Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/August 1885/Concerning the Suppressed Book
|CONCERNING THE SUPPRESSED BOOK.|
IT will be no news to the readers of this monthly that the volume entitled "The Nature and Reality of Religion; a Controversy between Herbert Spencer and Frederic Harrison," published by D. Appleton & Co. last March, has been suppressed by order of Mr. Spencer. This catastrophe was the result of a public correspondence carried on between these gentlemen in the columns of the London "Times." Fragments of the letters were cabled to this country as they appeared, and were widely disseminated by the newspapers, producing some suspense, and giving a confused impression of the affair. At length came the announcement that the disagreeable difference was happily composed; but with it came also a dispatch ordering the destruction of the book—copies, plates, and all—the damage to be charged to Mr. Spencer. This seemed a curious way of bringing an unpleasant difference between two authors to a harmonious termination; but, without waiting for explanations, the mandate was obeyed and the book suppressed. The letters themselves are now before us, and as they have not all been previously published in this country, they are herewith submitted to the reader in full:
THE SPENCER-HARRISON CORRESPONDENCE.
[London Times, May 29, 1885.]
A NEW FORM OF LITERARY PIRACY.
Mr. Frederic Harrison has forwarded to us for publication the inclosed letter which he has addressed to Mr. Herbert Spencer:
"Dear Mr. Spencer: I can not admit that there is anything to justify you in being a party to the American reprint of articles of mine, without my knowledge or consent. I learn accidentally that a volume has appeared in New York, which consists of three recent articles of yours in the Nineteenth Century, printed alternately with three recent articles of mine, with an introduction, notes, and appendix. This re-issue of my articles was made without the knowledge of myself, or of the proprietor of the Nineteenth Century, and he tells me that it is a case of piracy.
"You now avow (in your letter to me of yesterday) that the volume was issued by your American publishers, and was edited by your friend Professor Youmans, after consultation with you, with your consent and assistance. You also avow that you furnished the editor with controversial comments on my articles, and requested him to append them in his own way—that is to say, you have abetted a clandestine reprint of three articles of mine, interpolated with notes supplied by yourself. I regard this, not only as an act of literary piracy, but as a new and most unworthy form of literary piracy. May I ask if it is proposed to hand you the profits of a book of which I am (in part) the author, or are these to be retained by your American publishers and friend?
"To justify this act you now write that you expected republication in America by my friends. This expectation rests, I can assure you, on a pure invention. No friend of mine, nor any person whatever in America or in England, has ever suggested to me the republication of my articles, nor have I ever heard or thought of such a project. You quote to me, as your authority, a letter from Professor Youmans, who simply says there is danger of its being done by others, and he adds that I am coming to lecture in America. Again, this is a pure invention. I have never thought of lecturing in America, or of going there, nor has any one on either side of the Atlantic suggested to me to do so. Those who 'convey' my writings will as readily invent my intentions. Inquiry would have shown that neither I nor my friends had any intention of reprinting any articles—much less yours. And I fail to see how an unverified report that they might be reprinted, coupled with an unverified report that I was going to lecture in America, could justify you in promoting and assisting in the unauthorized issue and sale of writings of mine.
"This is not a simple case of clandestine reprint. Those of us who do not take elaborate precautions are exposed to have what they write appearing in unauthorized American editions. But it does surprise me that an English writer should connive at this treatment of another English writer, with whom he had been carrying on an honorable discussion. It is, I think, something new, even in American piracy, to re-issue an author's writings behind his back, and sell them interlarded with hostile comment. Reprints, even while they plunder us, spare us the sight of our sentences broken on the same page with such amenities as 'he complacently assumes,' 'loose and misleading statements,' etc. You avow, in your letter of yesterday, that you supplied these comments to my articles; and if internal evidence did not show them to be yours, by your offer to me to republish them now in England, you treat them as yours. I know no instance of such a practice. It is as if I were piratically to reprint your 'Data of Ethics,' freely interspersed with a running commentary on your practice of ethics, and were to justify my act on the ground that I had had a controversy with you, and that I had heard your friends were about to reprint it.
"There is one minor point which serves to show the kind of publication in which you have chosen to take part. My articles in this volume are followed by a cutting from a newspaper account of what the editor calls 'The Little Bethel of the Comtists.' As the volume bears as its subtitle the words, 'A Controversy between Frederic Harrison and Herbert Spencer,' that newspaper paragraph would only be relevant if it referred to practices in which I had some part, or which I approved. It is well known that I have nothing to do with anything of the kind, and never countenanced it. Nothing of the sort has ever been heard in Newton-hall, where for years past I have presented Positivism as I understand it. The matter is a small bit of polemical mischief; those who are engaged in plunder are not likely to be fair. But I think it is quite unworthy of a place in a volume for which you are responsible, and which you have authorized and adopt.
"You now propose to me to republish this volume in England, where you admit it could not appear without the consent of all concerned. After what you have done I must decline to act with you. I leave your conduct to the judgment of men of sense and of honor.
|"I am faithfully yours,|
|"Mr. Herbert Spencer.||Frederic Harrison."|
[Times, June 1st.]
MR. FREDERIC HARRISON'S CHARGE.
To the Editor of the Times.
Sir: Will you oblige me by publishing the following letter, which is a copy of one to Mr. Harrison, referred to by him in his letter contained in The Times of Friday:
"Dear Sir: Here are my replies to the questions put in your note of yesterday.
"Just before the middle of January I received from my American friend, Professor Youmans, a letter dated January 2, containing, among others, the following paragraphs:
"'And now we have something of a new embarrassment upon which I must consult you. There is a pretty sharp demand for the publication of your controversy with Harrison in a separate form, and the publishers favor it. The question is not simply whether it is desirable, for we can not control it. There is danger that it will be done by others, and if that should occur it would be construed as a triumph of the Harrison party—the Spencerians having declined to go into it.
'"If I thought no one else would print the correspondence (i. e., the Nineteenth Century articles), I should be in favor of our not doing it. In the first place, for general effect, rhetoric against reason counts as about ten to one. The Comtists are reviving—Harrison is coming over to lecture in this country, and much will be made of his brilliant conduct of the controversy. In the next place he has this advantage of you. Your main work bearing upon the issue is to be sought elsewhere, while Harrison had accumulated all the materials of his assault and gives his whole case, so that the popular effect could not fail to be much in his favor. To the narrower circle of readers who can really appreciate the discussion, the republication would undoubtedly be an excellent thing, and I suppose after all it is only these that we should much care for. On the whole it may be politic to reprint. What do you think about it? '
"There was thus raised a quite unexpected problem. I had supposed that the matter had ended with your letter to the Pall Mall Gazette; and having expressed (in the Nineteenth Century) my intention not to continue the controversy, I hoped it would drop. Here, however, came the prospect of a revival in another shape; and I had to choose between republication by my American friends or republication by your friends, with the implication that I was averse to it. Though I should have preferred passivity, yet, under the circumstances stated, I thought it best to assent to republication. One objection, however, became manifest. While in my replies to you I had pointed out sundry of your many misrepresentations, I passed over others—one reason being that I could not trespass too much on the space of the Nineteenth Century and the attention of its readers. Now, however, when it was proposed that the statements contained in your articles should be re-diffused, and take a permanent form instead of a temporary form, I felt that I could not leave unnoticed these other misrepresentations. Appearing in a volume issued by my American publishers, and edited by my American friend, the implication would have been that statements made by you to which no objection was raised-were correct statements. If words in quotation marks tacitly ascribed by you to me had not been disowned by me (p. 112), it would, of course, have been assumed that I had used them, and that I stood convicted of the absurdity which you allege on the assumption that I had used them. If it had not been shown that an opinion you debit me with (p. 129) is wholly at variance with opinions which I have expressed in three different places, it would naturally have been concluded that I held the opinion. Hence it was clear that unless I was to authorize the stereotyping of these and other errors I must take measures to dissipate them. I therefore pointed out to Professor Youmans the statements which required notice, indicated the needful rectifications, and requested him to append these rectifications in his own way. At the same time I forwarded him a copy of the letter which you published in the Pall Mall Gazette, saying that ' if this reprint of the articles is published without this letter, he (you) will inevitably say that his final reply has been omitted. It is needful, therefore, that it should be included.' And along with your letter I sent indications of the points in it which should be noticed.
"Do you think I was not justified in this course? Do you think I ought to have withheld my consent to the republication by my friends, leaving your friends to republish? Do you think that, having assented to republication, I ought to have let pass without correction your misstatements previously uncorrected? If you think either of these things, I imagine that few will agree with you. There is, however, an easy way of bringing the question to issue. All the articles are copyright in England, and can not be republished here without the consent of all concerned. I do not suppose that Mr. Knowles will raise any difficulty; and if you agree to the re-issue of them here, I am quite willing that they should be re-issued. If you think that anything said in refutation of your statements should not have been said, we can easily include an appendix in which you can point out this; and then, if you wish it, copies of the volume can be sent round to the press.
"Of course I preserve a copy of this letter with a view to possible future use.
|"Faithfully yours,"||Herbert Spencer.|
|"Frederic Harrison, Esq."|
I will add but two comments. Mr. Harrison had this letter before him when ho wrote his statement. Does the reader find that his statement produced an impression anything like that which my letter produces? The other comment is this. Asking whether I have any share in the profits, Mr. Harrison not only by this, but by his title, "A New Form of Literary Piracy," tacitly suggests that I have. Merely stating that the affair is purely the affair of the Messrs. Appleton, and that not even a thought about money ever entered my head concerning it, I draw attention to the readiness with which Mr. Harrison, without a particle of evidence, makes grave insinuations. And I do this because it will enable the reader to judge what need there probably was for taking the measures I did to prevent the wider and more permanent diffusion of Mr. Harrison's misrepresentations.
Concerning the newspaper extract describing a Comtist service I know nothing, and greatly regret that it was appended. I will at once ask to have it withdrawn. If three gentlemen, appointed in the usual way, decide that under the circumstances, as stated to me by Professor Youmans, I was not justified in the course I took, I will, if Mr. Harrison wishes it, request Messrs. Appleton to suppress the book and destroy the stereotype plates, and I will make good their loss to them.
|I am, faithfully yours,||HERBERT SPENCER.|
[Times, June 2d.]
MR. SPENCER AND MR. HARRISON.
To the Editor of the Times.
Sir: I will not pursue this matter further, nor will I insist on Mr. Spencer's fair offer to submit it to arbitration. It satisfies me if he will not claim any absolute and moral right to copyright in America my writings with rectifications of his own. I am accustomed to unauthorized reprints of what I write; and as I hear there is a brisk sale for these essays (quorum pars minima fui) I will only congratulate the Yankee editor on his 'cuteness. As Mr. Spencer, by his offer, now admits it to be possible that he made a mistake, I am ready to regard his share of it as an inadvertence. I know too well his great generosity in money matters to suppose that any question of profit crossed his mind. But it certainly crossed some one's mind; and I referred to it only to convince him that eager partisans had led him into a mistake. It is not easy at any time to get him to see this, and to open his eyes I used for once plain words. Conscious that I had conducted a philosophical debate with an old friend with all the deference and admiration that I really feel for his genius, it did pain me to find myself treated as the proverbial dog whom any stick is good enough to beat. The only arbitration I now desire is that of some common friend who may convince him that I wish nothing more than a return to the position of philosophic friends who agree to differ about their respective systems.
|I am, & c.,|
|June 1.||FREDERIC HARRISON.|
[Times, June 3d.]
MR. SPENCER AND MR. HARRISON.
To the Editor of the Times.
Sir: Rather than have any further question with Mr. Harrison, and rather than have it supposed that I intentionally ignored his copyright claim, I have telegraphed to Messrs. Appleton to stop the sale, destroy the stock and plates, and debit me with their loss.
|I am, faithfully yours,|
|Clovelly, June 2.||HERBERT SPENCER.|
[Times, June 4th]
MR. SPENCER AND MR. HARRISON.
To the Editor of the Times.
Sir: Allow me to supplement my letter telegraphed yesterday, partly to explain how the thing arose, and partly to correct an impression made by your leader of to-day. I was wrong in assenting to the re-publication by Messrs. Appleton. I ought to have borne passively the threatened evils of re-publication by other publishers, and, as my friend has been connected with publishing in New York for thirty years, I supposed his impression that these were coming was correct. But my decision was made in a hurry, without due thought. Believing there was no time to lose, I telegraphed reply, and by the next post indicated corrections to be made in the statements of my views. And here I wish to point out that the notes I indicated were not criticism of Mr. Harrison's opinions, but corrected versions of my own. Any others, if there are any, are Professor Youmans's. I go on to explain that my mind was so engrossed with the due presentation of the controversy that the question of copyright never occurred to me; and the thought that Mr. Harrison might not like his articles republished was excluded by the impression given me that others would republish them if the Appletons did not. Hence my error. But my error does not, I think, excuse Mr. Harrison's insult. By cancelling the rest of the edition and the plates I have done all that remains possible to rectify the effects of my mistake.
|I am, faithfully yours,|
|Ilfracombe, June 3.||HERBERT SPENCER.|
[Times, June 6th.]
MR. HARRISON AND MR. SPENCER.
To the Editor of the Times.
Sir: May I once more trespass on your space by asking you to publish the following letter from Mr. Harrison?
|I am, faithfully yours,||HERBERT SPENCER.|
Dear Mr. Spencer: As you still appear to think (in spite of my public disclaimer) that I have brought against you a charge of desiring money profit out of this American reprint, I beg to say that I did not intend to make any such charge, and I do not believe that I have. I regret the use of any words which produced that impression on you.
|"I am, yours faithfully,||Frederic Harrison.|
|"P. S.—You can use this letter as you think fit.|
|"Herbert Spencer, Esq."|
[Standard, June 10th.]
MR. SPENCER AND MR. HARRISON.
To the Editor of the Standard.
Sir: The fact that the information to which it refers came through The Standard must be my excuse for asking you to publish the following letter, a copy of which I have inclosed to Mr. Harrison, requesting him to post it after reading it.
|I am, Sir, your obedient servant,|
"My dear Youmans: I returned borne last night, and only this morning learned that in The Standard of Saturday last there was, in a telegram from New York, a statement to the effect that Messrs. Appleton decline to destroy the stock and plates of the reprinted controversy (as I had telegraphed them to do), on the score that the book would be reprinted by some other publisher. In this expectation they are probably right. But a reprint would necessarily be without the notes; since these, as implied in your preface, are your copyright in America. Now, though these notes—or, at least, those which I pointed out as needful—are corrections of erroneous statements of my views, yet, rather than have it supposed that I wished to take any advantage of Mr. Harrison in making such corrections, I will submit to the evil of re-issue by another publisher without them; and I therefore repeat my request that the stock and stereo plates may be destroyed, and the loss debited to me.
"One word respecting the proposal of the Appletons to share the author's profits between Mr. Harrison and myself. If any have at present accrued, or if, in consequence of refusal to do as I have above requested, any should hereafter accrue, then I wish to say that having been, and being now, absolutely indifferent to profit in the matter, I shall decline to accept any portion of the returns.
|"Ever sincerely yours,|
Several points in this correspondence, especially in its opening letter, require some notice in this place; but, before making the critical corrections that seem to be required, I desire to say a few words on the peculiar circumstances of American publication which have an important bearing on the present case.
Mr. Frederic Harrison took offense at the American reprint in a book of some review articles of his, and pronounces it "a case of piracy." The organs of English opinion, in commenting upon these letters, take the same view. The London "Times," after referring to the graceful and honorable termination of the disagreeable difference between Mr. Harrison and Mr. Spencer, devotes a leading editorial to the discussion of American piracy on the basis of the fresh and striking illustration of it here afforded. Speaking of the effect of the "tolerably rigid copyright law" of England, the "Times" says: "But so far as America is concerned it is different. To the English author that country seems to answer very much to Hobbes's idea of a state of nature. Foreign authors are fair prey; for them there is or need be no selling or buying of copyrights, and a good book is to be dealt with as a part of the common elements of nature. If any laws govern the matter, it is only those which regulate the capture and reduction into possession of wild animals." The case is certainly bad enough, but this is an exaggeration.
