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quaintness in question a point elaborately intro
duced to accomplish a well-considered purpose. What
idea would Outis entertain of me were I to speak of
his defence of his friends as very decent, very respect
able, but rather meritorious ? In the passages col
lated there are two points upon which the " snarling
critic " might base his insinuation, if ever so weak a
" snarling critic " existed. Of these two points one is
purely hypothetical, that is to say, it is disingenuously
manufactured by Mr. Longfellow's acquaintance to
suit his own purposes, or, perhaps, the purposes of the
imaginary " snarling critic." The argument of the
second point is demolished by my not only admitting
it, but insisting upon it. Perhaps the least tedious
mode of refuting Outis is to acknowledge nine tenths
of everything he may think proper to say.

But, in the present instance, what am I called upon
to acknowledge ? I am charged with imitating the
repetition of phrase in the two concluding lines of a
stanza, and of imitating this from Coleridge. But
why not extend the accusation and insinuate that I
imitate it from everybody else ? for certainly there is
no poet living or dead who has not put in practice the

VOL. VIII. 12. 177

Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

identical effect the well-understood effect of the re
frain. Is Outis's argument to the end that I have no
right to this thing for the reason that all the world
has ? If this is not his argument, will he be kind
enough to inform me (at his leisure) what it is ? Or
is he prepared to confess himself so absurdly unin
formed as not to know that whatever a poet claims on
the score of original versification, is claimed not on
account of any individual rhythmical or metrical
effects (for none are individually original), but solely
on account of the novelty of his combinations of old
effects ? The hypothesis, or manufacture, consists in
the alteration of Coleridge's metre, with the view of
forcing it into a merely ocular similarity with my own,
and thus of imposing upon some one or two grossly
ignorant readers. I give the verses of Coleridge as
they are :

For all averred, I had killed the bird,

That made the breeze to blow.
" Ah, wretch," said they, " the bird to slay,

That made the breeze to blow.

The verses beginning, " They all averred," etc., are
arranged in the same manner. Now, I have taken it
for granted that it is Outis's design to impose the idea
of similarity between my lines and those of Coleridge
upon some one or two grossly ignorant individuals;
at the same time, whoever attempts such an imposi-

Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

tion is rendered liable at least to the suspicion of very
gross ignorance himself. The ignorance or the knav
ery are the two uncomfortable horns of his dilemma.

Let us see. Coleridge's lines are arranged in quat
rains, mine in couplets. His first and third lines
rhyme at the close of the second and fourth feet ; mine
flow continuously, without rhyme. His metre, briefly
defined, is alternately tetrameter acatalectic and trim
eter acatalectic; mine is uniformly octameter cata-
lectic. It might be expected, however, that at least
the rhythm would prove to be identical, but not so.
Coleridge's is iambic (varied in the third foot of the
first line with an anapaest) ; mine is the exact converse,
trochaic. The fact is, that neither in rhythm, metre,
stanza, or rhyme is there even a single point of ap
proximation throughout ; the only similarity being the
wickedly or sillily manufactured one of Outis himself,
appealing from the ears to the eyes of the most un
cultivated classes of the rabble. The ingenuity and
validity of the manufacture might be approached,
although certainly not paralleled, by an attempt to
show that blue and yellow pigments, standing unmixed
at separate ends of a studio, were equivalent to green.
I say " not paralleled," for even the mixing of the pig
ments, in the case of Outis, would be very far, as I
have shown, from producing the supposititious effect.
Coleridge's lines, written together, would result in
rhymed iambic heptameter acatalectic, while mine are


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

unrhymed trochaic octameter catalectic, differing in
every conceivable circumstance. A closer parallel than
the one I have imagined would be the demonstration
that two are equal to four, on the ground that, possess
ing two dollars, a man will have four when he gets an
additional couple for that the additional couple is
somewhere, no one, after due consideration, will deny.

