The emergence in eighteenth-century India of literary compositions that used the elite registers of what was, at the time, called ‘Rekhtah’, and later defined as Urdu, is poorly understood. Conventionally, after an initial infatuation in Delhi with the works of Vali Dakhani,1 a mid-century break is assumed, exemplified by the revision of Zuhur ud-Din Hatim’s Divan as Divanzadah in the 1750s. Scholars have viewed this as a radical intervention in the creation of Urdu, which excised old vernacular models and embraced further Persianization. This article re-examines the evidence, combining methodologies from literary and historical studies. It points to the continuities present in Hatim’s revision, including sustained engagement with Vali, even as Hatim attempted to appeal to new audiences, incorporating new trends alongside older literary models. Foregrounding literary networks and arenas of poetic practice shows the limited impact of the proscriptions and literary criticisms voiced by Hatim’s critics. In studying the contested space of literary aesthetics and linguistic shifts against self-fashioning within changing networks, this article demonstrates that the relationship between the Persianate and vernacular sphere continued to be generative, rather than oppositional or hierarchical.