Bankruptcy and plagiarism
On 11 November 1870, William Clarson and Alfred Henry Massina executed a Conveyance and Assignment by deed to Oliver Levey (printer broker) and William Detmold (bookbinder) all estate and effects owned by them, (wearing apparel and necessities to an amount not exceeding twenty-five pounds exempt). This was done under the Insolvency Statute of 1865. It may have been a insignificant event in the narrative of the printing firm but Clarson’s problems with insolvency would not end there.
Clarson filed for bankruptcy of his own petition in 1888. He then moved to Mildura where he spent the last eighteen months of his life writing for the newly established (1888) newspaper, the Mildura Cultivator.
The Mildura Cultivator was obliged to print an embarrassing retraction in May 1890 that clearly laid fault with Clarson. It was discovered that Clarson had made an incorrect (and possibly fraudulent) accusation of plagiarism. Clarson had accused Mr. D Crichton, the current government expert on fruit culture, of copying several paragraphs from his book The Fruit Garden, without due acknowledgement. The newspaper had given ‘a rather severe handling,’ to the allegations and continued with the story even after receiving in quick reply a demand for a retraction. Crichton claimed to have published a pamphlet on Citrus Culture several years prior to Clarson's book, containing the same information. Crichton was initially unable to produce a copy of the pamphlet and Clarson made a statutory declaration he had never seen it. To the detriment of both the newspaper and Clarson, the pamphlet was eventually presented and a couple of paragraphs in Clarson's book was in fact a direct copy of Crichton's work.
‘The charge of having extracted matter from The Fruit Garden therefore was not sustained; and as we did Mr Crichton a great injustice (though unwittingly), we now hasten to make the correction. It has been a most unpleasant business for all parties concerned, and it is just now difficult to see where it is going to end.’14