Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

public, a large proportion of which who, in 1615, had the presumption to might have been, with advantage to all assert, in direct defiance of the dogmaparties, wholly suppressed, since they tical opinions of the learned, “ the possess in the main but the questiona- great, the good and wise among men," ble merit of a metamorphoses, while and contrary to the settled conclusions it seems hopelessly vain to discover in of all preceding ages, “that the earth one work of a score, any traces of revolved round the sun;" and although originality of idea.

threatened with death by his bigoted The remark ascribed to Pope Gan- inquisitors for the heresy, yet Galileo ganelli, that “all books in the known boldly maintained his creed, and has long world might be comprised in six thou- since convinced the world he was right. sand folio volumes, if filled with original A strong resemblance may occur matter—the rest being all plagiarism,' between two writers, if not indeed was, we think, an extremely liberal a strict identity both of ideas and even estimate.

language, which may be purely acciOne age battens upon its predecessor dental; but this must be an occurrence with gnome-like rapacity, and thus a exceedingly rare. We repeat, some host of pseudo-authors acquire an un may be unconscious plagiarists; a bold deserved reputation, while that which or beautiful thought is sometimes likely once possessed substantial nutriment so to impress the imagination, as to exist and intrinsic worth, becomes at length in the memory long after its paternity reduced to the meagre fricassée. True, is forgotten, and thus become ingrafted we live in an utilitarian day, when the into the mind so as to seem part of itmillion have little sympathy for the self; such a case would certainly adponderous magnificence of our fore- mit of great extenuation in the criminal fathers; but after all we venture to sug- code of literary jurisprudence. gest, whether, in our modern method A writer, it is observed, may steal of condensation, some of the essential after the manner of bees, without wrong. vigor and spirit of their productions ing anybody; but the theft of the ant, have not equally left us. The quaint which takes away the whole grain of lines of Chaucer still apply with full corn, is not to be imitated. Vayer, a force,

French scribe, says, "to take from the

ancients, and make one's advantage of "Out of the olde fieldes, as men sayeth, what they have written, is like pirating Cometh all this new corne fro yeare to

beyond the line; but to steal from one's So out of olde bookes, in good faith,

contemporaries, by surreptitiously apCometh all this newe science that men propriating to onesself their thoughts bere."

and productions, is like picking people's

pockets in the open street." And anoOur present object, however, is not ther extract we had marked, insists with the honest retailers of the ancient that, “it is a greater crime to steal dead stores of human knowledge, but with men's writings, than their clothes." those who have made their appropria- Instances of petty larceny are undoubttions without license or acknowledge- edly more numerous than such as may ment, and who therefore sustain the be styled cases of grand literary larceopposite character. “ Authorship,” ny; and we have even heard it advocasays Schlegel, "is, according to the ted as a meritorious virtue in a writer, spirit in which it is pursued, an infamy, when he shall abstract from a previous a pastime, a labor or handicraft, an art, author some acknowledged beauty, a virtue.” How exceedingly few are either of rhetoric or thought, and afresh original thinkers; even those who rank incorporate it as his own, on the plea as philosophical writers adopt the opin- that a gem may often lie long obscured, ions of their predecessors—some favor- and acquire redoubled lustre by the ite theory of a former age; and having skill of ihe artist in the resetting. But espoused it, they endorse the new creed viewed as an apology for acknowledged with an enthusiasm as zealous as if it felony, some may deem this, at best, were one of their own creation. There very apocryphal. Direct literary plaare a few noble exceptions to the rule, giarism has been more rife in modern however, for the honor of learning; than in ancient times; and yet we are the daring Florentine, for instance, not to suppose that this species of fraud

yeare,

que ipsa

cutos.

did not exist even with the classic This ill-fated son of genius, however, writers. Vida, in his “Art of Poetry," was mistaken in his foreboding. Spenindeed conducts us to such a conclu ser has also been charged as a close sion in justifying an occasional resem- copyist of both Tasso and Ariosto. A blance between two several authors on similar illustration might also be given, the same subject :

showing the double plagiarism upon a “Aspice ut exuvias veterumque insignia nobis fine passage from Dante, which was Aptemus: verum accipimus nunc clara re first rendered into our vernacular with

pertum. Nunc seriem atque animum verborum quo- afterwards closely copied by Byron.

out acknowledgement by Merivale, and Nec pudet interdum alterius nos ore lo. But we must narrow our limits, or we

shall have to invoke among the culprits Terence, who has been accused of

a host of such other names as Ford, many depredations, says, " nihil est

Decker, Marlow, and Shirley, with our dictum quod non sit dictum prius.” several specifications agaiust them. One substantial reason why this species

Homer, * Dante, Rabelais, and Shakof legerdemain was not so much in speare, Chateaubriand styles the great vogue with the early penmen, is to be universal individualities and great paascribed to the fact that detection rent geniuses, who appear to have would almost inevitably follow, from borne and suckled all others. The the limited number of MSS. then in first fertilized antiquity; Æschylus, Euexistence compared with the deluge of ripides, Sophocles, Horace, Aristobooks since the era of the press.

phaues, and Virgil were his sons.

