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Discuss the The Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot in the light of the pope's remark "To attack vice in the abstract is but fighting with shadows."

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In this particular line from the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot Pope is attempting to justify the satirizing of named individuals rather than simply condemning, in general terms, the vices of which they're guilty. Throughout his long and illustrious literary career, Pope was never backward when it came to subjecting his enemies—of whom there were many—to the full force of his biting, vituperative wit. In attacking named individuals, Pope believed that he was more effectively dealing with the various aesthetic vices of the age by focusing on their specific manifestations, rather than merely criticizing them generically. An abstract approach to the corruption of art and letters would have taken on the appearance of a philosophical essay or learned disquisition.

What Pope wanted to do in the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, however, was to communicate to a specific audience. He knew that in order to do this he had to name names, as it were, to give the main thrust of his satire added force. The literary world of 18th century England was a very small and intimate one, and Pope knew it inside out. He also knew that his target audience would understand his references to various members of this exclusive clique. So even if, as he often did, he used only initials in his satires on specific individuals, it would be obvious to just about everyone to whom he was referring. The same would also apply to various pseudonymous characters in the Epistle such as "Bufo," "Sporus," and "Codrus."

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