An Essay on Criticism "True Wit Is Nature To Advantage Dressed"
by Alexander Pope

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"True Wit Is Nature To Advantage Dressed"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: In this verse paragraph of his essay Pope takes to task those writers who think that good work consists of an unorganized heap of "glittering thoughts." He says that many poets use "a wild heap of wit" to cover up a lack of thought in their poetry, thus hiding "with ornaments their want of art." Good poetry, Pope goes on to exclaim, shows us truth in such a way that we recognize the ideas as a reflection of what we have known ourselves but could not put into words. Having delivered his opinion on false wit, Pope goes on to explain what true wit is:

True wit is nature to advantage dress'd,What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd;Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find,That gives us back the image of our mind.As shades more sweetly recommend the light,So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit.For works may have more wit than does 'em good,As bodies perish through excess of blood.