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Families Of Literary Men








A Quarterly Reviewer, in discussing an objection to the Copyright Bill
of Mr. Sergeant Talfourd, which was taken by Sir Edward Sugden, gives
some curious particulars of the progeny of literary men. "We are not,"
says the writer, "going to speculate about the causes of the fact; but a
fact it is, that men distinguished for extraordinary intellectual power
of any sort rarely leave more than a very brief line of progeny behind
them. Men of genius have scarcely ever done so; men of imaginative
genius, we might say, almost never. With the one exception of the noble
Surrey, we cannot, at this moment, point out a representative in the
male line, even so far down as the third generation, of any English
poet; and we believe the case is the same in France. The blood of beings
of that order can seldom be traced far down, even in the female line.
With the exception of Surrey and Spenser, we are not aware of any great
English author of at all remote date, from whose body any living person
claims to be descended. There is no real English poet prior to the middle
of the eighteenth century; and we believe no great author of any sort,
except Clarendon and Shaftesbury, of whose blood we have any inheritance
amongst us. Chaucer's only son died childless; Shakspeare's line expired
in his daughter's only daughter. None of the other dramatists of that
age left any progeny; nor Raleigh, nor Bacon, nor Cowley, nor Butler.
The grand-daughter of Milton was the last of his blood. Newton, Locke,
Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Hume, Gibbon, Cowper, Gray, Walpole, Cavendish
(and we might greatly extend the list), never married. Neither
Bolingbroke, nor Addison, nor Warburton, nor Johnson, nor Burke,
transmitted their blood. One of the arguments against a perpetuity
in literary property is, that it would be founding another noblesse.
Neither jealous aristocracy nor envious Jacobinism need be under such
alarm. When a human race has produced its 'bright, consummate flower'
in this kind, it seems commonly to be near its end."

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