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Which Philip Francis hath thus magnified in English:
“ The sons of circumcision may receive
The wondrous tale, which I shall ne'er believe;
That the good Gods enjoy immortal days !" The LITERARY UNIVERSALITY which has now become the design of this all-engrossing institution can no longer be a matter of doubt; or, if it be, we might refer the sceptic to various recent resolutions of the Society,--for they keep up, in due form, the farce of an annual meeting,in which, for the words Useful Knowledge,” the more comprehensive terms “ Useful Literature,” or publications in general “ adapted to the wants and tastes of the various classes of the community,” are substi
These publications such men as Sir Henry Parnell, Mr. Wilbraham, Mr. Otway Cave, and other equally influential Members of Parliament, are found pledging themselves to circulate through their individual circles. Recommendations are also given to the Local Committees to “extend the sphere of the Society's usefulness, by interesting a greater number of persons in its labours;'—to associate to themselves
as many gentlemen, in their respective towns or neighbourhood, as should be willing to subscribe to the Society, or, without subscribing, to promote its views;"—to take measures for extending the circulation of the Society's works;"--and, above all, to promote the formation of “Reading Societies in the country," for the purpose of taking in the Society's publications. It is not possible to measure the extent of influence which such recommendations as these, proceeding from Lord Suffield, Lord Brougham, the Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Fazakerley, Lord Ebrington, Earl Gower, and other noblemen and gentlemen of the first rank and character, must exercise upon those individuals in the country to whom they are addressed ; nor can we require a more decided proof of the power which a society thus organized, and assisted by the great rapidity and certainty of intercourse now established between the metropolis and all parts of the three kingdoms, must necessarily possess, than the single fact, that, within a month after the commencement of the Penny Magazine,” it attained a circulation of one hundred and thirty thousand copies. If this be not A SOCIETY TRADING IN LITERATURE, the language in which we write is, to us, altogether unintelligible.
We do not retract a single observation which we have made on the character and tendency of that Journal. We stated that the Society knew just as much about it as the mandarins of the Celestial Empire. That statement WE REPEAT. The Committee is not a representation of the Society, but a self-constituted body, which fills up vacancies in its own number by its own power of election, without consulting the Society. It may be true, that the proof-sheets are sent, for the sake of formality, to certain members of the Committee.” But who are those certain members ? Are they two, or three, or more? Are they Mr. Knight's ESPECIAL FRIEND and a coadjutor or two, who themselves write either for the “Magazine," or the “ Companion to the Newspaper,” or the “ Penny Cyclopædia,” or the “Library of Entertaining Knowledge ?” Who are the “responsible editors ?” Are they members of the self-constituted Committee ? The “Magazine is called “ The Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Know
ledge," thereby intimating that the work is actually prepared, revised, and corrected under the immediate care of the Lord Chancellor, and the other eminent members of the Society, whose names are usually referred to as being its leading members. But instead of that being the case, we find it now to be admitted, that the “ Penny Magazine” is prepared by appointed editors, of whom the publisher is one, and then revised, or pretended to be revised, by certain members-not even a quorum, of the Committee !
We asserted that the "Penny Magazine is published under the FICTION of its being the property of the Society, whereas, in truth, it is the property of CHARLES Knight and Co.” What is the answer which that gentleman gives to this charge ? An extract from a report which is as follows:-“The publisher, to whom these works are committed, incurs the whole expense of them, including authorship and embellishments, and makes to the Society, in the shape of rent, a payment determined by the sale beyond a given number.” According to our understanding of the law, as well as of the usual practice, if a publisher incur the whole expense of a work, including authorship and embellishments, it is his own.
The copyright is legally the property of him whó purchases and pays for it. Now Mr. Knight does incur the whole expense of the Penny Magazine,” including authorship and embellishments; therefore the “ Penny Magazine" is HIS PROPERTY, and it is a pure INVENTION to say that, under such circumstances, it is the Magazine of the Society.”
"The agreement,” adds the report, “ with the publisher is the same as that made by any other proprietor of copyright, who reserves to himself a páyment for the use of his copyright, and in no way involves the Society in any commercial speculation.” This is perfectly true; but it does not even pretend to assert that the copyright is, or ever was, in the Society. The report is most cunningly drawn up, and leaves the reader to infer, if he likes, that the Society is the proprietor, but there are no words to sustain any such conclusion upon the slightest examination. We are told that the arrangement in question involves the Society in any commercial speculation.” Then whose speculation is the " Magazine ?” Is it not that of Mr. CHARLES KNIGHT ? Are we not correct, therefore, in describing that periodical as NOTHING MORE THAN A BOOKSELLER'S SPECULATION ?”
