Good writers borrow, great writers steal

It was Oscar Wilde in the 19th century who said “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.”

Or was it Pablo Picasso, who supposedly said “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”?

I tried to track down the original source of this quotation, and I can’t find any evidence that either Wilde or Picasso ever said it. The only documentation I was able to found is T. S. Eliot, who in 1920 wrote “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal” (p. 125).

It turns out that no one’s even sure who said this first, or what the exact quotation is. Somehow, that makes the point even more strongly than the quotation itself, doesn’t it?