Late in his life, playwright Richard Cawnpore became convinced that he’d lost his wellspring of inspiration. He was soon obsessed with the idea of chance as an impetus to creativity, and would sit in his study and endlessly roll dice to match together plot points he’d written out beforehand. Cawnpore wrote reams and reams every day, but according to his housekeeper every sheet that he wasn’t satisfied with wound up in the incinerator.

In the nearly seven years of his retirement, not a single sheet escaped the fire until the final weeks of Cawnpore’s life.

A letter to his ex-wife, dated July 1979, claims that an obsession with “chance theater” has yielded a breakthrough. Cawnpore’s housekeeper later confirmed that no more pages were sent to the incinerator after Independence Day. The playwright contacted a local law firm to hire clerks, who he had assist him in collating a large body of information sourced from local libraries and universities. Southern Michigan University filled many of the requests, and their records confirm that 90% of the loan requests received on behalf of Cawnpore were about bees–generally honeybees.

The clerks who gathered the information never spoke out about its contents; by 1982 they had all died of unrelated illnesses and accidents.

In his final letter, the playwright mentioned finishing a grueling composition process, and plans to celebrate with his traditional bottle of aged port.

After Cawnpore died of a cerebral hemorrhage in January 1980, his manuscripts were handed over to his estranged family despite a living will asking that they be destroyed. The works from earlier in his retirement were anthologized and still occasionally performed, but the Cawnpore family refused to public or produce or even allow scholars to read the author’s final play. Other than a title in a list of personal papers–An Apiary–the final work of the artist who had dazzles audiences with the likes of Roaring Against Babylon and The Tidewater Mark has remained completely obscure.

The mere rumor that a copy of the play was mailed to an international address before Cawnpore’s death set off a frenzied international hunt among scholars. The trust that inherited its house reluctantly allowed parts of it to be dismantled in hopes that a copy might have been secreted away. Nothing.

It didn’t help that the legal status of An Apiary was murky. None of Cawnpore’s family, even his children, lived to see 1985, and more distant relations generally refused to disturb the playwright’s papers. The last known person to view An Apiary was Cawnpore’s great-uncle Hiram who agreed to be interviewed on its contents for a considerable advance sum.

He died in a traffic accident one week before the scheduled broadcast.

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