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At this conference he proved, first, That it was the limmemorial practice of booksellers to take extracts from new publications, and that none amongit them turned this practice to more account than Mr. Mason's bookseller' *; and, fecondly, that even fupposing the act complained of to be an offence, it was hard to fingle out the present pub, lisher to render legal compensation, who was not the first aggreffor, '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 pre
* Mr. Becket in the year 1969 published, at the price of One or Two Shillings, a well-written and popular poem, confißing 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. Dudley made any compensation - for this deliberate act of piracy, to the proprietor? Or has Mr, Becket sought redress for the injury by a Chancery fuit ? Again, has Mr. Dodsley offered any compensation to Mr. Murray for the different piracies he has committed upon his books? Or do Mr. Mafon and his bookfeller affume
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-verses inadvertently by the présent publisher is converted into an heinous trespass, and becomes the ground of a rigorous legal investigation.
tenfions. 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 desired 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:~but a great deal could not be exacted for fifty lines; and he wished no gentleman of respectable character to impute a deliberate injury to him, which he was certainly very far from intending.
Mr. Mason remained silent to his overture ; and after repeating it to him as distinctly as he could, the publisher took his leave, imagining he wanted time to confider of it.
Such is the faithful account of this little tranfac. tion; nor will Mr. Mason deny its authenticity or exactness. The publifher 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 have suffered diminution, had he been equally dif
posed to treat the publisher with civility and attention.
It was hardly possible after this equitable procedure, to expect to be troubled with an oppressive prosecution; from any man such conduct would have been esteemed ungenerous ; from a clergyman, whose duty it is to low 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. Thurlow, Mr. Wedderburn, and Mr. Dunning for his counsel *.
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 suspect, that Mr. Mason has a further object in view; and that, although
* Mr. Mafon 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 redrefs. 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 defendant with costs; for he cannot entertain the most distant 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. Mason is in holy orders) to the practice of piety!
he has ' realized already nearly one 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, 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 confess it, and wishes to discover a motive less selfish, in order to speak of it; for although he disapproves of his conduct, he disclaims all animosity towards Mr. Mason, and is sorry 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 excuse his present proceeding against a man, who, fo far from offending, has offered him his own terms of compensation for an action, merely because he complained, though it was morally just?
* This report is new. Perhaps it has commenced since the date of Mr. Murray's public letter to Mr. Mason. In any view, however, we confess the sacrifice 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 should this advice be despised, because it proceeds from a person he but little regards; truth being the same, through whatever channel it runs.
After this detail, it remains to say something of the present edition, and this can be comprized within a very few words. It cannot be denied that it appears under fome disadvantages; but there are advantages to compensate for these: The reader is left in full possession 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 a considerable expence from original designs; and four New Plates have been designed and engraved for this edition.