Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Restless Depression

[I wrote this in the summer of 2015. I am no longer depressed like this, but I'm perhaps still project-obsessed and maybe always will be. I spent Summer 2016 learning German, studying for my PhD exams, and spending all the summer money I don't have on my kids. But I wanted to publish this now because I found it abandoned in my list of drafts, and thought some of it was important to share.]

I would like to hear about it if you experience this affliction, fellow grad students, project-obsessed moms, workaholic creators, etc.

I am only fully functional when I am stretched to my limits of time and energy. I thrive then. I'm not necessarily happy. But I'm "on." I get amazing projects assigned to me, I travel to conferences, I work hard for my students, I learn ancient languages... and I never stop working at music.  This is all very stressful, but I do it anyway.

After a 35 mile bicycle ride
But when I am not very busy, every little task becomes difficult. I leave dishes for days. The stinking dishes are like the inside of my mind! I can't remember to eat. I sleep in and then feel guilty about it, and my head pulses and I feel swollen.  I don't even do the little bit of actual work that I absolutely need to do. I tinker on projects and stay creative. But I languish otherwise. Summer is so hard. This stillness is infinitely more stressful than being busy.

Do you feel this too, friends? I know some of you do. Why can't we relax? What is this crap? Will we ever retire, take a vacation, or rest on the laurels of a finished project? No.

When I see pictures of people on vacation, legs on the beach, couples' vacay selfies, I think they must be faking it. No one can relax that much. Can they?

The only way I've been able to relax is to ride my bike. Constantly. And at the risk of doing even less of anything else. [Editor's note: I rode 1500 miles last year.]

This year's transition to summer shiftlessness has been complicated by a bad depression. I recall times of stress and anxiety and sadness throughout my life, but nothing has ever felt so needlessly and irrationally miserable as the days when this depression grabs hold of me. This is something new this year. A novel experience. It's heavy and suffocating and stinging and it has no locus.  Things trigger it, for sure. Reminders of past misdeeds or of abuse at the hands of others, getting behind on work, over-drinking on a night out. But those are not the cause. The thing is the cause of itself. The depression is the depression. (I need to understand that as much as I need to understand that sadness doesn't define me. It's not a personality trait. It's a big dumb thing I'm dealing with. And maybe it's worth experiencing.)

A similarly depressed friend told me it won't help to dwell on the depression this way. I can see that. So I only bring it up as it ties into this summer's malaise and inability to do shit.  Or inability to feel like I'm doing enough shit.

So, sad disease aside, I wonder about this need to be DOING things all the time. For instance, even if I had the money to take a vacation, I would probably only go somewhere that I could make a project out of. The trip would have to accomplish something. Is that sick? But if that's what I want, then why not just live that way?  I won't relax. I won't.

I can't figure out if that's a tragic life or not. It feels really good to achieve and to create. And my obsession with that feeling makes my current depression, which is partly from not having anything to do in the first place, all the worse. You can see how this compounds. I don't really know the feelings of relief or rest. Maybe someday I will.

And maybe on this leg of my journey, rest is a thing I truly don't need.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Romance and Reality

I considered closing this blog up and starting a new one, now that I'm an advanced graduate student with "research interests" and a prospectus and all that.  But I reconsidered -- I am, after all, still A Student of English.
Published Editor!

I began this blog eight years ago because I am curious and writerly, and one of the things I was most curious about back then was grad school. I romanticized it, as so many undergraduates do.  Early career graduate students do it too, even as they get hit with the realities of long readings, self-conscious writing, endless grading, and low pay. Every semester of my master's program I had a romantic vision of what was to come next -- scenes of collegiate lounging, library lounging, reading-chair lounging. Boy did I expect a lot of lounging! But also scenes of classroom victories,  professorial connections, and important assignments.

All these scenes came true. And even better ones too. I edited journals, I ran conferences, I presented at an international forum, and I even pissed off a famous academic with a book review I wrote! But was all that romantic? Not in the way I thought it would be.

