Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Knowledge is progressive, and so must all improvements be, until they have reached the confines of human attainment. Hundreds of clever writers are thrown on the shelf, with us, merely because they cannot at once step into the foremost ranks of the authors of the day, and cannot receive money enough to put bread into their mouths, while they have time to improve. The instant a writer could enter into a treaty with a bookseller, without being shown something quite as good as his own, which the dealer has got for thing, there would be an end of such glarin injustice.

If thoughts were like buttons, to be made of any given quantity of metal and gilding, it might be well to wait the march of time, until they are squeezed from us, will ye nili ye,' by the pressure of an overgrown population ; but, unfortunately for ihe theories of political economists, ideas are not always to be had at command. It is therefore wise, to open every avenue by which they may be invited to communicate with the world.

Ai the time the law of copy-right was made, it would not have done, perhaps, to have said, that any book not before published in the States, should be protected, on the declaration of the author or proprietor, for the plain reason, that it would be depriving ourselves, without a suficient motive, of the works already received into the language as classical. Perhaps the provision which confines the privilege to the citizen, was introduced partly with such a view of the subject. But the case is now changed. There is hardly a book worth having, which is not a reprint in America; and if it should be found that certain heavy scientific works are exceptions, it will be easy to say all future books.

I do really wish you would put these facts, with force, before the committee, if any thing is to be done with the law this winter. And I also invite your earliest attention to the contents of the enclosed letter. Every honorable man in the nation will be with you, in such an undertakiug; and I sincerely hope that there will not be found a single individual so greedy or so base, as to give reason w an American to blush when he calls him countryman. You are at perfect liberty to make use of both these letters, as you may deem necessary to attain the object, which I confess to be one that lies as near to my wishes as any success of my own. Let me know the result, by an early reply.

I remain,

Gentlemen, (Signed,)

J. FENIMORE COOPER. Messrs. CAREY AND LEA.

I CERTIFY that the accompanying letter was put into my hands by the Author of Waverly, in his own person.

J. FENIMORE COOPER.

MY DEAR SIR:

I have considered in all its bearings the matter which your kindness has suggested. Upon many former occasions, I have been urged by my friends in America to turn to some advantage the sale of my writings in your country, and render that of pecuniary avail, as an individual, which I feel as the highest compliment as an author. I declined all these proposals, because the sale of this country produced me as much profil as I desired, and more — far more - than I deserved. But my late heavy losses have made my situation somewhat different, and have rendered it a point of necessity, and even duty, to neglect no means of making the sale of my works effectual to the extrication of my affairs, which can be honorably and honestly resorted to. If, therefore, Mr. Carey, or any other publishing gentleman, of credit and character, should think it worth while to accept such an offer, I am willing to convey to him the exclusive right of publishing the Life of Napoleon, and my future works in America, making it always a condition, which indeed will be dictated by the publisher's own inierest, that ibis monopoly shall not be used for the purpose of raising the price of the work to my American readers, but only for that of supplying the public at the usual terms.

The terms which I should think proper, would be those usual betwixt the authors and booksellers, viz: half to the former of the clear profits, and if Mr. Carey should be the contracting party, I should think him entitled in equity to retain out of the author's share any sum which he may have paid to the British publishers for an early transmission of prooi-sheets now in progress. I would also be desirous to give full iime

weeks to publish the work in America, before it was published here. I make this proposal the more readily, because I believe that a distinguished American author, for whom, both in his literary and private character, I have the highest respect, has in similar circumstances received the protection of British law, and because the literature of both countries must always remain a common property to both; nor can any thing tend better to support the 'mutual good understanding betwixt the kindred nations, ihan the assimilation of their laws concerning interary property.

At any rate, is what I propose should not be found of force to preveni piracy, I cannot

say

but think, from the generosity and justice of American feeling, that a considerable preference would be given in the market to the editions emanating directly from the publisher selected by the author, and in the sale of which the author had some interest.

If the scheme shall altogether fail, it at least infers no loss, and therefore is, I think, worth the experiment. It is a fair and open appeal to the liberalily, perhaps in some sort to the justice, of a great people; and I think I ought not, in the circumstances, to decline venturing upon it. I have done so manfully and openly, though not perhaps without some painful feelinys, which, however, are more than compensated by heinierest you have taken in this unimportant matter, of which I will not soon lose the recollection.