If Outis will now take a seat upon one of the horns
of his dilemma, I will proceed to the third variation of
the charges insinuated through the medium of the
" snarling critic," in the passage heretofore quoted. 1

The first point to be attended to is the " ten to one
that I never saw it before." Ten to one that I never
did; but Outis might have remembered that twenty to
one I should like to see it. In accusing either Mr.
Aldrich or Mr. Hood, I printed their poems together
and in full. But an anonymous gentleman rebuts my
accusation by telling me that there is a certain simi
larity between a poem of my own and an anonymous
poem which he has before him, and which he would like
to transcribe if it were not too long. He contents him
self, therefore, with giving me from this too long poem
three stanzas which are shown, by a series of inter
vening periods, to have been culled, to suit his own
purposes, from different portions of the poem, but
which (again to suit his own purposes) he places be
fore the public in consecutive connection! The least

1 " I have before me " to " part of such comparison," ante, pp. 156, 157.
1 80

Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

that can be said of the whole statement is that it is
deliciously frank ; but, upon the whole, the poem will
look quite as well before me as before Outis, whose
time is too much occupied to transcribe it. I, on the
other hand, am entirely at leisure, and will transcribe
and print the whole of it with the greatest pleasure in
the world, provided always that it is not too long to
refer to, too long to have its whereabouts pointed
out, as I half suspect, from Outis's silence on the
subject, that it is. One thing I will take it upon my
self to say, in the spirit of prophecy: whether the poem
in question is or is not in existence (and we have only
Nobody's word that it is), the passages as quoted are
not in existence, except as quoted by Outis, who, in
some particulars, I maintain, has falsified the text, for
the purpose of forcing a similarity, as in the case of
the verses of Coleridge. All this I assert in the spirit
of prophecy, while we await the forthcoming of the
poem. In the meantime, we will estimate the " iden
tities " with reference to The Raven as collated with
the passages culled by Outis, granting him everything
he is weak enough to imagine I am in duty bound to
grant, admitting that the poem as a whole exists, that
the words and lines are ingeniously written, that the
stanzas have the connection and sequence he gives
them, and that, although he has been already found
guilty of chicanery in one instance, he is at least en
tirely innocent in this.


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

He has established, he says, fifteen identities, " and
that, too, without a word of rhythm, metre, or stanza,
which should never form a part of such comparison " ;
by which, of course, we are to understand that with
the rhythm, metre, and stanza (omitted only because
they should never form a part of such comparison) he
would have succeeded in establishing eighteen. Now,
I insist that rhythm, metre, and stanza should form
and must form a part of the comparison, and I will
presently demonstrate what I say. I also insist, there
fore, since he could find me guilty if he would upon
these points, that guilty he must and shall find me
upon the spot. He then distinctly has established
eighteen identities, and I proceed to examine them one
by one.

" First," he says, " in each case the poet is a broken
hearted lover." Not so; my poet has no indication
of a broken heart. On the contrary, he lives trium
phantly in the expectation of meeting his Lenore in
Aidenn, and is so indignant with the raven for main
taining that the meeting will never take place as to
call him a liar and order him out of the house. Not
only is my lover not a broken-hearted one, but I have
been at some pains to show that broken hearts and
matters of that kind are improperly made the subject
of poems. I refer to a chapter of the articles entitled
Marginalia. " Second," says Outis, " that lover longs
for some hereafter communion with the departed." In


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

my poem there is no expression of any such longing;
the nearest approach to it is the triumphant conscious
ness which forms the thesis and staple of the whole. In
Outis's poem the nearest approach to the " longing "
is contained in the lover's request to the bird to repeat
a strain that assures him (the lover) that it (the bird)
has known the lost mistress. " Third, there is a bird,"
says Outis. So there is. Mine, however, is a raven,
and we may take it for granted that Outis's is either
a nightingale or a cockatoo. " Fourth, the bird is at
the poet's window." As regards my poem, true; as
regards Outis's, not; the poet only requests the bird
to come to the window. " Fifth, the bird, being at the
poet's window, makes a noise." The fourth specifica
tion failing, the fifth, which depends upon it, as a
matter of course fails too. " Sixth, making a noise
attracts the attention of the poet." The fifth specifica
tion failing, the sixth, which depends upon it, fails,
likewise, and as a matter of course, as before. " Sev
enth, [the poet] was half -asleep, dozing, dreaming."
False altogether; only my poet was " napping," and
this in the commencement of the poem, which is occu
pied with realities and waking action. Outis's poet is
fast asleep and dreams everything. " Eighth, the poet
invites the bird to come in." Another palpable fail
ure. Outis's poet, indeed, asked his bird in ; but my
raven walked in without any invitation. " Ninth, a
confabulation ensues." As regards my poem, true;