The other day I walked across the campus of my undergraduate alma mater, and I recognized a certain tall tree, and a bench where I had once sat and looked at that tree. As I sat, I had written about that tree and about Hawthorne. (I think I even posted it here.) And now I was walking across the same campus to fetch the books for the classes I am teaching there this fall, and to find the key to an office I'm borrowing. An office in the same building where I took my first philosophy class, years ago.  I realized then that graduate school is not what is romantic. College is what is romantic -- that is, the undergraduate years of not knowing what to expect, of being fascinated by everything, and of looking to the future with wide eyes and silly hopes.

I am not one to argue that grad school is a bad experience. But post-coursework it is not romantic.  I'd even lost the romance by the last semester of coursework, and I was the "senior" in the back of the room rolling my eyes at the new grads who were afraid to talk. (Yeah, I'm an asshole sometimes). But even though grad school is not romantic, I'd say it's noble.

There are still somewhat idealized pictures of the graduate enterprise in my head, even as I live it. I still treasure the smallest things as proof of my status -- my name on a mailbox, my pile of keys to various university office doors, the 30 library books I get to keep for months, for instance.  I still have a stupid pride about my low account balances and automobile struggles. As I write, my left sock is wet because I finally wore a hole in my shoe this rainy morning. I use the hashtag #adjunctlife when I want to point to that ambivalence many of us have about doing important work that we love while getting paid shit for it. I fiddle with my signature lines because I'm so much more than a TA now (I ended up just naming my department without a title, because I don't want to claim to be more than I am or less than I am). But these dumb feelings of pride are all mitigated by taking myself with a grain of salt -- I know what grad school is now. It's a noble pursuit, but it's a hard reality too.

I have friends who are master's students and first year PhD's who still have the romance in them. They love books so much. They can't get enough! They take pictures of their coffee and laptop setup as they crank out their term papers. But hey-- they're not any sillier than I was, even though I went though those stages before instant sharing was so much a thing. (Instead I journaled about all of it, or posed with my Beowulf books for pre-selfie self-portraits). I'm still excited about my new office(s), and my ever increasing responsibilities (with slightly increased pay).  But reading books? Writing? Staying up late to do research?  So over it. It's not romantic. It's just reality.

Does this mean I'm burnt out? No. Does it mean students who still have that little glimmer are all wrong? Nope. It's just that I realized the other day, because of that big beautiful tree, that junior-year-in-college-Robyn was an important and necessary stage of my development as a scholar. Without her romantic temperament, without her excitement for "graduate study" (whatever that is!), and without master's-degree-Robyn's continued, earnest idealizing of the hard road she had begun, PhD-Robyn never would be here, post-coursework, post-exams, working on her prospectus. Maybe I'm all business now, and maybe I can't keep that old sunshine-y shit up. But no amount of romance is gonna write this dissertation.

Now if you'll excuse me I have some office work to do, two meetings to go to after that, and I have to get these 30 books back to the damn library.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Decline and Fall of Food and Wine

(Or: "Erica reads the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine, 
and determines that the world has gone to shit.") best friend has moved in with me.  She lived in New York City for six years, and while she never dwelt in Manhattan proper, she brought with her from that city with more culture and snazz than I have ever seen.

I used to get all my wine at Trader Joes, and it was okay. I know beer though, and I would buy good ones. Well now that Erica is here, we are card carrying Binny's Beverage Depot shoppers, asking for vinho verde (her request) and "party friendly Bordeaux" (mine).

Erica calls a tray of fucking celery crudite and knows how to turn goat cheese into manna. She cooks in the middle of the night with whatever we have left over, and makes falafel and eggs to die for.

All this is to say that Erica knows a little bit about food and wine.  So when she whipped open last month's issue of Food and Wine and the ARRRGGGHs starting pouring from her foaming, anger-twisted lips, I grabbed a pen and a notebook.

Let's just say the magazine is not what it used to be. And this was "the wine issue" no less...

The following video is half-scripted by her scathing and exhaustive commentary, half-improvised with my ad lib a la (always drunk) Julia Child.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Your oils do not tempt me

Welcome to our "home." We've made it as uncomfortable as possible so you won't stay too long!

