One of the surest tests [of a poet’s superiority or inferiority] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
T. S. Eliot, p. 114 in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1920
Likewise, a good illustrator welds the theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different and sometimes even funnier than that from which it is torn.
And Lewis Carroll may have borrowed from Thomas Gray.
All art is infested by other art.
(Leo Steinberg, in Art about Art, 1979)
Gustave Doré was an inspired master thief too:Segments from:
※ Plate I (mirror view) of Gustave Doré’s illustrations to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1863),
※ Matthias Grünewald’s Temptation of St Anthony (c. between 1512 and 1516, a panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece, now located at Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, France).
The borrowing never ends:
2018-02-18, update: 2022-09-05
There was an old man of Port Grigor,
Whose actions were noted for vigour;
He stood on his head
till his waistcoat turned red,
That eclectic old man of Port Grigor.
Edward Lear, 1872
He was black in the face,
and they scarcely could trace
The least likeness to what he had been:
While so great was his fright
that his waistcoat turned white –
A wonderful thing to be seen!
Lewis Carroll, from “The Hunting of the Snark”, 1876
Martin Gardner annotated (MG058) to The Hunting of the Snark that Elizabeth Sewell pointed out in The Field of Nonsense (1952) that a line in Carroll’s poem has a similarity to a line in a limerick by Edward Lear.
In The Field of Nonsense (I use a 2015 reprint), Elizabeth Sewell compared Carroll’s waistcoat stanza and Lears’s waistcoat limerick while taking a safe distance to considering “mutual plagiarism” by stating that “there is no evidence that either man was familiar with the other’s work”, adding that “the likeness do not in any case suggest borrowings…” (p. 9). However, Carroll/Dodgson knew Lear’s work (Marco Graziosi), and borrowing isn’t necessarily evil.
2017-09-11, update: 2022-01-20