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subjects which they treat, and falsify both facts and principles ? He who presents himself before mankind in print impliedly promises that it shall be worth a reader's while to give him audience. If performance does not equal promise, there is clearly a breach of faith, and readers are defrauded. The plea of praiseworthy intent will perhaps be urged in bar. In very many cases, however, this pretension cannot be set up with any shadow of reason, the accused having written only to make a book for the sake of acquiring money, celebrity, or other like advantage to himself, without thinking of benefit to accrue to his readers ; and in most cases when the plea can be honestly urged against a harsh sentence for failure in performance, its validity is questionable, since the intention to benefit mankind cannot at all exculpate a bad author, if it be his own fault that he is ignorant of his incapacity. How few bad writers would pass the ordeal of these observations unscathed; and what a large proportion of the books with which the world has been deluged must, in consequence, be denominated literary impostures! How many writers of professedly erudite “ folios, quartos, 8vos., twelves," have been almost utterly devoid of acquaintance with the subjects which they treated, perhaps extending their works in exact, but alas ! inverse, proportion to their knowledge! How many histories are there which well deserve to be ranked with the production of one Peter Comestor, which is termed by D'Israeli“ a history of all things and a bad history of every thing !" How many poets have “ poured along the town a flood of rhyme,” which attracted notice, if at all, only on account of the extent or source of the inundation ! How many writers of every class say a great deal and mean nothing ! How many think they mean something, perhaps really do, but express themselves so obscurely as to affect only the eye or ear, without insinuating a particle of sense into the understanding ! There are men in our day who appear to be of the same mind as Lycophron, a Greek poet, who protested that he would hang himself if he found a person that could understand his “ Cassandra.” Were such men by chance to write somewhat which could be comprehended, and, upon discovering the slip which they had made, to hang themselves incontinently, the world, I opine, could hardly be considered a loser. Quinctilian says that the obscurity of a writer is generally in proportion to his incapacity. The ancients seem to have outdone the moderns (and certainly this is saying much,) in regard to obscurity of style. It was inculcated by a teacher of rhetoric in Quinctilian's time as an ornament ; and he compelled his pupils to correct such passages of their writings as were too intelligible. The words of Byron :
6 'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print ;
A book's a book, although there's nothing in't," are very true, and we might be content that the many who have been moved to their literary effusions solely or chiefly by the prospect of this gratification, should enjoy it without censure, were it not that it is procured at an immensely disproportionate expense on the part of the public, - an expense which no principle of benevolence requires that it should encounter.
As will be presumed, however, it is not our intention to take the term literary imposture in this large sense. The attempt to collect and recount even the names alone of those who, through the ambition of appearing in the character of author, have perpetrated grievous impositions upon the good sense and patience of mankind, would be vain.
Taking a more narrow, and therefore more suitable, view of our subject, we may conveniently, perhaps with exact precision, divide literary impostors into the following classes. * I. Such as appropriate to themselves the productions or the thoughts of others with the intent that they shall pass as their own. II. Such as attempt to give a false aspect to their own figments by incorrect ascription of their authorship. III. Such as publish intentional untruth.
The first class consists of writers commonly denominated, from the Latin, plagiarists.
It is not the case, however, that all borrowing is plagiarism, in any odious sense. A writer may derive hints from the productions of other men, without laying himself open to the slightest censure. Thus Milton, it is said, drew the suggestion of his Paradise Lost from an Italian drama or mystery ; and Dante that of his. Inferno from the “ Vision" of Alberico. If the statement be true, it does not at all detract from the merit of either writer ; for the merit of neither depends at all upon that which they are supposed to have borrowed. Nor can any man, with propriety, venture to term it a disingenuous course to adopt an idea, even without acknowledgement, when the accompaniments and the costume, the things of main importance, and which, indeed, gave the idea all its value, were VOL. XI. No. 29.
original. Every one can see that such an adoption is very different from the silent, literal transfer of lines, sentences, or paragraphs out of another's production into one's own, or the silent appropriation of another's thoughts with a fraudulent attempt at concealment by alterations in the forin of expression, by the destruction of the writing which is pillaged, or by any other like
No writer can be said to act honorably, who borrows, in full consciousness that he is doing so, any important thought or expression without acknowledgement. Still, there have been men of considerable reputation, who could unblushingly advocate this species of robbery, and even inculcate the art of effecting it without incurring the hazard of detection. A French prosessor, named Richesource, published two books exhibiting the principles of authorship which he assiduously taught his pupils in his private lectures. The first of these books was entitled : “ The Mask of Orators, or the manner of disguising with ease all kinds of composition." His definition of plagiarism, as stated by D'Israeli, is as follows : “ It is the art, or an ingenious and easy mode, which some adroitly employ to change or disguise all sorts of speeches of their own composition or of that of other authors, for their pleasure or their utility, in such a manner that it becomes impossible even for the author himself to recognize his own work, his own genius, and his own style, so skilfully shall the whole be disguised." The art he makes to consist in arranging the parts of a sentence in a different order, exchanging one word or phrase for another which is equivalent, etc. Thus for probity a plagiarist would substitute religion or virtue ; for capacity, ability or erudition, etc. His second work was denominated "The Art of Writing and Speaking; or a method of composing all sorts of letters, and holding a polite conversation.” At the close of the preface to this book he informs his readers, that authors who may be in want of essays, sermons, pleadings, letters or verses may be accommodated on application to him. It seems he was resolved not to belie his name. A Riche-source (rich source) he must have been indeed to indolent or incapable persons who desired to enjoy the reputation of authorship.
