« ForrigeFortsæt »
books to themselves. Far from it they will as ile use the books as And thus the whole plans and say, weighing his motives, of minated in locking up and sec of books, some being grea they cannot be opened. Ha catacombs of Paris or of Nu provided for their virtua! ext. at common law lie agains mous abuses? Oh, tho. he that puts his ear to te- -coming onwards upor wilt work me and other
ton, much s at length before that
ament was at the bride
>> this point
om was for
y, when the health; but, which are on for example,
gazing for a and pointedly,
is expected I I shall not; I
7th, I shall be
ocked at such
The old Count
me severity for he goodness of sighed heavily.
tter, as she had she died about nd was finally natural course ›ected marriage
ddenly and reonly gentleman ook a particular hrough his kindI found myself
The occasion of
why? A man loving books like myself, might suppose that their motive was the ungenerous one of keeping the
a piracy had been committed, you, the party relieved, were bound to express your sense of this relief by a return made to the public; and the public is here represented by the great endowed libraries of the seven universities, the British Museum, &c. &c.' But prima facie, this was that selling of justice which is expressly renounced in Magna Charta: and why were proprietors of copyright more than other proprietors, to make an acknowledgment' for their rights? But, supposing that just, why, especially, to the given public bodies? Now, for my part, I think that this admits of an explanation: Nine-tenths of the authors in former days, lay amongst the class who had received a college education; and most of these, in their academic life, had benefited largely by old endowments. Giving up, therefore, a small tribute from their copyright, there was some color of justice in supposing that they were making a slight acknowledgment for past benefits received, and exactly for those benefits which enabled them to appear with any advantage as authors. So, I am convinced, the 'servitude' first arose, and under this construction; which, even for those days, was often a fiction, but now generally such. However, be the origin what it may, the ground, upon which the public mind in 1811 (that small part of it at least which the question attracted), reconciled itself to the abuse, was this. For a trivial wrong, (but it was then shown that the wrong was not always trivial,) one great good is achieved, viz., that all over the kingdom are dispersed eleven great depositories, in which all persons interested may, at all times, be sure of finding one copy of every book published. That did seem a great advantage and a balance politically, (if none morally,) to the injustice upon which it grew. But now mark the degree in which this balancing advantage is made available. 1. The eleven bodies are not equally careful to exact their copies; that can only be done by retaining an agent in London; and this agent is careless about books of slight money value. 2. Were it otherwise, of what final avail would a perfect set of the year's productions prove to a public not admitted freely to the eleven libraries? 3. But finally, if they were admitted, to what purpose, (as regards this particular advantage,) under the following custom, which, in some of these eleven libraries, (possibly in all,) was I well knew, established: annually the principal librarian weeded the annual crop of all such books as displeased himself; upon which two questions arise. 1. Upon what principle? 2. With what result? I answer as to the first, in his lustration (to borrow a Roman idea) he went upon no principle at all, but his own caprice, or what he called his own discretion; and accordingly it is a fact known to many as well as
books to themselves. Far from it. In several instances they will as little use the books as suffer them to be used. And thus the whole plans and cares of the good (I will say, weighing his motives, of the pious) founder have terminated in locking up and sequestrating a large collection of books, some being great rarities, in situations where they cannot be opened. Had he bequeathed them to the catacombs of Paris or of Naples, he could not have better provided for their virtual extinction. I ask, does no action at common law lie against the promoters of such enormous abuses? Oh, thou fervent reformer, whose tread he that puts his ear to the ground may hear at a distance coming onwards upon every road- if sometimes thou wilt work me and others suffering, from which I shall not
myself, that a book, which some people (and certainly not the least meditative of this age) have pronounced the most original work of modern times, was actually amongst the books thus degraded; it was one of those, as the phrase is, tossed into the basket;' and universally this fate is more likely to befall a work of original merit, which disturbs the previous way of thinking and feeling, than one of timid compliance with ordinary models. Secondly with what result? For the present, the degraded books, having been consigned to the basket, were forthwith consigned to a damp cellar. There, at any rate, they were in no condition to be consulted by the public, being piled up in close bales, and in a place not publicly accessible. But there can be no doubt that, sooner or later, their mouldering condition would be made an argument for selling them. And such, when we trace the operation of this law to its final stage, such is the ultimate result of an infringement upon private rights, almost unexampled in any other part of our civil economy. That sole beneficial result, for the sake of which some legislators were willing to sanction a wrong, otherwise admitted to be indefensible, is so little protected and secured to the public, that it is first of all placed at the mercy of an agent in London, whose negligence or indifference may defeat the provision altogether; (I know a publisher of a splendid botanical work, who told me that by forbearing to attract notice to it within the statutable time, he saved his eleven copies,) and again placed at the mercy of a librarian who, (or any one of whose successors,) may, upon a motive of malice to the author or an impulse of false taste, after all proscribe any part of the books thus objectionably acquired.
