Page images
PDF
EPUB

we have the old, beautiful theory of the balance of trade,) “to encourage the domestic manufacture of goods first produced in foreign countries” (sic!)," and by no means to impede the industry of its own citizens, for the enrichment of foreign manufacturers.(sic!)' pp. 27, 28.

We do not know whether or not government has the duty to stem. That, of course, is a question of political casuistry, but we very much fear that the Professor was unwell, when he translated the above passage, and threw in so often the adverb, 'sic!' with an exclamation point after it, by way of commentary. It seems to us to savour very much of dyspepsia, or the hiccoughs. It reminds us exceedingly of a rhyme or two which we heard in our childhood : “ Then let the cannakin” (hiccough!)

clink, clink!
A soldier's a man, (hiccough!) and man's life's but a span,

Then let a soldier have drink, drink” (hiccough!). Shakspeare. We are averse to Latin quotations, unless they are introduced with great judgment and good taste, for they sometimes constitute the only claims which writers have to literature. But this (ʻsic!) is not a quo tation, but an original idea of Professor Lieber, and, as it is clothed in a dead and learned language, we will translate it for the benefit of those of our readers who are not versed in the classics. The word 'sic!' then, is Latin, beyond a doubt, and, in the English tongue, it signifies so, and nothing more nor less. A parenthesis being drawn around it, and an exclamation point placed after it, in order to give it point and excite amazement, it will stand thus : (so!). In its English dress, it is a word often used by jockeys, in calming a restive horse. They pat the horse on the neck, and in a caressing and soft tone, say, “So! Nero. So! so!" and the word acts like a charm upon the furious beast. In like manner, our Professor seems to regard the passage from the Austrian publishers in the light of a hard-trotting, unbroken colt, of good bottom, whom he has mounted, in order to exhibit his horsemanship, and, as Fanny rears and plunges, the Professor pats her on the neck, and cries, “So! so! Fanny. Sic! sic !" But Fanny plunges still, not knowing that she carries a Professor proudly on her back, and, we fear the vicious nag, notwithstanding his expostulations and caresses, may unhorse him at last, to the soiling of his inexpressibles and his literary laurels. The sacred Nine, however, forbid so lamentable a catastrophe !

We are not aware that Professor Lieber, in the production before us, has shed any additional light upon the long agitated subject of literary property, and the rights and claims of authors. He has, it is true, embodied most of the facts and arguments which may be employed to prove the justice and necessity of a radical change in our legislation, on the subject of copyright, and, if his views had been expressed in a style less clumsy and artificial, and more luminous, they would have been better appreciated, and would have produced greater effect.

There can be no doubt that we have done England most foul wrong in the matter of her literature. We cannot deny it. Ever since we have been an independent and a reading people,—for such we are,we have seized upon the property of British authors, the most glorious of them, and sometimes the most needy,—upon the property of British reviewers, and the equitable title they have to their own productions, and, contrary to right, justice and equity, we have converted this property to our own use, without rendering back the slightest compensation to its real owners. If we have not been guilty of felony, and do not deserve to be suspended for what we have done, between heaven and earth, on a gibbet, we yet stand fairly convicted of an offence that does not fall far short of it—of that offence, which, in the language of the law, is called trover and conversion. We have perpetrated this barbarous act in spite of England, maddened by our injustice, in the face of high heaven, whose indignation will not long slumber, and in the presence of all civilized nations, looking on and scoffing at us for the iniquity, and turning their backs upon us with scorn. We shall reply, however, What care we for old England, or her rights, or the rights of her authors ? England is a monarchy, and America is a republic, and we are freemen, and have the privilege of doing as we please. Yes! with our own property, but not with the property of other people. Is there no comity to be observed among nations? Are we to have no respect to faith, to honor, to justice, to fair dealing ? Are we to be pirates, governed by no principle, simply because we are American citizens ? Besides, we do care about England, much as we may assert the fact to be otherwise. We care about her literature, we