Dante in like manner was the father of The following exquisite thought, contained in one of the sonnets of Petrarch, modern Italy, from Petrarch to Tasso.

Rabelais created the literature of “ Trefiro torna; é 'l bel tempo ramena: E i tiori, e 'l herbe sua dolce familigiu."

France; Montaigne, LaFontaine, Mo

liere, descend from him; while England has been more frequently incorporated, owes all to Shakspeare. People often or rather imitated, than any gem in the deny the authority of these supreme whole wealth of poetry. Milton who, masters--they rebel against them, proso to speak, ransacked the three worlds claim their defects, but with as much for the materiel of his sublime effusions, propriety as one might enumerate the so closely resembles the Italian muse, spots on the sun's disc; they even acthat it is difficult to reconcile the co cuse them of tediousness, and someincidence upon any other supposition times absurdity, while in the very act than that even he borrowed. The of robbing them and decking themcouplet referred to in allusion to his selves in their spoils. loss of sight, occurs, it will be remem Instances of literary larceny we find bered, in his great epic,

recorded almost coeval with the era of “i Seasons return, but not to me return printing, under the various forms of Day, or the sweet approach of eve or fre gent falsification, pirating, and formorn."

geries; these subsequently led to the He also closely copies Ariosto, in his enactment of a species of copyright Vision of Paradise, and Astolpho's licenses, or privileges to the author or Description of the Moon, when he publisher of a book. Notwithstanding mounts the clouds on the winged horse. which, however, many spurious ediLord Lyttleton, Waller, Gray, Savage, tions of works were clandestinely reand Kirke White, discover traces of the printed, to the detriment of their rightsame thought, and some invest it in ful owners. One ingenious feature of language remarkably analogous. Kirke fraud practised by some of the early White's lines are as follows:

piratical printers, was that of counter"Yon brook will glide as softly as before,

feiting the quaint devices or peculiar Yon landscape smile-yon golden harvest insignia adopted by publishers of the grow,

olden time; some ludicrous cases of Yon sprightly lark on mounting wing will imitation were perpetrated upon some When Henry's name, alas, is heard no

of the popular productions of the celemore."

brated Aldine press, which, from their

soar,

Homer's Gardens of Alcinous in the Odyssey, and the Elysium of the Æneiad, were perhaps taken from the Mosaic account of Eden.

clumsy execution, were readily detect- most of the historical books of his day, ed. One of these is noticed in the pre- he discovered a ready facility in imface to an Aldine edition of Livy, parting fictions as facts, while he quoted printed in 1518.

his authorities with random recklessThe Anchor and Dolphin of Aldus, ness. Another odd genius amused of Venice, from the deserved reputa- himself, while confined to his room by tion of this renowned and learned protracted indisposition, with inflicting printer, was more copied than any on the reading community of his day other of the distinguishing marks of his “ Voyage Round the World," when their time, by his Italian cotempora- his physical disability scarcely permitted ries ; but by their forgeries the printers him to describe the circuit of his own of Lyons rendered themselves most dormitory. His name may be recolnotorious. The classical origin of this lected by some - Gemelli Carreri, a still favorite typographical insignia is Neapolitan. His work exhibits an air well known-it was borrowed from a of great versimilitude, notwithstanding medal of the Emperor Titus; and the his descriptions of character and local hieroglyphic supposed to correspond scenery seem to bear the impress of rewith that adage, is said to have been ality. This species of cheat has not the favorite motto of Augustus.

