An Essay on Criticism "Let Such Teach Others Who Themselves Excel"
by Alexander Pope

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"Let Such Teach Others Who Themselves Excel"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: Pope's poetic satire is in large part a discussion of what is wrong with literary critics, both in his time and at any time. The poem is usually considered the first mature work of the young poet, written in his twentieth year. He begins the poem by saying that as poor performance is found in literary critics as among the poets themselves. Too many persons, he notes, take upon themselves the task of writing literary criticism without any taste, training, or experience: "Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss." He points out that there is some degree of taste in everyone, but that only a few persons in any generation are so gifted with taste and talent that they should commit themselves to publishing their critical comments for others to read:

In Poets as true Genius is but rare,True Taste as seldom is the Critic's share;Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,Those born to judge, as well as those to write.Let such teach others who themselves excel,And censure freely who have written well;Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,But are not Critics to their judgment, too?