I am, dear Sir,
With the best thanks for your great kindness,

Your obliged humble servant,
Paris, 2. Necember.}

THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLY. 11826.] Addressed to 'Mr. Cowper, Author of 'The Pioneers,' etc., etc., etc.'

The original letter of Sir Walter Scott, signed 'The Author of Waverly,' and written in his own hand, was given to Mr. Ingraham, as a literary curiosity, by Mr. Henry Carey, and is now in the possession of the former gentleman. The few words of mine, which precede it, were written to establish its authenticity.

Of the result of the plan that is here published, it is unnecessary to say more, than that it failed entirely. But a few explanations seem proper, on account of some confusion in the dates. The letter of Sir Walter Scott is dated Paris, November 26th, the year being omitted. On the 26th November, 1826, agreeably to the diary, he was at Abbotsford. The letter was handed to me, after being signed in my presence, on the sixth of November, 1826, and was forwarded by me to Carey and Lea, on the ninth of the same month. In this letter I am called, 'Mr. Couper, author of the Pioneers, etc. etc.' although my name in the diary is correctly spelled, as it was also in sundry notes and letters received from Sir Walter Scott. The error in the date may be attributed to an ill-digested attempt to preserve his incognito, or it may have been accidental.

The writer of a diary, in the circumstances of Sir Walter Scott, if he do not destroy it while living, is virtually the publisher of that diary. I now appeal to every fair-minded man, let hiin belong to what country he may, whether Sir Walter Scott might not have omitted some of the 'gentle ravishing,' and the 'explosions of French compliments, to give place to a few words in his diary, on the subject of this appeal to a 'great people.

It has been suggested to me, by almost every friend to whom I have mentioned this affair, that it is probable Mr. Lockhart has mutilated the diary of Sir Walter Scott, in the spirit in which he is thought to have reviewed a late work of mine on England. This I do not believe. The diary is incorrect, to my certain knowledge, in a variety of other things, as well as in its dates. I did not breakfast with Sir Walter Scott on the day that I met him at the soirée of the Princess Galitzin, for instance, but the day before; nor do I believe that Mr. Lockhart wrote the review in question. Indeed, I cannot believe the latter, without entertaining the worst possible opinion of his veracity, on more accounts than one. The reviewer goes out of his way to say he did not know of my being in England, etc., while I have given an account of my being at two dinners with Mr. Lockhart, as well as of his introducing me to Mrs. Lockhart. I have understood this supererogatory statement to be an avowal of the editor of the review, that he had no connexion with that particular article; a connexion, by the way, of which every man who is at all scrupulous on the points of truth and decency, would naturally be very anxious of clearing himself.

Enough has probably been said, to show that Mr. Lockhart could not have written

the review, and that he does not wish to be considered its author; but so fair an opportunity offers to rebuke the provincial credulity of a very presuming, and yet a very ignorant, portion of the American reading public, that I cannot refrain from presenting another circumstance, which goes to confirm this impression. With a view to throw discredit on me, and in that strain of audacions falsehood which distinguishes his whole article, the reviewer asserts that a breakfast in London is considered but an equivocal compliment, and is only given to those of whose characters, manners, or social condition, there is some doubt. The review and the diary were in press simultaneously, and their respective proof-sheets must have been under examination at the same time. Now it appears by the latter, that Sir Walter Scott either had company to breakfast himself, when in London, in 1826, or breakfasted out, nearly every day of his two visits, in going to, or returning from, Paris. What is more, he breakfasted at some of the very houses where I breakfasted, and with some of the very same companions. Mr. Lockhart is not so dull a man as to make a blunder so egregious as that connected with these facts. Again: the reviewer ridicuies my observations concerning the inaccuracy of the celebrated description of the cliffs of Dover, by Shakspeare, even perverting my meaning, and my language, in order to do so. It appears, oddly enough, that Sir Walter Scott, in his diary, (November ninth,) has the following words: “The cliff to which Shakspeare gave his immortal name, is, as the world knows, a great deal lower than his description implied. Our Dover friends, justly jealous of the reputation of their cliff, impute this diminution of its consequence to its having fallen in repeatedly since the poet's time. I think it more likely that the imagination of Shakspeure, writing, perhaps, at a period long after he may hare seen the rock, had described it such as he conceived it to have been. Beside, Shakspeare was born in a flat country, and Dover cliff is at least lofty enough to have suggested the exaggerated features to his fancy.' No one can read this, the observations I have made in the book on England, and the reviewer's comments, and then suppose Mr. Lockhart to have had any thing to do with the review. *

I believe this part of Sir Walter Scott's diary to be strictly his own, and I know it to be incorrect, in several particulars, that do not affect myself. One important omission has been exposed, and, I think, proved. As to the opinions, the following fact may establish still more. Sir Walter Scott speaks of the extraordinary acquirements of Madame de Boufflers. This may be true enough; but all that he could know personally on that point, was obtained in an interview of a very few minutes, in a crowded room, and through the medium of a language that he scarcely spoke at all, or understood when spoken !

