Impressions of Theophrastus Such eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.

No man, I imagine, would object more strongly than Euphorion to communistic principles in relation to material property, but with regard to property in ideas he entertains such principles willingly, and is disposed to treat the distinction between Mine and Thine in original authorship as egoistic, narrowing, and low.  I have known him, indeed, insist at some expense of erudition on the prior right of an ancient, a medieval, or an eighteenth century writer to be credited with a view or statement lately advanced with some show of originality; and this championship seems to imply a nicety of conscience towards the dead.  He is evidently unwilling that his neighbours should get more credit than is due to them, and in this way he appears to recognise a certain proprietorship even in spiritual production.  But perhaps it is no real inconsistency that, with regard to many instances of modern origination, it is his habit to talk with a Gallic largeness and refer to the universe:  he expatiates on the diffusive nature of intellectual products, free and all-embracing as the liberal air; on the infinitesimal smallness of individual origination compared with the massive inheritance of thought on which every new generation enters; on that growing preparation for every epoch through which certain ideas or modes of view are said to be in the air, and, still more metaphorically speaking, to be inevitably absorbed, so that every one may be excused for not knowing how he got them.  Above all, he insists on the proper subordination of the irritable self, the mere vehicle of an idea or combination which, being produced by the sum total of the human race, must belong to that multiple entity, from the accomplished lecturer or populariser who transmits it, to the remotest generation of Fuegians or Hottentots, however indifferent these may be to the superiority of their right above that of the eminently perishable dyspeptic author.

Euphorion himself, if a particular omission of acknowledgment were brought home to him, would probably take a narrower ground of explanation.  It was a lapse of memory; or it did not occur to him as necessary in this case to mention a name, the source being well known—­or (since this seems usually to act as a strong reason for mention) he rather abstained from adducing the name because it might injure the excellent matter advanced, just as an obscure trade-mark casts discredit on a good commodity, and even on the retailer who has furnished himself from a quarter not likely to be esteemed first-rate.  No doubt this last is a genuine and frequent reason for the non-acknowledgment of indebtedness to what one may call impersonal as well as personal sources:  even an American editor of school classics whose own English could not pass for more than a syntactical shoddy of the cheapest sort, felt it unfavourable to his reputation for sound learning that he should be obliged to the Penny Cyclopaedia, and disguised his references to it under contractions in which Us. 

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Impressions of Theophrastus Such from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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