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with the selfishness which he saw pervading a Christian nation, has dared an ejaculating wish for the return of those old palpable shapes of divinity, when he exclaimed,
Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
"link vice to a radiant angel;" he may diffuse years give birth to images of grace which, unluxurious indifference to virtue and to truth; touched by time, people the retreats which are but he cannot inculcate atheism. Let him sought by youthful toil, and make learning strive to do it, and like Balaam, who came to lovely. Why shall not these be brought, with curse, like him he must end in blessing! His the poetry of Shelley, within the range of criart convicts him; for it is “Eternity revealing minal jurisdiction? Because, with all their itself in Time!" His fancies may be wayward, beauty, they do not belong to the passions of the his theories absurd, but they will prove, no less present time,-because they hold their domiin their failure than in their success, the divi- nion apart from the realities which form the nity of their origin, and the inadequacy of this business of life, because they are presented world to give scope to his impulses. They are to the mind as creations of another sphere, to the beatings of the soul against the bars of its be admired, not believed. And yet, without clay tenement, which though they may ruffle prosecution-without offence-one of the greatand sadden it, prove that it is winged for a di-est and purest of our English poets, wearied viner sphere! Young has said, " An undevout astronomer is mad;" how much more truly might he have said, an atheist poet is a contradiction in terms! Let the poet take what range of associations he will-let him adopt what notions he may-he cannot dissolve his alliance with the Eternal. Let him strive to shut out the vistas of the future by encircling the present with images of exquisite beauty; his own forms of ideal grace will disappoint him with eternal looks, and vindicate the immortality they were fashioned to veil! Let him rear temples, and consecrate them to fabled divinities, they will indicate in their enduring beauty"temples not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!" If he celebrates the delights of social intercourse, the festal reference to their fragility includes the sense of that which must endure; for the very sadness which tempers them speaks the longing after that "which prompts the eternal sigh." If he desires to bid the hearts of thousands beat as one man at the touch of tragic passion, he must present "the future in the instant,"-show in the death-grapple of contending emotions a strength which death cannot destroy-vindicate the immortality of affection at the moment when the warm passages of life are closed against it; Having considered this charge chiefly as and anticipate in the virtue which dares to die, affecting poetry, I must not forget that the last the power by which "mortality shall be swal-passage selected by the Prosecutor is in prose, lowed up of life!" The world is too narrow for us. Time is too short for man,-and the poet only feels the sphere more inadequate, and pants for the "all-hail hereafter," with more urgent sense of weakness than his fellows:
Too-too contracted are these walls of flesh,
Of time and change disdaining, takes the range
And the fantasies of Queen Mab, if not so compact of imagination, are as harmless now as those forms of Grecian deities which Wordsworth thus invokes! Pure-passionless-they were while their author lived; they have grown classic by that touch of death which stopped the generous heart and teeming fancy of their fated author. They have no more influence on living opinion, than that world of beauty to which Shelley adverts, when he exclaims in "Hellas,"
But Greece and her foundations are
culled from the essay which was appended to the poem of "Queen Mab," disclaimed by the editor-disclaimed by Shelley long before he reached the prime of manhood-but rightly preserved, shocking as it is in itself, as essential to the just contemplation of his moral and intellectual nature. They form the dark ground of a picture of surpassing interest to the philosopher. There shall you see a poet whose fancies are most ethereal, struggling with a theory gross, material, shallow, imaging the great struggle by which the Spirit of the If this prosecution can succeed, on what Eternal seeks to subdue the material world to principle can the publishers of the great works its uses. His genius was pent up within the of ancient times, replete with the images of hard and bitter rind of his philosophy, as idolatrous faith, and with moralities only to be Ariel was in the rift of the cloven pine; and endured as historical, escape a similar doom? what wonder if a Spirit thus enthralled should These are the works which engage and reward send forth strange and discordant cries? the first labours of our English youth,-which, cause the words which those strange voices in spite of the objections raised to them, prac- syllabled are recorded here, will you say the tically teach lessons of beauty and wisdom-record is a crime? I recollect in the speech the sense of antiquity—the admiration of heroic daring and suffering; and refine and elevate their lives. It was destined in the education of the human race, that imperfect and faint suggestions of truth, combined with exquisite perceptions of beauty, should in a few teeming
of that great ornament of our profession, Mr. Erskine, an illustration of the injustice of selecting part of a conversation or of a book, and because singly considered it is shocking, charging a criminal intent on the utterer or the publisher; which, if, at first, it may not
