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An Essay on Criticism

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  856 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Of All The Causes Which Conspire To Blind Man's Erring Judgment And Misguide The Mind, What The Weak Head With Strongest Bias Rules, Is Pride, The Never-failing Vice Of Fools. Whatever Nature Has In Worth Denied, She Gives In Large Recruits Of Needful Pride.
Paperback, 48 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1711)
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J.G. Keely
Sometimes, I grow the silly delusion that I might have the potential to be a writer. As a curative, I read this, Lycidas, and Hours of Idleness; then I recall that not only am I not a writer, I am old.
An intellectual criticism of criticism.

So when the faithful Pencil has design'd
Some bright Idea of the Master's Mind,
Where a new World leaps out at his command,
And ready Nature waits upon his Hand;
When the ripe Colours soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just Shade and Light,
When mellowing Years their full Perfection give,
And each Bold Figure just begins to Live;
The treach'rous Colours the fair Art betray,
And all the bright Creation fades away!
May 04, 2012 Lindsey rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Ahem. It's kind of awkward, trying to review a great poem about reviewing. I have to reread everything I type and examine it for Pope's fiercely lambasted Follies. I believe I shall confine my comments to this:

-This is as true now as it was 301 years ago, when it was published. (It both pleases and pains me to see that nothing has really changed since then. It's like moving to a new school--the names come and go, but the faces remain the same.)

-I wish we still wrote and talked like this. Why doe
Lane Wilkinson
Feb 03, 2008 Lane Wilkinson rated it really liked it
how prescient was Pope?
did he foresee the heavy-handed and ultimately uninspired contemporary, po-mo approach to lit-crit?
indeed, Alexander Pope offers the most precise summation of post-modernism available:

"Such labored nothings
in so strange a style
amaze th' unlearned
and make the learned smile"
Oct 06, 2015 Roya rated it really liked it
Well, I actually enjoyed it, probably because my real life is even crappier than an 18 century poem.
Jan 23, 2016 sabisteb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none/ Go just alike, yet each believes his own
Rezensionsunwesen und schlechte Autoren, die sich überschätzen, eine neverending story, wohl schon zu Zeiten von Alexander Pope. 1711 erschien dieser Essay on Criticism in Gedichtform und da bekommen ALLE ihr Fett weg vom Autor über den Kritiker/Rezensenten zu Leser. Seine Ratschläge gelten (leider) immer noch uneingeschränkt auch für (amazon) Rezensionen und (indie) Autoren.
17/18 Authors are partial to their w
Nguyen Santiago
Nov 09, 2016 Nguyen Santiago rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 18thc
This is more an essay on how not to be a boorish critic, rather than against any criticism at all.

A few lines that stuck to me:

Against the slavish adherence to rules (or the slavish disobeying of them)
Rules were made but to promote their End
Moderns, beware! Or if you must offend
Against the Precept, ne'er transgress its End

A good quote to illustrate path dependence and the argument in this article
Immortal Heirs of Universal Praise!
Whose Honours with Increase of Ages grow,
As streams roll dow
Mariam Okasha
Aug 16, 2012 Mariam Okasha rated it really liked it
I have studied one verse of this poem about ten years ago, and today I've managed to finish reading it completely.
I must say that It's not my most Favoured poem of Alexander Pope, For (Eloisa to Abelard) is much closer to my heart, I can't deny though that I was thrilled by being able to read it properly today.
Reading Pope is not just a pleasure of soul and senses, it's rather an opportunity to receive an appropriate drought of Pope's eternal "Pierian Spring'.
His ideas some how seem endless,
Abubakar Mehdi
Sep 21, 2014 Abubakar Mehdi rated it really liked it
This one is even more delightful than The Rape Of The Lock. It has the nuanced satire on the critics that foolishly reject and criticize every innovative endeavor by a poet. So here is a little chastisement for those lost soul.
The poem has some excellent couplets and few very quotable verses that would make any conversation immaculately charming and eloquent.
Oct 21, 2013 Tessa rated it it was amazing
*For College*
Absolutely genius and interesting. I started by hating it because it's not something easy on the eye but once you let it in, it's really easy on the mind. A theorical text was never so interesting for me and I feel like after reading this, I learnt a lot more than in any other case.
Nov 03, 2013 Jivita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
And of course Alexander Pope would find a way to criticize and rhyme! Ever since I read 'Rape of the Lock,' Pope has been growing on me. Now I'm not sure if I'm a true fan, but I do admire his unique rhyming craft!
Skylar Burris
Jan 10, 2008 Skylar Burris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I love a man that can make good sense and aim beautiful barbs in perfect, rhymed couplets.
Alfonso Velez
Jul 15, 2008 Alfonso Velez rated it it was amazing
One of my very favorites. He defines, despite objective opinion, the responsibilities and parameters of the critic by ruefully sublimating the task of a critic.
Christopher McCaffery
Feb 24, 2016 Christopher McCaffery rated it really liked it
Pope is a poetic genius and the Essay on Criticism excels in both form in content, just as he calls for.
When I saw the title, I literally thought it would be an essay on criticism. Then I uploaded it, found that it's actually literary criticism in poetry form, and I was like "SO COOL!"
Mar 11, 2017 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
Pope's essayistic poem sparkles with wit!
Enes Düzenli
Jan 22, 2017 Enes Düzenli rated it it was amazing
Pope amca sağlam yazıyor ya.
Feb 23, 2015 ROC rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Alexander Pope wrote pastoral poetry in his teens, and it's not altogether awful. He began An Essay on Criticism in his teens, and what's more, he never received any higher education (Too Catholic for Oxbridge), so should you believe an undergraduate degree is the be all and end all of personal education, you're probably wrong.