At the outset I admit that on the question of international copyright, or the claims of foreign authors to property in their books, the English are right and the Americans wrong, so flagrantly wrong as to justify much of the denunciation we receive. The position of our Government upon the subject I regard as wholly indefensible. Its policy is an outrage upon a class of men who are public benefactors, a disgrace to the country, and a scandal to civilization. Grover Cleveland's republic does not recognize that Frederic Harrison and Herbert Spencer have any right of property in the products of their brainwork. Their productions when brought to the United States belong neither to them nor to anybody else. They are not protected by law, and may be appropriated by anybody without violation of law. There are many in this country who realize the vice of this policy quite as vividly as the foreign victims of it, and who are laboring hard to put an end to it. But, without offering a word of apology for it, there is still something to be said in behalf of those who are compelled to act under a bad state of things which they reprobate, but are for the time powerless to remedy. It is certainly unjust to involve these in the indiscriminate condemnation of the vicious system. It is a good deal easier to denounce it at a distance than to fight it on the spot. Nor is it possible for authors, living under a government which so stringently protects them that they acquire the habit of regarding literary property as something peculiarly sacred, to fully appreciate the difficulties of publication and the course which business must take under entirely opposite circumstances, where literary property is without any legal protection. With no international copyright it is certainly impossible to act as if we had one. That the Government does not protect him, and that if protected at all it must be done by himself, is the first and vital fact that has to be taken into account when any publisher makes the venture of reissuing a foreign book in this country. The Government is, in fact, his enemy, and virtually calls upon everybody to make war upon him. However disposed he may be to treat a foreign author well, to bring out his work in respectable shape, and pay him for it fairly, he meets this ugly circumstance at the threshold of the transaction, that the money he puts into it may be sunk because anybody can reprint the work in cheaper form and without paying the author anything. Nor is this all: the more honorable he is, the worse it is for him. Any sense of liberality he may indulge works directly against him. If he publishes the book in good form, pays a decent royalty, and makes it properly known by advertising, all this is a temptation to other parties to take advantage of his outlay, and the reputation the book acquires by means of it, to fill the market with mean editions that kill the honest publication. The American publisher is therefore compelled to adopt a policy very different from that in England, where books are vigilantly and effectively protected by law. He has to conform to the necessities of a lawless state of things, and must be left to make the best he can of it.
But the indiscriminate charges of the London "Times" are not true; all American publishers are not freebooters and pirates. Although it is not possible for them to treat foreign authors with full justice in the absence of international copyright, yet it is false that these authors are preyed upon in the unqualified way asserted by the "Times." There are, of course, American publishers, and plenty of them, who are thoroughly unscrupulous; but there are others, and they are not a few, who do the best they can under the present demoralizing system to compensate foreign authors for their work. They pay them by voluntary arrangement, not the rates that they are accustomed to at home, and not always perhaps as much as they might, but often, as I happen to know, to their own loss, when books are reprinted by others and the market supplied by degraded editions on which the author receives nothing. In the absence of an international copyright law, this voluntary action of American publishers is the only thing practicable or possible to mitigate the barbarism of the situation. Imperfect as it may be, it is an honest procedure in behalf of the foreign author; and it is now practiced to an extent that should materially qualify those wholesale charges of piracy. The present case is to be regarded in the light of these considerations; and I think it will be found that the lesson to be drawn from it is quite different from that which has been drawn by the English press.
So far as the above correspondence is concerned, the motives that impelled me to take the share I had in bringing out the suppressed book are to be gathered only from a scrap in a hurried private letter to Mr. Spencer; but, as my act is now branded as piratical, I must be excused for stating more fully the reasons by which I was actually influenced in the course taken.
Mr. Harrison had an important controversy with Herbert Spencer on a grave subject, which was published in the "Nineteenth Century." In printing their papers I have the right to assume their purpose to be that they should be read as widely as possible. There was much interest in this country to follow this discussion, and we accordingly printed the articles in "The Popular Science Monthly."
But, when the controversy was finished, there was a call for its republication in a separate form, more convenient, accessible, and cheaper than in the pages of a magazine. The demand was reasonable, and I was anxious to comply with it, that the discussion might be disseminated as widely as possible. I, moreover, desired the republication for the same reason that I had urged Mr. Spencer to go on with the controversy with Mr. Harrison. Although knowing the low state of his working-power, and how important it was that he should not be interrupted by such side-issues in the prosecution of the great philosophical work upon which he has been engaged for many years, it seemed to me of greater importance that he should seize the opportunity offered by Mr. Harrison's attack to develop more fully his fundamental religious opinions. He had published but little upon that subject for a long time, his views had been much controverted and much misunderstood, and I knew there was a strong desire on the part of many to read everything he might say in further interpretation and elucidation of them. His distinctive doctrines were now vigorously and formally attacked by a sagacious adversary, long prepared by his special studies to put them to the severest test. For the same reason that I encouraged Mr. Spencer to give time to the discussion, I desired that his readers in this country should be put in ready possession of it when done. I may add that in this I was impelled by the same general motives that had prompted me for many years to do what I could to bring Mr. Spencer's ideas before the American people.
