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ket. But our author feeders have more cause for alarm than the cattle breeders, inasmuch as it appears that the foreign bullocks, though invited, will not come in, whereas the foreign books will enter in spite of being forbidden.
In this extremity, Lord Mahon has opportunely brought forward a new bill, which has been supported by authors and book. sellers with a harmony as strange as pleasant—a harmony not so attributable, I fear, to Wilhem's system, or Mr. Hullah's vo. cal exercises for singing in tune, as to the fact that the voices of the literati form a powerful and welcome addition to the cry set up for protection against foreign piracy. On the extension of the term of Copyright, the trade is now liberally indifferent, but extremely anxious for some very stringent enactment to stop the smuggling of piratical reprints—and, of course, with a retrospective clause, which shall prohibit Flemish, French, or American impressions of Shakspeare and Milton, as well as of Harry Lorrequer or Zanoni. And why not a retrospective clause —for how is a man to protect his property if he may not shoot into the back garden as well as into the forecourt ? Provided always, that the grounds in the rear be really the property, or at least in the legal occupation of the man with the blunderbuss. Of which more hereafter.
In the meantime, the new bill has not been discussed, in either House, without some opposition to its provisions, and, as usual, especially directed against the section intended for the benefit of the author. In the Commons, up jumped Mr. Wakley-perhaps a Coroner accustomed to violent and sudden deaths could not relish anything expiring so deliberately as with forty-two years' notice-however, up jumped Mr. Wakley, as vicious with poetry and poets as if he had just been kicked by Pegasus, or rejected in turn by all the Nine Sisters,—and after a flagrant assault on the Bard of Rydal, behind the back of Mr. Wordsworth, protested vehemently against any further protection of good-for-nothing books. As if, forsooth, our dear public could be injured by even a perpetual copyright in works which nobody but the author would ever think of reprinting! These good-for-nothing writers, it has been fashionable to estimate as ninety-nine out of one hundred, and, admitting the proportion,
what is to become of the rara avis, the phenix, the one of a hundred ? Is he to receive no reward or encouragement which may stimulate others to go and do likewise ? Let us suppose school kept by Doctor Posterity, and which offers, as usual, a prize for the best scholar. The term is at an end, the reward is to be conferred, and the best boy of a hundred is desired to
“ Master Scott,” says the Doctor, “it is my pleasing task to inform you that you have won the highest prize in this Classical Establishment. The talents bestowed on you have not been abused or neglected. Your genius has been equalled by your industry, and your performances have given universal satisfaction. Your themes and essays in original com. position have particularly excited my admiration and approba. tion : I have read them with interest and delight. Master Scott, I have had few boys like you. You are an honor to the school, as you will be an ornament to your age and country. I have no difficulty in awarding the first prize intended for the en. couragement of genius and learning. Behold this large gold medal! It is eminently your due. You have richly earned it -but, mind, I'm not going to give it you, and for this reason, that all your ninety-nine school-fellows, put together, are not worth a dump!”
Is this the way to encourage the production of standard works, and to improve the breed of authors ? Is it on this system that we have sought to improve the breed of horses, horned cattle, and pigs? Is a prize ox ever denied the prize because there are so many lean beasts in the market ? Would Boz, Ivanhoe, or Satirist be refused the gold cup at Ascot, because Dunce, Tony Lumkin, or King Log had been distanced in the race ? Is it thus that merit is rewarded in other countries? My tra. velled readers have doubtless seen what is called, in France, a Måt de Cocagne—a tall well-greased pole—“Ah, who can tell how hard it is to climb!” with some public prize at the top. Many are the candidates, particularly sweeps and sailors, who attempt to swarm up the slippery mast; some heavy-sterned fellows only mounting half way; others scrambling almost within arm's length of the reward: but, alas! down, down, down they slide again like greased lightning, and cursing Sir Isaac New
ton for inventing gravitation. At last some more fortunate or clever aspirant attempts the task-up he go-up he go—like the 'possum, till he actually reaches the tiptop, and clutches the tempting article. Lucky dog that he is, not to be an English author, and rewarded by English authorities! No one grudges him his success—no one objects that the nineteen other candi. dates have gone to the bottom of the pole. He has not only won the prize, but wears it, and perhaps literally in the shape of a new pair of breeches.
