Barnard, John, ed. Pope: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. Contemporaneous reaction to An Essay on Criticism is showcased here in six essays dating from 1711 to 1741. Later responses to the whole of Popeâs writings are represented by essays dating to 1782. Brief bibliography with helpful annotations.
The acknowledged master of the heroic couplet and one of the primary tastemakers of the Augustan age, Alexander Pope was a central figure in the Neoclassical movement of the early 18th century. He was known for having perfected the rhymed couplet form of his idol, John Dryden, and turned it to satiric and philosophical purposes. His mock epic The Rape of the Lock (1714) derides elite society, while An Essay on Criticism (1711) and An Essay on Man (1733-34) articulate many of the central tenets of 18th-century aesthetic and moral philosophy. Pope was noted for his involvement in public feuds with the writers and publishers of low-end Grub Street, which led him to write The Dunciad (1728), a scathing account of England’s cultural decline, and, at the end of his life, a series of related verse essays and Horatian satires that articulated and protested this decline. Pope is also remembered...
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wrote An Essay on Criticism shortly after turning 21 years old in 1711. While remaining the speaker within his own poem Pope is able to present his true viewpoints on writing styles both as they are and how he feels they should be. While his poetic essay, written in heroic couplets, may not have obtained the same status as others of his time, it was certainly not because his writing was inferior (Bate). In fact, the broad background and comprehensive coverage within Pope's work made it it one of the most influential critical essays yet to be written (Bate). It appears that through his writing Pope was reaching out not to the average reader, but instead to those who intend to be writers themselves as he represents himself as a critical perfectionist insisting on particular styles. Overall, his essay appears to best be understood by breaking it into three parts.