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if the sublimest references to nature were in Where joy for ever dwells ! Hail, horrors, hail! sufficient to accumulate glories for the bearer, Infernal world, and thou, profoundest hell, is consecrated by allusions to the thousand
Receive thy new possessor; one who brings storms and thousand thunders which the mast
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself of an imperial ship withstands.
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. His spear (to equal which the tallest pine
What matter where, if I be still the same ? Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
And what I should be, all but less than he or some great admiral, were but a wand)
Whom thunder hath made greater. Here at least He walk'd with, to support uneasy steps
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built Over the burning marle; not like those steps
Here for his enry, will not drive us hence; On Heaven's azure.
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, though in hell; Now, having seen how the great Christian Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven!" Poet has lavished all the glories of his art on the attendant hosts and personal investiture but I dare only allude to the proposition made
I might multiply passages of the same kind; of the brave opponent of Almighty Power
, let of assaulting the throne of God“ with Tartaus attend to the language in which he addresses his comrade in enterprise and suffer- torments," and to the address of Satan to the
rean sulphur and strange fire, his own invented ing.
newly-created sun, in which he actually curses Into what pit thou seest, From what height fallen-so much the stronger proved the love of God. Suppose that last passage He with his thunder : and till then who knew
introduced into this indictment-suppose that The force of those dire arms ? Yet not for those,
instead of the unintelligible lines beginning Nor what the potent Victor in his RAGE
“ They have three words, God, Hell, and Heaven," Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
we had these- Be then His love accursed,” with Though changed in outward lustre, that fix'd mind,
the innuendo, “ Thereby meaning the love of AlAnd high disdain, from sense of injured merit, That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
mighty God,” how would you deal with the And to the fierce contention brought along
charge? How ! but by looking at the object Innumerable force of spirits arm’d,
of the great poem of which those words are That durst dislike His reign, and, me preferring, part; by observing how the poet, incapable of His utmost power with adverse power opposed resting in a mere abstraction, had been led In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
insensibly to clothe it from the armory of virAnd shook His throne !
tue and grandeur ; by showing that although Such is the force of the poet's enthusiastic the names of the Almighty and Satan were resympathy with the speaker, that the reader al- tained, in truth, other ideas had usurped those most thinks Omnipotence doubtful; or, if that names, as the theme itself had eluded even is impossible, admires the more the courage
Milton's grasp! I will not ask you whether that can resist it! The chief proceeds you agree with me in the defence which might
be made for Milton; but I will ask, do you not What though the field be lost?
feel with me that these are matters for another All is not lost; the unconquerable will, And study of revenge, immortal hate,
tribunal? Do you not feel with me that exAnd courage never to submit or yield,
cept that the boldness of Milton's thoughts And what is else not to be overcome ;
comes softened to the ears by the exquisite That glory never shall his wrath or might
beauty of Milton's language, I may find paralExtort from me. To bow and sue for grace
lels in the passages I have quoted from the With suppliant knee, and deify His power,
Paradise Lost, for those selected for prosecuWho from the terror of this arm so late
tion from Queen Mab? Do you not feel with Doubted his empire; that were low indeed, That were an ignominy, and shame beneath
me that, as without a knowledge of the ParaThis downfall:
dise Lost, you could not absolve the publisher
of Milton from the prosecution of “some mute This mighty representation of generous re- inglorious” Hetherington; so neither can you, sistance, of mind superior to fortune, of re- dare you, convict Mr. Moxon of a libel on God solution nobler than the conquest, concludes and religion, in publishing the works of Shelby proclaiming “ eternal war" against Him— ley, without having read and studied them all ? Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy,
If rashly you assail the mighty masters of Sole reigning, holds the tyranny of heaven.
thought and fantasy, you will, indeed, assail
them in vain, for the purpose of suppression, Surely, but for the exquisite grace of the though not for the purpose of torture; all you language compared with the baldness of Shel- can do is to make them suffer, as being human, ley's, I might parallel from this speech all that they are liable to corporal suffering; but, like the indictment charges about “an Almighty the wounded spirits of Milton, “ they will soon Fiend” and “ Tyrannous Omnipotence.”. Listen Close," " confounded, though immortal!” again to the more composed determination
If, however, these are considerations affectand sedate self-reliance of the archangelic ing the exercise of human genius on themes sufferer!