But there were special reasons which made me wish that the publication should be issued by D. Appleton & Co. This house had printed all of Spencer's works; and as a present statement of his religious views would be an important addition to them, and would naturally be called for in connection with them, it seemed important that his controversy with Harrison should be brought out in a reputable and permanent shape to take its place with his other books. Besides, there was a high degree of certainty that the discussion would be published by somebody. The names of the eminent contestants, and the interest felt by a large number of people in the subject, were evinced by a strong demand for the publication. The discussion in its separate form was called for by the friends of Mr. Harrison and by the friends of Mr. Spencer, and by others who were friends of neither. It was open to anybody to print it, and there was every probability that it would be picked up and issued in a cheap, catchpenny edition, which is now so common with publications of every kind. I desired, therefore, that the Appletons should bring it out in a respectable shape, and at a moderate price, that the book might be had at any time in a form suitable for preservation.
I protest that these considerations were not vitiated by any covetous desire or purpose whatever. Mr. Harrison says it is a case of "piracy"; but, so far as this involves the taking of his property without compensation, there was no thought of it. In his opening letter he virtually accused Mr. Spencer of collusion in the piracy of his articles, from a sordid intention. Judged by this extraordinary letter, Mr. Harrison's religion of humanity consists chiefly in imputing vile motives to his fellow-men. He said, "May I ask if it is proposed to hand you the profits of a book of which I am (in part) the author, or are these to be retained by your American publishers and friend?" Evidently the pecuniary consideration was uppermost in his own mind. But he had here gone too far. Everybody recognized the outrage. The reader will note the striking difference in tone, amounting to a collapse, between his first and his second letters. He withdrew the offensive insinuation so far as Mr. Spencer was concerned, saying, "I know too well his great generosity in money matters to suppose that any question of profit crossed his mind." But he knew this no better when he wrote his second letter than when he wrote the first. He sent Mr. Spencer a private note asking explanations about the book, and this Mr. Spencer answered, but said nothing respecting the copyright; this did not enter his mind, probably for the reason that the house which issued it had published his books for twenty-five years, paying him regularly on all of them from the first, and he had no care about it, knowing that the equitable thing would of course be done to all concerned. But the inadvertence gave Harrison his opportunity.
But while Mr. Harrison exonerates Mr. Spencer from all thought of making profit out of him, he adds, "But it certainly crossed some one's mind," referring of course to Mr. Spencer's "American publishers and friend." Yet there was not the slightest wish or design on the part of the publishers of the book to withhold from Mr. Harrison his proper share in its copyright proceeds. They have published the scientific and philosophical works of many English authors, on which they have paid the customary compensation allowed to American authors, and if Mr. Harrison doubts it he can satisfy himself by inquiring of his neighbors, Tyndall, Lecky, Huxley, Bain, Sully, or the Darwin s, and there is surely no reason why they should not have compensated Mr. Harrison in the same way; and this was certainly their intention.
But perhaps the party who desired to plunder Mr. Harrison (he uses the significant word twice in his first letter) was Mr. Spencer's American friend, and that he supposed this "friend" capable of sharp practice is inferable from his remark, "I will only congratulate the Yankee editor on his 'cuteness." Yet the 'cute Yankee editor in this case was the only party to get nothing. Among the several stools occupied by authors and publishers, it was his fate to sit on the ground. Neither by stipulation nor expectation was he to have a cent for his labor in editing the volume, or his efforts in promoting its circulation. The reasons which actuated him have been already stated. But as the question is here raised of venal motives in the treatment of foreign authors, and as this transaction has been extensively paraded as a flagitious example of American piracy, the editor of the suppressed book is entitled to say that he has done his full share in a practical way toward promoting international equity in the payment of authors for their books. He gave nearly a year's labor to the organization of the "International Scientific Series" for the avowed purpose of securing more satisfactory compensation to scientific writers. The project was based upon the condition of the payment of copyright to each of the contributors from all the countries in which the books were issued. Nothing of the kind had ever been done or attempted before; and, in regard to its result, Dr. John W. Draper remarked, "Although there are international copyright regulations in Europe, and my various works have been translated into many foreign languages, I have never received anything from them except upon the volume I wrote for the 'International Series,' and on that I have been paid regularly by the English, French, German, and Italian, as well as by the American publishers." Fifty volumes have now appeared in that series, and the American publishers have voluntarily paid all the foreign contributors the same as if they had been citizens of the United States. And this they have done in spite of the fact that this honorable arrangement has been disregarded, and various of the volumes have been reprinted in shabby twenty-cent editions, on which, of course, the authors have received nothing.
