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In the Essay on Criticism (1711), written in 1709 when he was hardly twenty-one, Pope was trying to write a poetical essay which would hold the same important place in English that Boileau's Art Poétique (1674) was holding in French criticism. If it did not quite attain this position, the reason is not that Pope's essay is inferior to Boileau's. It is simply that English writers of any period, including the age of Pope, have a way of refusing to form schools and follow manifestoes. Still, Pope's Essay on Criticism is not only the last but perhaps the most rewarding of the important critical essays in verse modeled on Horace's Art of Poetry . It draws upon the previous verse-essays of Horace, Vida, and Boileau, as well as those of two minor Restoration writers, the Earls of Mulgrave and Roscommon. It also draws upon precepts from the Roman Quintilian and the French critics, Rapin and Le Bossu. Above all, its general tone is kept comparatively liberal and flexible by the influence of Dryden, and, to some extent, of Longinus. The background is broad. This may partly explain why the Essay on Criticism is more comprehensive in what it covers than any of the other Horatian verse-essays, including that of Boileau. It also quite equals Boileau in edge of style, and it surpasses him in compactness.
An Essay on Criticism is one of the first major poems written by the English writer Alexander Pope (1688–1744). It is the source of the famous quotations "To err is human, to forgive divine," "A little learning is a dang'rous thing" (frequently misquoted as "A little knowledge is a dang'rous thing"), and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." It first appeared in 1711  after having been written in 1709, and it is clear from Pope's correspondence  that many of the poem's ideas had existed in prose form since at least 1706. Composed in heroic couplets (pairs of adjacent rhyming lines of iambic pentameter ) and written in the Horatian mode of satire, it is a verse essay primarily concerned with how writers and critics behave in the new literary commerce of Pope's contemporary age. The poem covers a range of good criticism and advice, and represents many of the chief literary ideals of Pope's age.