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simply this: upon what principle, with what justice, or under what pretext of public good, are men of letters deprived of a perpetual property in the produce of their own labours, when all other persons enjoy it as their indefeasible right-a right beyond the power of any earthly authority to take away? Is it because their labour is so light,—the endowments which it requires so common,—the attainments so cheaply and easily acquired, and the present remuneration so adequate, so ample, and so certain ?
The last descendants of Milton died in poverty. The descendauts of Shakspeare are living in poverty and in the lowest rank of life. Is this just to the individuals? Is it grateful to the memory of those who are the pride and boast of their country? Is it honourable or becoming to us as a nation, holding (the better part of us assuredly, and the majority affecting to hold) the names of Shakspeare and Milton in veneration? To have placed the descendants of these men in respectability and comfort—in that sphere of life where, with a full provision for our natural wants, free scope is given for the growth of our intellectual and immortal part, simple justice was all that was required,-only that they should have possessed the perpetual copyright of their ancestors' works,-only that they should not have been deprived of their proper and natural inheritance.
It has been stated in evidence, that copyright, in three cases out of four, is of no value a few years after publication: at the end of fourteen years scarcely in one case out of fifty, or even out of a hundred. Books of great immediate popularity have their run and come to a dead stop. The hardship is upon those which win their way slowly and difficultly-but keep the field at last. And it will not appear wonderful that this should generally have been the case with books of the highest merit, if we consider what obstacles to the success of a work may be opposed by the circumstances and obscurity of the author, when he presents himself as a candidate for fame, by the humour or the fashion of the times, the taste of the public, (more likely to be erroneous than right at all times,) and the incompetence or personal malevolence of some unprincipled critic who may take upon himself to guide the public opinion; and who, if he feels in his own heart that the fame of the man whom he hates is invulnerable, endeavours the more desperately to wound him in his fortunes. And if the copyright (as by the existing law) is to depart from the author's family at his death, or at the end of twenty-eight years from the first publication of his work, if he dies before the expiration of that term, his representatives, in such a case, are deprived of the property just when it is beginning to prove a valuable inheritance.
The decision which time pronounces upon the reputation of authors, and upon the permanent rank which they are to hold, is
unerring and final. Restore to them that perpetuity in the copyright of their works, of which the law has deprived them, and the reward of literary labour will ultimately be in just proportion to its deserts. If no inconvenience to literature arises from the perpetuity which has been restored to the Universities, (and it is not pretended that any has arisen,) neither is there any to be apprehended from restoring the same common and natural right to individuals who stand more in need of it.
However slight the hope may be of obtaining any speedy redress for this injustice, there is some satisfaction in thus solemnly protesting against it; and believing as we do, that if society continues to advance, no injustice will long be permitted to exist after it is clearly understood, we cannot but believe that a time must come when the wrongs of literature will be acknowledged, and the literary men of other generations be delivered from the hardship to which their predecessors have been subjected by no act or error of their own.
Art. XI.- A Voyage of Discovery, made under the order of the
Admiralty, in His Majesty's Ships Isabella and Alexander, for the purpose of Exploring Baffin's Bay, and inquiring into the probability of a North-west Passage. By John Ross, K. S. Captain R. Ñ. 4to. pp. 438. Thirty-two coloured Plates, Maps, Charts, &c. London. 1819. THE lively interest we have taken in discussing the question of
a northern communication between the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic, and the sanguine expectations which we had formed, on no slight grounds, as we thought, of the speedy solution of this problem, (the most interesting as well as the most important which yet remains in geographical discovery,) will sufciently account for the disappointment we experience, in common with the rest of the world, at the total failure of the two Expeditions which had so much excited the attention of Europe, and which bade so fair to set at rest the long agitated question of the existence or non-existence of a North-west Passage, and the practicability of an approach to the North Pole.
The failure of the Polar Expedition was owing to one of those accidents, to which all sea voyages are liable, more especially when to the ordinary sea-risk is superadded that of a navigation among fields and masses of ice. Of that of the other we hardly know in what térms to speak, or how to account for it. We have the story before us, such as it is, told by the officer most interested in making it good, because his reputation is materially concerned in the decision which is likely to be passed upon it by the intelligent part of
the public; for our own parts we cannot conscientiously pronounce it any otherwise than unsatisfactory. If however we are disappointed, we are by no means discouraged; on the contrary, our conviction of the existence of a communication between Baffin's Bay and the Polar Sea, and between that and the Pacific, so far from being in the smallest degree shaken by any thing that Captain Ross has done, is considerably strengthened by what he has omitted to do. In support of this opinion we shall not, on the present occasion, have recourse to either argument or hypothesis; but by confining ourselves strictly to the actual facts and circumstances of the voyage, as detailed in the narrative before us, be able (so, at least, we trust) to shew, to the satisfaction of every unprejudiced mind, that the discovery of a passage out of
a Baffin's Bay was never attempted by Captain Ross but once, and then abandoned at the very moment which afforded the brightest prospect of success; abandoned too in a manner so wholly unaccountable, that we know of no parallel in the history of voyages of discovery, unless it be in that of Captain Middleton, when he returned from Repulse Bay and the frozen strait, with a report contradicted by his own officers, and condemned by public opinion. But he was not condemned unheard; neither shall Captain Ross be censured in our pages but on the fullest and fairest investigation of his case as stated by himself: to this he cannot object; having come before the public, he must be content to undergo the usual ordeal. We beg to assure him however that, in analysing his proceedings, we are actuated solely by a sense of duty, and a strong feeling of the importance of the service he was expected to perform, unmixed with a single particle of personal hostility; for we are most willing to think him, what the late Sir George Hope (who recommended him for the enterprize) considered him to be, an active and zealous officer in the ordinary duties of his profession: at the same time however he must excuse us for believing that, in accepting the command of a Voyage of Discovery, he had not given due consideration to the nature of his qualifications. It is a service for which all officers, however brave and intelligent they may be, are not equally qualified; it requires a peculiar tact, an inquisitive and persevering pursuit after details of fact not always interesting, a contempt of danger, and an enthusiasm not to be damped by ordinary difficulties.—But let us proceed to the voyage.
