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VOL. VIII.-AUGUST, 1856.—NO. XLIV.
" There n'is no new guise that it n'as olde.”
a late number of Frazer's Maga- Walter Scott's romances and tales. We
zine there is a detection of Lytton are anxious to know if any one, who ever Bulwer's pilferings from Sterne, show- felt the charm of Ivanhoe and the Talising that several characters in the Cax man, has been able to read through tons are imitations of those in Tristram “Harold” and the Last of the Barons." Shandy. The baronet's attempt was And mark how, even in the titles of his rather daring, seeing that Sterne is still books, the man of genius differs from read and remembered.
But the ex the others, who blazon on their titleposure is complete, and, in going through pages the very grandest names and it, the reader cannot fail to observe in styles wbich the historic theme affords the parallel passages the contrast of Philip Augustus, Field of the Cloth the delicate and graceful style of the of Gold, Harold, Charles the Bold, prebendary and the clumsy cacology of William the Conqueror, and so forth. Sir Edward, whose manner of writing, Woodstock, the Abbot, Kenilworth, in general so full of palpable effort and present the finest and loftiest hisaffectation, is among the worst to be torio scenes, in the most admirable met with anywhere.
subserviency to the trame of the story, The success of Bulwer is the most and the action of its persons. Scott remarkable triumph of industrious me never works beyond the circle of his diocrity in literature. He is an author genuine feelings. Others exercise their of the composite kind, owing all he has ideas in dead civilizations or dead | achieved less to the force of his own cities. He never moves without his genius than to his voluble facility of genius and his heart. In France he imitating others. We can trace his finds himself drinking, fighting, and high-life mode and tone to the aris- marching with his canny Scots. In tocratic style of Horace Walpole and Constantinople he flushes and drinks Lord Byron, his moral sentiments to the ale with his gallant Varangians of the German and French schools of moral North Sea. But there is no need to ists, and his historic effects to the melo- dwell on these things, at this time of drama of Dumas and other masters of that day. genre à la mode et détesta le, instead of
We meant to talk of plagiarism-not to the true and fine-grouped characters of
of Bulwer, who, after all, is only one VOL. VIII.-8
of the plagiarists with which literature is may not be an idle amusement, if it swarming Sterne himself caught a might lead us to an idea that, in the good deal of his humor from Rabelais finest and most effective kinds of literaand others; but we must give him due ture, there is no such great need, after credit for Uncle Toby-in whom he has all, of what is original, far-fetched, completely left the track of the ante- flashing, or surprising, and that the cedents, dramatic or other, which pre mind of man, like nature herself, can sent the miles gloriosus, Pistol, Parolles, produce its strongest and most graceful Bobadil, and the rest-all thrasonical effects from the common feelings and and laughable men of war. We do not thoughts, such as lie nearest our hands, know whether we can call Sterne's idea, , or have proved their value in the course of the mimic fortress beseiged, a pla- of time and changes of things. giarism. But it is certainly not original. Imitation meets us everywhere, in In 1674, Maestricht, with its palisades, books, and most in those one would think bulwarks, bastions, half-moons, and most original. But what of that? The ravelins, was again taken by the French, schoolboy is not troubled to think Robinin a meadow near Windsor Castle, son Crusoe is not perfectly original, but Charles II. looking on, while his brother is an idea which, for five or six hundred James and his son, the Duke of Mon years, delighted men and little boys mouth, conducted all the 'currents of before De Foe's time. The conception, the leaguer. Indeed, to any one who like a great many other good things, reads attentively, plagiarism or imita belonged to the Arabs, whom we are tion would seem to be the law of literary apt to style robbers, and whom we have progress and excellence; and we are robbed of many of their inventions. In disposed to accept it as such, instead of the eleventh century, Avincenna feigned objurgating it. It is a great fact, and à child placed on a lonely island, and we may as well make the best of it, in arriving by degrees at a knowledge of a philosophical way:
everything. Then, over one hundred It is pleasant, no doubt, to our savage years later, another oriental, Ebn Topminded critics, to find out the convey- hail, wrote his Hai Eben Yokdan, a ances of others," the wise call it con charming story of an infant suckled on vey'-of their contemporaries, especi an island by a roe, growing up in a ally; and they seem to have ample room savage way, gathering ideas and comand verge enough for their characters ing to his sagacity, by right divine of of disparagement. But, after all, it nature, as it were. De Foe, in the hapcannot be said plagiarism is a sign of piest manner, reproduced and modified weakness. Shakespeare and Burns are the fancy, and gave to the West the roamong those who have laid must de mance of the East. termined hands on the modes and Then, as to the twin-book, Gulliver's thoughts of others. In this matter the Travels—the fancy of it is very old. distinction is everything. When a Swift got his most suggestive ideas of writer improves what he appropriates, it from the writings
