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The publisher, however, desirous to come to an explanation concerning this matter procured Mr. Mason's address by another channel, and waited
At this conference he proved, first, That it was the immemorial practice of booksellers to take extracts at pleasure, from new públications, and that none amongst them turned this practice to more account than Mr. Mason's bookseller *; and, secondly, that even supposing the act complained of to be an offence, it was hard to single out the
* Mr. Becket in the year 1769 published, at the price of One or Two Shillings, a well-written and popular poem, consisting of about 300 verses, intitled “ An Ode, upon dedicating a Building, “ and erecting a Statue, to Shakespeare : by Mr. Garrick.” Mr. " Dodsley without scruple applied this performance to his own use, by inserting it intire in the Annual Register. Has Mr. Dodney made any compensation for this deliberate act of piracy to the proprietor ? Or has Mr. Becket sought redress for the injury by a Chancery suit? Again, has Mr. Dodsley offered any compensation to Mr. Murray for the different piracies he has committed upon
his books? Or do Mr. Mason and his bookseller assume an exclusive right to appropriate to their respective uses what portion they please of every new literary performance that comes abroad, while they prosecute another person with the utmost severity of the law for taking the same liberty ? Mr. Dodsley takes deliberately every year 1000 verses for the use of his Annual Register with impunity; but the printing of 50 verfcs inadvertently by the present publisher is converted into an heinous trespass, and becomes the ground of a rigorous legal investigation,
present publisher to render legal compensation, who was not the first aggressor, as the book had been printed by others who pretended to no exclusive right in it, long before his edition became extant; nor had he ever previously heard of Mr. Mason's pretentions. But in order to show how little reason the author of Elfrida had particularly to censure him; without entering at all into the practice of the trade on one hand, or the claim of property on the other, he defired Mr. Mason to specify what sum he chose to receive, as compensation for the offence complained of.
The publisher never admitted Mr. Mason's legal right of property in these verses; he is indeed instructed that he possesses none:—but a great deal could not be exacted for fifty lines; and the publisher wished no gentleman of respectable character to iinpute a deliberate injury to him, which he was certainly very far from intending.
Mr. Mason reinained filent to his overture; which the publisher after repeating to him as distinctly as he could, took his leave, imagining he desired time to consider of it.
Such is the faitlful account of this little transaction ; nor will Mr. Mason dispute its authenticity
or exactness. The publisher was a stranger to Mr. Gray's executor, except by reputation. He is unconscious of having failed in the respect due to him; and the value of Mr. Mason's character would not nave suffered diminution, had he been equally disposed to treat the publisher with civility and attention.
It was hardly possible after this equitable procedure, to expect to be troubled with an oppreslive prosecution ; from any man such conduct would have been esteemed ungenerous ; from a clergyman, whose duty it is to sowe peace and good will amongst men, it wears not a more favourable aspect.
Mr. Mason, nevertheless, without further notice, filed a bill in Chancery against the publisher; and retained Mr. Thurloe, Mr. Wedderburn, and Mr. Dunning for his counsel *.
* Mr. Mason sends an agent professedly to require satisfaction or compensation for an infringement of property. Without entering into the merits of this claim, he is desired to prescribe his own terms of redress. In return for this offer, he files a bill in Chancery against the supposed offender, and continues to urge his suit, merely to load the defender with colis ; for he cannot entertain the most distant idea of being awarded damages for an infringement of 50 lines of literarya property, admitting (which is by no means granted) that his claim is justly founded.
Let this behaviour be reconciled to honour, to morality, or (as · Mr. Mason is in holy orders to the practice of piety!
Fifty lines surely cannot be an object for a man to throw a hundred pounds, or more money, after ; it leads an impartial person to imagine, that Mr. Mason has a further object in view; and that, altho' he has realized already near a thousand pounds from the profits of his quarto edition of Mr. Gray's poems, he is not satisfied, but desires to suppress the publisher's little volume altogether, altho’ it has not hitherto paid the expences incurred in printing it, in order to retain the monopoly of Mr. Gray's poems intirely in his own hands.
If his behaviour can be reconciled to a better principle the publisher will readily confess it, and wishes to discover a motive less selfish, in order to. speak of it; for altho' he disapproves of his conduct, he disclaims all animosity towards Mr. Mafon, and is forry that the present recital does not tend more to the credit of his character.
But Mr. Mason means to erect a monument in Westminster Abbey to the memory of Mr Gray *, with the profits acquired by his book ;-will this intention, disinterested as it is, if true, justify or ex
* This report is new. Perhaps it has commenced since the date of Mr. Murray's public letter to Mr. Malon. In any view, howa cver, we confess the sacrifice of such emolument to be great.
cuse his present proceeding against a man, who, so far from offending, has offered him his own terms of compensation for an action, merely because he complained, tho' it was both legally and morally just?
In erecting a monument to the honour of Mr. Gray, let Mr. Mason be careful that he does not, by his behaviour, unthinking!y erect one of another kind for himself. Nor should this advice be despised because it proceeds from a person he but little regards : truth is the same, thro' whatever channel it runs.
After this detail, it remains to say something of the present edition; and this can be comprized in a very few words. It cannot be denied that it appears under some disadvantages; but there are advantages to compensate for these : The reader is left in full poffeffion of all Mr. Gray's valuable and best poems; and some articles are added which are not to be met with in any other edition of the author's works. The plates are engraved at considerable expence from original designs; and the frontispiece to the Fatal Sisters, a new plate, las been designed and engrayed for this edition,