Piracy Charge via The Academy in 1896.
Note: While Andrew Lang quarreled with Mosher through The Critic, Lionel Johnson used The Academy as the platform to criticize Mosher’s reprint activities.
The Academy, XLIX (6 June 1896), p. 470.
London: June 1, 1896
I see that Mr. Andrew Lang has been victimised by Mr. Mosher, of Portland, Maine, U.S.A., and that Mr. Mosher has replied to his remonstrances in a letter of incomparable imprudence. In this case the theft was of Mr. Lang’s Aucassin and Nicolete, that exquisite version of an exquisite original; and Mr. Mosher’s justification is his esteem for that work. His taste, clearly, is in an healthier state than his morals. But this gentleman goes after much smaller game than Mr. Lang: I am one of his victims. In 1894 he perpetrated a triple piracy. He stole Mr. Bridges’s Growth of Love, first printed at the private press of Mr. Daniel, of Worcester College, Oxford; he stole Mr. Daniel’s emblem and imprint; and his prefatory note runs thus:
“In issuing the Growth of Love, the publisher has desired to set forth the high estimate recently come to be held regarding the poetry of Mr. Robert Bridges. To do this effectually, no more fitting introduction could have been given than the contribution by Mr. Lionel Johnson, to be found in the Century Guild Hobby-Horse (October, 1891), and here reprinted entire. It was and is almost as inaccessible as one of Mr. Bridges privately printed pamphlets.”
Adding insult to injury, Mr. Mosher has presented me with a copy of this volume, of which dubious courtesy this letter is my public acknowledgement. Five years’ practice in the art of criticism has shown me that my essay, in its first form, now “conveyed” and circulated by Mr. Mosher, is cumbered with a deal of surplusage and full of crudities. To the best of my present ability I have revised it, and it will appear in a volume of essays in the autumn. The pecuniary interest excepted, and the literary alone regarded, I think it a graver injustice to pirate a magazine article and put it into a volume than to pirate a book. The most finished and fastidious writer will often find much, and always find something, to correct and recast before gathering his magazine work into a book. In the case of writers young and immature, the procedure of Mr. Mosher is peculiarly cruel and unjust. Nothing, I am well aware, can check these practices; but I would beg Mr. Mosher to cease paying sugared compliments to his victims. If a footpad steal my watch, I am not consoled by his approval of its merits.
The Academy, L (18 July 1896), p. 51:
Portland, Maine: June 30, 1896
“Adding insult to injury” was very far from my thought in sending Mr. Lionel Johnson a copy of The Growth of Love issued in my “English Reprint Series.” A copy sent Mr. Robert Bridges at the same date did not give offence; neither did he retain the book and rush into print denouncing me as a footpad, who, having stolen his watch, sought to condone the act by extolling its merits as a timepiece. No, he did not do this; he wrote me instead:
“Thank you for sending me a copy of your edition of my poem. I think I fully appreciate the compliment of the publication, and I hope you will sell it in America.”
I may add that when I reprinted Mr. George Meredith’s Modern Love, in this same series, I was also favoured with his very cordial thanks.
It is quite true that I gave a facsimile of Mr. Daniel’s emblem, simply as a curious modern example of the punning devices once common with Old World printers. Other have reproduced it, why should I stay my hand?
As for Mr. Andrew Lang, I have prepared an open letter to this gentleman, which will presently go into type. I will not repeat here what I have said there.
To the statement that “the most finished and fastidious writer will always find something to correct and recast before gathering his magazine work into a book,” I flatly deny the truth of any such assumption. It may be so with Mr. Lionel Johnson, “young and immature” as he insists he was, and, for ought I know, is; but it assuredly was not so with such an one as the late Mr. Pater, whose “Child in the House” stands to-day as originally printed in Macmillan’s some eighteen years ago. I will not weary ACADEMY readers with other instances; it would be an affront to their intelligence to do so.
Mr. Lionel Johnson is at some pains to develop a plea of self-depreciation — a plea strangely out of keeping with his practice. For, from this very same essay of his which I prefixed to The Growth of Love * (see “The Poems of Mr. Bridges: A Brief and General Consideration,” in The Century Guild Hobby Horse, for October, 1891), now considered by him to be “full of crudities,” he does not hesitate to “convey” or rather foist, into the first chapter of his book, The Art of Thomas Hardy,# some five pages of the text, without so much as saying “by your leave” to himself! Whoever will compare The Art of Thomas Hardy, pp. 5-10 inclusive, with the Hobby Horse article will not fail to apprehend the force of my remarks.
These things being thus, it might not seem a piece of “incomparable impertinence” to desire an opinion on the gentle art of stealing from one’s own productions. How, say you, Sirs, is young Master Johnson guilty or not guilty? And if guilty, as it would appear he is, what penalty should be adjudged an act of so unlawfully and awfully converting to his later use and behoof an entire parterre of purple patches, within a year and a day of their first taking root?
The defence of “An American Pirate” here rests its case.
THOMAS B. MOSHER
* For the very good reason that it embodied the most complete notice of Mr. Bridges’s poetry then known to me. That the editor of the Hobby Horse printed a lot of juvenile rubbish is a reflection on his judgment that I, for one, refuse to accept.
# Lapse of time cannot be offered in extenuation of this rather whole some “lift.” The “Essay on Bridges” was printed, as above stated, in October, 1891; the final proofs of the Hardy volume were passed upon in 1892, though its publication was delayed until 1894.
The Academy, L (25 July 1896), p. 67:
King’s Head, Windsor Forest: July 18, 1896
Mr. Mosher’s letter deserves a short answer.
- That some gentlemen take no exception to his proceedings does not justify him in victimising and insulting those who do.
- The few pages of my essay upon Mr. Bridges, which I have transferred, with omissions and alterations, to the first chapter of my book upon Mr. Hardy, contain a number of critical first principles, somewhat elaborately set forth, which it was a crude and ill-considered thing to publish in a brief essay. I find fault with that essay, not for anything that it says, but for its errors of proportion and arrangement: the errors most incident to novices in the art of composition.
- Doubtless, Mr. Pater’s “Child in the House” appears in his Miscellaneous Studies as it originally appeared in a magazine. Mr. Pater’s lamented death is reason enough for that, Miscellaneous Studies being a posthumous volume, not prepared for publication by the author. But that Mr. Pater was a sedulous reviser of his magazine work is a fact obvious to his readers, and familiar to his friends. And the “Child in the House” is a work not of Mr. Pater’s youth, but of his prime.
- Mr. Mosher’s jocose impertinences cannot gloss over the fact that to reprint an author’s work — good, bad, or indifferent — without permission is an act of discourtesy and injustice. And now I have done with Mr. Mosher.