of the impulsive and we ought to praise or absolve him. It satiric Cyrano de Bergerac, a Frenchis only when -as in the case of Bulwer man, who wrote half a century before
- the man who catches his butterfly one of those happy wits from whom spoils or disfigures it, that we are disa people are so fond of plagiarizing. It posed to turn out the rough side of our was from him that Moliere (who pil. criticism. Good writers assimilate their fered his Amphitryon où l'on dine from takings; and that process of assimilation Rotrou) got the well-known phrase : from a variety of things is one of the Que diable allait-il faire dans cette laws of nature. When an author galère ? Cyrano wrote the history of transmutes a thought, so as to present the sun and moon, to ridicule the it in a new light, or with a new grace, philosophies and credulities of his age, he may fairly pass it as his own, and and the theories of Gassendi and others, we should receive it as such. We find, who speculated about the spheres and indeed, the progress of mind, in all de their inhabitants. He treats philosophy, partments of literature full of repeti- in fact, somewhat as Cervantes treated tions and plagiarisms, and these most chivalry. Desirous of reaching the palpable in the works we most admire. moon, he fastens round him little bottles Perhaps the gleaning of a few curiosi- full of dew, and, by the law of nature, ties of that kind, in prose and poetry, the sun haled (exhaled) him up in the
morning. By means of this mounting other places; and can thus estimate the dew (it was something, by-the-by, very false conclusions of those who think like it which carried Daniel O'Rourke to they trace the Dean's savage misanthro the same place, on a later occasion) he py in his satire. Bergerac was as bitgot into the lunar sphere, where he ter in his own way. Thackeray thinks found the inhabitants, people of eight- Swift especially wicked, for the advice een feet high, going about on all-fours that the Irish landlords, who will not (reminding you of Swift's quadrupeds,) afford the children of the peasantry food and living in the midst of a very beau- enough to live, shall have the little things tiful creation. They show him for a cooked and served up at their tables-a kind of ridiculous monster, and a moun plan which would greatly relieve the tebank takes him about and makes him distress of the poor population! What jump to amuse the lordly quadrupeds. does he say to the Rev. Sydney Smith, A sensible person, a solar visitor, is who talks in the same spirit of the kind to him, and explains that it is the wretched little chimney-sweeps, and habit of the vulgar everywhere to im- asks—what are the agonies of a climbportune and worry foreigners, saying ing-boy in a flue, compared with those that, probably if a lunar went to the of a fine lady whose grand dinner has earth he would pass for an odd creature, been spoiled by the soot? Thackeray among those who knew no better. The cannot understand Swift. solar shows how the moon is prefera But we come back to Cyrano; and ble to the earth, and the conversation is do so to show that he was not the genufull of a sly satire on the terrestrials. ine original of Gulliver, after all. This Bergerac is taken to court and put into is to be found in Lucian's " True Hisa cage with the queen's little beast-one tury." The Greek laughs at the subGonzales, who had previously gone lime old Atlantic theory of Plato, and from earth to the moon, and was now at the periplus-makers. He is blown treated as a monkey. Crowds come to (in his history) to a fine island in the stare at them, and wicked boys pelt ocean, where the rivers are wine and the them with nuts. Cyrano learns the trees are women from the waist upward. language, and hears the lunars dis Thence he is carried in a whirlwind, to puting, with ferocity, as to whether he the moon, where persons riding on vulhas reason or not. They explain his tures take him before king Endymion, erect head (very differently from the then at war with Phæton, king of the Latin poet) as meaning a complaint sun, for the right of colonizing the addressed to heaven for having made morning star. Mounted on a gallant him so miserable—they, the lunars, hold vulture, Lucian joins the lunar army, ing theirs down, to contemplate and en which receives allies from Ursa Major, joy the blessings that lie about them! riding astride on colossal fleas. Big One of the king's daughters falls in love spiders weave the field of battle from with him. He happens to observe that the moon to the morning star. Phæton the earth is not a moon, but a world ; but comes, bringing auxiliaries from the the philosophers downface him, make dog star. Lucian, taken prisoner, athim recant and confess that the earth is tempts to escape, and falls into the sea, only a moon. The moon-folk laugh at where a whale comes up (here the originthe earth-folk for carrying openly the ality of Daniel O'Rourke is rather comweapons that destroy life, and hiding promised) and