Contributed by Emily Gainer.
It’s the time of year for resolutions, new beginnings, a clean slate, and…self-help books. When choosing a self-help book, how do you know that the author is who he says he is and is an expert on the chosen topic?
January’s book of the month is a bit of a cautionary tale. When I picked up these two books to catalog, I trusted that Theron Q. Dumont was an “Instructor in the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, Paris, France” as written on the title pages. As part of the cataloging process, I checked the Library of Congress name authority records and discovered that Theron Q. Dumont is a pseudonym for William Walker Atkinson (1862-1932).
Atkinson has an interesting, if somewhat mysterious, history; he wrote under a number of other pseudonyms, including Yogi Ramacharaka, Magus Incognito, and Swami Panchadasi. Under these various names, he wrote about New Thought, Hinduism, mental fascination, self-healing, and yoga.
However, it doesn’t appear that Atkinson (even when acting as Dumont) was ever an instructor in Paris. He was a lawyer before leaving the profession to become an editor and writer.
Today, we can quickly use the internet to Google a person’s name for more information. In 1913, how would a reader know that someone isn’t who he says he is? I wonder who turned to these two books to improve their “personal magnetism” and what did they think of Dumont’s advice.