There is one other indirect allusion to myself in this diary, as the author of the Pilot. * October 21.– Hurried away to see honest Dan Terry's theatre, called the Adelphi,

* This review is said to have been written by one formerly connected with the marine affairs of Great Britain. In a note, speaking of my having objected to Shakspeare's making the gradation of comparison from the ship to the boat, and from the boat to the buoy, in connexion with this very subject, this person says : 'We have taken the trouble of inquiring how the proportion really is, and we are informed, that of a sloop of war, the jolly-boat is, in round numbers, about one sixth of the length of the hull, and the buoy one sixth of the jolly-boat; so that, even in this miserable detail, our nautical critic is absolutely wrong.' By length, this person must mean dimensions, or he means a quibble. The point in discussion was size, as seen from a height, and a rope-yarn a mile long would not be visible at a hundred yards. If this proposition be true, the jolly-boat of a ship of sis hundred tons burtben, must itself be of one hundred tons burthen! It is said to be a poor rule that will not work both ways; 8o we will put this to another test. The dimensions of the jolly-boat of a ship of six hundred tons, are actually about equal to one ton in measurement; and it follows, necessarily, from the reviewer's proposition, that it would hold six hundred buoys! It is scarcely required to tell any man, of two sound ideas, that the distance which would diminish a ship to the apparent size of her boat, would swallow up the latter entirely ; but this fact was much too profound for the sagacity of the contributor of the Quarterly. But the article is unworthy of notice, except as it is connected with the other matters laid before the reader. VOL. XI.

49

where we saw the Pilot, (the drama,) from an American novel of that name. It is extremely popular, the dramatist having seized on the whole story, and turned the odious and ridiculous parts, assigned by the original author to the British, against the Yankees themselves. There is a quiet effrontery in this, that is of a rare and peculiar character. Coming from an ordinary man, I should conceive this opinion unworthy of attention. The novel and the drama are both before the world, and I leave it for gentlemen, English or American, to decide on the spirit and tone of each ; but, just thirteen days after the date of this entry, Sir Walter Scott met the author of the Pilot, and his first words, when the common salutations had been paid, were a compliment on the liberality and courtesy the latter had shown to the English, while, agreeably to an author's privilege, he had maintained the proper ascendency of his own countrymen.

Different individuals will judge the omission pointed out in the diary differently, or according to their several moral temperaments; but, after the evidence that has been given here, I trust no one will accuse me of having exaggerated the nature of the intercourse I had with Sir Walter Scott, during his visit to Paris, in 1826.

Yours, etc.,

J. FENIMORE COOPER.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The Palmyra LETTERS IN ENGLAND. — The last number of the 'London and Westminster' Quarterly Review contains an elaborate critique upon, and very copious extracts from, the 'Palmyra Letters. The reviewer opens his article, by quoting a paragraph from Miss Martineau's 'Society in America,' wherein that clever peripatetic philosopheress refers, in laudatory phrase, to the 'Letters,' and the KNICKERBOCKER, in which they first met her eye, where, with her previous impressions, derived from such specimens of American periodical literature as she had then seen, she says she scarcely expected to find merit so exalted. This strong testimony, it is affirmed, excited a naturai desire in the mind of the reviewer for a nearer acquaintance with a production so highly commended. After remarking that there is ample food for love and admiration in the volumes, he goes on to say, that the style will forcibly remind the reader of Fenelon, by its union of a gentle and peace-loving spirit with the warmest sympathy for the active and energetic virtues; and a striking facility of kindling with the imagination, merely, at the conception of scenes of bloodshed and mortál struggle, is especially noted. Another prominent merit claimed for the 'Letters,' is, that they present, for the first time, a living picture of very ancient scenes and manners. The historical period is most felicitously chosen. During the reign of Nero or Vespasian, and Constantine, Christianity was working itself upward from the poorest and most despised classes, through the whole body of civilized society, while military despotism was in the same time working downward. It is within this space of history, that the episode of Palmyra, that magnificent Venice of the great Syrian desert, occurs; and our correspondent is declared to have been the first writer who has illustrated the era in which the power of Christianity began to be felt, and its under-currents to How, with ever-increasing rapidity, in silent and unseen depths. The great emporium of the commerce of the desert is clothed with the very spirit of poetry and romance. Characters and events are described with great beauty and power, and with strict fidelity to the facts of history, while a strong dramatic interest pervades the entire performance. The reviewer observes, in conclusion, that without being, perhaps, the literary Messiah, which Miss MartinEAU says the American people are looking for, 'there is that in the writer which, in the present state of literature, deserves to be prized most highly, and which entitles him to a most honorable place among the writers, not only of his own country, but of ours, at the present time. We do not refer to his extraordinary power of throwing his own mind, and of making his readers throw theirs, into the minds and into the cir

