« VorigeDoorgaan »
written in Homer's time, the poet would have bribed one of Penelope's women to intercept them. Homer did not use that incident, because he did not need it; but all his incidents were of primeval antiquity, even in his own time; he plagiarized them from popular stories; he stole the Cyclops almost ready-made.
There are, doubtless, exceptions to this rule of the universality and public character of the stock of fiction. These exceptions are rather of an empirical sort, and should be avoided chiefly for the sake of weak brethren, who go about writing long letters in the newspapers.
A few instances may be given from personal experience. A novelist once visited the writer in high spirits. Certain events of a most extraordinary nature had just occurred to him, events which would appear incredible if I ventured to narrate them. My visitor meant to make them the subject of a story, which he sketched. "But you can't," I said; "that's the plot of Ferdinand's Folly," and I named a book which had just arrived sub luminis oras. He had not heard of Ferdinand's Folly, but he went away sad, for he was a young man that had been robbed of a great opportunity. But he was presently consoled by receiving a letter from another author, a gentleman of repute in more than one branch of literature. "I have just read your Daisy's Dream," said this author, "and I find that there is a scene in it which is also in my unpublished work, Psamathöe." He then described the scene, which certainly did appear of glaring originality-if anything could be original. "Nobody will believe two people could
have invented this; and what am I to do?" said the second unfortunate author; and indeed I do not know what he did, or whether Psamathõe was punished by an early doom for her unconscious plagiarism. study of the diffusion of popular tales seems to show that there is no incident which may not be invented over and over again-in Siberia, or Samoa. These coincidences will also occur in civilized literature; but some examples are so astonishing that the small fry of moralists are certain to shout "Stop thief." On the whole, an author thus anticipated had better stop before they shout, but it was the merest accident that gave pause to the two novelists of these anecdotes. Alas! unconscious of their doom, the little victims might have published.
Another very hard case lately came under my notice. A novelist invented and described to me a situation which was emphatically new, because it rested on the existence of a certain scientific instrument, which was new also. author was maturing the plot, when he chanced to read a review of some work (I never saw it, and have forgotten its name), in which the incident and the instrument appeared. Now, may this author write his own tale, or may he not? If he does (and if it succeeds), he will be hailed as an abandoned rogue; and yet it is his own invention. Probably it is wiser to "endure and abstain;" otherwise, the "lynx-eyed detectives" will bring out their old learning, and we shall be told once more how Ben Jonson stole "Drink to me only with thine eyes" from— Pisistratus! This I lately learned from a newspaper.
Thus it appears that, though plagiarism is hardly a possible offence, it is more discreet not to use situations which have either made one very definite impression on the world of readers, or which have been very recently brought out. For example: it is distinctly daring to make a priest confess his unsuspected sin in a sermon: The notion is public property; but every one is reminded of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Thus the situation is a thing to avoid; as certain measures-that of In Memoriam for example-are to be avoided in poetry. The metre is everybody's property, but it at once recalls the poem wherein the noblest use was made of it. Again, double personality is a theme open to all the world: Gautier and Poe and Eugène Sue all used it; but it is wiser to leave it alone while people have a vivid memory of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is not inconceivable that an author might use the old notion as brilliantly and with as much freshness as Mr. Stevenson has done; it is certain that, if he tries, he will be howled at by the moral mob. A novelist may keep these precautions in his mind; but if, though he writes good books, he is not a bookish man, he will be constantly and unwittingly offending people who do not write good books, although they are bookish. Thus it lately happened to me to see an illustration of an unpublished work, in which a wounded and dying warrior was using his last force to break, with singular consequences, the weapon that had been his lifelong companion. I knew (being bookish) the incident was perfectly familiar to me, but I could not remember where I had met it before. It haunted me
like the names which you try to recover from faithless memory, and one day it flashed on me that this incident was at least eight hundred years old. But I leave (not its source, for the novelist who is no bookman had probably never tasted of that literary fountain), but the place of its early appearance, to be remembered or discovered by any one who is curious enough to con sult his memory or his library. But here another question arises: let it be granted that the novelist first found the situation where I found it, and is there any reason in the world why he should not make what is a thoroughly original use of it? The imagination or invention needed for this particular adaptation was at least as vivid and romantic as the original conception, which, again, might occur, and may have occurred, separately to minds in Japan and in Peru.
