Writers Anarchy I

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Learning from the anarchy of an artist.

A few years later, they were one of several periodicals that published American Notes. With this, technology was rapidly improving — everything from the way ink was produced, to how paper was rolled, to how illustrations were added, to the machinery that actually did the printing. American publishing houses reprinted works by the biggest British writers of the day, assured that they would sell well. Some of these printers were ruthless in their attempts to be the first to produce a British-work on American soil — once, when Harper and Brothers caught fire, a competing publisher preemptively wrote a letter to Mr.

Harper ensuring him that he had not set the fire himself, before he was even accused.

Not authors, but publishers — and, of course, readers. These changes in the publishing industry were both caused by and the cause of piracy. To sum up the massive practice of pirating works, however, would oversimplify.

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There were many factors involved: an economic recession pushed American publishers to steal British works to save money, or there was a belief that Old World literature would be morally beneficial to New World readers. Then there was the generalization that American writers had nothing to write about considering how young the country was, or that Americans were too practical to focus on artistic endeavors. So, of course, American publishers wanted to issue British works, rather than take a chance on up-and-coming Americans.

As he noted on the dedication page, Dickens saw Talfourd as enacting a greater role for literature and, more specifically, for authors: If I had not enjoyed the happiness of your private friendship, I should still have dedicated this work to you, as a slight and most inadequate acknowledgment of the inestimable services you are rendering to the literature of your country, and of the lasting benefits you will confer upon the authors of this and succeeding generations, by securing to them and their descendants a permanent interest in the copyright of their works.

Many a fevered head and palsied hand will gather new vigour in the hour of sickness and distress from your excellent exertions; many a widowed mother and orphan child, who would otherwise reap nothing from the fame of departed genius but its too frequent legacy of poverty and suffering, will bear, in their altered condition, higher testimony to the value of your labours than the most lavish encomiums from lip or pen could ever afford. In his trip to the United States, Dickens dared to speak about copyright — and just bringing up the topic publicly was scandalous.

On February 7, he introduced the idea this way: Gentlemen, as I have no secrets from you, in the spirit of confidence you have engendered between us, and as I have made a kind of compact with myself that I never will, while I remain in America, omit an opportunity of referring to a topic in which I and all others of my class on both sides of the water are equally interested — equally interested, there is no difference between us, I would beg leave to whisper in your ear two words: International Copyright. Scott had died in significant debt but had hoped in his last couple years that his writing would earn significant money.

Instead, frequent unauthorized reprintings of his work earned him nothing at all. Dickens thought his speeches on behalf of international copyright reflect a common interest between American and English writers, and that he was doing a noble service for the cause. He insisted, however, that he did not come to the country specifically to plead the case for copyright. Worse, some newspapers suggested that Dickens had been sent as an emissary on behalf of British authors, that his thoughts were not only representative of some sort of cabal of writers, but that he was merely their puppet.

He made it worse by circulating petitions signed by fellow writers from across the pond. In a letter he wrote from the United States to his brother-in-law, he asked, Is it not a horrible thing that scoundrel-booksellers should grow rich here from publishing books, the authors of which do not reap one farthing from their issue, by scores of thousands? Is it tolerable that besides being robbed and rifled, an author should be forced to appear in any form — in any vulgar dress — in any atrocious company — that he should have no choice of his audience — no controul [sic] over his own distorted text?

Dickens, a British writer, has addressed the American people on the subject of copyright. When the copyright debate came up in the s, for example, publisher Henry C. Carey wrote to Congress to ask, sure, this sounds great for authors, but how does it protect the publishers or the public?

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Justice, he said, would prevail — and justice would prove that international copyright was unnecessary. Carey suggested that books were just clothing for the real body — ideas, and ideas were not subject to copyright. Imagine, he wondered, if the great scientists like Copernicus and Isaac Newton had copyrighted their ideas — knowledge of science would never have grown. Page 9 of 14 History books are no different, they convey common information, and that cannot be copyrighted. And Carey offered that fiction was the same. Walter Scott, after all, had studied Scottish history, and merely reproduced it as fiction.

The owner of the garden would admit it a good bouquet, but the flowers were still his, even if he was willing to pay him for his services in creating a bouquet. Dickens, who makes such beautiful literary bouquets… Nevertheless, the author objects to this, insisting that he is the owner of the bouquet itself, although he has paid no wages to the man who raised the flowers. To a publisher, Dickens owed everything to his readers, not that his readers owed Dickens anything.

Dickens… has made an appeal to his hosts [in America] in behalf of a law to secure him a certain amount in dollars and cents for his writings. We are… mortified and grieved that he should have been guilty of such great indelicacy and gross impropriety. How is he injured if we do enjoy that pleasure…?