beyond its grasp, which we cannot discuss in “ Is this the region ? this the soil, the clime ?" this place, however essential to the decision of Said then the lost archangel, " this the seat
the charge, there is one plain position which I That we must change for heaven ? this mournful gloom will venture to assert: that the poetry which For that celestial light? Be it so, since he,
pretends to a denial of God or of an immorWho now is Sovran, can dispose and bid What shall be right; farthest from him is best,
tal life, must contain its own refutation in itWhom reason hath equall'd, force hath made supreme
self, and sustain what it would deny! A poet, Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
though never one of the highest order, may
Great God! I'd rather be
“ link vice to a radiant angel;" he may diffuse l years give birth to images of grace which, unluxurions indifference to virtue and io truth; touched by time, people the retreats which are but he cannot inculcate atheism. Let him sought by youthful toil, and make learning strive to do it, and like Balaain, who came to lovely. Why shall not these be brought, with curse, like him he must end in blessing! His the poetry of Shelley, within the range of criart convicts him ; for it is “ Eternity revealing minal jurisdiction ? Because, with all their itself in Time !" His fancies may be wayward, beauty, they do not belong to the passions of the his theories absurd, but they will prove, no less present time,- because they hold their domiin their failure than in their success, the divi- nion apart from the realities which form the nity of their origin, and the inadequacy of this business of life,–because they are presented world to give scope to his impulses. They are to the mind as creations of another sphere, to the beatings of the soul against the bars of its be admired, not believed. And yet, without clay tenement, which though they may ruffle prosecution-without offence-one of the greatand sadden it, prove that it is winged for a di- est and purest of our English poets, wearied viner sphere! Young has said, “ An undevout with the selfishness which he saw pervading a astronomer is mad;" how much more truly Christian nation, has dared an ejaculating might he have said, an atheist poet is a con- wish for the return of those old palpable shapes tradiction in terms! Let the poet take what of divinity, when he exclaimed, range of associations he will let him adopt what notions he may-he cannot dissolve his
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn, alliance with the Eternal. Let him strive to
So might I, standing on some pleasant lee, shut out the vistas of the future by encircling
Have glimpses which may make me less forlorn, the present with images of exquisite beauty ; Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea, his own forms of ideal grace will disappoint Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn! him with eternal looks, and vindicate the immortality they were fashioned to veil! Let him And the fantasies of Queen Mab, if not so rear temples, and consecrate them to fabled di-compact of imagination, are as harmless now vinities, they will indicate in their enduring as those fornis of Grecian deities which Wordsbeauty “temples not made with hands, eter- worth thus invokes! Pure-passionless—they nal in the heavens !" If he celebrates the de- were while their author lived; they have lights of social intercourse, the festal reference grown classic by that touch of death which to their fragility includes the sense of that stopped the generous heart and teeming fancy which must endure; for the very sadness of their fated author. They have no more in. which tempers them speaks the longing after fluence on living opinion, than that world of that “which prompts ihe eternal sigh." If he beauty to which Shelley adverts, when he exdesires to bid the hearts of thousands beat as claims in “Hellas," one man at the touch of tragic passion, he must present“ the future in the instant,”-show
Built below the tide of war, in the death-grapple of contending emotions a Bised on the crystalline sea strength which death cannot destroy-vindicate Of bought and its eternity. the immortality of affection at the moment when the warm passages of life are closed against it; Having considered this charge chiefly as and anticipate in the virtue which dares to die, affecting poetry, I must not forget that the last the power by which “mortality shall be swal- passage selected by the Prosecutor is in prose, lowed up of life!" The world is too narrow for culled from the essay which was appended to us. Time is too short for man,-and the poet the poem of “Queen Mab,” disclaimed by the only feels the sphere more inadequate, and editor-disclaimed by Shelley long before he pants for the “all-hail hereafter,” with more reached the prime of manhood—but rightly urgent sense of weakness than his fellows:- preserved, shocking as it is in itself, as essen. Too-loo contracted are these walls of flesh,
tial to the just contemplation of his moral and This vital heat too cold; these visual orbs,
intellectual nature. They form the dark Though inconceivably endow'd, too dim
ground of a picture of surpassing interest to For any passion of the soul which leads
the philosopher. There shall you see a poet To ecstasy, and all the frigid bonds
whose fancies are most ethereal, struggling Of time and change disdaining, takes the range
with a theory gross, material, shallow, imaging Along the line of limitless desires !