wanted imitators in after times; and, Pickering, the eminent London pub- indeed, in our own day, as the scenic lisher, it will be remembered, adopts descriptions of many a popular author the Aldine anchor on the title-pages of attest, who, to save the trouble of perhis beautiful editions of the English sonal exploration, allow a playful fancy Classics. Much might be written on to till the sketch. We could mention, the various ornamental devices, rebuses, also, a well-known writer in our own and characteristic mottoes of the early country who has committed a someEnglish printers; yet it would be in- what similar act, in his drafts upon an appropriate to dwell longer on that sub- English traveller who visited America jece in this place. One of the most soon after the peace, instead of allowaudacious literary furgeries ever impos- ing the great natural beauties of our ed upon the credulity of unsuspecting now existing forests and farms to speak mortals in early times, was that perpe- for themselves. trated by a Dominican monk, named An Du Halde compiled his account of nius of Vitorbo, attached to the Papal See China from the writings of some of the during the Pontificate of Alexander VI. missionaries ; for although he affects to He wrote seventeen folio volumes, en- be wonderfully familiar with Chinese titled Liber Idem, purporting to be the scenery, he is known never to have veritable productions of Sanchoni- travelled ten leagues from the French atho, Manetho, Berosus, the lost works capital in his lifetime. Many other of Xenophon, Philo, Fabius, Victor, names might also be cited of a similar &c. The learned, however, soon dis- class ; but it is needless to extend the covered the imposture, for he had no list : let one other suffice. We refer manuscripts to produce in his defence. to Joseph Vella, a Sicilian adventurer, He died in 1502; but he acquired, and who, in 1794, pretended he had disstill retains, the unenviable reputation of covered seventeen of the lost books of being the most conspicuous of early Livy, in Arabic, having, as he said, proliterary impostors.

cured them from a Frenchman, who Varillas, the French historian, en- purloined the works from a niche in joyed for a long period a good reputa- the mosque of St. Sophia, at Constantition as a veracious chronicler of events, nople. The story was plausible enough, till at length the critics of other cour since many of the classics had descend. tries exploded the secret of his unde- ed through the Arabians. They were served honors.

His professions of subsequently published in Italy, in four sincerity went for little, when it was volumes, 4to. It is true, he exhibited once discovered that his historic anec- certain MSS. which he had himself dotes derived their existence solely from fabricated, being, in fact, but interpolathe wonder-loving and inventive brain tions from Florus. He displayed conof the writer,-his affected citations of siderable adroitness, however, in distitles, letters, memoirs and relations, figuring the whole- altering page after being all imaginary! Having perused page, and by interspersing numberless

dots, and other unintelligible marks and his pretensions with suspicion: and yet, dashes. It was not long, in spite of could he have silenced the secret accubis strenuous efforts at concealment, sations of his own conscience, the most before his cheat was found out, al- sanguine wishes of the impostor might though not till most of the literati of possibly yet have been successful. He his day had become his dupes. On wrote, in Latin, an interesting descripexamining his MSS. they were found tion of the island from which he proto consist of nothing but a history of fessed to have been expatriated on acMahomet, instead of, as had been pre- count of his newly-espoused religion, tended, the lost works of Livy, and an which was received by the public with early authentic history of Sicily, in the favor; a translation was speedily efArabic period, comprehending about fected, and read with avidity, which two centuries—ages of which their own was referred to as authority by Buffon historians were entirely ignorant. Vel- and others, while his characteristic la lost an eye in his laborious trifling; self-complacency and adroitness in and although his loss was temporarily warding off every avenue to detection, soothed by a pension from the Neapol- seemed to have completely established itan king, and various honors and digni- his claim to public confidence. His ties, including a professorship at Pa- powers of memory were so tenaciously lermo, yet, when his “ sweetness" be correct, from the exercise of habit in vercame thus ultimately overtasked, he bal arrangement, that on being desired was doomed to fifteen years' incarcer- to translate a long list of English words ation.

into the Formosan language, which The next case we shall refer to is were marked down without his knowthat of Psalmanazar, a man of consid- ledge, his credit was considerably corerable learning and singular ingenu- roborated by bis correctly affixing the ity, who, in his time, acquired much same terms to the same words, on the notoriety. He was one of the writers question being repeated three, six, and employed in compiling a work on Uni- even twelve months afterwards. He versal History, a task which he exe- at length found a warm advocate in cuted with much skill and fidelity.- the Bishop of Oxford, who procured Originally a wandering adventurer from for him apartments in one of the Unihis home and country, and while under versities, for the further prosecution of the pressure of poverty, having enlisted his studies. To impress his new neighin the army, he first attracted the no- bors at this place with the idea of his tice of a Col. Lauder, in the garrison of intense and indefatigable application, it Sluys, where he artfully circulated a was his custom to keep lighted candles report that he was a native of the island in his room during the night, and to of Formosa, from which place he was sleep in an easy-chair, to prevent the expelled by the hostility of the Japan- impression that so extraordinary a geese on account of his religious faith, nius indulged in so unphilosophical a having been previously proselytised to relaxation as that of reposing on a bed. Christianity from Paganism, by the His next step was to return to London Jesuits. The plausibility of his story and publish a version of the Church induced the colonel to espouse his Catechism in his pretended vernacular, cause, and he subsequently was con- which, having passed under the close veyed to England, where he was intro- scrutiny and supervision of the learned, duced to the Bishop of London, who was pronounced a real language, and listened to his account with pity and no counterfeit. He had now attained implicit faith, became his patron, and the acmé of his fame; but no sooner generously contributed towards his sup- had reached it, than the tide of his port. His artful contrivance of pro- popularity began to wane ; for susducing and speaking a language with its picion had already begun to be excitalphabet and grammar purely of his own ed by sundry contradictions which invention, no less than his singular pro- were betrayed in his narrative, and pensity for eating raw meat, roots and other seeming absurdities, which preherbs, soon rendered him an object of sently caused his benefactors to abate curious speculation and public notoriety. their ardor, and ultimately to withdraw The keen-eyed scepticism of some of altogether their support. At length the more discerning, however, viewed the reaction in the public mind became

