Pope's Essay on Criticism

By Frederick M. A. Ryland; Alexander Pope | Go to book overview
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" I am inclined to believe that it was writ by some young, or some raw author, for the following reasons. First, he discovers in every page a sufficiency that is far beyond his little ability; and hath rashly undertaken a task which is infinitely above his force.... Secondly, while this little author struts and affects the dictatorian air, he plainly shows that at the same time he is under the rod, and that while he pretends to give laws to others, he is himself a pedantic slave to authority and opinion.... But a third infallible mark of a young author is that he hath done in this Essay what schoolboys do by their exercises, he hath borrow'd both from living and dead, and particularly from the authors of the two famous Essays upon Poetry and Translated Verse; but so borrow'd, that he seems to have the very reverse of Midas's noble faculty. For as the coarsest and the dullest metals were upon the touch of that Lydian monarch immediately changed into fine gold, so the finest gold, upon this author's handling it, in a moment loses both its lustre and its weight, and is immediately tum'd to lead. A fourth thing that shews him a young man, is the not knowing his own mind and his frequent contradictions of himself. His title seems to promise an essay upon criticism in general, which afterwards dwindles to an essay upon criticism in poetry. And after all, he is all along giving rules, such as they are, for writing rather than judging.... A fifth sign of his being a young author is his being almost perpetually in the wrong. ... Whenever we find a simile, the first line of it is like a warning piece to give us notice that something extraordinary false or foolish is to follow.... But what most shows him a very young author is, that with all these faults and this weakness he has the insolence of a hero, and is a down-right bully of Parnassus, who is every moment thund'ring out, Fool, Sot, Fop, Coxcomb, Blockhead...."

Dennis attributed to the influence of the Italian opera the existence of Pope's Essay on Criticism. "'Tis now almost seven years since I happen'd to say one morning to a certain person distinguish'd

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