Alexander Pope’s prose in “Essay on Criticism” appealed to me the most out of this
week’s readings. I think I was drawn in most strongly by the smooth flow of his
prose. Looking at the text from the culinary perspective of our course, Pope’s
writing is pleasing in much the same way as a good meal served at a restaurant. It
is presented in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to the critic, before he or she
begins to even eat the meal, or analyze the content.
As I got into his arguments on critics and authors, I found myself becoming more
of a critic (although that was probably part of his goal in writing the piece). He finds
new ways of freshening up old truisms, and blending them into his work in a way
that is enjoyable to read. For example, right off the bat he writes:
“Authors are partial to their Wit, ’tis true,
But are not Criticks to their Judgment too?”
While it is no secret that people take pride in their own work, to the point of bias
even, he makes it seem like a discovery when comparing the author and the critic.
His use of end rhyme though, makes the statement seem more clever and new.
Another generalization that seemed out of place to me, was the line:
“Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the Seeds of Judgment in their Mind”
Maybe this is a commentary on whether or not criticism is innate or learned, and
whether this applies to all or just some people. Or it could just be another slick
paraphrase of an old truism – “Everybody’s a critic”.
While I have critiqued his essay on criticism and accused it of unoriginality and
generalizations at times, I don’t intend to say that I myself could do better. My
reading was very cursory, and there are many references and arguments present
that I did not have the time to analyze, so maybe I am being hypocritical in writing
slightly negative things about him. Or maybe I am just helping out his argument, by
showing that there is a critic in everyone.
I expect that once we discuss this in class, and get into his definitions of the
various categories of critics, I will discover that Pope has already defined the type of
critique I have made, and pointed out the flaws.