung out."

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
ArtHow Monet and Degas influenced a generation of American artists
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor