What ideas about human nature underlie Pope's An Essay on Criticism?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Pope's Essay on Crititiism, like most satire, contrasts an imagined ideal of human nature, modelled by the narrative voice, with most actual humans. The perfect critic, for Pope, is impartial, judicious, and seeks to discover the good in poems. Moreover, the ideal is a classical model, in whic Homer and Horace are seen as true mirrors of nature ("When t'examine every part he came, Nature and Homer, were, he found, the same.") In actuality, critics can be too self-important, too faddish, and often compete with instead of supporting writers. On the one hand, the scholars who criticize poetry can place pedantry ahead of literary appreciation -- it should be noted that Pope did not appreciate Richard Bentley, who said of Pope's translation of the Iliad, that it was "a very pretty poem" but "not Homer." On the other hand, many other types of writer and critic are ignorant of classical models, and thus write and judge badly ("a little learning is a dangerous thing."