the great struggle by which the Spirit of the If this prosecution can succeed, on what Eternal seeks to subdue the material world to principle can the publishers of the great works its uses. His genius was pent up within the of ancient times, replete with the images of hard and bitter rind of his philosophy, as idolatrous faith, and with moralities only 10 be Ariel was in the rift of the cloven pine; and endured as historical, escape a similar doom ? what wonder if a Spirit thus enthralled should These are the works which engage and reward send forth strange and discordant cries ? Be. the first labours of our English youth,—which, cause the words which those strange voices in spite of the objections raised to them, prac- syllabled are recorded here, will you say the tically teach lessons of beauty and wisdom-record is a crime? I recollect in the speech the sense of antiquity—the admiration of heroic of that great ornament of our profession, Mr. daring and suffering; and refine and elevate Erskine, an illustration of the injustice of setheir lives. It was destined in the education lecting part of a conversation or of a book, of the human race, that imperfect and faint and because singly considered it is shocking, suggestions of truth, combined with exquisite charging a criminal intent on the utterer or perceptions of beauty, should in a few teeming the publisher; which, if, at first, it may not
Bint Greece and her foundations are
seem applicable to this case, will be found es indicted volume conveys ! What can the sentially to govern it. He refers to the pas- telescope disclose of worlds and suns and sys. sage in the Bible, “ The fool hath said in his tems in the heavens above us, or the microheart, There is no God,” and shows how the pub- scope detect in the descending scale of various lisher of the Book of God itself might be life, endowed with a speech and a language charged with atheism, by the insertion only like that with which Shelley, being dead, here of the latter division of the sentence. It is not speaks ? Not even do the most serene prosurely by the division of a sentence only that ductions of poets, whose faculties in this world the context may be judged; but by the general have attained comparative harmony-strongly intent of him who publishes what is in itself as they plead for the immortality of the mind offensive, for the purpose of curious record—which produced them-afford so unanswerable of controversy—of evidence-of example. The a proof of a life to come, as the mighty empublisher of Shelley has not indeed said " The bryo which this book exhibits ;-as the course, fool hath said in his heart, There is no God;" the frailty, the imperfection, with the dark but he has in effecı said, 'The poet has tried to curtain dropped on all! It is, indeed, when say with his lips “ There is no God,” but his best surveyed, but the infancy of an eternal genius and his heart belie his words! What being; an infancy wayward but gigantic; an indeed does the publisher of Shelley's works infancy which we shall never fully understand, virtually say, where he thus presents to his till we behold its development when time readers this record of the poet's life and death? shall be no more"-when doubt shall be dis. He says-Behold! Here is a spectacle which solved in vision—" when this corruptible shall angels may admire and weep over! Here is have put on incorruption, and when this a poet of fancy the most ethereal-feelings the mortal shall have put on immortality!" most devout-charity the most Christian-en Let me, before I sit down, entreat you to ask thralled by opinions the most cold, hollow, and yourselves where the course of prosecution debasing! Here is a youth endowed with will stop if you crown with success Mr. Heththat sensibility to the beautiful and the grand eringlon's revenge. Revenge, did I say? I which peoples his minutes with the perceptions recall the word. Revenge means the returning of years—who, with a spirit of self-sacrifice of injury for injury-an emotion most unwise which the eldest Christianity might exult in if and unchristian, but still human ;-the satisfound in one of its martyrs, is ready to lay down faction of a feeling of ill-regulated justice chethat intellectual being--to be lost in loss itself rished by a heart which judges bitterly in its -if by annihilation he could multiply the en own cause. But this attempt to retaliate on joyments and hasten the progress of his spe- one who is a stranger to the evil suffered-this cies—and yet, with strange wilfulness, reject- infliction of misery for doing that which the ing that religion in form to which in essence prosecutor has maintained within these works he is imperishably allied ! Observe these the right of all men to do-has no claim to the radiant fancies—pure and cold as frostwork- savage plea of wild justice; but is