The Importance of Copyright
It has been often observed that you cannot judge of an author’s personal character from his writings. It may be that you cannot. I think it very likely, for many reasons, that you cannot.
But, at least, a reader will rise from the perusal of a book with some defined and tangible idea of the writer’s moral creed and broad purposes, if he has any at all; and it is probable enough that he may like to have this idea confirmed from the author’s lips, or dissipated by his explanation.
My moral creed―which is a very wide and comprehensive one, and includes all sects and parties―is very easily summed up. I have faith, and I wish to diffuse faith in the existence―yes, of beautiful things, even in those conditions of society, which are so degenerate, degraded, and forlorn, that, at first sight, it would seem as though they could not be described but by a strange and terrible reversal of the words of Scripture, “God said, Let there be light, and there was none.” I take it that we are born, and that we hold our sympathies, hopes, and energies, in trust for the many, and not for the few. That we cannot hold in too strong a light of disgust and contempt, before the view of others, all meanness, falsehood, cruelty, and oppression, of every grade and kind. Above all, that nothing is high, because it is in a high place; and that nothing is low, because it is in a low one. This is the lesson taught us in the great book of nature. This is the lesson which may be read, alike in the bright track of the stars, and in the dusty course of the poorest thing that drags its tiny length upon the ground. This is the lesson ever uppermost in the thoughts of that inspired man, who tells us that there are―
“Tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
I would beg leave to whisper in your ear two words: International Copyright. I use them in no sordid sense, believe me, and those who know me best, best know that. For myself, I would rather that my children, coming after me, trudged in the mud, and knew by the general feeling of society that their father was beloved, and had been of some use, than I would have them ride in their carriages, and know by their banker’s books that he was rich. But I do not see, I confess, why one should be obliged to make the choice, or why fame, besides playing that delightful reveil for which she is so justly celebrated, should not blow out of her trumpet a few notes of a different kind from those with which she has hitherto contented herself.
It is well observed that, if there had existed any law in this respect, Walter Scott might not have sunk beneath the mighty pressure on his brain, but might have lived to add new creatures of his fancy to the crowd which swarm about you in your summer walks, and gather round your winter evening hearths.
As I think on these words, there came back, fresh upon me, that touching scene in the great man’s life, when he lay upon his couch, surrounded by his family, and listened, for the last time, to the rippling of the river he had so well loved, over its stony bed. I pictured him to myself, faint, wan, dying, crushed both in mind and body by his honourable struggle, and hovering round him the phantoms of his own imagination―Waverley, Ravenswood, Jeanie Deans, Rob Roy, Caleb Balderstone, Dominie Sampson―all the familiar throng―with cavaliers, and Puritans, and Highland chiefs innumerable overflowing the chamber, and fading away in the dim distance beyond. I pictured them, fresh from traversing the world, and hanging down their heads in shame and sorrow, that, from all those lands into which they had carried gladness, instruction, and delight for millions, they brought him not one friendly hand to help to raise him from that sad, sad bed. No, nor brought him from that land in which his own language was spoken, and in every house and hut of which his own books were read in his own tongue, one grateful dollar-piece to buy a garland for his grave. Oh! if every man who goes from here, as many do, to look upon that tomb in Dryburgh Abbey, would but remember this, and bring the recollection home!
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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a writer. He was best known for his novels including David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol.