Page images
[ocr errors]

At this conference he proved, first, That it was the immemorial practice of bookfellers to take extracts from new publications, and that none amongst them turned this practice to more account than Mr. Mafon's bookfeller *; and, fecondly, that

even fuppofing the act complained of to be an

offence, it was hard to fingle out the prefent publifher to render legal compenfation, who was not the first aggreffor, as the book had been printed by others who pretended to no exclufive right in it, long before his edition became extant; nor had he ever previously heard of Mr. Mafon's pre


* Mr. Becket in the year 1769 published, at the price of One or Two Shillings, a well-written and popular poem, confifting of about 300 verses, intitled "An Ode, upon dedicating a Building, "and erecting a Statue, to Shakespeare: by Mr. Garrick.". Mr. Dodsley without fcruple applied this performance to his own use, by inferting it intire in the Annual Regifter. Has Mr. Dodfley made any compensation for this deliberate act of piracy to the proprietor? Or has Mr, Becket fought redress for the injury by a Chancery fuit? Again, has Mr. Dodley offered any compenfation to Mr. Murray for the different piracies he has committed upon his books? Or do Mr. Mafon and his bookfeller affume an exclufive right to appropriate to their respective ufes what portion they please of every new literary performance that comes abroad, while they profecute another perfon with the utmost severity of the law for taking the fame liberty? Mr. Dodsley.takes deliberately every year 1000 verses for the ufe of his Annual Regifter with impunity; but the printing of 50 verfes inadvertently by the prefent publisher is converted into an heinous trefpafs, and becomes the ground of a ri gorous legal investigation.


A 3


tenfions. But in order to fhow how little reason the author of Elfrida had particularly to cenfure 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. Mafon to specify what fum he chose to receive as compenfation for the offence complained of.

The publisher never admitted Mr. Mafon's legal right of property in these verses:-but a great deal could not be exacted for fifty lines; and he wished no gentleman of refpectable character to impute a deliberate injury to him, which he was certainly very far from intending.

Mr. Mafon remained filent to his overture; and after repeating it to him as diftinctly as he could, the publisher took his leave, imagining he wanted time to confider of it.

Such is the faithful account of this little tranfaction; nor will Mr. Mafon deny its authenticity or exactness. The publisher was a ftranger to Mr. Gray's executor, except by reputation. He is unconfcious of having failed in the refpect due to him; and the value of Mr. Mafon's character would not have fuffered diminution, had he been equally dif pofed


posed to treat the publisher with civility and attention.

It was hardly poffible after this equitable procedure, to expect to be troubled with an oppreffive profecution; from any man fuch conduct would have been efteemed ungenerous; from a clergyman, whofe duty it is to fow peace and good-will amongst men, it wears not a more favourable aspect.

Mr. Mafon, nevertheless, without further notice, filed a bill in Chancery against the publisher; and retained Mr. Thurlow, Mr. Wedderburn, and Mr. Dunning for his counsel *.

Fifty lines furely cannot be an object for a man to throw a hundred pounds, or more money, after; it leads an impartial person to fufpect, that Mr. Mafon has a further object in view; and that, although

* Mr. Mason fends an agent profeffedly to require fatisfaction or compenfation for an infringement of property. Without entering into the merits of this claim, he is defired to prefcribe his own terms of redrefs. In return for this offer, he files a bill in Chancery against the supposed offender, and continues to urge his fuit, merely to load the defendant with cofts; for he cannot entertain the most diftant idea of being awarded damages for an infringement of 50 lines of literary property, admitting (which is by no means granted) that his claim is founded.

Let this behaviour be reconciled to honour, to morality, or (as Mr. Mafon is in holy orders) to the practice of piety!


[ocr errors]

he has realized already nearly one thoufand pounds from the profits of his quarto edition of Mr. Gray's poems, he is not satisfied, but defires to suppress the publisher's little volume altogether, although 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 confefs it, and wishes to difcover a motive less selfish, in order to fpeak of it; for although he difapproves of his conduct, he difclaims all animofity towards Mr. Ma-fon, and is forry that the prefent recital does not tend more to the credit of his character.

But Mr. Mafon means to erect a monument in Westminster Abbey to the memory of Mr. Gray *, with the profits acquired by his book;-will this intention, difinterested as it is, if true, justify or excuse his present proceeding against a man, who, fo far from offending, has offered him his own terms of compenfation for an action, merely because he complained, though it was morally juft?

*This report is new. Perhaps it has commenced fince the date of Mr. Murray's public letter to Mr. Mafon. In any view, however, we confess the facrifice of his emolument to be great.


In erecting a monument to the honour of Mr. Gray, let Mr. Mason be careful that he does not, by his behaviour, unthinkingly erect one of another kind for himself. Nor fhould this advice be defpifed, because it proceeds from a perfon he but little regards; truth being the fame, through whatever channel it runs.

After this detail, it remains to say something of the prefent edition; and this can be comprized within a very few words. It cannot be denied that it appears under fome difadvantages; but there are advantages to compenfate for thefe: The reader is left in full poffeffion of all Mr. Gray's valuable and beft poems; and fome articles are added which are not to be met with in any other edition of the author's works. The plates are engraved at a confiderable expence from original defigns; and four NEW PLATES have been defigned and engraved for this edition.



« PreviousContinue »