Wednesday, January 24, 2018


An Essay on Criticism was Pope's first independent work written in heroic couplets. It was published in 1711. Didactic in purpose, it contains a description of the rules of taste and principles by which a critic should be guided; a demonstration follows showing departures from these principles by certain critics. The classical inspiration for the poem was Horace's Ars Poetica and it is a remarkably sophisticated performance; the skill with which Pope used the form and the concentration of witty utterance it contained made him famous.

Critical introduction to the Selected part of Essay on Criticism

The critical function may well depend on a poetic function : this is after all and thus acting also as poetry and offering itself for criticism. Its blurring of categories which might otherwise be seen as fundamentally distinct, and its often slippery transitions from area to area, are part of the poem's comprehensive educative character.

Pope, during the revision of his Works in 1736 decided to divide the poem into three sections (parts). The three sections are not equally balanced, but offer something like the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis of logical argumentation—something which exceeds the possitive-negative opposition suggested by the couplet format. The whole poem is of 744 lines. The first section (1-200) establishes the basic possibilities for critical judgement; the second (201-559) elaborates the factors which hinder such judgement; and the third (560-744) celebrates the elements which make up true critical behaviour.

The present selection (lines 362-384) is taken from a part of section II which elaborates all the human psychological causes which inhibit such a project: pride, envy, sectarianism a love of some favourite device at the expense of overall design.

In the selected part we see the poet is emphasising on good art of creative writing. That good writing is a work of regular exercise, not a subject or gift of divine chance. It is a faculty of learning and practice. He also says that a piece of good art (poetry) must come from a master artist or a true poet. So, at a time creativity and good practice must be mingled. There must be an inner music or an attractive sound quality in a good piece of writing. Pope sets various classical and contemporary examples of master arts and tries to prove that true art depends on its viable creation by real master artists.

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