seem applicable to this case, will be found essentially to govern it. He refers to the passage in the Bible, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," and shows how the publisher of the Book of God itself might be charged with atheism, by the insertion only of the latter division of the sentence. It is not surely by the division of a sentence only that the context may be judged; but by the general intent of him who publishes what is in itself offensive, for the purpose of curious recordof controversy-of evidence-of example. The publisher of Shelley has not indeed said "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God;" but he has in effect said, The poet has tried to say with his lips "There is no God," but his genius and his heart belie his words! What indeed does the publisher of Shelley's works virtually say, where he thus presents to his readers this record of the poet's life and death? He says-Behold! Here is a spectacle which angels may admire and weep over! Here is a poet of fancy the most ethereal-feelings the most devout-charity the most Christian-enthralled by opinions the most cold, hollow, and debasing! Here is a youth endowed with that sensibility to the beautiful and the grand which peoples his minutes with the perceptions of years who, with a spirit of self-sacrifice which the eldest Christianity might exult in if found in one of its martyrs, is ready to lay down that intellectual being-to be lost in loss itself | -if by annihilation he could multiply the enjoyments and hasten the progress of his species-and yet, with strange wilfulness, rejecting that religion in form to which in essence he is imperishably allied! Observe these radiant fancies-pure and cold as frostworkhow would they be kindled by the warmth of Christian love! Track those "thoughts that wander through eternity," and think how they would repose in their proper home! And trace the inspired, yet erring youth, poem after poem-year after year, month after monthhow shall you see the icy fetters which encircle his genius gradually dissolve; the wreaths of mist ascend from his path; and the distance spread out before him peopled with human affections, and skirted by angel wings! See how this seeming atheist begins to adorehow the divine image of suffering and love presented at Calvary, never unfelt, begins to be seen-and in its contemplation the softened, not yet convinced poet exclaims, in his Prometheus, of the followers of Christ—
The wise, the pure, the lofty, and the just, Whom thy slaves hate-for being like to thec! And thus he proceeds-with light shining more and more towards the perfect day, which he was not permitted to realize in this world. As you trace this progress, alas! Death veils it-veils it, not stops it-and this perturbed, imperfect, but glorious being is hidden from us—“Till the sea shall give up its dead!" What say you now to the book which exhibits this spectacle, and stops with this catastrophe Is it a libel on religion and God? Talk of proofs of Divine existence in the wonders of the material universe, there is nothing in any nor in all-compared to the proof which this
What can the
indicted volume conveys !
Let me, before I sit down, entreat you to ask yourselves where the course of prosecution will stop if you crown with success Mr. Hetherington's revenge. Revenge, did I say? I recall the word. Revenge means the returning of injury for injury-an emotion most unwise and unchristian, but still human;-the satisfaction of a feeling of ill-regulated justice cherished by a heart which judges bitterly in its own cause. But this attempt to retaliate on one who is a stranger to the evil suffered-this infliction of misery for doing that which the prosecutor has maintained within these works the right of all men to do-has no claim to the savage plea of wild justice; but is poor, cruel, paltry injustice; as bare of excuse as ever tyrant, above or below the opinion of the wise and good, ever ventured to threaten. Admit its power in this case-grant its right to select for the punishment of blasphemy the exhibition of an anomaly as harmless as the stuffed aspic in a museum, or as its image on the passionless bosom of a pictured Cleopatraand what ancient, what modern history, shall be lent unchallenged to our friends? If the thousand booksellers who sell the "Paradise Lost"-from the greatest publisher in London or Edinburgh down to the proprietor of the little book-stall, where the poor wayfarer snatches a hasty glance at the grandeur and beauty of the poet, and goes on his way refreshed-may hope that genius will render to the name of Milton what they deny to that of Shelley; what can they who sell "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" hope from the prosecutor of "Queen Mab?" In that work are two celebrated chapters, sparkling with all the meretricious felicities of epigrammatic style, which, full of polished sarcasm against infant Christianity, are elaborately directed to wither the fame of its Martyrs and Confessors with bitterest scorn-two chapters which, if published at a penny each, would do more mischief than thousands of metaphysical poems; but which, retained in their apppropriate place, to be sought only by the readers of history, may serve the cause of truth by proving the poverty of the spite by