I have chiefly spoken of plagiarism in fiction, for there is little need to speak of plagiarism in poetry. Probably no man or woman (apart from claiming a ready-made article not their own) ever consciously plagiarized in verse. The smallest poetaster has too much vanity to borrow on purpose. Unconsciously even great men (Scott confesses in one case) have remembered and repeated the ideas or the rhythm of others. In a recent Jubilee Ode one reads (indeed it is quoted in a newspaper article on plagiarism):
"Deep-based on ancient right as on thy Thy rule endures unshattered still." people's will
The debt to the Laureate's verse is not to be mistaken; but no less unmistakable is the absence of con
"Made of a red rose that has turned to white.'
The mind of the unconscious plagiarist had not been wholly inactive, as the word "swooning" shows, but it was a direct though unintentional robbery. No robberies, in verse, are made, I think, with more malice prepense than this early larceny.
On the whole, then, the plagiarist appears to be a decidedly rare criminal, whereas charges of plagiarism have always been as common as blackberries. An instructive example is that of Molière and Les Precieuses. Everything in it, cried Somaise and De Villiers, is from the Abbé de Pure, the Italians, and Chapuzeau. But somehow none of these gallant gentlemen did, in fact, write Les Précieuses Ridicules, nor anything that anybody except the Molièriste ever heard of.
The laudable anxiety of the Somaises of all time for literary honesty would be more laudable still if they did not possess a little vice of their own. It is not a vice of which any man is the fanfaron: the delicate veiled passion of Envy. Indeed, these lynx-eyed ones have a bad example in their predecessor, Mr. Alexander Pope.
Mr. Pope had a friend who became
an enemy-Mr. Moore, who took the name of Smythe. This Mr. MooreSmythe wrote a comedy, The Rival Modes, played in 1727, wherein the persons occasionally dropped into poetry, printed in italics. On March 18, 1728, an anonymous correspondent in the Daily Journal accused Mr. Pope of having plagiarized certain verses from this comedy, and published them in the third volume
of his Miscellanies:
""Tis thus that vanity coquettes rewards, A youth of frolics, an old age of cards"and so forth. There was no doubt that these verses, after appearing in The Rival Modes, came out in Pope's Miscellanies. But in 1729, in the enlarged edition of the Dunciad, Pope quoted the anonymous letters (there were two), and maintained that the verses were his own, and that Moore-Smythe was the plagiarist. He had given Smythe leave to use them (the men had once been on good terms), and had suggested their withdrawal later. Pope then, on a quarrel with Smythe, published them, and antedated them (1723), “in order to found or support the charge of plagiarism against Smythe." And Mr. Alexander Pope himself (like Conkey in Oliver Twist) was his own anonymous accuser, bringing the charge against himself, that he might retort it on the luckless Moore-Smythe. But Mr. Moore-Smythe was in one respect well advised: he made no reply.