poor, cruel, how would they be kindled by the warmth of paltry injustice; as bare of excuse as ever Christian love! Track those “ thoughts that tyrant, above or below the opinion of the wise wander through eternity," and think how they and good, ever ventured to threaten. Admit would repose in their proper home! And its power in this case-grant its right to select trace the inspired, yet erring youth, poem after for the punishment of blasphemy the exhibipoem-year after year, month after month— tion of an anomaly as harmless as the stuffed how shall you see the icy fetters which en- aspic in a museum, or as its image on the circle his genius gradually dissolve ; the passionless bosom of a pictured Cleopatrawreaths of mist ascend from his path; and the and what ancient, what modern history, shall distance spread out before him peopled with be lent unchallenged to our friends? If the human affections, and skirted by angel wings! thousand booksellers who sell the “Paradise See how this seeming atheist begins to adore- Lost”—from the greatest publisher in London how the divine image of suffering and love or Edinburgh down to the proprietor of the presented at Calvary, never unfelt, begins to little book-stall
, where the poor wayfarer be seen-and in its contemplation the softened, snatches a hasty glance at the grandeur and not yet convinced poet exclaims, in his Pro- beauty of the poet, and goes on his way remetheus, of the followers of Christ,
freshed-may hope that genius will render to The wise, the pure, the lofty, and the just,
the name of Milton what they deny to that of Whom thy slaves hate-for being like to thee !
Shelley; what can they who sell “ The History
of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” And thus he proceeds—with light shining hope from the prosecutor of “Queen Mab?" more and more towards the perfect day, which In that work are two celebrated chapters, he was not permitted to realize in this world. sparkling with all the meretricious felicities As you trace this progress, alas! Death veils of epigrammatic style, which, full of polished it-veils it, not stops it—and this perturbed, sarcasm against infant Christianity, are elaboimperfect, but glorious being is hidden from rately directed to wither the fame of its Martyrs us~"Till the sea shall give up its dead !" and Confessors with bitterest scorn-iwo What say you now to the book which exhibits chapters which, if published at a penny each, this spectacle, and stops with this catastrophe? would do more mischief than thousands of Is it a libel on religion and God? Talk of metaphysical poems; but which, retained in proofs of Divine existence in the wonders of their apppropriate place, to be sought only by the material universe, there is notbing in any– the readers of history, may serve the cause of nor in all-compared to the proof which this truth by proving the poverty of the spite by
which it has been assailed, and find ample which_children often themselves--mount the counterpoise in the sequel. The possibility chariot and board the steamboat to scatter that that this history should be suppressed by some poison which may infect the soul as long as descendant of Gibbon, who might extrava- the soul shall endure--whom, to do this prosegantly suppose it his duty to stifle cold and cutor justice, I know he disclaims—may obtain crafty sneers aimed at the first followers of true bills of indictment against any man, who Christ, was urged—and urged with successhas sold Horace, or Virgil, or Lucretius, or against me when I pleaded for the right of Ovid, or Juvenal—against all who have sold a those descendants to the fruits of the labours copy of any of our old dramatists-and thus of their ancestor; yet, if you sanction this not only Congreve, and Farquhar, and Wychattempt, any Hetherington may compel by law erley, but Fletcher, and Massinger, and Ford, that suppression, the remote possibility of and Webster, and Ben Jonson; nay, with revewhich has been accepted as a reason for deny- rence be it spoken, even Shakspeare, though ing to the posterity of the author a property in ever pure in essence, may be placed at the the work he has created! This work, invested mercy of an insect abuser of the press—unless with the peculiar interest which belongs to the juries have the courage and the virtue to picture of waning greatness, has recently been recognise the distinction between a man who printed in a cheap form, under the sanction of publishes works which are infidel or impure, a dignitary of the Established Church-a becausc they are infidel or impure, and publishes Christian Poet of the noblest aim—whose early them in a form and at a price which indicate genius was the pride of our fairest university, the desire that they should work out mischief, and who is now the honoured minister of the and one who publishes works in which evil