Plagiarism and Literary Property in the Romantic Period
In a series of articles published in Tait's Magazine in 1834, Thomas DeQuincey catalogued four potential instances of plagiarism in the work of his friend and literary competitor Samuel Taylor Coleridge. DeQuincey's charges and the controversy they ignited have shaped readers' responses to the work of such writers as Coleridge, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, and John Clare ever since. But what did plagiarism mean some two hundred years ago in Britain? What was at stake when early nineteenth-century authors levied such charges against each other? How would matters change if we were to evaluate these writers by the standards of their own national moment? And what does our moral investment in plagiarism tell us about ourselves and about our relationship to the Romantic myth of authorship?