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

but there is not a word of any confabulation in Outis's.
" Tenth, the bird is supposed to be a visitor from the
land of spirits." As regards Outis's poem, this is true
only if we give a wide interpretation to the phrase
" realms of light." In my poem the bird is not only
not from the world of spirits, but I have specifically
conveyed the idea of his having escaped from " some
unhappy master," of whom he had caught the word
" nevermore " ; in the concluding stanza, it is true,
I suddenly convert him into an allegorical emblem or
personification of Mournful Remembrance, out of the
shadow of which the poet is " lifted nevermore."
" Eleventh, allusion is made to the departed." Ad
mitted. " Twelfth, the intimation is given that the bird
knew something of the departed." True as regards
Outis's poem only. No such intimation is given in
mine. " Thirteenth, that he knew her worth and love
liness." Again, true only as regards Outis's poem. It
should be observed here that I have disproved the
twelfth and thirteenth specifications purely for form's
sake ; they are nothing more than disingenuous repeti
tions of the eleventh. The " allusion to the departed "
is the " intimation," and the intimation is that " he
knew her worth and loveliness." " Fourteenth, the
bird seems willing to linger with the poet." True only
as regards my poem; in Outis's (as quoted) there is
nothing of the kind. " Fifteenth, there is a repetition,
in the second and fourth lines, of a part, and that the


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

emphatic part, of the first and third." What is here
asserted is true only of the first stanza quoted by Outis,
and of the commencement of the third. There is
nothing of it in the second. In my poem there is
nothing of it at all, with the exception of the repeti
tion in the refrain, occurring at the fifth line of my
stanza of six. I quote a stanza, by way of rendering
every thing perfectly intelligible and affording Outis
his much-coveted " fair play " :

" Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend ! " I shrieked,

" Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian

shore !
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath

spoken !

Leave my loneliness unbroken! quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off

my door! "

Quoth the raven, " Nevermore."

Sixteenth, concerns the rhythm. Outis's is iambic;
mine the exact converse, trochaic. Seventeenth, re
gards the metre. Outis's is hexameter, alternating
with pentameter, both acatalectic. 1 Mine is octameter

1 This is as accurate a description as can be given of the alternating (of the
second and fourth) lines in a few words. The fact is, they are indescribable
without more trouble than they are worth, and seem to me either to have been
written by some one ignorant of the principles of verse, or to be misquoted.
The line, however,

That tells me thou hast seen and loved my Clare,

answers the description I have given of the alternating verses, and was* no
doubt, the general intention of all of them.


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic re
peated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating
with tetrameter catalectic. Eighteenth, and last, has
respect to the stanza, that is to say, to the general
arrangement of the metre into masses. Of Outis's I
need only say that it is a very common and certainly a
very stupid one. My own has at least the merit of
being my own. No writer, living or dead, has ever
employed anything resembling it. The innumerable
specific differences between it and that of Outis's it
would be a tedious matter to point out, but a far less
difficult matter than to designate one individual point
of similarity.

