On Genius and Authorship: Addison to Hazlitt

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    Critical interest in literary genius did not escalate in the early Romantic period as a response to the Augustan investment in the rules of art; nor did the terms of the debates originate with Edward Young or Joseph Addison. More accurately, Addison’s Spectator papers of 1711 and 1712 popularized such notions as ‘natural genius’ and ‘the spirit of imitation’ (as distinct from ‘servile imitation’), and thereby punctuated a critical tradition that has been obscured by recent emphases on the doctrine of ‘original genius’ outlined in Young’s Conjectures on Original Composition (1759) and on proprietary models of authorship associated with developments in copyright law. As a case in point, this essay critiques the Wartonian version of English literary history, in which Joseph Warton and other critics of the 1750s and beyond narrowly depicted Alexander Pope in particular as a writer of correctness rather than imagination, a poet lacking poetry. For Percival Stockdale, William Hazlitt and others, Pope remained an eminent model of modern genius well into the following century.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalReview of English Studies
    Early online date26 Oct 2012
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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