Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

by Alexander Pope

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"Without Sneering Teach The Rest To Sneer"

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199

Context: This "epistle" is, in the poet's own words, "a sort of bill of complaint." Pope used it to answer those who had satirized him both before and after the publication of his Dunciad, in which he had slashed satirically at almost everyone on the contemporary English literary scene. Indeed, this epistle is indicative of the backbiting enmity which marred much of Pope's life and career, making the poet an unhappy man. In this section of the poem Pope says that the truly great poet should be able to bear having his brother poets about him; but if he cannot, says Pope, one notes the following signs of envy:

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 hates 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;
Alike reserv'd to blame or to commend,
A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
. . .
Who but must laugh if such a man there be?

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