cutor justice, I know he disclaims-may obtain true bills of indictment against any man, who has sold Horace, or Virgil, or Lucretius, or Ovid, or Juvenal-against all who have sold a copy of any of our old dramatists-and thus not only Congreve, and Farquhar, and Wycherley, but Fletcher, and Massinger, and Ford, and Webster. and Ben Jonson; nay, with reverence be it spoken, even Shakspeare, though ever pure in essence, may be placed at the mercy of an insect abuser of the press-unless juries have the courage and the virtue to recognise the distinction between a man who publishes works which are infidel or impure, because they are infidel or impure, and publishes them in a form and at a price which indicate the desire that they should work out mischief, and one who publishes works in which evil of the same kind may be found, but who publishes them because, in spite of that imperfection, they are on the whole for the edification and delight of mankind;-between one who tenders the misehief for approbation, and one who exposes it for example. And are you prepared to succumb to this new censorship? Will you allow Mr. Hetherington to prescribe what leaves you shall tear from the classic volumes in your libraries? Shall he dictate to you how much of Lord Byron-a writer far more influential than Shelley-you shall be allowed to lend to your friends without fear of his censure? Shall he drag into court the vast productions of the German mind, and ask juries to decide whether the translator of Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, and Lessing-deal
which it has been assailed, and find ample which-children often themselves-mount the counterpoise in the sequel. The possibility chariot and board the steamboat to scatter that that this history should be suppressed by some poison which may infect the soul as long as descendant of Gibbon, who might extrava- | the soul shall endure-whom, to do this prosegantly suppose it his duty to stifle cold and crafty sneers aimed at the first followers of Christ, was urged-and urged with successagainst me when I pleaded for the right of those descendants to the fruits of the labours of their ancestor; yet, if you sanction this attempt, any Hetherington may compel by law that suppression, the remote possibility of which has been accepted as a reason for denying to the posterity of the author a property in the work he has created! This work, invested with the peculiar interest which belongs to the picture of waning greatness, has recently been printed in a cheap form, under the sanction of a dignitary of the Established Church-a Christian Poet of the noblest aim-whose early genius was the pride of our fairest university, and who is now the honoured minister of the very parish in which we are assembled. If I were now defending Mr. Milman, of whose friendship I am justly proud, for this last and cheapest and best edition of Gibbon, I could only resort to the arguments I am now urging for Mr. Moxon, and claim the benefit of the same distinction between the tendency of a book adapted to the promotion of infidelity, and one which, containing incidental matter of offence, is commended to the student with those silent guards which its form and accompaniments supply. True it is that Mr. Milman has accompanied the text with notes in which he sometimes explains or counteracts the insinuations of the author; but what Notes can be so effectual as that which follows "Queen Mab"-in which Shelley's own letter is set forth, stating, on his authority, that the working with sacred things with a boldness to was immature, and that he did not intend it for the general eye? Is not the publication of this letter by the publisher as decisive of his motive-not to commend the wild fancies and stormy words of the young poet to the reader's approval, but to give them as part of his biography, as the notes of Mr. Milman are of that which no one doubts, his desire to make the perusal of Gibbon healthful? Prosper this attempt, and what a field of speculative prosecution will open before us! Every publisher of the works of Rousseau, of Voltaire, of Volney, of Hume-of the Classics and of their Translations-works regarded as innoxious, because presented in a certain aspect and offered to a certain class, will become liable to every publisher of penny blasphemy who may suffer or hate or fear the law;--nor of such only, but of every small attorney in search of practice, who may find in the machinery of the Crown-office the facilities of extortion. Nor will the unjust principle you are asked to sanction stop with retaliation in the case of alleged blasphemy--the retailer of cheap lasciviousness, if checked in his wicked trade, will have And now, I commend into your hands the his revenge against the works of the mighty cause of the defendant-the cause of genius dead in which some tinge of mortal stain may-the cause of learning-the cause of history unfortunately be detected. The printer of one the cause of thought. I have not sought to of those penny atrocities which are thrust into maintain it by assailing the law as it has been the hands of ingenuous youths when bound on expounded by courts, and administered by duty or innocent pleasure, the emissaries of juries; which, if altered, should be changed
which we are unused-are guilty of crime? Shall he call for judgment on that stupendous work, the "Faust," with its prologue in Heaven, which has been presented by my friend Mr. Hayward, whose able assistance I have to-day, with happy vividness to English readers-and ask a jury to take it in their hand, and at an hour's glance to decide whether it is a libel on God, or a hymn by Genius to His praise? Do you not feel those matters are for other seasons-for another sphere?—If so, will you, in the dark-without knowledge -without evidence-sanction a prosecution which will, in its result, impose new and strange tasks on juries who may decide on other trials; which may destroy the just allowance accorded to learning even under absolute monarchies; and place every man who hereafter shall print, or sell, or give, or lend, any one of a thousand volumes sanctioned by ages, at the mercy of any Prosecutor who for malice-for gain-or mere mischief, may choose to denounce him as a blasphemer?
