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Alexander Pope spent his writing career penning social criticism in the form of poetry. He was considered the age's toughest and perhaps, most feared, satirist.
In this epistle, a "letter" in poem form, Pope speaks in first person as he often did and addresses his friend, Dr. Arbuthnot. He approaches the letter in a fun and playful way, but he is still using satire to criticize. Unlike other satires, however, this letter is a sort of apology to those who have been victims of his satire...the cold, bitter, and biting satire that he often published and publically humiliated those he whipped with his razor-sharp words. He says that he was also the victim of sharp and unwarranted satire early on in his life. Perhaps the letter demonstrates a maturity and sensitivity he did not possess before, but he offers a bit of a peace offering through this letter to Arbuthnot.
It became clear to Pope fairly early that he was excellent with a pen and pointed words to answer and deflect attacks from his enemies. He often illuminates the stupidity of humanity--vanity, the importance of reputations, silly things we do to pass the time, ridiculous fashion, traditions that make no sense, etc.
This letter is no different, but it does show his playful side a bit more.
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