Imágenes de páginas

This is the plan which all crafty plagiarists adopt; this is the way in which numberless writers have dealt with my Father himself, the major part of them, however, not craftily or selfishly, but doubtless unawares to themselves; there being far less of conscious, far more of unconscious, plagiarism among authors than the world is apt to suppose. But Coleridge repeated the very words of Schelling, and in so doing made it an easy task for the German to reclaim his own, or for the dullest wight that could read his books to give it him back again. Must he not have been careless of the meum at least as much as of the tuum, when he took whole pages and paragraphs, unaltered in form, from a noted author-whose writings, though unknown in this country, when he first brought them forward, were too considerable in his own to be finally merged in those of any other man,-at the same time that he was doing all that in him lay to lead Englishmen to the study of that author, and was referring readers to his works both generally, and in some instances, and those the most important, particularly ? From his accuser's blustering conclusion, — “Plagiarism, , like murder, will out!” it might be supposed that Mr. Coleridge had taken pains to prevent his "plagiarisms ” from coming out,—that with the “stealthy pace” of the murderer he had “ moved towards his design like a ghost.” Verily, if no man ever tried to murder an author's good name with more of malice prepense than he to steal one, the literary world would be freer from felonious practices than it is at present.4

4 " Of a truth,” says Mr. Hare, “ if he had been disposed to purloin, he never would have stolen half a dozen pages from the head and front of that work of Schelling's which was

One of the largest extracts my Father accompanies with these words in a parenthesis (See Schell. Abhandl. zur Erlaüter, des Id. der Wissenschaftslehre.) “But from this reference,” asks the censor, “would not a reader naturally deduce the inference that C. was here referring to Schelling in support of his own views, and not literally translating and appropriating the German's?"

There are some who have eyes to see and microscopically too, but only in certain directions. To those whose vision is more catholic I address the plain question, Did not my Father say fully enough to put every reader of a studious turn, every reader able to take up his philosophical views in earnest,—(and to whom else were these borrowed

passages more than strange words, or Schelling's claims of the slightest consequence ?)into the way of consulting their original source? The longer extracts are all either expressly acknowledged, as that from the Darlegung in chap. ix. and that beginning at p. 255; or taken from the Transcendental Idealism, which he speaks of more than once, or from the above-mentioned treatise, of which he gives the long title.

the likeliest to fall into his reader's hands; and the first sentence of which one could not read without detecting the plagiarism. Would any man think of pilfering a column from the porch of St. Paul's ? The high praise which Coleridge bestows on Schelling would naturally excite a wish in such of his readers as felt an interest in his philosophy, to know more of the great German. The first books of his they would take up would be his Natur-Philosophie and his Transcendental Idealism ; these are the works which Coleridge himself mentions; and the latter, from its subject, would attract them the most.”— Brit. Mag. of 1835, p. 20.

5 See p. 255.

Most of these extracts the Writer in Blackwood refers, not to the treatise, which my Father did name, but to the collection at large-the Philosophische Schriften-which it so happened that he did not; and moreover he asserts, that it would be next to impossible for a reader to find the tract referred to by this same long title, for that it is “buried among a good many others in Schelling's Phil. Schrift." of which it occupies 137 pages out of 511-as if it could not possibly enter his head or the head of


bookseller that he might employ, to look for it in the “volume of Schelling's collected Tracts” which my Father speaks of in chapter ix. If the works of Schelling were as good as dead and buried for all here, that was not through any fault of his ; had he named every one of their titles at full length, and given an abstract of all they contained, the bill of fare, at that time, would have attracted no guests. Grill would be Grill, and have his unmetaphysic mind.

Fairly considered his conduct in this matter does but help to prove the truth of his assertion, that he “regarded Truth as a divine ventriloquist, not caring from whose mouth the sounds are supposed to proceed, if only the words are audible and intelligible.”

The Writer in Blackwood, however, takes a very different view of it: he rather supposes the true interpretation of my Father's conduct to be that he would have nothing ascribed to Schelling, which appeared in the works of both, though he desires that everything may be, and that this expression was used to provide a refuge for himself, should he ever be discovered to have “cabbaged from his works ad libitum.The

66 style of these strictures resembles the reasoning ; things look rough and coarse on the wrong side, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]



the reasoning they contain is of that kind, which turns things wrong side out. It represents my Father's apology as being penned under a notion that he should gain credit for the transcendentalism contained in his book, while at the same time no comparison betwixt his writings and those of the original transcendentalist would for years, if ever, be made. was the fact that for years his obligations to Schelling were not discovered ; but it is ridiculous to suppose that he calculated on this, with the amount of those obligations distinctly present to his mind, for this could only have happened through the failure of the attempt he was making to interest his countrymen in the transcendental system. When a doctrine comes into credit, in days like these, the first teacher of it is as soon discovered as the lake that feeds the glittering brook and sounding waterfall is traced out, when they have gained the traveller's eye. It is not true, that to the end of his life my father enjoyed the credit of originality : originality was not denied him, simply because he had no enjoyment and no credit.

The fact is, that these “borrowed plumes ” drest him out but poorly in the public eye, and Sir Walter Scott made a just observation on the fate of the Biographia Literaria, when he said that it had made no impression upon the public. Instead of gaining reputation as a metaphysical discoverer, at the expense of Germany, the author was generally spoken of as an introducer of German metaphysics into this country, in which light he had represented himself;-a man of original power, who had spoiled his own genius by devoting himself to the lucubrations of foreigners. It is the pleasure of the Writer in Blackwood to give him a vast metaphysical reputation, founded on the Biographia

[ocr errors]

Literaria, and, at the end of one of his paragraphs, he implies, that the passages taken from Schelling had been “paraded for upwards of twenty years as specimens of the wonderful powers of the English philosopher.” Some, perhaps, have been weary enough of hearing him called wonderful,—but the friends of Coleridge well know, that the work was generally neglected till the author's name began to rise by various other means; and that although passages of his writings have been often quoted of late years, and some in the B. L. have been in the mouths of


while the book itself was in the hands of a very few, yet that the transcendental portions of it were unknown to his admirers in general, till some of them, after his decease, were declared to be the property of Schelling in Tait's Magazine. If the transcendentalism adopted in the Biographia be a jewel of great price, no gem lodged in a dark unfathomed cave of ocean was ever more unseen and unknown than this was for many a year. In making an estimate of a man's intellectual wealth we cannot abstract the influence upon his thoughts of other thinkers, precedent or contemporary; but all Mr. Coleridge's direct debts to the great Transcendentalist may be refunded, and whatever obligations reflective men of this age have felt and acknowledged that they owe to him, the sum of them will not be sensibly diminished.

In other quarters Mr. Coleridge has been accused of denying his obligations to Schlegel ; yet he never denied having borrowed those illustrations and detached thoughts, which are brought forward in support of the charge. His words on the subject neither say nor imply, in assertion of his originality, more than this, that, in his first course of lectures, which



« AnteriorContinuar »