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they were totally unconscious of guilt. Many of the great poets have been accused of minor plagiarisms, and much inconsiderate criticism has been the result. Oliver Wendell Holmes mentions unconscious reproduction as one of the besetting annoyances of a poet's experience. " It is impossible to tell," he says, " in many cases, whether a comparison which suddenly suggests itself is a new conception or a recollection. I told you the other day that I never wrote a line of verse that seemed to me comparatively good, but it appeared old at once, and often as if it had been borrowed."1
A certain class of trance-speaking mediums, so called, are often called upon to improvise poems, the subject being suggested by some one in the audience. Often a very creditable performance is the result; but it more frequently happens that they reproduce something that they have read.
Sometimes whole poems are thus reproduced by persons in an apparently normal condition. This accounts for the frequent disputes concerning the authorship of popular verses. Instances of this kind are fresh in the minds of most readers, as, for example, a recent controversy between two well-known writers relative to the authorship of the poem beginning, " Laugh, and the world laughs with you." The circumstances of such coincidences often preclude the possibility of either claimant deliberately plagiarizing the work, or telling a falsehood concerning its authorship. Yet nothing is more certain than that one of them is not its author. Possibly neither is entitled to that credit. When, in the nature of things, it is impossible for either to prove the fact of authorship, and when the evidence on both sides is about equally balanced, we may never know the exact truth ; but as the theory of unconscious subjective reproduction is consistent with the literary honesty of both, it may well be accepted as the true one, aside from the inherent probability Of its correctness.
1 Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table.