by the authority of the legislature, and neither turing tastes for the lofty and the pure, it has by the violation of oaths, nor by the machinery been Mr. Moxon's privilege to diffuse largely which the prosecutor has employed to render throughout this and other lands, and with them it odious at the cost of those whom he himself the sympathies which link the human heart to contends to be guiltless; but I have striven to nature and to God, and all classes of mankind convince you, that by a just application of that to each other! Reject then, in your justice, law, you may hold this publication of the the charge which imputes to such a man, that works of Shelley to be no crime. It has been by publishing this book, he has been guilty of fairly conceded that Mr. Moxon is a most re- blasphemy against the God whom he reveres ! spectable publisher; one who has done good Refuse to set the fatal precedent, which will service to the cause of poetry and wisdom; not only draw the fame of the illustrious dead and one who could not intentionally publish a into question before juries, without time to inblasphemous work, without treason to all the vestigate their merits; which may not only associations which honour his life. Beginning harass the first publishers of these works; but his career under the auspices of Rogers, the which will beset the course of every bookeldest of a great age of poets, and blessed with seller, every librarian, throughout the country, the continued support of that excellent person, with perpetual snares, and make our criminal who never broke by one unworthy line the courts the arenas for a savage warfare of charm of moral grace which pervades his literary prosecutions! Protect our noble literaworks, he has been associated with Lamb, ture from the alternative of being either corwhose kindness embraced all sects, all parties, rupted or enslaved! Terminate those anxieall classes, and whose genius shed new and ties which this charge, so unprovoked-so unpleasant lights on daily life; with Southey, the deserved-has now for months inflicted on the pure and childlike in heart; with Coleridge, defendant, and his friends, by that verdict of in the light of whose Christian philosophy Not Guilty, which will disappoint only those these indicted poems would assume their true who desire that cheap blasphemy should have character as mournful, yet salutary specimens free course; which the noblest, and purest, and of power developed imperfectly in this world; most pious of your own generation will rejoice and with Wordsworth, whose works so long in; and for which their posterity will honour neglected or scorned, but so long silently nur- and bless you!
SPEECH ON THE MOTION FOR LEAVE TO BRING IN A BILL TO AMEND THE LAW OF COPYRIGHT,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, THURSDAY, MAY 18, 1837.
Mr. SPEAKER,-In venturing to invite the attention of the House to the state of the law affecting the property of men of letters in the results of their genius and industry, I feel that it is my duty to present their case as concisely as its nature will permit. While I believe that heir claims to some share in the consideration of the legislature will not be denied, I am aware that they appeal to feelings far different from those which are usually excited by the intellectual conflicts of this place; that the interest of their claim is not of that stirring kind which belongs to the busy present, but reflects back on the past, of which the passions are now silent, and stretches forward with speculation into the visionary future; and that the circumstances which impede their efforts and frustrate their reward, are best appreciated in the calmness of thought to which those efforts are akin. I shall therefore intrude as briefly as I can on the patience of the House, while I glance at the history of the evils of which they complain; suggest the principles on which I think them entitled to redress; and state the outlines of the remedies by which I propose to relieve them.
It is, indeed, time that literature should experience some of the blessings of legislation;
for hitherto, with the exception of the noble boon conferred on the acted drama by the bill of my honourable friend the member for Lincoin, it has received scarcely any thing but evil. If we should now simply repeal all the statutes which have been passed under the guise of encouraging learning, and leave it to be protected only by the principles of the common law, and the remedies which the common law could supply, I believe the relief would be welcome. It did not occur to our ancestors, that the right of deriving solid benefits from that which springs solely from within us-the right of property in that which the mind itself creates, and which, so far from exhausting the materials common to all men, or limiting their resources, enriches and expands them—a right of property which, by the happy peculiarity of its nature, can only be enjoyed by the proprietor in proportion as it blesses mankind-should be exempted from the protection which is extended to the ancient appropriation of the soil, and the rewards of commercial enterprise. By the common law of England, as solemnly expounded by a majority of seven to four of the judges in the case of " Donaldson v. Beckett," and as sustained by the additional opinion of Lord Mansfield, the author of an original wor
same poem, with a life of the author, and the notes of all preceding editions. Some doubts having at length arisen, the question of the operation of the statute was, in 1760, raised by a sort of amicable suit, "Tonson v. Collins," respecting the "Spectator," in which the Court of Common Pleas inclined to the plaintiff, but before giving judgment discovered that the proceeding was collusive, and refused to pronounce any decision. In 1766 an action was brought, "Miller v. Taylor," for pirating "Thomson's Seasons," in the Court of King's Bench, before whom it was elaborately argued, and which, in 1769, gave judgment in favour of the subsisting copyright; Lord Mansfield, Mr. Justice Willes, and Mr. Justice Aston, holding that copyright was perpetual by the common law, and not limited by the statute, except as to penalties, and Mr. Justice Yates dissenting from them. In 1774 the question was brought before the House of Lords, when eleven judges delivered their opinions upon it-six of whom thought the copyright limited, while five held it perpetual; and Lord Mansfield, who would have made the numbers equal, retaining his opinion, but expressing none. By this bare majority-against the strong opinion of the chief justice of England-was it decided that the statute of Anne has substituted a short term in copyright for an estate in fee, and the rights of authors were delivered up to the mercy of succeeding parliaments!
