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(a) AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM (1711) [TE I: 195–326]

The Essay on Criticism was Pope’s first independent work, published anonymously through an obscure bookseller [12-13]. Its implicit claim to authority is not based on a lifetime’s creative work or a prestigious commission but, riskily, on the skill and argument of the poem alone. It offers a sort of master-class not only in doing criticism but in being a critic: addressed to those – it could be anyone – who would rise above scandal, envy, politics and pride to true judgement, it leads the reader through a qualifying course. At the end, one does not become a professional critic – the association with hired writing would have been a contaminating one for Pope – but an educated judge of important critical matters.