Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MMM Quotes 8: Mark Twain



by Seattle Jon (bio)

via Mark Twain's Interactive Scrapbook on PBS
In this excerpt from Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 2, Twain addresses plagiarism charges that had been made against his friend, Helen Keller, some 11 years prior, when her short story "The Frost King" was found to be strikingly similar to Margaret Canby's "Frost Fairies." Heller was acquitted after an investigation, but the incident stuck with Twain and prompted him to pen the following words about creativity and originality more than a decade later. What are your (unoriginal) thoughts about his words?

"Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that 'plagiarism' farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul – let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances – is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men – but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington's battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing – and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite – that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that."

Other MMM Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...