This, then, is the way in which Mr. Harrison has been outraged. He had his articles brought out in good shape for such of his friends as desired to possess them in a separate form. He has been "plundered" by being protected against plunder on the part of those who might have issued a trivial and fugitive edition of his controversy, and allowed him nothing for it. He has been "pirated" by having voluntarily secured for him the substantial benefits of an international copyright law.
But Mr. Harrison's articles were used without his consent, and that is what the charge of "piracy" here amounts to. His consent was not asked, because it would have implied control of that over which he had no control. If he had refused, that would not have stopped the publication, but would have simply defeated the purposes of those who knew better than Mr. Harrison did what required to be done. He was not consulted for the simple reason, now obvious enough, that he would be unlikely to make allowance for a state of things utterly different from that to which he has been accustomed. He was not asked, because, while his assent would have done no good, his dissent would have done injury to himself, to Mr. Spencer, and to the public. And that Mr. Harrison would have withheld his consent is far from improbable. That the book was wanted here by many readers was nothing to him, as is shown by the fact that, when a word would have saved it from destruction, he declined to utter it. Something is of course due to courtesy, but I was not at all certain that courtesy would be met in the same spirit. The feeling of high-toned British authors toward American "pirates" is not usually vented in gracious expression. American experience with such authors is apt to engender diffidence in approaching them. Those gentlemanly and honorable publishers, the Messrs. Putnam, having special reasons recently to make overtures to Mr. Ruskin for the use of one of his articles (to be paid for, of course), were deterred from doing so because that author "absolutely declined to come into any relation with an American publisher." Mr. Harrison is understood to be a particular and punctilious man, and that he can, upon occasion, pretermit the requirements of amiable civility, and take to "plain words," is amply attested by his letter of May 29th to Herbert Spencer.
But, in the matter of "piracy," it is Mr. Spencer who comes in for Harrison's hottest indignation. He accuses him of having invented a new form of it, and aggravated the offense by its clandestine perpetration. Now, let us see what it was that Spencer did. After finishing the controversy in the "Nineteenth Century," Mr. Harrison transferred it to the "Pall Mall Gazette," in which he printed an additional article, addressed to a new audience, and filled with very objectionable misstatements. It would not do, in editing the volume which was intended to be a full presentation of the discussion, to leave this article out. But to print it without corrections would be unjust to Spencer, and to the readers of the book, who wanted and were entitled to the completest statement of the case. There was no call for anything more from Mr. Harrison, who had had his last word, and declared that he should pursue the controversy no further; but there was a need that corrections by Spencer should be supplied. He accordingly sent me the substance of some additions to be appended as notes, and which I inserted in their appropriate places. I deny the wrongfulness of this act, and the ado that has been made over it seems to me perfectly absurd. Mr. Spencer did what it was desirable and entirely proper that he should do. He had not only the right but it was his duty to defend himself against the erroneous representations of Mr. Harrison; and I insist that, if any apology was due either way, it was from Mr. Harrison to Spencer for making the misstatements, rather than from Spencer to Harrison for correcting them.