On the 18th of April, 1818, the Isabella and Alexander, having completed their equipments, dropped down the Thames, and arrived, on the 30th, at Lerwick in Shetland. Here the observatory and several of the instruments were landed and set up, and a series of observations was made on the seconds' pendulum, on the incli
nation of the magnetic needle, and on the intensity of the magnetic force ;—what is meant by measuring the elevation' of the transit instrument, (p. 19.) we do not know, and few of Captain Ross's readers, we suspect, will be able to discover. On the 3d May they again .put to sea; and on the 26th May, after passing Cape Farewell at a considerable distance to the southward of it, they fell in with the first iceberg, which was computed to be about 40 feet above the surface of the sea, and 1000 feet long.
Imagination presented it in many grotesque figures: at one time it looked something like a white lion and horse rampant, which the quick faney of sailors, in their harmless fondness for omens, naturally enough shaped into the lion and unicorn of the king's arms, and they were delighted accordingly with the good luck it seemed to augur. And truly our first introduction to one of these huge masses, with which we were afterwards likely to grow so familiar, was a sort of epoch in our voyage, that might well excuse a sailor's divination, particularly when the aspect with which it was invested tended to inspire confidence, and keep up the energies of the men; a feeling so requisite for an enterprise like ours, where even their curiosity might be chilled for want of excitement.
It is hardly possible to imagine any thing more exquisite than the variety of tints which these icebergs display; by night as well as by day they glitter with a vividness of colour beyond the power of art to represent. While the white portions have the brilliancy of silver, their colours are as various and splendid as those of the rainbow, their ever changing disposition producing effects as singular as they were novel and interesting.'-p.30.
We do not well see how this can be; icebergs display no colour by night, and those exhibited by day are confined to blue and green.
On approaching the Savage Islands, on the western coast of Greenland, a number of those icebergs, of various shapes and sizes, were observed to the westward fast by the ground, the height of one of which was estimated at 325 feet: a torrent of water was pouring down its side. On another of those masses, to which the ships made fast, in lat. 68° 22', a stratum of gravel was observed; and stones of various kinds, mostly quartz and pieces of granite, were found upon it. Here they were visited by some of the native Esquimaux, from whom they learned that this iceberg had remained aground since the preceding year; and that the ice was close from thence all the way to Disco island. Near this place they procured several species of sea-fowl, and shot a seal of the enormous weight of 850 pounds, which yielded thirty gallons of oil.
We shall not attempt to follow Captain Ross through the detail of the difficulties which impeded the progress of the ships along the coast of Greenland, nor recapitulate the exertions that
were used in forcing them through packs and floes of ice by the various operations of tacking, warping, and towing; difficulties which not a few of the whalers have every year more or less to encounter, and not always unattended with danger; an instance of which occurred in the present season, when one of them was caught between two floes of ice in motion and crushed; the crew narrowly escaping with their lives on the ice. Suffice it to say, that every possible exertion seems to have been made to get to the northward without loss of time, and every precaution adopted to avoid being caught and closed up in the ice, as well as to preserve the ships from injury. In this way they reached Kron Prins island, in lat. 63° 54', on the 14th June: the inhabitants were found to consist of the Danish governor and his family, six other Danes, and about a hundred Esquimaux, all employed in the catching of whales and seals during the summer season. The governor, who was a young man, a native of Norway, came off to the Isabella; and informed them that the late winter had been uncommonly severe, the sea being frozen over so early as the beginning of December, a circumstance which did not usually take place till the middle of February; he further observed, that during the eleven years he had been resident in Greenland, the severity of the winters had evidently increased.
In proceeding to the northward, along the edge of the main ice, through a narrow and crooked channel, a ridge of ice-bergs was observed in the midst of the firm field of ice of every variety and shape that can be imagined;' of these the best idea will be collected from the several prints with which Captain Ross has decorated his book, though it requires no extraordinary sagacity to discover that many of them are strangely exaggerated as to their grouping, figure, and dimensions. In the representation of the silver plated iceberg, (p. 47.) there is a mixture of absurdity and inconsistency: the scene is meant to represent moon-light, though on the 17th of June, when the view is said to be taken, in lat. 71° the sun
The ships, too, were at anchor the whole of that day, yet they are seen sailing under the overhanging top of an iceberg which cannot be less than 800 fect above the surface; and, to add to their perilous situation, a great fissure 'appears to run through its base. Such a tower of ice, in such a position, could not stand a moment. We notice these things, trifling as they may appear, as they shew an habitual inaccuracy and a looseness of description, which, we are concerned to say, run through the whole narrative.
At Wygat, or Hare island, the observatory and the instruments were again landed in order to make observations until the ice should open and afford a passage to the northward. One result of