Essay On Criticism "Pride, The Never-failing Vice Of Fools"
by Alexander Pope

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"Pride, The Never-failing Vice Of Fools"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In his poetic Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope notes the difficulties of the critic. Though a man may make a fool of himself by writing a bad poem, it is infinitely worse, says Pope, for a man to express an unjust judgment on the work of another. Contending that critical genius is indeed rare, he points out that pride, which fills in the void left by lack of sense, is a prime cause of bad judgment:

Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
Whatever nature has in worth denied,
She gives in large recruits of needless pride!
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind:
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
Trust not yourself; but, your defects to know,
Make use of every friend–and every foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; . . .