pendency of imaginative writers that Goethe acknowledges his own obligations to Oliver Goldsmith, whose "Vicar of Wakefield," at a critical moment of mental development, proved, he said, his best education.

which he wrote in one week, to defray the | And though there is no literary parallel expenses of his mother's funeral and some in the case, it may not be amiss to mensmall debts which she had left. This tion here - for it exemplifies the interderapidity of composition is remarkable; but we may be certain that the story would not have been written in its present form if, more than twenty years before, Johnson had not translated Father Lobo's "Voyage to Abyssinia," a narrative which made a strong impression upon him. But the most curious fact about "Rasselas " is its similarity in some respects to Voltaire's "Candide," a work composed with a very different purpose. Writing of the two books, Boswell states: "I have heard Johnson say that if they had not been published so closely one after the other that there was not time for imitation, it would have been in vain to deny that the scheme of that which came latest was taken from the other."

Look where we will in literature we see how the suggestions afforded by one work form the foundation upon which another is built. A writer, however independent, cannot walk without the help of his fellows. Cowper is a poet who, like his contemporary Crabbe, deserves the highest praise for originality, but Cowper's use of the heroic couplet is based upon that of Churchill, and his blank verse is founded upon the model of Milton. There are few books in the language more original than Charles Lamb's "Essays," and yet it may be confidently said that they would have been written in a different vein had he not been so familiar with the works of Sir Thomas Browne, and with such writers as Fuller, Cowley, and Donne. Cowley himself, by the way, to return for a moment to the seventeenth century, was the father of more than one poet who, without his genius, pursued the eccentric paths on which his Muse delighted to wander; and Cowley is largely indebted to Donne, whom, as Dr. Johnson says, it appears to have been his purpose to emulate. A really great writer conscious of his strength is never afraid to own his obligations. Sir Walter Scott nursed his genius among the Border minstrels, caught the lilt of his verse in the "Lay" from the more exquisite music of Coleridge's "Christabel," and acknowledged that his character of Fenella was suggested by Goethe's Mignon in "Wilhelm Meister."

Perhaps enough has been said in illustration of a subject that is well-nigh inexhaustible. There is one lesson to be learnt from it useful alike to critic and to reader-namely, that it is unreasonable to attribute plagiarism to great writers because their works are not wholly unlike the mass of earlier literature. It is far more reasonable to suppose that they should have points of resemblance. Literature, like nature, has a thousand different aspects; but just as in nature, with its infinite variety of charm, the same sky bends over all, and the same earth is under our feet, so poets and men of letters look, though with different eyes indeed, on the same world, and study the same humanity. They must work in accordance with the limitations of which every writer is conscious; and it is not surprising, the soil of the literary field being what it is, that the fruit produced by two independent laborers should be occasionally alike. What, then, it may be asked, is plagiarism? We answer that it is the appropriation of literary property, without the ability to use it. There are scores of versifiers who have in this way appropriated Lord Tennyson's style, or Mr. Browning's, or Mr. Swinburne's, and the result has been a feeble musical echo in the first case, a contempt of metre and grammar in the second, and an overflowing verbiage in the third. The plagiarist is the man who has nothing to say on his own account. The man of genius, on the contrary, when he borrows turns what he touches into gold, and gives a new beauty to what is beautiful already. He is content to use whatever materials he can gain access to, but he stamps upon them the impression of his own genius. And so it is that the poet, looking upon the objects that are common to us all, is able by the light of imagination to "flatter the mountain-tops," and to "gild pale streams with heavenly alchemy."


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