Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

typed. A copyright law which should embrace any of these works, might injuriously affect American publishers, and lead to collision and ligitation between them and foreign authors.

፡፡ Acting, then, on the principles of prudence and caution, by which the committee have thought it best to be governed, the bill which the committee intend proposing provides that the protection which it secures shall extend to those works only which shall be published after its passage. It is also limited to the subjects of Great Britain and France; among other reasons, because the committee have information that, by their laws, American authors cán obtain protection for their productions; but they have no information that such is the case in any other foreign country. But, in principle, the committee perceive no 'objection to considering the republic of letters as one great community, and adopting a system of protection for literary property which should be common to all parts of it. The bill also provides that an American edition of the foreign work for which an American copyright has been obtained, shall be published within reasonable time.

"If the bill should pass, its operation in this country would be to leave the public, without any charge for copyright, in the undisturbed possession of all scientific and literary works published prior to its passage-in other words, the great mass of the science and literature of the world; and to entitle the British or French author only to the benefit of copyright in respect to works which may be published subsequent to the passage of the law.

"The committee cannot anticipate any reasonable or just objection to a measure thus guarded and restricted. It may, indeed, be contended, and it is possible, that the new work, when charged with the expense incident to the copyright, may come into the hands of the purchaser at a small advance beyond what would be its price, if there were no such charge; but this is by no means certain. It is, on the contrary, highly probable that, when the American publisher has adequate time to issue carefully an edition of the foreign work, without incurring the extraordinary expense which he now has to sustain to make a hurried publication of it, and to guard himself against dangerous competition, he will be able to bring it into the market as cheaply as if the bill were not to pass. But, if that should not prove to be the case, and if the American reader should have to pay a few cents to compensate the author for composing a work by which he is instructed and profited, would it not be just in itself? Has any reader a right to the use, without remuneration, of intellectual productions which have not yet been brought into existence, but lie buried in the mind of genius? The committee think not; and they believe that no American citizen would not

feel it quite as unjust, in reference to future publications, to appropriate to himself their use, without any consideration being paid to their foreign proprietors, as he would to take the bale of merchandise, in the case stated, without paying for it; and he would the more readily make this trifling contribution, when it secured to him, instead of the imperfect and slovenly book now often issued, a neat and valuable work, worthy of preservation,

"With respect to the constitutional power to pass the proposed bill, the committee entertain no doubt, and congress as before stated, has acted on it. The constitution authorises congress "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." There is no limitation of the power to natives or residents of this country. Such a limitation would have been hostile to the object of the power granted. That object was to PROMOTE the progress of science and useful arts. They belong to no particular country, but to mankind generally. And it cannot be doubted that the stimulus which it was intended to give to mind and genius, in other words, the promotion of the progress of science and the arts, will be increased by the motives which the bill offers to the inhabitants of Great Britain and France.

"The committee conclude by asking leave to introduce the bill which accompanies this report."

It is unnecessary to copy the bill, which in a few words seeks to give effect to the views of the committee.

ART. XI.-The Great Metropolis. By the author of "Random Recollections of the Lords and Commons." In two volumes. Vol. I., second edition. London and New York: 1837.

The second volume of the work before us is exclusively devoted to the subject of the newspaper press and periodical literature of London. This is the most interesting part of the book, but at present we shall not notice it farther than may be necessary in making a few remarks upon the literary merits of the author; confining ourselves principally to the first volume, in which the range of subjects treated is wider, although not very extensive.

Mr. Grant, before known quite generally and favourably by his "Random Recollections of the Lords and Commons," is, or was, a reporter for one of the London newspapers. Of course, he has been conversant with many of the scenes and subjects of which he writes. The parliamentary reporting corps of the daily press have been jocularly called "The Fourth Estate;" certainly they are much superior, both as regards their organization and the character of the persons employed, to any kindred establishment in the world. Many of the most eminent literary men of "the Great Metropolis" have commenced their career as reporters, and some of them have long laboured in that avocation. We will quote a few paragraphs on this subject from the work in hand.

"Some of the reporters at present in the gallery are well known in the literary world. Mr. O'Dwyer, of 'The Morning Herald,' has written several works which have been well received by the public. Mr. Charles Dickens, the author of 'Sketches by Boz' and the 'Pickwick Club,' is a reporter on the establishment of The Morning Chronicle.' Mr. Hazlitt, son of the late celebrated William Hazlitt, who has just published the 'Life and Correspondence of his Father,' is also a reporter on 'The Morning Chronicle.

66 Among the reporters of a previous period are to be numbered some of the most distinguished men which the country has produced. Dr. Johnson was among the earliest reporters of the debates in parliament; he was any thing, according to his own admission, but a fair reporter. He says that, in reporting the debates in parliament, he always 'took care that the whig rascals should not have the best of the argument." This is tantamount to saying that he purposely weakened the arguments of the whigs, and improved those of the tories-which argued a great want of principle. It is fortunate the doctor did not attempt to write the history of his country: a pretty concealment, and colouring, and mutilation, we should, in that case, have had of it. The lexicographer's reports appear to have been very laboured; there is about them all the pomposity which we see in all the works which have emanated from his pen. He preserves none of the peculiarities in the style of the different speakers he reported, but makes them all speak alike: in other words, the doctor makes them all speak as he himself was accustomed to write. He reports the speeches of Lord Lyttleton, Mr. Pulteney, Lord Chatham, Horace Walpole, and other eminent men, in such a way as if all their speeches had proceeded from the mouth of one person-though every body knows that they thought and expressed themselves as differently from each other as it was possible for men to do.