about the rare productions of her scholars and men of genius, and we seize upon and appropriate them, wherever we can find them, and make money out of them, to fillour own pockets, even when their authors and owners are starving, perhaps, for a morsel of bread, in a garret, and the sheriff is at the door, to drag them off to prison for debts which they cannot pay, because we have defrauded them! Is this American liberty? If it be, it is not American justice. But, perhaps we shall say, in justification of our course, the mind is spirit, not matter, and thoughts are spiritual, intangible, uncontrollable, outgoing and spreading every where, without limit, and we cannot reach them, grasp them and bind them down to any single spot of earth, as we can our lands and negroes merchandize, and say, This is our property, or any man's property, and it is not lawful to touch it. It is true, that thought is spiritual, but it is not true, because it is so, that it may not be seized upon and controlled, and appropriated and bound down in books, till it becomes tangible and material property; for this, we all know, is done every day, and when it is done, the author has, or ought to have, as complete a property in the books which he has produced, with great mental toil and industry, as the day-laborer, who works with his hands, has, or ought to have, in the wages of his labour, as complete a property as any man has, in the house he lives in, and for which he has paid down the last fraction. He has

са

and any rate.

a right,—a clear and undeniable right to it, and he ought to have it, with the power of transmitting it, wherever in the wide world it is, to his children, and his children's children. This is the only just and liberal doctrine, in respect to the right and property which authors have in their own productions; but it does not seem to please our people, who care little about authors, provided they can have their own tastes gratified at

They call for a cheap literature,-get it where they may,—and they boast that they have it in this country,_and so they have. But where does it

come from?

From foreign countries. Do we pay duties on its importation ? None at all. We get it quite free from duties. How, then, do we get it? Through the hands of our American publishers. Do they pay any thing for it? A mere trifle on single volumes,—an amount not worthy to be mentioned; but they give us a cheap literature ! Yes, but obtained at what costly sacrifices of honor and honesty! A cheap literature it is, but yet, often, an obnoxious one, because it is a foreign literature, replete with foreign and unwholesome doctrines, and often with remarks and assertions insulting to the land of our birth, and the soil of our American glory. But even admitting that it is all that it ought to be, and all that American readers might wish it to be, shall we purchase it of the American vendor, on such terms as those to which we have alluded, merely because it is cheap literature, and we may get it for little or nothing? However excellent and desirable it may be,—and such, on many accounts, it is, we would rather say to him, Thy literature perish with thee, if the grace of life, and the light of letters and genius are to be procured at the expense of our country's honor, at the sacrifice of those principles, without which life has no grace, and genius no renown, that are worth possessing.

If foul injustice be done to England by this insatiable avarice and boundless rapacity and spirit of license of our country, a deep and crushing, and overpowering injury is also inflicted, by the same selfish propensities, on our own authors and reviewers. This is well known, for it is the subject of every day comment. Our authors cannot get a hearing before the public,—however meritorious, however deserving of encouragement,—because our American publishers will not buy their manuscripts, even at half cost, when they can get, for nothing, British books, ready printed to their hands, without the trouble of decyphering a bad chirography. And the same obstacles exist to the circulation and patronage of our reviews in this country. Our people do not encourage them with a generous and patriotic spirit, and why? simply because they can get British reviews, which occupy all their leisure time for reading, for nothing, or for next to nothing. Every one is aware, that cheap editions of the foreign reviews, for which the publishers pay nothing, either to government for the copyright, or to writers for literary labor, and to nobody else, except their own printers and paper-makers, are continually issued from the American press, and that half a dozen of them, of different kinds, may be furnished to subscribers, and with a profit to the publishers, at a cost actually less than the real expense of the annual subscription for a single copy of this review, published in this city, got up in the style in which it now appears, and including the compensation afforded to writers for their articles. It is a positive fact, and a melancholy one, and every one that knows any thing, knows it to be so. English travellers tell the world, that we have no American literature, and if this be the case, (which yet we do not admit to the full extent of the assertion), what is the cause of it ? Is it not perfectly apparent? It is because the whole country is flooded with foreign, particularly with British literature. Our authors are not encouraged to write books, because they are not paid for writing them, and literature is not a profession in this country, as it is in England, because we do nothing to sustain it. is impossible for American authors, and for American reviewers to sustain a fair competition with British authors and British reviewers; they are completely broken down in the struggle to get uppermost, and to assume their proper position before the American public, and before the world, nor could any other result, under the circumstances, have been'anticipated.

