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Nature the Plagiarist.

How very hard it is to be original ! This is a truism which the unfortunate writer of fiction knows only too well. Whenever he has invented an entirely new situation, and congratulates himself upon this time, at any rate, having scored off the unpleasant people who spend their lives in convicting their fellows of theft, what is the result ? One unpleasant person produces an exactly similar scene—or one suffic'ently like it for his malicious purpose—from some obscure Scandinavian playwright. Another traces it to a low Latin chronicle of the thirteenth century ; and finally, a third proves it to be simply a variant of one of the seven original ta’es from which all the fiction in the world is supposed to be derived. Even Nature herself is not above stealing her startling episodes. Many cases of this have before now been recorded, and now it seems the cunning dame is at her old tricks again. Mr Wilkie Collins is the victim. In ‘ Armadale ’ there is a very smart description of the way in which Mrs Waldron, who was convicted of poisoning her husband, had her sentence remitted. Here is the passage in question: On the evening of the trial, two or three of the young Buccaneers of literature went down to two or three newspaper offices, and wrote two or three heart-rendering leading articles on the subject of the proceedings in Court. The next morning the public caught light like tinder; and the prisoner was tried over again, before an amateur Court of Justice, in tiro columns of the newspapers. All the people who had no personal experience whatever of tire subject seiz d their pens, and rushed into print. Doctors who had not attended the sick man, and who had not been present at the examination of the body, declared by dozens that he had died a natural death, Barristers without businoar who had not heard the evidence attacked the jury who had heard it, and judged the Judge who had sat on the Bench before some of them were born. Why, it might all have been written to-day. A more disgraceful plagiarism was never penned in a moment of “ unconscious cerebration” than that which Nature has in connection with the Maybrick case committed upon fiction. Still, it remains to be seen whether she will complete the parallel. In the story “ the prisoner’s death warrant went into the waste-paper basket; and the verdict of the law was reversed by general acclamation.”—Exchange,

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Bibliographic details

Nature the Plagiarist., Evening Star, Issue 8034, 10 October 1889

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Nature the Plagiarist. Evening Star, Issue 8034, 10 October 1889