had FOR EVER the sole right of multiplying co- | the "Paradise Lost;" and in 1752 to the pies, and a remedy by action, incident to every right, against any one who should infringe it. The jurisdiction of the Star Chamber, while it restrained the freedom of the press, at the same time incidentally preserved the copyright from violation; and this was one of the pleas urged for the power of licensing; for Milton, in his immortal pleading for unlicensed printing, states, as one of the glosses of his opponents, "the just retaining by each man of his several copy, which God forbid should be gainsaid." In the special verdict in "Miller v. Taylor," (1769,) it was found as a fact, " that before the reign of Queen Anne, it was usual to purchase from authors the perpetual copyright of their books, and to assign the same from hand to hand for valuable considerations, and to make them the subject of family settlements." In truth, the claim of the author to perpetual copyright was never disputed, until literature had received a fatal present in the first act of parliament "For its encouragement"—the 8th Anne, c. 19, passed in 1709; in which the mischief lurked, unsuspected, for many years before it was called into action to limit the rights it professed, and it was probably intended, to secure. By that act, the sole right of printing and reprinting their works was recognised in authors for the term of fourteen years, and, if they should be living at its close, for another period of the same duration,—and piracy was made punishable during those periods by the forfeiture of the books illegally published, and Until this decision, the copyright vested in of a penny for every sheet in the offender's cus- the universities had only shared the protection tody-one-half to the use of the queen's ma- which it was supposed had existed for all, and jesty the other halfpenny, not to the poor au- in fact their copyright was gone. But they imthor, whose poverty the sum might seem to mediately resorted to the legislature and obbefit, but to the informer; and the condition of tained an act, 15 George III., c. 63, "For enaenjoying these summary remedies, was the en-bling the two universities in England, the four try of the work at Stationers' Hall. This act, universities of Scotland, and the several col"For the encouragement of learning," which, leges of Eton, Westminster, and Winchester, like the priest in the fable, while it vouchsafes to hold in perpetuity the copyright in books the blessing denies the farthing, also confers a given or bequeathed to them for the advancepower on the Archbishop of Canterbury and ment of learning and the purposes of educaother great functionaries to regulate the prices tion; and the like privilege was, by 41 George of books, which was rejected by the Lords, re- III., c. 107, extended to Trinity College, Dubstored on conference with the Commons, and lin. With the immunities thus conferred on repealed in the following reign; and also con- the universities, or rather with this exemption fers on learning the benefit of a forced contri- from the wrong incidentally inflicted on indibution of nine copies of every work, on the best viduals, I have no intention to interfere; neipaper, for the use of certain libraries. Except ther do I seek to relieve literature from the in this last particular, the act seems to have obligation, recently lightened by the just conremained a dead letter down to the year 1760, sideration of parliament, of supplying the prin no one, as far as I can trace, having thought it cipal universities with copies of all works at worth while to sue for its halfpennies, and no the author's charge. I only seek to apply the one having suggested that its effect had been terms of the statute, which recites that the pursilently to restrict the common-law right of poses of those who bequeathed copyright to the authors to the term during which its remedies universities for the advancement of learning were to operate. So far was this construction would be frustrated unless the exclusive right from being suspected, that in this interval of of printing and reprinting such books be se fifty years the Court of Chancery repeatedly in- cured in perpetuity, to support the claim of interfered by injunction to restrain the piracy of dividuals to some extended interest in their books in which the statutable copyright had own. I only ask that some of the benefits enlong expired. This protection was extended injoyed by the venerable nurseries of learning 1735 to "The Whole Duty of Man," the first assignment of which had been made seventyeight years before; in the same year to the "Miscellanies of Pope and Swift;" in 1736 to "Nelson's Festivals and Fasts;" in 1739 to
and of genius should attend the works of those whose youth they have inspired and fostered, and of those also who, although fortune has denied to them that inestimable blessing, look with reverence upon the great institutions of