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as to the Second Philippic. Go to France; my noble friend would give a far longer term to Racine's Frères Ennemis than to Athalie, and to Molière's Étourdi than to Tartuffe. Go to Spain. My noble friend would give a longer term to forgotten works of Cervantes, works which nobody now reads, than to Don Quixote. Go to Germany. According to my noble friend's plan, of all the works of Schiller the Robbers would be the most favoured : of all the works of Goethe, the Sorrows of Werter would be the most favoured. I thank the Committee for listening so kindly to this long enumeration. Gentlemen will perceive, I am sure, that it is not from pedantry that I mention the names of so many books and authors. But just as, in our debates on civil affairs, we constantly draw illustrations from civil history, we must, in a debate about literary property, draw our illustrations from literary history. Now, Sir, I have, I think, shown from literary history that the effect of my noble friend's plan would be to give to crude and imperfect works, to third-rate and fourth-rate works, a great advantage over the highest productions of genius. It is impossible to account for the facts which I have laid before you by attributing them to mere accident. Their number is too great, their character too uniform. We must seek for some other explanation; and we shall easily find one.
It is the law of our nature that the mind shall attain its full power by slow degrees; and this is especially true of the most vigorous minds. Young men, no doubt, have often produced works of great merit; but it would be impossible to name any writer of the first order whose juvenile performances were his best. That all the most valuable books of history, of philology, of physical and metaphysical science, of divinity, of political economy, have been produced by men of mature years, will hardly be disputed.
The case may not be quite so clear as respects works of the imagination. And yet I know no work of the imagination of the very highest class that was ever, in any age or country, produced by a man under thirty-five. Whatever powers a youth may have received from nature, it is impossible that his taste and judgment can be ripe, that his mind can be richly stored with images, that he can have observed the vicissitudes of life, that he can have studied the nicer shades of character. How, as Marmontel very sensibly said, is a person to paint portraits who has never seen faces ? On the whole I believe that I may, without fear of contradiction, affirm this, that of the good books now extant in the world
more than nineteen-twentieths were published after the writers had attained the age of forty. If this be so, it is evident that the plan of my noble friend is framed on a vicious principle. For, while he gives to juvenile productions a very much larger protection than they now enjoy, he does comparatively little for the works of men in the full maturity of their powers, and absolutely nothing for any work which is published during the last three years of the life of the writer. For, by the existing law, the copyright of such a work lasts twenty-eight years from the publication; and my noble friend gives only twenty-five years to be reckoned from the writer's death.
What I recommend is, that the certain term, reckoned from the date of publication, shall be forty-two years instead of twenty-eight years. In this arrangement there is no uncertainty, no inequality. The advantage which I propose to give will be the same to every book. No work will have so long a copyright as my noble friend gives to some books, or so short a copyright as he gives to others. No copyright will last ninety years. No copyright will end in twentyeight years. To every book published in the course of the last seventeen years of a writer's life I give a longer term of copyright than my noble friend gives ; and I am confident that no person versed in literary history will deny this, —that in general the most valuable works of an author are published in the course of the last seventeen years of his life. I will rapidly enumerate a few, and but a few, of the great works of English writers to which my plan is more favourable than my noble friend's plan. To Lear, to Macbeth, to Othello, to the Fairy Queen, to the Paradise Lost, to Bacon's Novum Organum and De Augmentis, to Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding, to Clarendon's History, to Hume's History, to Gibbon’s History, to Smith's Wealth of Nations, to Addison's Spectators, to almost all the great works of Burke, to Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison, to Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia, and, with the single exception of Waverley, to all the novels of Sir Walter Scott, I give a longer term of copyright than my noble friend gives. Can he match that list? Does not that list contain what England has produced greatest in many various ways, poetry, philosophy, history, eloquence, wit, skilful portraiture of life and manners ? I confidently, therefore, call on the Committee to take my plan in preference to the plan of my noble friend. I have shown that the protection which
on the Committee to take my plan in preference to the plan
he proposes to give to letters is unequal, and unequal in the worst way. I have shown that his plan is to give protection to books in inverse proportion to their merit. I shall move when we come to the third clause of the bill to omit the words “twenty-five years," and in a subsequent part of the same clause I shall move to substitute for the words “twentyeight years” the words “ forty-two years.” I earnestly hope that the Committee will adopt these amendments; and I feel the firmest conviction that my noble friend's bill, so amended, will confer a great boon on men of letters with the smallest possible inconvenience to the public.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON THE 3RD OF May, 1842.
On the second of May, 1842, Mr. Thomas Duncombe, Member for
Finsbury, presented a petition, very numerously signed, of which the prayer was as follows :
“Your petitioners, therefore, exercising their just constitutional right, demand that your Honorable House, to remedy the many gross and manifest evils of which your petitioners complain, do immediately, without alteration, deduction, or addition, pass into a law the document entitled the People's Charter." On the following day Mr. Thomas Duncombe moved that the petitioners should be heard by themselves or their Counsel at the Bar of the House. The following Speech was made in opposition to the motion.
The motion was rejected by 287 votes to 49.
I was particularly desirous to catch your eye this evening, because, when the motion of the honorable member for Rochdale* was under discussion, I was unable to be in my place. I understand that, on that occasion, the absence of some members of the late Government was noticed in severe terms, and was attributed to discreditable motives. As for myself, Sir, I was prevented from coming down to the House by illness : a noble friend of mine, to whom particular allusion was made, was detained elsewhere by pure accident; and I am convinced that no member of the late administration was withheld by any unworthy feeling from avowing his opinions. My own opinions I could have no motive for disguising. They have been frequently avowed, and avowed
* Mr. Sharman Crawford.
before audiences which were not likely to regard them with much favour.
I should wish, Sir, to say what I have to say in the temperate tone which has with so much propriety been preserved by the right honorable Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department*; but, if I should use any warm expression, I trust that the House will attribute it to the strength of my convictions and to my solicitude for the public interests. No person who knows me will, I am quite sure, suspect me of regarding the hundreds of thousands who have signed the petition which we are now considering with any other feeling than cordial good will.
Sir, I cannot conscientiously assent to this motion. And yet I must admit that the honorable Member for Finsbury + has framed it with considerable skill. He has done his best to obtain the support of all those timid and interested politicians who think much more about the security of their seats than about the security of their country. It would be very convenient to me to give a silent vote with him. I should then have it in my power to say to the Chartists of Edinburgh, “ When your petition was before the House I was on your side; I was for giving you a full hearing." I should at the same time be able to assure my conservative constituents that I never had supported and never would support the Charter. But, Sir, though this course would be very convenient, it is one which my sense of duty will not suffer me to take. When questions of private right are before us we hear, and we ought to hear, the arguments of the parties interested in those questions. But it has never been, and surely it ought not to be, our practice to grant a hearing to persons who petition for or against a law in which they have no other interest than that which is common between them and the whole nation. Of the many who petitioned against slavery, against the Roman Catholic claims, against the corn laws, none was suffered to harangue us at the bar in support of his views. If in the present case we depart from a general rule which everybody must admit to be a very wholesome one, what inference can reasonably be drawn from our conduct, except this, that we think the petition which we are now considering entitled to extraordinary respect, and that we have not fully made up our minds to refuse what the petitioners ask. Now, Sir, I have fully made up my mind to resist to the last the change * Sir James Graham.
+ Mr. Thomas Duncombe.