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Pope--An Essay on Criticism

        Pope has the same sort of genial, pragmatic quality that Horace has. In fact, his poetic "essay" starts out with a quote from Horace: "If you know of any maxims superior to these, let me know of them; if not, make use of these as I do."
        Pope's advice on writing and critiquing poetry can be broken down--in my view--into three essentials:

1) follow nature in writing--the rules of poetry "discovered" by the ancients are consonant with the rules of nature;

2) art cannot be expected to be wholly perfect and without flaws, and the critic should not "make the whole depend upon a part" in critiquing a work or a genre--in this way Pope dispenses with arguments over the relative superiority of the ancients or the moderns, domestic or foreign poets, etc.;

3) do not be overly harsh in criticism, and do not be overly attached to the newest, latest thing, or the oldest, most traditional thing--"Regard not then if with be old or new, / But blame the false, and value still the true."

        Pope would probably be described as a literary conservative today: he emphasizes the necessity of familiarity with the literary tradition for both the poet and the critic. He also emphasizes the writer's intention in critical interpretation: "In ev'ry work regard the writer's end, / Since none can compass more than they intend," a position which the now-old New critics term the Intentional fallacy.