We have made the amende honorable to Mr. Craik: but we do not the less think the “ Penny Magazine
an abridgment of all sorts of matter, “olla podrida” often of the most contemptible nature. Mr. KNIGHT enumerates “ all the books that have ever been reviewed or epitomized in the 'Penny Magazine'," and from the comparative paucity of these, as compared with the numbers of the publication, he flatters himself that he derives a most triumphant answer to our criticism. Would he have the goodness to favour the public with a list of all the ORIGINAL ARTICLES, that have ever appeared in his penny periodical? Would he perfect his list by adding to it the titles of the books, from which paragraphs have been extracted with or without acknowledgment, and also those of which hundreds of pages have been ÉPITOMIZED, without EVEN ONCE ALLUDING TO THE ORIGINAL ? By confining his catalogue only to those works which have been reviewed or epitomized,” he shelters himself under the miserable subterfuge of
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specifying only those which have been professedly analyzed. But he omits altogether the staple manufacture of the journal, which is composed of shreds and patches gathered from all quarters : of such articles, for instance, as "Organic Remains restored,” “Coal,” the “Zoological Gardens,” the history of the “old Travellers,” descriptions of different countries and public buildings, all compiled, with very little trouble, from books which already exist, though the books so plundered may not have been reviewed or totally epitomized in the Magazine. We take up at random two numbers of this “olla podrida ;” in one we find nearly two columns extracted from “ Crabbe's Parish Register,” and yet Crabbe is not named in Mr. Knight's list, simply because that author's productions were neither epitomized nor reviewed in the worthy successor of the “Thier.” In another, we meet with nearly three columns of matter, descriptive of the mode of “catching turtle,” abridged from Count Lacepède's history of oviparous quadrupeds; and we observe that, in his list, Mr. Knight makes not the most distant allusion to the name of that celebrated naturalist. In the very same number in which the operatives were edified by an account of catching turtle, which we apprehend they very seldom taste, there are long paragraphs extracted from the “North American Review” and “ Henderson's Iceland;" but are these works mentioned in the list? We imagined that Mr. KNIGHT had been more adroit in the use of his weapons, and feel surprised that he should lave laid himself open to an exposé of this unanswerable character.
As to the remark, made in the way of “ a puff indirect," about the value of "
a notice not to be purchased at any price," we believe it to be literally true, simply because nobody would be so simple as to pay any price for a review of his work in the “ Penny Magazine.” Surely Mr. Knight must well know that the opinions of his journal have no weight whatever with any human being who is able and willing to buy a new book! Does he really suppose that any man of ordinary intelligence, who happens to see what is called “ a notice” in the 16 Penny Magazine," does not also, at the same time, very clearly perceive that the said notice is inserted for the sole and exclusive purpose of filling up the columns of that paper ? Certainly we have never observed in it a review that deserved to be so styled, either for the display of talent, taste, learning, or any other qualification which may entitle one writer to criticize the productions of another. SHEER PLAGIARISM, under the pretext of " a notice," is the real object in the contemplation of the publisher; and we cannot understand how even a good review, if any such thing were there, would induce the readers of his compilation to purchase so much as a single copy of the “ Wealth of Nations, ” of
Mundy's Sketches,” the “Commercial Dictionary,” “ Calabria, by a General Officer," or any one of the works which have been “ reviewed or epitomized in the ' Penny Magazine.'
Here then we have a periodical journal of no originality and of very little merit, carried on in the name of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, who receive a RENT FOR THE LOAN OF THAT NAME, and through whose agency a particular FAVOURED PUBLISHER is enabled to push the work into an enormous circulation. We ask whether this is not an unjust interference with the exertions of the Messrs. Chambers of Edinburgh, and other individuals engaged in the trade of periodical literature ? But the grievance, for such it is, by no means stops here.
We perfectly well remember, that some time before the “ Penny Cyclopædia" of the Society was ever thought of, a similar publication had been projected by a respectable man, who was struggling, in a declining trade, to maintain a young family left, by the death of their mother, to his sole care. He proceeded with his plan, but it was too good a thought not to become the PREY OF THE COMMITTEE. They actually had the AUDACITY to issue an advertisement stating their intention to publish a “ Penny Cyclopædia” of their own, and insinuating, in no modest terms, that the rival work was a kind of apocryphal undertaking, which deserved no portion of the public patronage! Really it makes one's blood boil with indignation, when one sees the property of a set of poor orphans trampled under foot in this manner by another trader, who, because he has the name of the Society painted on his signboard, seems to think himself entitled to throw off all the ordinary restraints to which fair rivalry in trade is subject. And yet he talks about THE CHARACTER of a GENTLEMAN!