of very parish in which we are assembled. If I the same kind may be found, but who publishes were now defending Mr. Milman, of whose them because, in spite of that imperfection, friendship I am justly proud, for this last and they are on the whole for the edification and cheapest and best edition of Gibbon, I could delight of mankind ;-between one who tenonly resort to the arguments I am now urging ders the misehief for approbation, and one who for Mr. Moxon, and claim the benefit of the exposes it for example. And are you presame distinction between the tendency of a pared to succumb to this new censorship? book adapted to the promotion of infidelity, and Will you allow Mr. Hetherington to prescribe one which, containing incidental matter of what leaves you shall tear from the classic offence, is commended to the student with volumes in your libraries ? Shall he dictate those silent guards which its form and accom- to you how much of Lord Byron—a writer far paniments supply. True it is that Mr. Milman more influential than Shelley-you shall be has accompanied the text with notes in which allowed to lend to your friends without fear of he sometimes explains or counteracts the in- his censure? Shall he drag into court the sinuations of the author; but what Notes can vast productions of the German mind, and ask be so effectual as that which follows “Queen juries to decide whether the translator of Mab”-in which Shelley's own letter is set Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, and Lessing-dealforth, stating, on his authority, that the work ing with sacred things with a boldness to was immature, and that he did not intend it for which we are unused-are guilty of crime? the general eye?. Is not the publication of this Shall he call for judgment on that stupendous letter by the publisher as decisive of his mo- work, the “Faust,” with its prologue in Heative-not to commend the wild fancies and ven, which has been presented by my friend stormy words of the young poet to the reader's Mr. Hayward, whose able assistance I have approval, but to give them as part of his to-day, with happy vividness to English readbiography,-as the notes of Mr. Milman areers--and ask a jury to take it in their hand, of that which no one doubts, his desire to make and at an hour's glance to decide whether it is the perusal of Gibbon healthful? Prosper this a libel on God, or a hymn by Genius to His attempt, and what a field of speculative prose-praise? Do you not feel those matters are cution will open before us! Every publisher for other seasons—for another sphere !—If of the works of Rousseau, of Voltaire, of Vol- so, will you, in the dark-without knowledge ney, of Hume-of the Classics and of their without evidence-sanction a prosecution Translations—works regarded as innoxious, which will, in its result, impose new and because presented in a certain aspect and strange tasks on juries who may decide on offered to a certain class, will become liable to other trials; which may destroy the just every publisher of penny blasphemy who may allowance accorded to learning even under suffer or hate or fear the law;--nor of such absolute monarchies; and place every man only, but of every small attorney in search of who hereafter shall print, or sell, or give, or practice, who may find in the machinery of the lend, any one of a thousand volumes sancCrown-office the facilities of extortion. Nor tioned by ages, at the mercy of any Prosewill the unjust principle you are asked to sanc-cutor who for malice-for gain-or mere mistion stop with retaliation in the case of alleged chief, may choose to denounce him as a blasphemy--the retailer of cheap lascivions- blasphemer? ness, if checked in his wicked trade, will have And now, I commend into your hands the his revenge against the works of the mighty cause of the defendant—the cause of genius dead in which some tinge of mortal stain may -the cause of learning-the cause of history unfortunately be detected. The printer of one -the cause of thought. I have not sought to of those peony atrocities which are thrust into maintain it by assailing the law as it has been the hands of ingenuous youths when bound on expounded by courts, and administered by duty or innocent pleasure, the emissaries of juries; which, if altered, should be changed