Mr. Spencer, as will be seen, prints two paragraphs from a private letter of mine giving reasons which induced him to favor the American reprint, and Mr. Harrison characterizes them as chiefly "inventions." I had said, "Harrison is coming over to lecture in this country," and Mr. Harrison says he never thought of it. I wrote carelessly; but my meaning was, that he is expected to come, and in this there was no "invention." It had been talked about, and there was nothing unlikely in it. The coming of eminent Englishmen to this country to lecture is certainly no unusual thing. Mr. Harrison is a lecturer, a man of ideas which he is interested in propagating, and is reputed to have means and leisure. He has many admirers in the United States, and a reputation which would be certain to secure him good audiences. As it turns out, "the wish was father to the thought," but the rumor was not improbable. I should have referred to it as a contingency, and I simply meant that it might be worth taking into account, with reference to the publication of the controversy.
Mr. Harrison says the idea that there was any danger of republication in this country by his friends rested also upon pure "invention." But I did not say this. I wrote to Spencer, "There is danger that it will be done by others, and if that should occur it would be construed as a triumph of the Harrison party." Mr. Spencer's interpretation of it was, "I had to choose between republication by my American friends or republication by your friends, with the implication that I was averse to it." And Mr. Spencer was here substantially right. Although there may have been no apprehension that Mr. Harrison's avowed friends would move in reprinting the book, yet, if it had been done by anybody but the Appletons, the inevitable inference would have been that their author had been so badly handled that they declined to back him. The book was looked for from Mr. Spencer's publishers, they had printed it in their magazine, they issued all his works, there was a demand for the volume which was certain to make it a safe business venture, and it represented two sides or schools of thought: if, under all these circumstances, D. Appleton & Co. had left the work for others to publish, the certain construction would have been that the book was abandoned to the party opposed to Mr. Spencer. This is the aspect of the case which he had to meet, and it is not at all affected by Mr. Harrison's statement that his friends had no idea of printing the controversy.
Another explanation seems here called for. Those who will refer to the second paragraph of my letter, quoted by Mr. Spencer, will observe both an indecision and a confusion in the statement. This was due, not only to hasty writing, but to some perplexity in my own mind. I said, "If I thought no one else would print the correspondence" (controversy), "I should be in favor of our not doing it"; and I then go on to give reasons for this conclusion, ending with the remark, "On the whole, it may be politic to reprint." Apparently this indifference to publication is inconsistent with the various reasons I have given for strongly desiring it. But there was a consideration not mentioned in the letter which weighed much with me at the time. I was in very bad health, and was urged by physicians and friends to go South without delay. It seemed therefore to be impracticable, if not impossible, for me to give that attention to the editing and publication of the volume which were prompted by my interest in it. But it will be noticed that, under this conflict of inclinations, though I gave some trivial reasons for non-publication, the conclusion favors reprinting. This shows the predominant feeling, even in a time of depression; and I must say, as a matter of fact that, though referring the matter as I did in a hurried note to Mr. Spencer, I had not for a moment really relinquished the purpose of bringing out the book. This explanation is necessary, that the responsibility may rest where it properly belongs. Mr. Harrison lays stress upon Spencer's agency in "promoting and assisting" in the production of "a volume for which you are responsible, and which you have authorized and adopt." But though Mr. Spencer chose to take the responsibility because he had assented to it, and furnished some notes for it, yet it was neither by his suggestion, procurement, nor desire that the book was issued; and truth requires me here to say that, if he had discouraged or even opposed it, the book would probably have been reprinted by D. Appleton & Co. all the same. Mr. Spencer had, in reality, very little to do with the edition. For the Introduction, the bad taste with which the notes were embellished, and the newspaper quotation describing the doings in a branch of the positivist church in London which Mr. Harrison does not like, he is not to be held to account.
For his offense in correcting some injurious misrepresentations in a controversial volume published for the use of a people three thousand miles away, the London "Times" declares that Mr. Spencer has made the amende honorable by destroying the book; and this is the general English view. The equally general American view is, that this extreme proceeding was ridiculous, that it benefited nobody, and gratuitously deprived many readers in this country of a valuable work on an important subject. It is, at any rate, desirable that the responsibility for this result should be fixed where it justly belongs. Mr. Spencer made two proposals to Harrison looking to the preservation of the work, both of which were absolutely fair, but neither of which was accepted. Mr. Spencer would have been justified in making a stand upon either of these propositions, and refusing further concessions; but Mr. Harrison's rejection of his overtures left the matter in so unsatisfactory a shape that nothing remained for Mr. Spencer but to cut the knot by ordering the book suppressed.