It has been said, indeed, that a writer would derive no advantage from an extended property in his works; but why should not long copyrights be as beneficial as long leases, long purses, long annuities, long legs, long heads, long lives, and other long things that are longed for ? Much stress has been laid on the declarations of publishers, that they would give no more for forty-two years than for twenty-eight, or fourteen. And no doubt the parties were perfectly sincere in the declaration. There are persons who would not plant trees, however profitable ultimately, because the return would be distant and not immediate: and even so some publishers might not care to invest their capital in standard works for a sure, but slow, remuneration. But that money is to be made of books, even after twenty-eight years, is certain, or what becomes of Lord Brougham's statement, that publishers have been making large preparations, and incurring great expense for the purpose of bringing out works of which the copyrights were just expiring ? Nay, is there not one bookseller in Cheapşide, who is understood to have made hundreds and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, by this sort of author-snatching? But to bring the question to issue, let us take a batch of writers who are all as dead as if they had been boiled, and yet at whose head and brains there is better sucking than in a quart of shrimps. For example, there is one Fielding, whose last novel was published a century ago, and, consequently, has been common spoil for some fourscore years. Will any one be bold enough to say, that a revived copyright of “ Tom Jones” would be valueless in the market ? Then we have one Smollett, and one Sterne, and one Goldsmith, all defunct fifty years since,-would an exclusive right in their works obtain
no bidders ? Not to name Shakspeare or Milton ; would Johnson's Dictionary, as copyright, fetch nothing in the Row? or would the shade of Defoe again go a-begging from publisher to publisher, with his “Robinson Crusoe ?” Why, in the Literary Stocks, there could hardly be a safer investment.
In the Upper House, the opposition to the Bill was led by Lord Brougham, not without expressions of great respect and “ sincere affection” for literary men, whom he represented as claimants, not only on the justice, but on the benevolence of the house. To this last character, however, I for one must demur. There has been too much of this almsgiving tone used towards authors, so that an uninformed reader of the speeches would imagine that the poor dogs were on their hind legs begging for a bone, or a boon, as some pronounce it, instead of standing up like the kangaroo for their natural rights. For, be it remembered, by Tories, Conservatives, and Royal Oak Boys, that we have only been agitating to regain our usurped possessions—to effect not a Revolution, but a Restoration !
Apart from the above vile phrase, the compliments of Lord Brougham were highly flattering, and his sincere affection would no doubt be a valuable possession, but, alas! when it came to be tested, the tie, though showy, was no more binding than the flimsy gilt book-covers of the present day. His Lordship soon repented of his attachment to authors, and refused to “be led away, as many had been led away (and oh! that our state wheelers had never any other leaders !) by a generous, natural, and praise-worthy feeling.” The Peers had listened too much to kind feelings, and he felt compelled to remind them of "the strict duties of the legislative office.” A very superfluous injunction—for what has the legislature done for literature ? How have our legislators“ leaned towards the side towards which they must all wish to lean, and towards which all their prejudi. ces and partialities must bear them ?” Why, they found the authors in possession of a common law right, so called from being founded on common sense and common justice-and how did they show their amiable weakness, their partial warp and bias, their over-indulgent fondness for that spoiled child-a son of the Muses. To borrow a comparison, one of the most ill.
used members of creation is that forlorn animal, a street dog. Every idle hand has a stone, every idle foot has a kick for him -every driver a whip, and every carpenter a cleft stick. He has only to look at a butcher's shop-merely to point at a sheep ---to be snatched up instanter. Bang! goes the chopper ! and off fly a few inches of his tail. He has only to be looked at by a bevy of young blackguards, and in a jiffy away he scours, encumbered with an old kettle. Even so it fared with the author. He was ragged in his coat, bare on his ribs, and tucked up in the flank-in short, he looked a very peltable, kickable, whipable, and curtailable dog, indeed. Accordingly, no sooner had Law caught sight of him, than it caught hold of him, docked his entail at a blow, and tied Stationers' Hall to the stump.
So much for the strict duties of the legislative office, to which we owe that we have only a lease of our own premises—a temporary usufruct in our own orchards>that we have been encouraged by a sequestration, and protected from retail privateer. ing, on the condition of wholesale piracy hereafter !
To be sure it has been urged, that an extended copyright (an author's monopoly instead of a bookseller's) would damage the public interest—that it would enhance the price of books—at any rate, that it would prevent their re-issue at a reduced rate. But this speculation remains to be tested by experiment. The higher and wealthy classes do not compose, as formerly, the great mass of readers—the numbers have increased by millions, and our writers are quite as well aware as the trade of the superior advantage of a cheap and large circulation. They have the double temptation of popularity and profit. One can even fancy an author publishing without hope of pecuniary reward, nay, at a certain loss, provided it would insure his numbers a Bozzian diffusion; whereas it is difficult to imagine a writer setting so high a price on his own book as would necessarily confine its perusal to a very select circle. On these points I am competent to speak, having re-issued the majority of my own humble works, at a price quite in accordance with the demand for cheap literature—and most certainly not enhanced by the time my copyrights had been in existence. It is true that the cost of a volume has occasionally been purposely hoisted up, for instance,