Alexander Pope: Essay on Criticism

(2192 words)

An Essay on Criticism was first published, anonymously, on 15 May 1711. Pope began writing the poem, however, including drafting and revising it, some two or three years earlier when he was twenty or twenty one years old. It is, in several ways, a young man's poem, albeit an exceptional young man's: it is precocious in its learning; dazzling in the range and inventiveness of its imagery; injunctive in much of its syntax; and remarkably assured in the breadth of material it encompasses.

An Essay on Criticism is primarily didactic, conducted according to a broadly argumentative structure, although it contains more than a passing touch of Pope's burgeoning, satiric instinct. Pope described the poem, in a letter to …

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Gordon, Ian. "Essay on Criticism". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002
[, accessed 05 October 2015.]