« AnteriorContinuar »
unfairly toward the author from whom he has taken so much. The plaintiff opens his case with giving as the whole of this defence of my Father's,—(that it is not the whole will appear in the sequel,)--certain parts of a passage upon Schelling that occurs in the ninth chapter of the Biographia Literaria ; and although, in that passage, the author desires, that, “whatever in this or any future work of his resembles or coincides with the doctrines of his German predecessor though contemporary be wholly attributed to him,” yet he insists that Coleridge has defrauded Schelling of his due, and seeks to support the impeachment on these two grounds, first that very “abseạce of distinct references to his books,” which he himself plainly admits and particularly accounts for ; or, in the accuser's own words, his omission of specific acknowledgments in the instances in which he was indebted to him; secondly, his having affirmed that he had in some sort anticipated the system which he proposed to teach.
Now it must be remarked, by way of preliminary, that no man can properly be said to defraud another, nor ought to be so spoken of, who has not a fraudulent intention : but it never yet has been proved, after all the pains that have been taken to this effect, that Mr. Coleridge intended to deprive Schelling of any part of the honour that rightfully belongs to him, or that he has, by Mr. Coleridge's means, been actually deprived of it, even for an hour. With regard to the first ground of accusation, it is doubtless to be regretted by every friend of the accused, that he should have adopted so important a portion of the words and thoughts of Schelling without himself making those distinct and accurate references, which he might have
known would eventually be required as surely as he succeeded in his attempt to recommend the metaphysical doctrines contained in them to the attention of students in this country. Why did Mr. Coleridge act thus, subjecting himself, as he might well have anticipated, aware as he was of the hostile spirit against his person and principles, that existed in many quarters, to suspicion from the illiberal, and contumelious treatment at the hands of the hard and unscrupulous ? Why he so acted those who best knew him can well understand, without seeing in his conduct evidence of unconscientiousness : they see the truth of the matter to be this, that to give those distinct and accurate references, for the neglect of which he is now so severely arraigned, would have caused him much trouble of a kind to him peculiarly irksome, and that he dispensed himself from it in the belief, that the general declaration which he had made upon the subject was sufficient both for Schelling and for himself. This will be the more intelligible when it is borne in mind, that, as all who knew his literary habits will believe, the passages from Schelling, which he wove into his work, were not transcribed for the occasion, but merely transferred from his note-book into the text, some of them, in all likelihood, not even from his note-book immediately, but from recollection of its contents. It is most probable that he mistook some of these translated passages for compositions of his own, and quite improbable, as all who know his careless
that he should have noted down accurately the particular works and portions of works from which they came.
“ But even with the fullest conviction,” says Archdeacon Hare,“ that Coleridge cannot have been guilty
of intentional plagiarism, the reader will, probably, deem it strange, that he should have transferred half a dozen pages of Schelling into his volume without any reference to their source. And strange it undoubtedly is. The only way I can see of accounting for it is from his practice of keeping note-books or journals of his thoughts, filled with observations and brief dissertations on such matters as happened to strike him, with a sprinkling now and then of extracts and abstracts from the books he was reading. If the name of the author from whom he took an extract was left out, he might easily, years after, forget whose property it was, especially when he had made it in some measure his own, by transfusing it into his own English. That this may happen I know from experience, having myself been lately puzzled by a passage which I had translated from Kant some years ago, and which cost me a good deal of search, before I ascertained that it was not my own."?
My Father says himself, in the ninth chapter of this work, "I have not indeed (eheu! res angusta domi!) been hitherto able to procure more than two of his books, viz. the first volume of his collected Tracts, and his System of Transcendental Idealism; to which, however, I must add a small pamphlet against Fichte, the spirit of which was to my feelings painfully incongruous with the principles, and which (with the usual allowance afforded to an antithesis) displayed the love of wisdom rather than the wisdom of love.” From this pamphlet (entitled Darlegung &c. Exposition of the true relation of the Philosophy of Nature to the
? From Mr. Hare's defence of Coleridge in the British Magazine of January 1835, pp. 20, 21.
improved doctrine of Fichte,) he had just cited a striking passage, and it is represented as strangely disingenuous, that he should have given that extract merely
“observations from a contemporary writer of the continent," without specifying the particular work from which it was taken, or even the writer's name. So indeed it may appear on an examination undertaken ostensibly for the love of wisdom, but a still closer one, conducted in the wisdom of love, will convince any reader that there was as little of self-regard in this transaction as of accuracy. At that stage of his work, at which the citation is made, my Father had not yet introduced Schelling to his readers, readers unacquainted, as he doubtless imagined, with the German philosopher and his writings. He immediately proceeds, however, to give an account of the authors whom he successively studied, when he had “found no abiding place for his reason” in the “schools of Locke, Berkeley, Leibnitz, and Hartley;" and then, after doing honour to Kant and justice to Fichte, he speaks of Schelling by name, and mentions every work of his to which he ever owed anything. The “ Vorlesungen über die Methode des Academischen Studium,” which, as well as the Darlegung, is mentioned as containing the word In-eins-bildung, the original, as is supposed, of his “esemplastic,” he never possessed and probably never saw. In mentioning the pamphlet against Fichte he, naturally enough, described its general character, and probably either forgot, while he was so doing, that from this same work his previous citation had been made, or felt that for readers,
3 See vol. i. p. 146. Of the use made by the writer in Bl. of this passage I shall have to speak again further on.
to whom the very name of Schelling was new, such particularity as that of reciting its long title, and referring to it the passage he had brought forward, was superfluous.
Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur was one of the works of Schelling which my Father had not in his possession, when he composed the Biographia Literaria, and it is remarked that he entitled it Schelling's Natur-Philosophie !—that he had presumed to contract the proper name of a book he had once read, from its fuller form in the title-page, to that abridged one, which it probably wore upon its back. No comment is made, indeed, upon this important fact, but that is supplied by the strain of the article.
His accuser urges against him that he did not elaborate over again what he had borrowed and thus make it, in some sense, his own. It is not easy to see how that which is borrowed can ever, strictly speaking, become the property of the borrower, so as to cease to be that of the original possessor; the new form in which he invests it, or the fresh matter which he engrafts upon it, will be his, but the debt to him who has furnished the substance, in the one case, or the nucleus, in the other, is not cancelled because of these additions, and honesty as well as gratitude would equally require its acknowledgment, though the obligation will be less apparent to the general reader. And surely if there had been any design of appropriating in my Father's mind, he would have sought to make the borrowed passages appear his own, by change of expression at least. It has been well said of the genuine Plagiary that his
“easy vamping talents lies First wit to pilfer, then disguise.”