Of Taste: An Epistle to the Earl of Burlington
Autograph manuscript, 1731
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909
One of four "moral essays" by Pope, this satirical verse epistle castigates the ignorance and vanity of aspiring art patrons who think that they can buy the credentials of connoisseurs. Wealthy fools can squander riches in many different ways, none of which, however, displays bad taste out in the open quite so blatantly as massive landscaping projects that succeed only in satisfying a capricious whim. Pope urged proprietors of country estates to scorn these expensive follies, obey the dictates of reason, and respect the "Genius of the Place," the inherent qualities of the terrain that could be enhanced with some gentle groundwork.