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Need to buy a hookah link Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2021-09-27 21:46:25
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The novels of a man possessed of so singular a mind must themselves be very strange — and they are strange. It has generally been his object to write down some abuse with which he has been particularly struck — the harshness, for instance, with which paupers or lunatics are treated, or the wickedness of certain classes — and he always, I think, leaves upon his readers an idea of great earnestness of purpose. But he has always left at the same time on my mind so strong a conviction that he has not really understood his subject, that I have ever found myself taking the part of those whom he has accused. So good a heart, and so wrong a head, surely no novelist ever before had combined! In storytelling he has occasionally been almost great. Among his novels I would especially recommend The Cloister and the Hearth. I do not know that in this work, or in any, that he has left a character that will remain; but he has written some of his scenes so brightly that to read them would always be a pleasure.

Of Thackeray I will speak again when I record his death.

Upon this I consented to undertake the duty. My terms as to salary were those which he had himself proposed. The special stipulations which I demanded were: firstly, that I should put whatever I pleased into the magazine, or keep whatever I pleased out of it, without interference; secondly, that I should, from month to month, give in to him a list of payments to be made to contributors, and that he should pay them, allowing me to fix the amounts; and, thirdly, that the arrangement should remain in force, at any rate, for two years. To all this he made no objection; and during the time that he and I were thus bound together he not only complied with these stipulations, but also with every suggestion respecting the magazine that I made to him. If the use of large capital, combined with wide liberality and absolute confidence on the part of the proprietor, and perpetual good humour, would have produced success, our magazine certainly would have succeeded.

And yet when I think how little I knew of Latin or Greek on leaving Harrow at nineteen, I am astonished at the possibility of such waste of time. I am now a fair Latin scholar — that is to say, I read and enjoy the Latin classics, and could probably make myself understood in Latin prose. But the knowledge which I have, I have acquired since I left school — no doubt aided much by that groundwork of the language which will in the process of years make its way slowly, even through the skin. There were twelve years of tuition in which I do not remember that I ever knew a lesson! When I left Harrow I was nearly at the top of the school, being a monitor, and, I think, the seventh boy. This position I achieved by gravitation upwards. I bear in mind well with how prodigal a hand prizes used to be showered about; but I never got a prize. From the first to the last there was nothing satisfactory in my school career — except the way in which I licked the boy who had to be taken home to be cured.

In writing these pages, which, for the want of a better name, I shall be fain to call the autobiography of so insignificant a person as myself, it will not be so much my intention to speak of the little details of my private life, as of what I, and perhaps others round me, have done in literature; of my failures and successes such as they have been, and their causes; and of the opening which a literary career offers to men and women for the earning of their bread. And yet the garrulity of old age, and the aptitude of a man’s mind to recur to the passages of his own life, will, I know, tempt me to say something of myself — nor, without doing so, should I know how to throw my matter into any recognised and intelligible form. That I, or any man, should tell everything of himself, I hold to be impossible. Who could endure to own the doing of a mean thing Who is there that has done none But this I protest:— that nothing that I say shall be untrue. I will set down naught in malice; nor will I give to myself, or others, honour which I do not believe to have been fairly won. My boyhood was, I think, as unhappy as that of a young gentleman could well be, my misfortunes arising from a mixture of poverty and gentle standing on the part of my father, and from an utter want on my part of the juvenile manhood which enables some boys to hold up their heads even among the distresses which such a position is sure to produce.

For a few days the whole family bivouacked under the Colonel’s hospitable roof, cared for and comforted by that dearest of all women, his wife. Then we followed my father to Belgium, and established ourselves in a large house just outside the walls of Bruges. At this time, and till my father’s death, everything was done with money earned by my mother. She now again furnished the house — this being the third that she had put in order since she came back from America two years and a half ago.

I fancied that I knew that the opposition to an international copyright was by no means an American feeling, but was confined to the bosoms of a few interested Americans. All that I did and heard in reference to the subject on this further visit — and having a certain authority from the British Secretary of State with me I could hear and do something — altogether confirmed me in this view. I have no doubt that if I could poll American readers, or American senators — or even American representatives, if the polling could be unbiassed — or American booksellers, 13 that an assent to an international copyright would be the result. The state of things as it is is crushing to American authors, as the publishers will not pay them a liberal scale, knowing that they can supply their customers with modern English literature without paying for it. The English amount of production so much exceeds the American, that the rate at which the former can be published rules the market. it is equally injurious to American booksellers — except to two or three of the greatest houses. No small man can now acquire the exclusive right of printing and selling an English book. If such a one attempt it, the work is printed instantly by one of the leviathans — who alone are the gainers. The argument of course is, that the American readers are the gainers — that as they can get for nothing the use of certain property, they would be cutting their own throats were they to pass a law debarring themselves from the power of such appropriation. In this argument all idea of honesty is thrown to the winds. It is not that they do not approve of a system of copyright — as many great men have disapproved — for their own law of copyright is as stringent as is ours. A bold assertion is made that they like to appropriate the goods of other people; and that, as in this case, they can do so with impunity, they will continue to do so. But the argument, as far as I have been able to judge, comes not from the people, but from the bookselling leviathans, and from those politicians whom the leviathans are able to attach to their interests. The ordinary American purchaser is not much affected by slight variations in price. He is at any rate too high-hearted to be affected by the prospect of such variation. It is the man who wants to make money, not he who fears that he may be called upon to spend it, who controls such matters as this in the United States. It is the large speculator who becomes powerful in the lobbies of the House, and understands how wise it may be to incur a great expenditure either in the creation of a great business, or in protecting that which he has created from competition. Nothing was done in 1868 — and nothing has been done since (up to 1876). A Royal Commission on the law of copyright is now about to sit in this country, of which I have consented to be a member; and the question must then be handled, though nothing done by a Royal Commission here can effect American legislators. But I do believe that if the measure be consistently and judiciously urged, the enemies to it in the States will gradually be overcome. Some years since we had some quasi private meetings, under the presidency of Lord Stanhope, in Mr. John Murray’s dining-room, on the subject of international copyright. At one of these I discussed this matter of American international copyright with Charles Dickens, who strongly declared his conviction that nothing would induce an American to give up the power he possesses of pirating British literature. But he was a man who, seeing clearly what was before him, would not realise the possibility of shifting views. Because in this matter the American decision had been, according to his thinking, dishonest, therefore no other than dishonest decision was to be expected from Americans. Against that idea I protested, and now protest. American dishonesty is rampant; but it is rampant only among a few. It is the great misfortune of the community that those few have been able to dominate so large a portion of the population among which all men can vote, but so few can understand for what they are voting.

Ayala's Angel,..... 1881


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