Though it appears from this anecdote, as told in Mr. Carruthers' Life of Pope, that people who bring charges of plagiarism are not invariably of a delicate morality, yet a review of the whole topic cannot but
console the moralist. Mr. Matthew | the mental pleasures of the brute. Arnold assigns to morality but a True, there can be no direct compoor seven-eighths in the composition parison between such a pleasure as of human life. But we see that we derive from the C minor Symphmorality has far more interest and ony of Beethoven, or from the importance than this estimate allows. Blenheim Raphael, and any pleasure A masterpiece of mere art in poetry of which we can suppose the mind or fiction might be published (I wish of a rabbit to be capable. But we it were probable) without exciting must remember that all our more one hundredth part of the interest civilized pleasures are exceedingly provoked by the charge of stealing complex: they are combinations of half a page. Thus we learn that a number of separate, simple, pleasArt is of no importance at all in urable elements, each of which is comparison with Conduct. A good quite distinct and unaffected by the new book is murmured about at a presence of the others. Thus in lisfew dinner parties. A wicked new tening to the symphony we have a action-say the purloining, real or separate pleasure in the rhythm (a alleged, of twenty lines-is thun- ganglionic pleasure associated with dered about from the house-top, and muscular movements), a separate flashed along all the network of elec- pleasure in the harmonies and melotric wires from London to San Fran- dic phrases (also ganglionic; the cisco. While men have this over- latter depending on the former, inpowering interest in morals, who asmuch as melody gives no pleasure can despair of humanity?-ANDREW by itself, but only as it suggests LANG, in The Contemporary Review. beautiful harmony), a separate pleasure in the contrasts of light and shade, pianos and fortes (likewise ganglionic); and amongst a host of intellectual elements we have a separate pleasure in tracing the development of the theme-a pleasure of the kind called "plot interest;" a separate pleasure in the whole work considered as a human creation; a separate pleasure in the imitation by the orchestra of human emotional phases, and so forth. Of these and of a dozen other distinct elements is our delight in an art-product builded up, and therefore, though it is quite impossible that any being of more limited capacities should find the slightest enjoyment in such a complex resultant, still, the separate elements, or some of them, may be within the grasp of the inferior capacity, and if so, the reason why
ARE ANIMALS MENTALLY
IN TWO PARTS.-PART I.
Here we must necessarily argue from our own feelings to those of the lower intelligences. We must presume a similarity between our own affections and the affections of animals, which similarity will be still closer if we limit our comparison to the affections of childhood or those of primitive man. If in examining and analyzing our own emotions we find we can trace any element common to all our mental pleasures, we are bound to assume the presence of the like element in
they give pleasure to man will also be the reason why they give pleasure to the animal.
Now in the above example, as in almost all our mental pleasures, there are certain of what we have called bodily conveniences mingled with purely mental satisfactions. The fact that these are almost invariably blended in life has to some extent effaced the essential distinction between them, and we are apt to forget that only by way of metaphor can they be brought under one name. Toward the opposite end of the æsthetic scale we do in some measure preserve in our speech a record of the inherent difference between torture of limb and grief of spirit. When we use such a word as "torture" to symbolize a certain degree of mental distress, we so employ it with a distinct recognition of its symbolical character. No less symbolical, however, is our use of such a word as "pleasure" to characterize mental elevation. Language has been fixed in ages when as yet mental satisfactions had not arrived at their present importance and complexity; confusion in language has led to confusion in thought, and psychologists have been accustomed to content themselves with considering the case of a sprained muscle or a crushed limb, imagining in so doing they had at the same time furnished a complete explanation of the distress arising from a frustrated desire. It will, however, suffice to fix in our minds the essential difference between the two if we remember that their very physical signs are different. Thus in mental distress the brow is contracted, while in bodily suffering the corners of the mouth are affected; and it is only
when bodily sufferings are protracted so as to affect the mind or when they are accompanied by danger causing mental distress that the corrugator muscles begin to make furrows in the brow. If you see in a statue or painting of a human figure the upper part of the face indicating suffering, you instantly conclude the suffering to be mental; if you see the lower part of the face drawn or distorted, you recognize it as the sign of physical pain. That is to say, you recognize the fact that the nervous centers concerned with mental distresses are distinct from those occupied with local or bodily pains.
Now, before we can attempt any estimate of the mental satisfactions of animal life, we must start with some hypothesis as to the nature of that common element which at different moments we express by such words as glad, happy, pleased, joyful, and the like. The theory of Mr. Herbert Spencer which we have accepted as a sufficient explanation of physical pleasure affords no guide whatever for the interpretation of the widely different phenomena of mental satisfaction. No theory of nerve waste and nutrition can be of any use to us in determining what there is in a particular painting and a particular social situation which leads us to characterize our feelings in the presence of both by the same name.
What we want is to discover some common element, the presence of which characterizes all our pleasurable emotions, and the intensity of which varies in proportion to their exaltation, while the presence in varying intensity of its exact opposite characterizes in like manner and measure all our sadness and distress.
There is a passage of Lucretius in