An Allusion to Horace, Jonson's Ghost, and the Rhetoric of Plagiarism
In the opening chapter of this book, it was suggested that modern conceptions of originality may derive from the urgent demand of the publishing profession that literary property be given a definition. Influential forms of aesthetic theory emanating from Edward Young's Conjectures on Original Composition via German and English Romanticism assisted in the dissemination of 'invention' or originality as the sine qua non of valuable literary works. New theories of reading were also developing in parallel with those governing composition. Literature could be created by writers who had nothing but their genius to recommend them, and, as the 'polite' literary periodicals of the early eighteenth century taught their readers, it could also be consumed by members of the literate middle class who had some leisure time rather than any extensive training or cultural pedigree. This point will be developed in Chapter 5. What is clear is that the nature of literary creation and of those involved in it was in a state of evolution. The austere, Miltonic conception of the poet as fitting himself for his profession by years of immersion in the classics and by the amassing of great knowledge was one that could not survive the development of the literary market-place. Cultural forms that gained prestige by advertising their indebtedness to literary tradition through allusion would come under enormous pressure from a new aesthetic based on originality. In poetry, this is the story of the mid-to-late eighteenth century.
Yet there is, I would contend, an earlier cultural formation, that of dramatic writing in the 1670s and 1680s, wherein the problematic nature of borrowing from earlier works was already under heated negotiation. In this milieu, clear financial interests were wrapped up in the issue of allusion. Competing for the production