"Many of the best known authors in cotemporary literature have also been parliamentary reporters. Among the number may be mentioned the late Sir James Macintosh, Allan Cunningham, Mr. S. C. Hall, editor of 'The New Monthly,' and Mr. Jerdan, the editor of 'The Literary Gazette.' Of persons holding important offices, or who are distinguished at the English bar, that have been in the gallery, I may name Mr. Justice Dowling, of New South Wales; Sir John Campbell, the attorney-general; Mr. Stevens, one of the masters in chancery; Mr. Serjeant Spankie, and Mr. Sidney Taylor. Almost all the editors of the daily papers have been reporters: Mr. Barnes, of 'The Times;' Mr. Black, of The Morning Chronicle;' Mr. Biddleston, of 'The Morning Post; Mr. Anderson,

(

of 'The Morning Advertiser;' and Mr. Stevens, of 'The Public Ledger;" have been in the gallery. Mr. Sidney Taylor, of The Morning Herald,' I have already mentioned as having been a reporter. Almost all the sub-editors of the daily papers have also been reporters. Mr. Bacon, of The Times; Mr. Haines, of The Herald; Mr. Fraser, of The Chronicle;' Mr. Francis, of 'The Post;' and Mr. Harwood, of 'The Ledger,' are among the number. Of the gentlemen connected with the evening papers, who have been reporters, it is unnecessary to speak." Vol. II. pp. 226-229.

Certain it is, that the literary habits of newspaper editors and reporters are not favourable to the formation of a correct and polished style. At the same time we agree, entirely, with the author in admiring the wonderful excellence of English newspaper articles-wonderful, because of the circumstances of hurry and interruption under which they are produced. Dr. Johnson's reports were laboured, and the characteristics of a style already formed were infused into them; but we venture to say, that if the doctor had acquired his style from the habit of reporting-at least, under the reporting system of the present day he never would have been distinguished as a correct writer. It is true that he composed very rapidly, and knew little of the lima labor; but, in earlier life, he had always been careful to speak and write with extreme correctness, even at the expense of being slow. We should suppose that Mr. Grant had formed his style in "the gallery," and, from the hurry and bustle of his avocation, had never been accustomed to that careful revision of his labour, which Dr. Johnson's early habits of correctness had rendered unnecessary in his case. Almost any part of the work before us would appear polished and handsomely written in the ephemeral pages of a newspaper, where they would not undergo much scrutiny-the reader's object being rather to know what was said of passing events, than how it was said; but it is very evident, even from the short extract which we have already copied, that there is a great deficiency of neatness and elegance in Mr. Grant's style. Even grammatical errors are not infrequent, and every page is crowded with offences against good taste. This has been the character of all his writings, and there can be little wonder that such is the case, when we consider the rapidity with which one volume has followed another from under his prolific pen.

In his first work, "Random Recollections of the House of Commons," Mr. Grant subscribes himself "one of no party," but in no instance has he been able to preserve the incognito. His whig principles peep out from a thousand rents in their covering-in fact, we begin to doubt whether he really wishes to appear neutral. Yet, notwithstanding these frequent and unguarded expressions of opinion, he speaks of party men and measures with more impartiality than might be expected from

one whose habits of thought and feeling must have been formed in the very arena of political strife.

Our author is accused, and with justice, of making many inaccurate statements. We, of course, are not able to judge, in regard to this point, so well as his own countrymen; but, nevertheless, even we could point out unfounded assertions, not a few, and may have occasion, further on, to advert to some of them. The author tells us in his preface, that, "in his anxiety to procure correct information on the various subjects he has treated, he has, in several instances, visited places, and mixed with classes of men, before unknown to him." According to his own showing, then, his opinions and statements must sometimes be advanced on the strength of a very limited personal experience; and it would be well if he had not made assertions resting on still slighter foundations.

In many of his "Scenes," Mr. Grant is particularly happy. Some of the best are contained in the chapter headed "Parliamentary Reporting." There is a life and force in these delineations, which every reader must admire.

"Random Recollections of the House of Commons" was, as we have said, the first work in which this author appeared before the public. He was well received. There was a vivid freshness in many of his sketches which gave interest to the whole volume, though some parts of his subject (such, for example, as the formal rules and regulations of the house) were rather unmanageable in a book intended for general readers., The flattering reception which thus met his first attempt, gave a new impulse to his pen, and in a very short time appeared his "Random Recollections of the House of Lords." This volume was less successful than its predecessor. It was, probably, written in a hurry, under the excitement produced by popular favour. Besides, the subject was less interesting. It was impossible to impart that life and expression to details of the formal and dignified deliberations of the peers, which seemed natural to a description of scenes in the hall of the representative "mob." The character, too, of the grave and haughty lord, is not so interesting as that of the boisterous and factious popular leader. In short, Mr. Grant's second attempt, though not an utter failure, did not materially increase his credit with the public.

"The Great Metropolis," take it as a whole, we like better than either of his former works. But, as yet, he has written nothing which can yield him a lasting fame. The composition of these books has, apparently, cost him little labour, and their existence must be ephemeral.

Mr. Grant avoids both the minute details of the guide-book, and the superficial sentimentality of the traveller, or foreign

« ÎnapoiContinuați »