And now, what are we to think of the eighteen iden
tities of Outis, the fifteen that he establishes and the
three that he could establish if he would, that is to
say, if he could only bring himself to be so unmerci
ful ? Of the whole eighteen, sixteen have shown
themselves to be lamentable failures, having no more
substantial basis than sheer misrepresentation, " too
paltry for any man who values his reputation as a
gentleman and a scholar," and depending altogether
for effect upon the chances that nobody would take
the trouble to investigate their falsehood or their truth.
Two the third and the eleventh are sustained ; and
these two show that in both poems there is " an allu
sion to the departed," and that in both poems there
is " a bird." The first idea that suggests itself, at this


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

point, is, whether not to have a bird and not to have
an allusion to a deceased mistress, would not be the
truer features of distinctiveness after all, whether two
poems which have not these items might not be more
rationally charged with similarity than any two poems
which have. But having thus disproved all the iden
tities of Outis (for any one comprehending the prin
ciple of proof in such cases will admit that two only,
are in effect just nothing at all), I am quite ready, by
way again of affording him " fair play,' to expunge
everything that has been said on the subject, and pro
ceed as if every one of these eighteen identities were
in the first bloom and deepest blush of a demonstration.
I might grant them as demonstrated, to be sure, on
the ground which I have already touched, that to prove
me or anybody else an imitator is no mode of showing
that Mr. Aldrich or Mr. Longfellow is not. But I
might safely admit them on another and equally sub
stantial consideration, which seems to have been over
looked by the zeal of Outis altogether. He has clearly
forgotten that the mere number of such coincidences
proves nothing, because at any moment we can oblige
it to prove too much. It is the easiest thing imagin
able to suggest, and even to do that which Outis has
failed in doing, to demonstrate a practically infinite
series of identities between any two compositions in
the world; but it by no means follows that all com
positions in the world have a similarity one with the


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

other in any comprehensible sense of the term. I
mean to say that regard must be had not only to the
number of the coincidences, but to the peculiarity of
each, this peculiarity growing less and less necessary,
and the effect of number more and more important, in
a ratio prodigiously accumulative as the investigation
progresses. And again, regard must be had not only
to the number and peculiarity of the coincidences, but
to the antagonistic differences, if any, which surround
them, and very especially to the space over which the
coincidences are spread, and the number or paucity of
the events, or incidents, from among which the coin
cidences are selected. When Outis, for example, picks
out his eighteen coincidences (which I am now grant
ing as sustained) from a poem so long as The Raven,
in collation with a poem not forthcoming, and which
may, therefore, for anything anybody knows to the
contrary, be as long as an infinite flock of ravens, he
is merely putting himself to unnecessary trouble in
getting together phantoms of arguments that can have
no substance wherewith to aid his demonstration, until
the ascertained extent of the unknown poem from
which they are culled affords them a purpose and a
palpability. Can any man doubt that between the
Iliad and the Paradise Lost there might be established
even a thousand very idiosyncratic identities ? and
yet is any man fool enough to maintain that the Iliad
is the only original of the Paradise Lost ?


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

But how is it in the case of Messieurs Aldrich and
Hood ? The poems here are both remarkably brief,
and as I have every intention to do justice and no
other intention in the world, I shall be pardoned for
again directing attention to them.

Let it be understood that I am entirely uninformed
as to which of these two poems was first published.
And so little has the question of priority to do with my
thesis, that I shall not put myself to the trouble of
inquiring. What I maintain is, that there are suffi
cient grounds for belief that one is plagiarized from
the other. Who is the original, and who is the plagia
rist, are points I leave to be settled by any one who
thinks the matter of sufficient consequence to give it
his attention. But the man who shall deny the plagia
rism abstractly what is it that he calls upon us to
believe ? First, that two poets, in remote parts of the
world, conceived the idea of composing a poem on the
subject of Death. Of course, there is nothing remark
able in this. Death is a naturally poetic theme, and
suggests itself by a seeming spontaneity to every poet
in the world. But had the subject chosen by the two
widely separated poets been even strikingly peculiar,
had it been, for example, a porcupine, a piece of ginger
bread, or anything unlikely to be made the subject of
a poem, still no sensible person would have insisted
upon the single coincidence as anything beyond a
single coincidence. We have no difficulty, therefore,


