Text: S. Herbert Lancey, “Plagiarism,” Waverley Magazine (Boston, MA), vol. VII, no. 10, September 3, 1853, p. 152, col. 3


[page 152, column 3:]


WE were much pleased with the fairness and truthfulness of the article by Fiat Justitia, in a recent number of this journal. The facts which he presented were new to us, and to many others, in some degree. An admirer of the late Edgar A. Poe (and we are as great an one as any,) could scarcely believe that one so ready to cry “plagiarism!” as he was would be guilty of the same thing himself. His greatest fault was accusing others of imitation of style, or absolute plagiarism, and even without any substantial proof. His attack upon Prof. Longfellow is well remembered, and also upon Aldrich, which, being a short one, we will illustrate, and thereby add somewhat to the able article alluded to.

He contended that the following poem, by Aldrich, was plagiarized from the one which precedes it, by Hood. His reasons were, that in each there was a death-bed scene — a female, and her death at morn. Now, conceding all this to be true, it does not constitute plagiarism. Every writer has the privilege of writing upon any subject; it matters not how many others have written upon it, and he does not commit plagiarism unless he copies the words or the original style of another. Now, in this case, there is no originality of style in Hood’s poem, and most certainly there is no similarity of language in the two poems. The case of Fiat Justitia he has himself sustained by proof positive, and other cases can be proved; but ‘t is better to let the dead rest, nor seek to mar their fame. We give the two poems entire, and the reader can be his own judge: —



We watched her breathing through the night,

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,

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.

S. H. L.




The charge of plagiarism made by Poe in regard to Hood and Alrich was first made in the Evening Mirror (New York, NY) in January 1845 (reprinted in the Weekly Mirror for January 25, 1845). The quoted portions of the poems were longer in those printings, and the author of the above letter was almost certainly referring to the version of the “Little Longfellow War” printed by Griswold in 1850, vol. 2, p. 294, which quotes almost exactly what is given above, but without the titles and bylines as provided by S. H. L.



[S:0 - WM, 1853] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - Plagiarism (S. H. Lancey, 1853)