Much interest has been given in our literary circles of late to the topic of plagiarism.
About a month ago a very eminent critic connected with this paper, took occasion to point out a parallelism between certain lines of Thomas Hood, and certain others which appeared in the collection of American poetry edited by Mr. Griswold. Transcribing the passages, he ventured the assertion that "somebody is a thief." (He goes on below to speak for himself.)
The matter had been nearly forgotten, if not altogether so, when a "good-natured friend" of the American author (whose name by us had never been mentioned) considers it advisable to re-translate and re-collate the passages, with the view of convincing the public (and himself) that no plagiarism is chargeable to the party of whom he thinks it chivalrous to be the "good-natured friend."
For our own part should we ever be guilty of an indiscretion of this kind, we deprecate all aid from our "good-natured friends:" -- but in the mean-time it is rendered necessary that once again we give publicity to a collation of the poems in question. Mr. Hood's lines run thus:
We watched her breathing through the night,Mr. Aldrich's thus: --
Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro.
So silently we seemed to speak,
So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
To eke her being out
Our very hope belied our fears;
Our fears our hope belied
We thought her dying when she slept,
And sleeping when she died.
But when the morn came dim and sad
And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids closed; -- she had
Another morn than ours.
Her sufferings ended with the day,And here, to be sure, we might well leave a decision in the case to the verdict of common sense. But since the "Broadway Journal" insists upon the "no resemblance," we are constrained to point out especially where our supposed similarity lies. In the first place, then, the subject in both pieces is death. In the second, it is the death of a woman. In the third, it is the death of a woman tranquilly dying. In the fourth, it is the death of a woman who lies tranquilly throughout the night. In the fifth, it is the death of a woman whose "breathing soft and low is watched through the night," In the one instance, and who "breathed the long, long night away in statue-like repose" in the other. In the sixth place, in both poems this woman dies just at daybreak. In the seventh place, dying just at daybreak, this woman, in both cases, steps directly into Paradise. In the eighth place, all these identities of circumstance are related in identical rhythms. In the ninth place, these identical rhythms are arranged in identical metres; and, in the tenth place, these identical rhythms and metres are constructed into identical stanzas.
Yet lived she at its close
And breathed the long, long night away
In statue-like repose;
But when the sun in all its state
Illumed the eastern skies
She passed through Glory's morning gate,
And walked in paradise.
We repeat that "somebody is a thief," and the only doubt in our mind is about the sincerity of any one who shall say that somebody is not. Who is, and who is not are points which we have not touched. Here dates must settle the matter. The "Broadway Journal" asserts that Mr. Aldrich's lines were published in the "New World" two years before the appearance of the poem of Hood. If this is the fact, we are happy for Mr. Aldrich's sake, and of course unhappy for Mr. Hood's. If it is not the fact, then we are happy for Mr. Hood's sake, and far more unhappy for Mr. Aldrich's sake than we should have been had the whole matter remained where we left it a month ago.
[The two introductory paragraphs are apparently by Willis, but otherwise the item is known to be by Poe. Poe wrote to G. W. Eveleth on December 13, 1845, noting Poe's admission of authorship, except for Willis's introductory comments, in his letter to Eveleth of Dec. 13, 1846, "The critic alluded to by Willis as connected with the Mirror, and as having found a parallel between Hood & Aldrich is myself."]
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[S:0 - EM, 1845]