[ocr errors]


had been sketched there by a Divine hand. "Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king's son. . . He shall judge Thy people with righteousness and the poor with judgment. . . He shall judge the poor of the people; He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. .. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.' Thus ran the music that filled his ear as he meditated on the coming triumphs of the Kingdom, as the vision passed before the eye of his spirit of all that the hand of Christ was about to accomplish for the world. The Crusade, the recovery of Jerusalem, following, as he firmly believed that it would follow, on the ingathering of the Gentiles, seemed to him the dawn of that blessed and glorious day. Sin destroyed in the very root, selfishness cast out from man's heart; tyranny, wrong, cruelty, expelled from the world; society organised as a Christian brotherhood ; discord quelled, tears banished, pain unknown; ministries between man and man, household and household, nation and nation, vivid and abundant, and charged everywhere with rich benediction for mankind; all that sages have forecast of human progress, all that poets have sung of the glory of the latter day, all that

prophets have pictured of the Kingdom of Heaven—this was the vision (and if Christ be King who shall say that it is a false one ?) with which he fed and fired his lofty spirit, and nerved himself for the grandest secular enterprise ever accomplished by one lonely man in the history of our race. And his was the hand which was destined to help onward the great consummation ; his discovery was to be a vital link in the Divine scheme for the restitution of all things, and the fulfilment of the hope with which the Creator made the worlds.

A dream! an idle dream! would be the judgment of our generation on the vision. Yes, a dream, a fruitless dream, if man's thought is the only parent of it; unless, as the world's strongest workmen, deepest thinkers, and bravest leaders, have believed through all the ages, there is One on high who lives to fulfil the dream.



BEFORE the 10th of April, 1710, copyright in an English book was property of the same kind as any other. The proprietor of copyright in a valuable work then considered himself as safe in his possession as the owner of a fine landed estate; he could live upon it in comfort and bequeath it as a provision for his family. In the year 1709 Parliament passed an Act for the encouragement of learning, which was professedly designed to induce · learned men to compose and write useful books, and to secure them against piracy. It was proposed to effect these objects by substituting a term of twenty-one years for perpetual copyright in existing works, and of fourteen years for those which might be published after the 10th of April, 1710. Whilst property was annihilated in this summary way, and authorship was encouraged in this strange fashion, the buyers of books were protected against paying too dearly for them. The same Parliament which fostered literature by reducing its profits settled the price of bread, and appointed the Lord Mayor of London and the mayors of other cities the authorities to determine what kind of bread should be offered for sale within their respective jurisdictions. What these civic dignitaries were to perform for bread, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the chiefs of the principal courts of justice in England and Scotland, the Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Rector of the University of Edinburgh were entrusted to perform for books. They were empowered to limit and settle the price of books; the persons who had the bardihood to disregard their decision forfeited 5l. for every book sold.

Since a Parliament in the reign of Queen Anne first legislated on the subject of copyright, many attempts have been made by succeeding Parliaments to amend what was defective in the law. Although several blunders have been corrected, glaring hardships remain unredressed. A Royal Commission investigated the whole question in 1878, and presented an elaborate report upon which Parliament will be called to legislate when matters shall have been disposed of which are deemed more important than the grievances of long-suffering authors. The curious anomaly exists that whereas an author has perpetual copyright in his manuscript, he has only a limited copyright in his published book. His manuscript is absolutely his property. So long as the reading public derive no benefit from the written page, the law provides that the author may do whatever he likes with his manuscript, on condition that he does not allow his fellows to read it in printed form. Once let it be published, and the author's exclusive right of property is exchanged for one which terminates at the end of forty-two years. Thus the mere act of publishing entails a certain penalty upon an author. There are persons who argue that the penalty is not severe enough. They contend that, while a man is rightly entitled to possess bis manuscript undisturbed, he ought to have no protection when once it is made public, and when thousands are amused or instructed by perusing the printed pages. They hold that no author is entitled to any other return than thanks for his performance. They condemn copyright as a monopoly, and the acquisition of money by the production of books as a form of robbery. The like objection has been raised to property in patents, the notion being that certain men ought to pass their lives in inventing something which will benefit the public or in writing something which will be read with advantage. Inventors or authors might not object to follow the course marked out for them if they entered life with plenty of money in their purses as well as of ideas in their minds.

Mr. H. C. Carey, a gentleman whose works on political economy are regarded by admirers in the United States as a new gospel, has put on record a view of authorship which several of his countrymen who publish books, and who dislike paying any copyright, laud as a great discovery. His position is that any person can write as good a book as any other, provided he care to use the ideas which are common property, and that the most successful authors do nothing more than present old material in a new dress. The notion that Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and Charles Dickens were meritorious and original authors is scouted by him as superlatively absurd. To prove that I do not exaggerate, I must quote his words :