swallows him. In the things that chiefly maintain it—a piece monster's bowels he finds forests and of criticism which Carlyle adopts in other wonders. Satire, with a dash of Sartor Resartus, where he says the mild extravagance, has a charm for men's man-slayer (soldier) is more honored minds in all ages. Rabelais imitates than the pedagogue. But this is feeble the Greeks-fathers and examples of all compared with the gross raciness of the literary excellence—and is imitated in Frenchman, who also shows the viva- turn by those who come after him. cious fancy of his country, in stating We now consider Don Quixote. The that he had such a smell of moon about idea of it is old, and will be found in the him when he came back to the earth, irreverent pages of Lucian and Aristothat all the dogs began to bark at him. phanes--which last seems to show, In the foregoing, we see the spirit and
“That Socrates himself is virtue's Quixote.” some of the points of Swift's satire, respecting Brobdignag, Laputa and Homer, in his Hymn to Mercury,
turns his godship and other deities into gels, at Whitby, in the seventh century. ridicule. But somewhat nearer home Vondel, the Dutchman, wrote the drama we find that idea of satirizing chivalry, of “Lucifer," and the rebellion in in the verses of the bright and manly Heaven. In the sixth century, St. Chaucer-long before Cervantes was Avitus, bishop of Vienne, in France, born-showing that satiric humor was wrote a poem on the Creation-his more of a native in England than in subjects and style greatly resembling Spain. In Chaucer's time people be those of Milton. He describes the gan to smile at the “derring-do” and beauty of Paradise, and Satan's regret extravagant love of the romances. In and rage to see the happiness of the the “Rime of Sire Thopas,” the knight pair, and makes him swear to destroy it. is made to say :
The resemblance is very great; but it “An elf-quene wol I love, y wis ;
can easily be accounted for by the fact For in this world no woman is
that the book of Genesis and the Worthy to be my make in town; All other women I forsake,
Apocalypse were the guide and inspiraAnd to an elf-quene I me take
tion of both poets. Milton, like ShakesBy dale and eke by down."
peare, seems to have had no hesitation After several stanzas on this theme,
in adopting and poetising whatever idea the jolly host breaks in :
might have struck him in the writings
of others. In Fletcher's * Nice Valour" “No more of this, for Goddes dignitie ! Quod our hoste," etc.
is a song to which the Penseroso has a
certain tone of resemblance : Still later, that tendency to burlesque “Hence all you vain delights, the doings of chivalry was exhibited As short as are your nights in the “ Tournament of Tottenham
Wherein you spend your folly," etc. Green;" doubtless to the satisfaction of The lines in Lycidas, Henry VIII., whose hereditary policy “Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseit was to put down or disparage the
less deep power of his nobles. It would be curi Closed o'er the head of your loved Ly.
cidas ?" ous, after all, if this satiric style should have come from the East, from which seem to have been suggested by an also came the thing satirized—the sys- epitaph written by Turberville (1570), tem of errant-champions going about to on the drowning of Arthur Brooke, a slay enchanters, and redress wrongs. poet, asking where was Arion's dolphin There is in a Persian tale a story of then. Shelley, in Adonais, adopts the Leyfel Molouk, who falls in love with a same expression : portrait, and who goes daringly about
“Where wast thou, mighty mother, when he the world in search of the original—the
lay," etc. portrait, all the while, being that of These imitations are due to the simone of Solomon's wives, who lived ages ple nature of the phraseology; for the before. Be all this as it may, it must question is like one which is vainly be fairly admitted that Don Quixote is asked at ten thousand coronachs, the most original of those works that wherever the custom of these still have charmed the imagination of all the lingers. world. The other famous book, which Byron's lines, rebuking the comseems associated with it, somehow, in plaints of men, in presence of the ruins the mind-the Gil Blas of Le Sage—is of states, are well known : known to be a plagiarism from the Guz “What are our woes and sufferance ? come man d'Alfarache of Aleman and the Life of the Squire d'Obregon of Epinel. The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your Gil Blas is less a French than a Spanish book.
O'er steps of broken thrones and temples, ye
Whose agonies are evils of a day: Coming to Paradise Lost, we find A world is at our feet, as fragile as our clay.' Milton incorrectly boasting of it as a These ideas were nearly expressed by matter unattempted till then, in prose Tasso : or rhyme. The fact that the argument
"The lofty Carthage lieth low; and scarce of it was often represented in the old The vestige of its ruin may be seen acted Mysteries, seems sufficient to Upon the lone shore: cities die and realms ; show that it came a popular and thread
Earth's pomp und pride by sand and weeds
are hid: bare theme to his hands. The Saxon
Yet man deplores that he is mortal bom, monk, Coedmon, sung of the Fallen An O souls, forever craving and superb!"'