Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

by Alexander Pope

Start Free Trial

"Damn With Faint Praise"

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 237

Context: Pope's poetical epistle was written in the form of a dialogue between the poet and his good friend, Dr. Arbuthnot, a physician and contemporary literary figure. The poem is a vehicle for the poet's mordant comments upon other writers of the time, with whom, by his own admission, he found little favor himself. The "Atticus" of the section in which this quotation occurs is Joseph Addison, a quiet and workmanlike man of letters of the period. Pope, however, felt that he had more than one grievance against Addison; in this poem he complains, not quite fairly, that his critic, not being able to stand competition, causes others to sneer at Pope's work to which Addison himself gives less praise than it deserves:

But were there one whose fires
True genius kindles and fair fame inspires;
Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
. . .
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

"I Lisped In Numbers, For The Numbers Came"