Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rev. Canon James Fleming, the Queen's Chaplain (Plagiarist?)

Rev. Canon James Fleming (Vanity Fair)
Teachers and professors worldwide must now be ever watchful for the student who tries to slip a "cut and paste" job by as original work. It's plagiarism, is what it is. And, it's not new. In 1887, the chaplain to Queen Victoria, Canon James Fleming published a volume of sermons to celebrate HRH's Jubilee. Some attentive readers, however, noted the "most extraordinary resemblance" in one sermon to the work of the American evangelist T. Dewitt Talmage of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. More than 200 lines were identical save for Dr. Talmage's American idioms being replaced with English ones. An embarrassing pamphlet made the rounds: "The Stolen Sermon, or Canon Fleming's Theft." Finally, Fleming confessed that he had read Talmage's sermon some years before and it made a great impression upon him. He, then, unconsciously refashioned the sermon as his own. Critics called the explanation worse than the crime. A New York paper said the matter raises "an uncomfortable doubt as to the English canon's moral condition." Fleming survived the kerfuffle, for he was "altogether a good fellow" and a royal favorite. But, the scandal was recalled at his death in 1908. "He will not be comfortable when he sees Talmage coming his way across the Elysian fields."

Canon Fleming's biographer was the Rev. Arthur Finlayson whose much greater scandal is discussed in "The Foxy Finlayson," in the new E-Book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1
Canon Fleming's caricature in Vanity Fair (1899)

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