cumstances of persons who lived far off, and long ago; of making us see things as those persons saw or might have seen them. We give him a higher praise. He is one of the few (and aniong writers of fiction they were never so few as in this age) who can conceive, with sufficient strength and reality to be able to represent, genuine, unforced nobleness of character.' It is an additional title to praise in the author, that he has nobly elevated the character of woman, in such portraitures as those of Zenobia, Fausta, and Julia. This is an imperfect synopsis of the review in question; which we submit to the reader, with the relevant or suggested inquiry, whether he does not perceive, in the matériel shadowed forth, in the 'Letters from Rome,' in the last and preseni number, a field as wide and fruitful for such a reaper, as was occupied so successfully in gathering the rich harvest of the 'Letters from Palmyra ? If the reader does not, we wot who does.

TIE DRAMA.

PARK THEATRE. — Since our last communication on theatrical matters, diverse and interesting have been the doings at this house. The 'Love Chase' has been produced, and many times repeated, to the delight of some, tbe satisfaction of others, and to the regret, we hope, of all who ever placed faith in the genius of the author of the Hunchback. It is too late in the day to attempt a labored criticism of the 'Love Chase. To say that it possesses but few of the beauties of the earlier efforts of Knowles, and many, dery many, of their worst faults, is only to repeat the judgment already bestowed upon it. To Mrs. Shaw's delightful manner, and sprightly acting of the part of 'Constance,' is to be attributed the temporary success of the play. The rest of the characters, although generally well sustained, do not in themselves possess sufficient merit to raise the piece above the inglorious level of mediocrity. In all of the late productions of SHERIDAN Knowles, there is an affected imitation of the quaint style of the old masters, sufficiently palpable to make the judicious grieve;' but which, in the play of the 'Love Chase,' is carried to the extent of flat absurdity. The most common prose sentence, is here, by the simple transposition of words, metamorphosed into what the author no doubt complacently considers an antique model of the true blank verse; and sooth to say, it is indeed of the blankest. Without a poetical thought, without even the dignity of elevated language, string after string of this hallucinated prose is drawn out, and made to express the common-place nothings of the dramatis personæ, as it might be thus:

THE SAME, 'A LITTLE ELEVATED.' It was cloudy this morning at suurise, and if Arose in clouds this morn the moody sun this east wind holds, I should not wonder if we Breathes now the wat'ry orient its sighs, had rain before night ; so, Gertrude, dear, I would Which is suspiriog still its purpose hold, advise you to put on your ludia rubbers, if you Before the evening hour belike 't will rain; are going out.

So, neighbor Gertrude, in the open street
To venture not, by me be well advised,
Without encasement of your tender feet

la water-proof catoutchouc! We are forced to believe that this system of bald charlatanism will, if persisted in, lotally destroy the just effect of whatever real merit the future productions of KnowLES may possess.

A divertisement, dramatized from the 'Pickwick Papers,' has been produced at the Park, with all the bustle and crowd of a heterogenous mass of characters, but without the inimitable comedy which belongs to the original. That arch, faithful, and philosophical wag, Samivel Veller, loses all his piquancy and smariness, and the quiet, good-natured absurdity of the respectable Mr. Pickwick, becomes a vapid piece of stupidity. The sleepy fat boy, as exhibited by Mr. Placide, is the only character which seems unadulturated by the dramatic transformation. The piece is in three acts, and would be much improved by the subtraction of two. After all the characters have once been seen, and each given a taste of his peculiar quality, the fun of the thing is over, and all that follows is necessarily a sort of repetition, which soon becomes dull and tiresome.

PROSE IN A STATE OF SOBRIETY.

« ПредишнаНапред »