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

in believing what, so far, we are called upon to be
lieve. Secondly, we must credit that the two poets
concluded to write not only on death, but on the death
of a woman. Here the mind, observing the two iden
tities, reverts to their peculiarity or non-peculiarity,
and finding no peculiarity, admitting that the death of
a woman is a naturally suggested poetic subject, has
no difficulty also in admitting the two coincidences
as such, and nothing beyond. Thirdly, we are called
upon to believe that the two poets not only concluded
to write upon death, and upon the death of a woman,
but that, from the innumerable phases of death, the
phase of tranquillity was happened upon by each. Here
the intellect commences a slight rebellion, but it is
quieted by the admission, partly, of the spontaneity
with which such an idea might arise, and partly of the
possibility of the coincidences, independently of the
consideration of spontaneity. Fourthly, we are re
quired to believe that the two poets happened not only
upon death, the death of a woman, and the tranquil
death of a woman, but upon the idea of representing
this woman as lying tranquilly throughout the whole
night, in spite of the infinity of different durations which
might have been imagined for her trance of tranquillity.
At this point the reason perceives the evidence against
these coincidences (as such and nothing more) to be
increasing in geometrical ratio. It discards all idea
of spontaneity, and, if it yield credence at all, yields it


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

altogether on the ground of the indisputable possibility.
Fifthly, we are requested to believe that our poets hap
pened not only upon death, upon the death of a woman,
upon the tranquil death of a woman, and upon the
lying of this woman tranquilly throughout the night,
but, also, upon the idea of selecting, from the innum
erable phases which characterize a tranquil death-bed,
the identical one of soft breathing, employing also the
identical word. Here the reason gives up the en
deavor to believe that one poem has not been suggested
by the other; if it be a reason accustomed to deal
with the mathematical calculus of probabilities, it has
abandoned this endeavor at the preceding stage of the
investigation. The evidence of suggestion has now
become prodigiously accumulate. Each succeeding
coincidence, however slight, is proof not merely added,
but multiplied by hundreds of thousands. Sixthly, we
are called upon to believe, not only that the two poets
happened upon all this, together with the idea of the
soft breathing, but also of employing the identical word
" breathing " in the same line with the identical word
" night." This proposition the reason receives with a
smile. Seventhly, however, we are required to admit,
not only all that has already been found inadmissible,
but, in addition, that the two poets conceived the idea
of representing the death of a woman as occurring
precisely at the same instant, out of all the infinite
instants of all time. This proposition the reason


Mr. Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

receives only with a sneer. Eighthly, we are called
upon to acquiesce in the assertion that not only all
these improbabilities are probable, but that in addition
again, the two poets happened upon the idea of repre
senting the woman as stepping immediately into para
dise ; and, ninthly, that both should not only happen
upon all this, but upon the idea of writing a peculiarly
brief poem on so admirably suggestive a thesis ; and,
tenthly, that out of the various rhythms, that is to say,
variations of poetic feet, they should have both hap
pened upon the iambus; and, eleventhly, that out of
the absolutely infinite metres that may be contrived
from this rhythm, they should both have hit upon the
tetrameter acatalectic for the first and third lines of
a stanza ; and, twelf thly, upon the trimeter acatalectic
for the second and fourth ; and, thirteenthly, upon an
absolute identity of phrase at, fourteenthly, an abso
lutely identical position, viz., upon the phrases, " But
when the morn," etc., and " But when the sun," etc.,
occurring in the beginning of the first line in the last
stanza of each poem ; and, fif teenthly and lastly, that
of the vast multitude of appropriate titles, they should
both have happened upon one whose identity is inter
fered with at all only by the difference between the
definite and the indefinite article.

Now, the chances that these fifteen coincidences, so
peculiar in character, and all occurring within the
compass of eight short lines on the one part, and six-


Mr Longfellow and Other Plagiarists

teen on the other the chances, I say, that these co
incidences are merely accidental may be estimated,
possibly, as about one to one hundred millions; and
any man who reasons at all is, of course, grossly in
sulted in being called upon to credit them as accidental.

" I have written what I have written," says Outis,
" from no personal motives, but simply because, from
my earliest reading of reviews and critical notices, I

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