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American Notes and moving towards copyright That is not to say that people like Mathews and Dickens were not without supporters, however. In a sense, Dickens vents some of his frustration in the book that resulted from his tour of the United States: American Notes for General Circulation. Dickens probably originally planned a more innocuous, controversy-free book before he published American Notes.

But most other authors had neither the clout nor the resources as did Irving. The title also admits a prediction which turned out to be quite true: the book would soon be circulated generally, without his stamp of approval. Critics of Dickens perceived that the author was interested only in money.

Generally, many believed that the adulation he received, the popularity he was earning, was a better compensation than royalties. It was about whether or not the work of an author was their property, or if it was part of the democratic process to make information or knowledge readily available to all people. It was whether or not authorship was something worthy of becoming a profession, or if it only deserved to be a leisure activity.

It was whether or not the United States made up only of practical people, who cared little for the arts. And it was about whether Americans could create a new world culture just as rich as the old world of Europe.

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To that end, copyright protected nationalism, authors argued. To improve the culture that Sydney Smith and other English critics disparaged, we needed authors who could focus solely on literature in order to affect its improvement. For this to happen, authors had to remove themselves from the full-time jobs that hampered their ability to write.

That meant that authors had to be paid enough to support themselves through their writing. As Mathews predicted in his speech at the Dickens dinner, there were: A thousand voices, now in slumber in our vales, amid our cities, and along our hill-sides, that only await the genial hour to speak and be heard.

Silence would no longer brood, as it now does, over so many fair fields… Allegany would have a voice, to which the metropolis, with its hundred steeples and turrets, would answer; gulf and river, and the broad field would reply, each for itself, until the broad sky above us should be shaken with the thunder tones of master spirits responding to each other; the whole wide land echo from side to side with the accents of a majestic literature — self-reared, self-sustained, self-vindicating!

I offer you, Mr. President — [i. Washington Irving] — An International Copyright — The only honest turnpike between the readers of two great nations. His anger shows in the novel Martin Chuzzlewit, which he published not long after his return to his native England. When Dickens returned to the United States in the s, the fight for copyright was renewed — one group petitioned congress with the endorsement of poet William Cullen Bryant, biographer James Parton, scientist Louis Agassiz, editor George William Curtis, Rev.

Henry Ward Beecher, and even publishers George P.

Putnam and Charles Scribner. The fight continued later in the century with Mark Twain becoming one of the leading voices in the movement. He personally traveled to Washington DC to meet with elected officials to discuss copyright.

In , Twain traveled to Canada to copyright a legal edition of one of his books there. While in Montreal, he gave a speech: I did not come to Canada to commit crime — this time — but to prevent it.

I came here to place myself under the protection of the Canadian law and secure a copyright This is rather a cumbersome way to fence and fortify one's property against the literary buccaneer, it is true; still, if it is effective, it is a great advantage upon past conditions, and one to be correspondingly welcome. It makes one hope and believe that a day will come when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whiskey, or any other of the necessaries of life.

It grieves me to think how far more profound and reverent a respect the law would have for literature if a body could only get drunk on it. He thanked those who came before him, and said: You know, gentlemen, that this was fought for, during many years, chiefly on grounds relative to the welfare of American authors and the development of a home literature. For one, I always have felt that the wrongs experienced by foreign writers, however prejudicial to our reputation among nations, and outrageous as they were, have been less severe than the cruel ills so long inflicted upon our own men of letters — of less moment than the repression of American ideas, the restricted growth of our national literature… We hope that foreign authors — and especially our English fellows of the craft — are rejoicing, are rejoicing just a little.

June New York: D. Appleton and Co. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, Appleton and Company, 8 Michael J. Michael J. Gerald Kennedy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, New York: Twayne Publishers, New York City: R. In many ways, he was a Renaissance Man who wanted to live and write as he wished, despite what the publishers and the tenor of the times might have demanded.

This is the real lesson of Henry Miller. The list is long. But like Miller, they were far more than their machismo; far more complicated than their conquests and relationships. Miller, Burnside contends, was far more than the man found in the Tropics. Be like Henry. He believed, like The Beats, that artistry was not born out of a level of conformity.

It was instead found at the edges and frequently outside the boundaries. And if a writer is afraid to test those boundaries then he will only compartmentalize himself and be lost in a mob of the usual. It is an endless fight. Sign in. Get started. Writing Lessons from Henry Miller. Learning from the anarchy of an artist.


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David W. Berner Follow. The Writing Cooperative A writing community and publication focused on helping each other write better. Award-winning writer, journalist, broadcaster. Author of memoir and fiction.

Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I
Writers Anarchy I Writers Anarchy I

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