Графични страници
PDF файл
[ocr errors]

his quarto edition of Mr. Gray's poems, a large extract which he took from another work. It was true alfo, that the fifty lines had been printed indifcriminately by others, who pretended to no exclufive property in them, that they were not written by Mr. Mason, nor bequeathed to him particularly by the author.

From every circumftance attending this matter, the ridicule of the claim became ftronger, But suspecting that a gentleman of Mr. Mafon's found fense and good character must have jufter grounds to proceed upon than what appeared upon the face of his meffage, the publisher requested to be favoured with his addrefs, in order to have a perfonal conference with him upon the fubject; and at the same' time affured his agent, that he meant not defignedly to invade or to injure Mr. Mafon's property: Whether his meffenger began to view the object of his miffion in too ludicrous a view, is unknown, but it is certain he refused to comply with this civil requifition.

The publisher, however, defirous to come to an explanation concerning this matter, procured Mr. Mason's address through another channel, and waited upon him.


At this conference he proved, firft, That it was he immemorial practice of book fellers to take extracts from new publications, and that none amongst them turned this practice to more account than Mr. Mafon's bookfeller; and, fecondly, that even fuppofing the act complained of to be an offence, it was hard to fingle out the prefent publifher to render legal compenfation, who was not the firft aggreffor, as the book had been printed by others who pretended to no exclufive right in it, long before his edition became extant; nor had he ever previously heard of Mr. Mafon's pre

Mr. Becket in the year 1769 published, at the price of One or Two Shillings, a well-written and popular poem, confifting of about 300 verses, intitled "An Ode, upon dedicating a Building "and erecting a Statue, to Shakespeare: by Mr. Garrick." Mr. Dodfley without fcruple applied this performance to his own use, by inferting it intive in the Annual Regifter. Has Mr. Dodsley made any compensation for this deliberate act of piracy to the proprietor ? Or has Mr. Becket sought redrefs for the injury by a Chancery fuit? Again, has Mr Dod fley offered any compensation to Mr. Murray for the different piracies he has committed upon his books? Or do Mr. Mason and his book feller affume an exclusive right to appropriate to their respective ufes what portion they please of every new literary performance that comes abroad, while they profecute another person with the utmost severity of the law for taking the fame liberty? Mr. Dodfley takes deliberately every year. 1000 verses for the use of his Annual Register with impunity; but the printing of so verses inadvertently by the present publisher is converted into an heinous trespass, and becomes the ground of a rigorous legal inve&igation.


[ocr errors]


tenfions. But in order to fhew how little reafon the author of Elfrida had particularly to cenfure him, without entering at all into the practice of the trade on one hand, or the claim of property on the other, he defired Mr. Mason to specify what fum he chose. to receive as compenfation for the offence complained of.

[ocr errors]

The publisher never admitted Mr. Mafon's legal right of property in these verses:-but a great deal could not be exacted for fifty lines; and he wished no gentleman of refpectable character to impute a deliberate injury to him, which he was certainly very far from intending.

Mr. Mason remained filent to his overture; and after repeating it to him as diftinctly as he could, the publisher took his leave, imagining he wanted time to confider of it.

Such is the faithful account of this litle tranfaction; nor will Mr. Mafon deny its authenticity or exactness. The publisher was a ftranger to Mr. Gray's executor, except by reputation. He is unconscious of having failed in the refpect due to him ; and the value of Mr. Mafon's character would not have fuffered diminution, had he been equally dif


[ocr errors]

pofed to treat the publisher with civility and at


It was hardly poffible after this equitable procedure, to expect to be troubled with an oppreffive profecution; from any man fuch conduct would have been esteemed ungenerous; from a clergyman, whofe duty it is to fow peace and good will amongst men, it wears not a more favourable aspect.

Mr. Mafon, nevertheless, without further notice, filed a bill in Chancery against the publisher; and retained Mr. Thurlow, Mr. Wedderburn, and Mr. Dunning for his Counsel.

Fifty lines furely cannot be an object for a man to throw a hundred pounds, or more money, after; it leads an impartial person to suspect, that Mr. Mafon has a further object in view; and that, although

Mr. Mafon fends an agent profeffedly to require fatisfaction or compenfation for an infringement of property. Without entering into the merits of this claim, he is defired to prescribe his own terms of redrefs. In return for this offer, he files a bill in Chancery against the fuppofed offender, and continues to urge his fuit, merely to load the defendant with cofts; for he cannot entertain the most distant idea of being awarded damages for an infringement of 50 lines of literary property, admitting (which is by no means granted) that his claim is founded.

Let this behaviour be reconciled to honour, to morality, or as Mr. Mason is in holy orders) to the practice of piety!



-he has realized already nearly one thousand pounds from the profits of his quarto edition of Mr. Gray's poems, he is not fatisfied, but defires to fupprefs the publisher's little volume altogether, although it has not hitherto paid the expences incurred in printing it, in order to retain the monopoly of Mr. Gray's poems intirely in his own hands.

If his behaviour can be reconciled to a better principle, the publisher will readily confefs it, and wishes to discover a motive lefs felfith, in order to fpeak of it; for although he difapproves of his conduct, he disclaims all animofity towards Mr. Mafon, and is forry that the present recital does not tend more to the credit of his character.

But Mr. Mafon means to erect a monument in Westminster Abbey to the memory of Mr. Gray *, with the profits acquired by his book;-will this intention, difinterested as it is, if true, juftify or excufe his prefent proceeding against a man, who, fo far from offending, has offered him his own terms of compenfation for an action, merely because he complained, though it was morally juft?

* This report is new. Perhaps it has commenced fince the date of Mr. Murray's public letter to Mr. Mafon. In any view, how over, we confefs the facrifice of his emolument to be great.

« ПредишнаНапред »