By the way, the Committee are remarkably elaborate in their prospectus of this “ Cyclopædia.” They profess a particular regard for the voluminous publications already known under that title. “To abridge their contents," says the Prospectus, “ and thus destroy their value, would be unjust; it is therefore intended to recast the whole circle of knowledge; to present, under an alphabetical arrangement, every information that an inquiring person can naturally seek; and to constitute the ' Cyclopædia’ a complete book of reference.' Is not this an attempt to substitute the “Penny Cyclopædia” for the voluminous works referred to, and to perpetuate the very injustice which, in words, they disavow ? Now, what is this process of recasting of which the Report speaks? It is simply cutting up all the Cyclopædias now in existence, and reproducing, in an abridged form, the most popular portion of their contents, interspersed with the spoils of all the new works on geology, astronomy, physics, geography, and the other sciences, as well as the arts, which have been published within the last ten years. The scheme of a new Cyclopædia might be very properly entertained by any private trader, because, if he hoped to succeed in it, he must produce the names of GENTLEMEN of science and literature, distinguished by great attainments, who are capable of giving an original character to every thing they touch, and incapable of descending to the system of UNIVERSAL PLAGIARISM; but with respect to the “ Penny Cyclopædia” the case is very
different. The eternal list of the Committee, displayed upon its wrappers, stands in the place of every other species of guarantee. There they are, supposed to be perpetually superintending every thing, from the description of the steam-engine to the breeding of a kitten; and under this HYPOCRITICAL MANTLE may be concealed an OBSCURE LITERARY DRUDGE who has not a second idea in his head, save what he FILCHES from the British MUSEUM. The trick is too gross to be endured any longer. It reminds us of a poor Spaniard whom we once met in the Gardens of the Tuileries, wrapped in a very fine cloak. An illtimed blast of wind threw the cloak open, and showed that the apparent grandee was destitute even of a shirt underneath.
But of all the encroachments upon the rights of private trade, of which the Society stand guilty, we think that their “ GALLERY OF PORTRAITS” comes out in bold relief as the most FLAGRANT, “The high price of
PRINT-SELLERS OF TIIE KINGDOM.
engravings,” they say in their Report for 1831, "is artificially kept up; and the Committee (those never-ceasing maids of all work !) have conceived that they may render a useful and acceptable service to the public by superintending the preparation of a series of engravings from the portraits of celebrated men, to be accompanied with biographical notices, four of which, of the size of Lodge's Portraits, and as carefully executed, will be sold for about two shillings and sixpence. It is in contemplation, afterwards, to publish engravings from celebrated paintings, with notices of the artists, and the particular work.” The impartial reader must be shocked by the INDECENCY of the comparison, which is here introduced, between the intended portraits of the Society and those which had been already, for some years, in the course of publication by Messrs. Harding and Lepard. It is saying, in other words, “ we shall give four portraits, quite as large as Lodge's Portraits, and executed with equal skill, for about a fourth of the price which the proprietors of that series charge for one.” Here is an open and avowed attempt by the Society, therefore, to RUIN THE TRADE OF THE MOST EMINENT
The Society do not state that they have no establishment to support—no rent and taxes to pay—no advertisements to meet-no charges for agency in town or country to disburse ---no capital whatever in trade-they leave it to be inferred that they meet Messrs. Harding and Lepard upon equal terms of competition, and that they will, nevertheless, drive them effectually out of the market. And so they will, undoubtedly, if they have not done so already; and not only those respectable merchants, but every other throughout the empire engaged in the same trade.
If the members of the Society, insensible to the voice of justice, and relying upon the political influence which their leaders possess, are shortsighted and obstinate enough to persevere in the improper courses upon which they have been impelled by the SELF-INTERESTED PERSON WHO RENTS THEIR NAME, it would seem, at all events, but reasonable that they should be placed upon the same footing as the other traders, whose rivals they are in spirit as well as in substance. In the year 1832, they obtained a Charter from the king, by virtue of which they are now constituted a body politic and corporate, under the name of the “ for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” having “perpetual succession and a common seal,” and authorized “by the same name to sue and be sued, implead and be impleaded, answer and be answered unto in every court of the king, his heirs and successors.” * By this incorporation, says the Society in their Report of that year, “their transactions will be facilitated, and their purposes materially aided.” Never was any assertion better founded than this, for the effect of the charter is to protect the members of the Society from all pecuniary responsibility whatever, beyond the SOLITARY SOVEREIGN they subscribe, respectively, to the funds of the corporation. If it be true, as unquestionably it must be, that a charter of this description does facilitate and materially aid the transactions of this commercial Society, why should not a similar charter of pecuniary irresponsibility be granted to every private trader in the kingdom who chooses to demand it? Why are the members of the new body politic to be deemed entitled to privileges, which are denied to all others of his Majesty's liege subjects ? Why are they to be shielded by the peculiar favour of the crown, from the necessity of submitting