Sir Walter Scott had carefully studied Scottish and Border history, and thus had filled his mind with facts preserved and ideas produced by others, which he reproduced in a different form. He made no contribution to knowledge. So, too, with our own very successful Washington Irving. He drew largely upon common stock of ideas, and dressed them up in a new, and what has proved to be a most attractive, form. So, again, with Mr. Dickens. Read his Bleak House, and you will find that he has been a most careful observer of men and things, and has thereby been enabled to collect a number of facts that he has dressed up in different forms; but that is all he has done.' According to Mr. Carey, both Washington Irving and Dickens have contributed nothing to the common stock of knowledge, and their labours are equally valueless. Yet, because the former was a citizen


1 Letters on International Copyright, by H. C. Oarey, pp. 24, 25.

[ocr errors]

of the United States and the latter an Englishman, Mr. Carey maintained that Washington Irving was worthy to enjoy copyright there, and that Dickens had no such claim. If Mr. Carey had not been as illogical on other points as on this one, he would have denied originality to any writer, inasmuch as all writers use the same letters of the alphabet and simply arrange words in particular forms. Though a careful observer of men and things, Mr. Carey did not write anything which has been read so widely or will live so long as Bleak House. It is neither so easy nor so common as Mr. Carey supposed for persons possessing the same opportunities as Scott and Dickens to write as they did. There is no difficulty in writing like Mr. Carey.

Dr. Leavitt, in an essay on the improvement of relations between the United States and Great Britain, to which the Cobden Club awarded a gold medal in 1869, puts forward the following defence of his countrymen with regard to their refusal to establish international copyright: The pecuniary return realized from their publications is neither the only nor chief encouragement by which authors of merit are induced to publish their works. The good they may do to mankind, the reputation they may acquire, and the satisfaction of seeing their thoughts widely diffused and received, and made a part of the mental wealth of their country and age, outweigh a thousandfold, to an enlarged and generous mind, the value of the material silver and gold yielded by their copyright.' Thus, according to Dr. Leavitt, an English author of merit possessing a generous mind finds an extreme satisfaction in enabling a United States publisher to make money by reprinting his works. If Dr. Leavitt had been an English author, he might have placed a little more value upon silver and gold as an element in successful authorship, and he might not then have considered it perfectly fair that publishers should get all the gold and silver, and that he should get glory only.

In his early days Heine, writing to Immerman, said that the quest for a publisher is the beginning of an author's martyrdom. After the first trials have been successfully surmounted, and a public attracted as well as a publisher found, many an English author has been tantalized as keenly as Heine ever was when publishers looked askance at him. He sees beyond the Atlantic a demand for bis writings far in excess of that at home, and he there sees millions eagerly buying his books, instead of thousands waiting for their turn to read the small number of copies at a circulating library. He not unnaturally desires to reap some profit from the popularity which he enjoys in the United States. He may feel aggrieved with the copyright law in his native land; he may even consider the legislators of Queen Anne's day wanting in wisdom, and he may not admit that the legislators of his own time have displayed greater capacity to satisfy authors. But his strongest grievance in this respect is but trifling VOL. X.-No. 57.

3 C

when compared with that which concerns the reading and book-buying people across the Atlantic. They buy and praise his books; they honour his name; they forward letters thanking him for the pleasure they have derived from his writings and containing requests for his autograph, while they refuse to acknowledge that he has any rights as an author in their country. The most perfect Copyright Act which could be devised would afford the majority of English authors little satisfaction, unless those authors also enjoyed in the United States the same measure of protection for the offspring of their brains as is enjoyed by their brethren who are citizens.

No really great country except the United States refuses to do justice to alien authors. The refusal is of the most direct and marked character. In principle there is little if any difference between the inventor of a process and the author of a book, and the form of protection accorded to both by statute law rests on a similar basis. But the Legislature of the United States has informed the alien who invents something that he may count upon the protection of the patent law there, should he invoke it, while the alien who writes a book is told as distinctly that there is no law for him unless he elect to reside permanently in the United States or become naturalized there. Legislation giving alien inventors all the privileges and protection of citizens is of recent date. Before the year 1870 the alien inventor was subjected to a pecuniary disability when he applied for a United States patent. As the law then stood, a citizen of the country paid a fee of thirty dollars for a patent, while an alien paid three hundred, unless he were 'a subject of the sovereign of Great Britain,' when he was punished by being called upon to pay five hundred dollars. British inventors bore their disability quietly. There was wisdom in this. If they had made much noise and used strong language, it is possible that they might not have had their wrongs redressed. Happily for them, Congress abolished the invidious distinction between British aliens and others, and placed all patentees on the same footing before the law. This was as creditable to Congress as it was gratifying to the persons affected. But the case of alien authors seems all the harder when contrasted with the lot of alien inventors.

If an English author writes plays which are first performed simultaneously in the United States and the United Kingdom, he secures dramatic copyright in both countries. The Statute Law of the United States denies any protection to such an author should he print his writings; but the Common Law assures to him incontestable property in his manuscript, so long as it remains unpublished. The Law Courts have decided that to represent a play is not to publish it. Thus Mr. Tennyson might obtain copyright across the Atlantic for his beautiful and popular dramas if he contented himself with their representation on the stage, while he would have no protection should he offer them

« VorigeDoorgaan »