so strong, that it speedily grew into the tions, in which he connected all the most violent expressions of malignity legends together in the style of the and irritated resentinent against him; Puranas, consisting of 1,200 lines ! and as his means of subsistence became George Stevens, the annotator of consequently precarious, he would have Shakspeare, merits a passing tribute at become again the victim of abject dis our hands, for his numerous literary tress, had it not been for the admitted misdemeanors ; he was a creature of abilities he possessed, which induced such a propensity to commit forgeries the booksellers to engage his services and adulterations, that most such inupon the work already referred to— stances of his times, it has been assertthe laborious task of compiling a Uni- ed, nay, without much risk, may be versal History. His real naine and attributed to him. He practised an place of birth were never revealed amusing cheat upon the well-known these he studiously concealed on ac- antiquary Gough ; this was the famous count of his disgrace. He was sup- toinb-stone on wbich was engraved the posed to have been from the south of drinking-horn of Hardyknute, to indiFrance; and although he never pub- cate his last fatal carouse; for this licly avowed his fraud, yet he is said royal Dane died in intoxication! To to have confessed it to confidential prevent any doubt, the name in Saxon friends, with tears and unfeigned re characters was sufficiently legible.pentance; and, but for such acknow- Steeped in pickle to hasten a precoledgment on his part, his ingeniously cious antiqnity, it was then consigned fabricated illusions of an unknown peo- to a corner in a broker's shop, where it ple and their language, might have, to was soon detected by the inquisitive this day, been classed with the myste- gaze of Gough, who eagerly purchased ries of mesmerism, and other subtle the precious relic—who set to work sophisms, which perplex the sagacious preparing a learned dissertation, worand amuse the vulgar. This extraor- thy of its reported value. The enthudinary individual died in 1763. siastic antiquary never forgave this out

D'Israeli, as might be anticipated, rage upon his credulity. The stone is has been the most industrious collator still extant in the British Museum, a of cases of lierary fraud, of any writer lasting warning to the Pickwickians of we possess; and we need scarcely add, all time. But to avoid prolixity on a that we shall refer freely to him as an subject occupying so ample a space in authority. He relates, among many bibliographical history, we shall have others, the following curious instance to pass over in silence many cases of of literary forgery, practised on Capt. literary imposition, which we might Wilford by a learned Hindoo, who, to otherwise adduce. ingratiate himself and his studies with During the troublous reign of the too zealous and pious European, Charles I., numerous political forgeries contrived, among other attempts, to were perpetrated. The famous Eikon give the history of Noah and his three Basiliké has been ranked an

among

the sons, in his

Purana," under the de- number, from the ambiguous claim of signation of Satyavrata. The captain Gauden; and, as it appears from the having read the passage, transcribed it note-book of Sir Nicholas Hyde, chief for Sir William Jones, who translated justice during the reign of that unforit as a curious extract ; the whole was tunate prince, Sir Robert Cotton must an interpolation, by the dexterous in not be denied his claim altogether to troduction of a forged sheet, discolored the honors of a literary filching, since and prepared for the purpose of de- there is mention made of a pardon he ception; and which, having served his had obtained from King James, for emdesign for the moment, was afterwards bezzling the public records, &c.; and withdrawn. As books in India are not we read even of authors at the solemn bound, it is not difficult to introduce hour of dissolution having been the “ loose leaves.” To confirm his various prey of those whose moral obliquity impositions, this learned forger had the did not prevent the lawless indulgence patience to write two voluminous sec- of the passion.

(To be Continued.)

« AnteriorContinuar »