shrink, work also for me a little good, this way turn the great hurricanes and levanters of thy wrath - winnow me this chaff; and let us see at last the garners of pure wheat laid up in elder days for our use, and for two centuries closed against our use!
London we left in haste, to keep an engagement of some standing at the Earl of H-'s, my friend's grandfather. This great admiral, who had filled so large a station in the public eye, being the earliest among the naval heroes of England in the first war of the Revolu tion, and the only one of noble birth, I should have been delighted to see; St. Paul's, and its naval monuments to Captain Riou and Captain, together with its floating pageantries of conquered flags, having awakened within me, in a form of peculiar solemnity, those patriotic remembrances of past glories, which all boys feel so much more vividly than men can do, in whom the sensibility to such impressions is blunted. Lord H., however, I was not destined to see. Of late years, he had generally been absent on public duties; but, on this occasion, his absence was probably due to a reason which will make the reader smile: I believe, but am not perfectly certain, that he was dead; and I have no peerage within my reach by which I could settle that point. The fact is, my knowledge of the family had been too slight and interrupted to have fixed in my memory any chronology of its history. And though I then knew the exact state of the facts, at present I have entirely forgotten everything beyond the mere act of his absence. A death, however, at any rate, there had been, and very recently, in the family, and under circumstances peculiarly startling; and the spirits of the whole house were painfully depressed by that event, at the time of our visit. One of the daughters, a younger • sister of my friend's mother, had been engaged for some
time to a Scottish nobleman, the earl of M-ton, much esteemed by the Royal Family. The day was at length fixed for the marriage; and about a fortnight before that day arrived, some particular dress or ornament was brought to P, in which it was designed that the bride should appear at the altar. The fashion as to this point has often varied; but at that time the custom was for bridal parties to be in full dress. The lady, when the dress arrived, was, to all appearance, in good health; but, by one of those unaccountable misgivings which are on record in many well-attested cases, (as that, for example, of Andrew Marvell's father,) she said, after gazing for a minute or two at the beautiful dress, firmly and pointedly, 'That, then, is my wedding dress; and it is expected I shall wear it on Thursday the 17th; but I shall not; I shall never wear it. On Thursday the 17th, I shall be dressed in a shroud!' All present were shocked at such a declaration, which the solemnity of the lady's manner made it imposssible to receive as a jest. The old Countess, her mother, even reproved her with some severity for the words, as an expression of distrust in the goodness of God. The bride-elect made no answer, but sighed heavily. Within a fortnight all happened, to the letter, as she had predicted. She was taken suddenly ill she died about three days before the marriage day; and was finally dressed in her shroud, according to the natural course of the funeral arrangements, on her expected marriage morning.
Lord M-ton, the nobleman thus suddenly and remarkably bereaved of his bride, was the only gentleman who appeared at the dinner-table. He took a particular interest in literature; and it was, in fact, through his kindness that, for the first time in my life, I found myself somewhat in the situation of a lion.' The occasion of