Gleanings from the Past #78




Will you allow me to draw your attention to a very interesting example of the ethics of modern journalism, a quality of which we have all heard so much and seen so little?

About a month ago Mr. T. P. O’Connor published in the Sunday Sun some doggerel verses entitled “The Shamrock,” and had the amusing impertinence to append my name to them as their author. As for some years past all kinds of scurrilous personal attacks had been made on me in Mr. O’Connor’s newspapers, I decided to take no notice at all of the incident.

Enraged, however, by my courteous silence, Mr. O’Connor returns to the charge this week. He now solemnly accuses me of plagiarising the poem he had the vulgarity to attribute to me.

This seems to me to pass beyond even those bounds of coarse humour and coarser malice that are, by the contempt of all, conceded to the ordinary journalist, and it is really very distressing to find so low a standard of ethics in a Sunday newspaper.

I remain, sir, your obedient servant,

Oscar Wilde

— Oscar Wilde, letter to the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, September 18, 1894

(Note: The doggerel Wilde referred to was published on August 4, 1894, in the Sunday Sun, while the allegation of plagiarism was made in the September 16, 1894, issue of the said periodical.)

“Mourn Not the Dead”

Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie —
Dust unto dust —
The calm, sweet earth that mothers all who die
As all men must;

Mourn not your captive comrades who must dwell —
Too strong to strive —
Within each steel-bound coffin of a cell,
Buried alive;

But rather mourn the apathetic throng —
The cowed and the meek —
Who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak!

— Ralph Chaplin, Bars and Shadows, 1923


There are young men and women up and down the land who happily (or unhappily) tell anyone who will listen that they don’t have an academic turn of mind, or that they aren’t lucky enough to have been blessed with a good memory, and yet can recite hundreds of pop lyrics and reel off any amount of information about footballers. Why? Because they are interested in those things. They are curious. If you are hungry for food, you are prepared to hunt high and low for it. If you are hungry for information it is the same. Information is all around us, now more than ever before in human history. You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.

— Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles, 2010


Unbroken worldly prosperity has a natural tendency to harden the sympathies: when life comes so easily to ourselves it is difficult to fancy it going hardly with others.

— Letitia Elizabeth London, Ethel Churchill, 1837

Posted by

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

3 thoughts on “Gleanings from the Past #78

  1. Delightful. I quite liked Chaplin’s poem, but definitely not his ethics. I wonder if all that fuss about plagiarism and the accusations he brought against Oscar Wilde were just to attract a bit of fame to himself, to make himself known through negative publicity.


Leave a Reply to Edmark M. Law Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s