It has been too general a practice among clergymen in all christian countries, least of all probably in ours, to appropriate to their own use, in preaching, the printed or MS. sermons of their more gifted or at least more prolific brethren. In England and France, perhaps in other countries, it is common for sermons to be printed in a type resembling manuscript, for the purpose of general circulation among clergymen.
Rollin, in his work on the Belles-Lettres, if we remember right, speaks of the practice prevalent in his time, of culling materials for sermons from the productions of the fathers, not only without censure, but with positive tokens of approbation.
It is beyond doubt that many works of the ancients have been lost to the world from the anxiety of those who had pilfered out of them that their thefts might be concealed. In the middle ages, when copies of ancient works were extremely rare, the temptation was great, to one who came by accident into possession of a MS. which was most probably the only one in existence, to despoil it of its contents, circulate them in his own name, and destroy the evidence of his plagiarism. Many of the fathers, it is pretty certain, now stalk majestically in borrowed robes ; and many will probably retain their ill-gotten dignity down to the latest generations. Augustine is said to have been deeply indebted to Varro, a learned Roman writer, for the contents of his great work “ The City of God;" and to this circumstance we owe the loss of almost all Varro's numerous and very valuable writings, they having been burned by Pope Gregory VII. to screen Augustine from the charge of plagiarism.
In later times Leonard Aretino, a scholar of eminence, having found a Greek MS. of Procopius on the Gothic war, translated it into Latin and published it as his own production. It passed as such until the accidental discovery of another MS. of the same work revealed his fraud.
We know that Cicero wrote a work in two books on Glory; for he refers to it himself in his treatise De Officiis. * Petrarch was in possession of it. He sent it to his preceptor, who, under the pressure of extreme poverty, pawned it, and died soon after without disclosing where it was. It was never recovered. Years afterward, this treatise of Cicero was noticed in a catalogue of books bequeathed to a monastery. Search was made for it, but it could not be found. Peter Alcyonius, who was physician to the monastery, published a book De Exilio, which contained many splendid passages not at all of a piece with the rest of the production. It was therefore reasonably surmised that he had purloined the MS., applied to his own purpose such
# L. II. c. 9.
parts of it as were susceptible of such application, and then destroyed it.
In 1649 Barbosa, bishop of Ugento, obtained by accident an ancient work which he published in his own name under the title, De Officio Episcopi. The accident referred to was this. His attention was attracted to a leaf of MS. around a fish which was brought into his house by one of his servants. Being interested by the perusal of it, he searched for and procured the volume of which it formed a part, and published it as we have stated.
We will mention a few instances of bold plagiarism in later days. Richard Cumberland published some excellent versions of fragments of the Greek dramatists, and long enjoyed the reputation of Greek scholarship, while, in truth, the learning he exhibited was almost all derived from MS. notes of his grandfather, the celebrated Dr. Bentley, respecting which notes he at first maintained entire silence. Ultimately, however, he acknowledged his obligation, being driven by a direct charge to the alternative of acknowledgement or the dangerous as well as criminal commission of falsehood.
Dr. Middleton was very much indebted to a Scotch writer named Bellenden in many parts of his famous Life of Cicero. As he was cautiously silent in regard to his Scotch benefactor, and the work of the latter, “ De tribus luminibus," was exceedingly rare, the plagiarism was not exposed to the public generally for a considerable time. It was, however, early whispered about among the learned, and at length Dr. Parr republished Bellenden's book, prefixing a preface partly occupied with remarks on Middleton's unfair procedure. When Parr's exposure appeared, it occurred to the recollection of a gentleman who had been acquainted with Dr. Middleton, that, just before the publication of the Life of Cicero, he happened to ask Middleton if he had seen Bellendenus, and that at the inquiry he faltered, grew pale, and acknowledged he had. Undoubtedly the rarity of Bellenden's work gave Middleton hopes of escaping detection. It is said that there were not then more than ten copies to be found in all the libraries of England. It was published on the continent, we believe at Paris, where Bellenden resided ; and the whole impression, with the exception of a few copies, was lost in a storm on the English coast, which drove the vessel containing it to the bottom. Such was its rarity, that it is not mentioned by some of the most noted bib