“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 used 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.”