Couplets aren't my favorite metre, but I certainly enjoyed certain pieces of the work:
Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rare
Jan 18, 2011 Olivia rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Despite it being a poem that Pope wrote when he was only in his twenties, I was not as impressed with this as I first thought I would be. Sure, it is interesting to see how Pope used the modern form of an essay to convey verse poetry of the ancient Greek/Roman style, but it just wasn't entertaining for me to read. It was more of a lesson on how to be a good poet or a good critic, and describing the ways of wit, nature, intelligence, etc. But overall, not a great piece. "The Rape of the Lock" by ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Meghan rated it liked it
Well... it can be difficult to enjoy reading when you have to do it for class in a crazy short amount of time, but I can say that I did enjoy this poem/essay. I laughed several times and found myself engaging in the text. Pope's defining of what a critic should and should not be was both informative and funny, which helped ease the drudgery a little. I'd zone out every few stanzas, then struggle to plow back into it, which often rewarded me with a smile or chuckle. Maybe I'll go back and read it ...more
Ahmet Uçar
Jul 17, 2014 Ahmet Uçar rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Oh Pope, he is such a wit, such a great poet. No wonder why he was the first upholder of a self-sufficient author next to a myriad of other reasons. There is no denying of his skills, and of the greatness of his mind.
I had made a presentation on an Essay on Criticism, and i have memorized many lines from it. Its quite a humorous piece. written in heroic couplets, and heroic style.
A must read, along with his longer and profounder Essay on Man
Dustin Simmons
Jul 22, 2015 Dustin Simmons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pope is able combine his own artistic elegance, quick wit, and enormous wealth of knowledge to attack the literary critics of his day (and critics in general), as well as provide insight and advice to other writers. Sprinkled with Classical allusions (which I always appreciate!), and wonderful turns of phrase, this is a must-read for all writers and teachers of writing.
Jul 20, 2013 Clorush rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, essay
It's more like I understand the essay so little. Oh well at least I've read it. Maybe one day I'll be able to understand it better

UPDATE: this study guide helps a little
Seth Holler
Nov 22, 2013 Seth Holler rated it it was amazing
Wow! Read online with these editions: (brief annotations)

I'll pardon Mr Pope's anti-medieval prejudice.
Rob Roy
Jan 15, 2011 Rob Roy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1000-list, essay
The entire essay is in verse. His thoughts are that it made it more powerful. My thoughts are that it obscured his message
"Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be."
Vikas Lather
Nov 10, 2013 Vikas Lather rated it liked it
Talent of poetry is less understood by me , so I'm not a fit person to review literary quality of this book
*Read for College*

Obviously not my cup of tea but was not bad, actually. And agree with some things Pope criticized.

To err is human, to forgive, divine.
Salman Mehedy Titas
I think I barely managed to scratch the surface, but it make me realise I'm a terrible critic.
Douglas Mangum
Apr 17, 2012 Douglas Mangum rated it it was amazing
A must-read for all who deal in literary criticism in its many forms--writers, critics, and dilettantes.
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Alexander Pope is generally regarded as the greatest English poet of the eighteenth century, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third most frequently quoted writer in the English language, after Shakespeare and Tennyson. Pope was a master of the heroic couplet.
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