Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poet in the English Romantic tradition, wrote "A Defence of Poetry" in 1821, although it was not published until 1841, after he had died. Alexander Pope's An Essay in Criticism was published in 1711.
The word "essay" actually means an effort, something one does in order to achieve something. While Shelley's "Defence" is an essay, written in prose, Pope's is a poem called an Essay.
Shelley's "Defence" was written as a reaction to Thomas Love Peacock's article "The Four Ages of Poetry," published in 1820. In "The Four Ages," Peacock claims that as society advances, poetry deteriorates. Shelley would have none of it. Hence, the "Defence."
Shelley claims that poetry is at the origin of all knowledge, that even scientists would not have existed had it not been for poets. According to Shelley, poets cover all topics of interest to human nature, from which all others—historians, social critics, scientists—learn about life. Vast as this claim appears to be, I think, in a...
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