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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2020

Daniel Cook
Affiliation:
University of Dundee
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Summary

Denham praises Cowley for writing original verse under the appropriate influence of prominent models old and new. In Swift’s poem, more than half a century later, the venerable art of imitation (imitatio veterum) had been displaced by the dubious threat of theft (stealing hints). What does it mean to steal a hint? ‘To steal another’s idea is wrong’, as James McLaverty says; but ‘to take it and adapt it (as Swift does with the La Rochefoucauld maxim that stimulates the Verses or with Denham’s couplet in these lines) is a vital aspect of invention’.2 A hint can be gifted and regifted among likeminded writers. Swift gave John Gay the idea for The Beggar’s Opera, though the latter preferred ‘to have my own Scheme and to treat it in my own way’.3 Sometimes ‘a friend’, Swift retorted, ‘may give you a lucky [hint] just suited to your own imagination’.4 But hints can be hijacked by hacks, as Pope affirms in the first book of the 1728 Dunciad: ‘How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie; / How new-born nonsense first is taught to cry’.5

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Introduction
  • Daniel Cook, University of Dundee
  • Book: Reading Swift's Poetry
  • Online publication: 10 August 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108888172.001
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  • Introduction
  • Daniel Cook, University of Dundee
  • Book: Reading Swift's Poetry
  • Online publication: 10 August 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108888172.001
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Daniel Cook, University of Dundee
  • Book: Reading Swift's Poetry
  • Online publication: 10 August 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108888172.001
Available formats
×