Who is to blame for this state of things ? The publishers ? By no means. They are as honest and high-minded a class of men as is to be found in America,-intelligent, active, studious to please, exercising a sound judgment as to the character of books, and publishing only such as they think will be useful to the public and acceptable to their readers. But our publishers, with all their excellent qualities of mind and heart, and their desire to do what is perfectly justifiable under the circumstances, are still nothing but men, and like all other men, they must obtain a livelihood, and, if they avail themselves of their opportunities even to make a fortune by their vocation, who is to hinder them, or accuse them for so doing? We certainly shall cast no reproaches upon them. They have, doubtless, done what they could for our American authors, consistently with their own interests. No man will pay an American tailor a high price for a superfine coat, when he can get an English coat of as good a quality, and which fits him every way as well, without paying any thing for it, or what may be regarded as next to nothing. Who, then, is to be inculpated for this condition of things, which bears so hardly and so intolerably upon the claims and prospects of American authors and American literature? The Federal Government, which has the power to remedy the evil, but will not do it, because it is of opinion that the people at large, throughout the country, who read books, are satisfied with things as they are, prefer a cheap literature, let it come from what quarter it will, and are, therefore, not solicitous that there should be any innovating legislation, however just and however loudly called for, on the subject. We say that our Government will not interfere in this matter, and do what is just and liberal both to English and American authors, and what is absolutely necessary to foster and build up American literature, and we speak advisedly, for at a recent session of Congress, a most respectable petition was presented to that body, signed by all the most eminent living authors of Great Britain, and sustained, as well as we remember, by a similar petition from our own American authors, remonstrating against the injustice of the proceedings we complain of, and praying Congress to prevent them in future, by the immediate passage of some wholesome and curative regulations, and, notwithstanding these petitions were brought forward, and the prayer of them ably sustained and insisted on by all the eloquence of Mr. Clay and the equal eloquence of Mr. Preston, our considerate legislators turned a deaf ear to the whole application, or did nothing effectualto promote the objects intended by it.

All this while, England looks on, seriously provoked, no doubt, that American democrats should appropriate to their own use, without recompense, the choicest productions of English literature, but secretly delighted, notwithstanding their losses of a just profit, that these same democrats, as far as British doctrines are calculcated to revolutionize our country, are employing British weapons in order to cut their own throats.

2. — Sir Thomas MoreHis Life and Times illustrated from his own

Writings, and from Contemporary Documents, by W. JOSEPH WALTER, late of St. Edmund's College, Baltimore. Published by Fielding Lucas, Jr., No. 138 Market-street, Baltimore. 1840.

We have read, with no little interest, this beautiful memoir of one of earth's noblest sons. It is written in an easy, graceful and unaffected style, and is wholly free from that grandiloquence and affectation of sublimity, which so often pervade the memoirs of the great and distinguished. The object of the writer is, as should ever be the case in biographical sketches, to give a plain and simple narrative, illustrative of the character, habits and mode of life, thought and action, of a remarkable and renowned individual. His purpose is to direct the reader's attention to the subject of his narrative, and not to fix it upon himself. The elegance of style, the beauty of diction, and the finely moulded sentence are all unthought of, the writer himself is forgotten, and we are revelling in an uninterrupted contemplation of the incidents and events, the thoughts and feelings, which made a part of the life and times of Sir Thomas More. Thus should it be. We wish not to be turned from our admiration of a character like his, to the scanning of high-sounding epithets and elegantly formed periods. The mind, once occupied with what is truly lofty and ennobling, once kindled by a contemplation of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »