Time was, ere these degenerate days


From the library of Charles Eliot Norton, 1907 – Nor 2711

’Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744). An Essay on Criticism (London, 1711).

Pope was just twenty-three years old when he published this neo-classical treatise in verse. Dr. Johnson declared that the Essay placed Pope “among the first critics and the first poets,” while Byron, Pope’s foremost nineteenth-century defender, proclaimed him “the great moral poet of all times, of all climes, of all feelings, and all stages of existence.” The Essay set a standard of poetic diction that endured for nearly a century.  This copy belonged to the Harvard professor and bibliophile Charles Eliot Norton, whose manuscript notes face the title page.