by the authority of the legislature, and neither turing tastes for the lofty and the pure, it has by the violation of oaths, nor by the machinery been Mr. Moxon's privilege to diffuse largely which the prosecutor has employed to render throughout this and other lands, and with them it odious at the cost of those whom he himself the sympathies which link the human heart to contends to be guiltless; but I have striven to nature and to God, and all classes of mankind convince you, that by a just application of that to each other! Reject then, in your justice, law, you may hold this publication of the the charge which imputes to such a man, that works of Shelley to be no crime. It has been by publishing this book, he has been guilty of fairly conceded that Mr. Moxon is a most re- blasphemy against the God whom he reveres ! spectable publisher; one who has done good Refuse to set the fatal precedent, which will service to the cause of poetry and wisdom; not only draw the fame of the illustrious dead and one who could not intentionally publish a into question before juries, without time to inblasphemous work, without treason to all the vestigate their merits; which may not only associations which honour his life. Beginning harass the first publishers of these works; but his career under the auspices of Rogers, the which will beset the course of every bookeldest of a great age of poets, and blessed with seller, every librarian, throughout the country, the continued support of that excellent person, with perpetual snares, and make our criminal who never broke by one unworthy line the courts the arenas for a savage warfare of charm of moral grace which pervades his literary prosecutions! Protect our noble literaworks, he has been associated with Lamb, ture from the alternative of being either corwhose kindness embraced all sects, all parties, rupted or enslaved! Terminate ihose anxieall classes, and whose genius shed new and ties which this charge, so unprovoked—so unpleasant lights on daily life; with Southey, the deserved-has now for months inflicted on the pure and childlike in heart; with Coleridge, defendant, and his friends, by that verdict of in the light of whose Christian philosophy Not Guilty, which will disappoint only those these indicted poems would assume their true who desire that cheap blasphemy should have character as mournful, yet salutary specimens free course; which the noblest, and purest, and of power developed imperfectly in this world ; most pious of your own generation will rejoice and with Wordsworth, whose works so long in; and for which their posterity will honour neglected or scorned, but so long silently nur- and bless you!
SPEECH ON THE MOTION FOR LEAVE TO BRING IN A BILL
TO AMEND THE LAW OF COPYRIGHT,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE of Commons, THURSDAY, May 18, 1837.
Mr. SPEAKER,-In venturing to invite the at-, for hitherto, with the exception of the noble tention of the House to the state of the law af- boon conferred on the acted drama by the bill fecting the property of men of letters in the of my honourable friend the member for Linresults of their genius and industry, I feel that coln, it has received scarcely any thing but it is my duty to present their case as concisely evil. If we should now simply repeal all the as its nature will permil. While I believe that statutes which have been passed under the their claims to some share in the consideration guise of encouraging learning, and leave it to of the legislature will not be denied, I am be protected only by the principles of the comaware that they appeal to feelings far different mon law, and the remedies which the common from those which are usually excited by the law could supply, I believe the relief would be intellectual conflicts of this place ; that the in- welcome. It did not occur to our ancestors, terest of their claim is not of that stirring kind that the right of deriving solid benefits from which belongs to the busy present, but reflects that which springs solely from within us—the back on the past, of which the passions are right of property in that which the mind itself now silent, and stretches forward with specu- creates, and which, so far from exhausting the lation into the visionary future ; and that the materials common to all men, or limiting their circumstances which impede their efforts and resources, enriches and expands them-a right frustrate their reward, are best appreciated in of property which, by the happy peculiarity of the calmness of thought to which those efforts its nature, can only be enjoyed by the proprie are akin. I shall therefore intrude as briefly or in proportion as it blesses mankind-should as I can on the patience of the House, while I be exempied from the protection which is exglance at the history of the evils of which they tended to the ancient appropriation of the soil, complain; suggest the principles on which I and the rewards of commercial enterprise. By think them entitled to redress; and state the the common law of England, as solemnly exoutlines of the remedies by which I propose to pounded by a majority of seven to four of the relieve them.
judges in the case of “ Donaldson v. Beckett,” It is, indeed, time that literature should ex- and as sustained by the additional opinion of perience some of the blessings of legislation ;' Lord Mansfield, the author of an original work