I live in the suburbs. Not just any suburbs, but possibly some of the most vanilla, mildly affluent, tasteless suburbs in the country. I am not proud.

Of all the things that a person like me has to deal with and spend energy hating on in the suburbs -- chain stores, wide roads, McMansions, upspeak, people who name all four of their kids some variation of "Aiden" (why not Bladen? Paraden?) -- my personal bane is the tasteless decor of the young-to-middle-aged suburbanite's home.

Seriously, one day last semester I parked next to a house near my suburban university and saw paintings through the windows. Real paintings. Some Audubon prints too! This was such a rarity to spy through an open, beautifully curtained window in Aurora, Illinois. I just sat there in the car staring. Who are these people of taste? Why are they here? And then I walked to class to teach kids in Adidas sandals about Nietzsche, walking past paintingless, Audubonless houses, walking past closed doors that probably hid the following:

At least three bottles of olive oil with shit floating in it. All over the kitchen counter. Displayed in duplicate behind backlit glass cabinet doors. Do they cook with that stuff? How long does it sit there? Is it supposed to impress dinner guests that they might have just been poisoned by it? When do you say, "Honey, I need a new bottle of olive oil with shit floating in it, can you pick me some up at da Costco? I think I'd like floaty lemongrass and pomegranates this time..."

Your oils do not tempt me. In fact I feel a little sick just writing about them. Here's a picture:

Also behind the suburban door are fake wrought iron candle-holder wall sconce swirlies. Above every doorway and overstuffed beige microfiber couch hangs a nest of twisted cheap metal, painted black, possibly supporting tea lights, flowers, wine glasses if we're in the kitchen. Other iterations of this waste of space (for them it fills space, covers their lack of ability to think of anything to put on that huge wall under the vaulted ceiling) include kitchen wine racks, living room wine racks, billiard room wine racks, um, bed frames, master bathroom toilet caddies, you get the idea.

All this shit was on their wedding registry.

Also behind the door, on the coffee table, the overstuffed ottoman, the end table... There are bowls of balls. Let me explain.  They are bowls, and in them are balls. Mosaic balls, feather balls, bark balls... I asked my friend about this and she said she's seen: "So many balls... I don't even know..." What does a bowl o'balls inspire in a guest? Envy? Sensory stimulation? Wait I don't think you're supposed to touch the balls.

Kissing cousin to the balls in bowls is the tray of stuff. Silk artichokes mostly, but other stuff too. Maybe a porcelain rabbit, if the house is big enough to warrant such extravagance-on-a-tray.

In the kitchen there are attempts at Tuscany all around. The olive oil is only the beginning. The best suburban kitchens have crackle finish over at least a third of the surfaces, hideous dark granite countertops, Bed Bath and Beyond artworks of grapes and wine glasses, a set of three painted wooden signs that say "LIVE. LAUGH. LOVE." (Trans: "EAT. DRINK. FUCK."  I should paint that on some wood pieces, in curly-cue letters, to match all the faux wrought iron I don't have.)  But the pictures are the worst. Sometimes hanging, sometimes fake-frescoed right into the wall. Lots of grapes. I can't make one, it will kill me, so here's an internet example:

(Run out of ideas?  AGAIN?  Just cover the wall in that shit.)
If you haven't read my rant about Tuscany (and paint color names, and Anthropologie) read it today.  It's funny as hell.

Behind the door are stainless steel everythings. No kids to get sticky prints all over them. (Maybe a baby, but everything is covered in baby-repellent.) What happened to the white kitchen? I love a bright white kitchen. Or even some knotty wood cabinets. I have both white things and knotty wood in my current kitchen, which has the original 1941 cabinets (new knotty doors on them) and that makes it worthless in the suburbs. Suburbanites loves cavernous, granite lined, crackle finished, steel coated oil cellars as their hangouts. Wait they probably don't even hang out in the kitchen. (Don't all the coolest people hang out in the kitchen at parties? Dumb 'burbans.)

Ok, I know there are worse problems in this world than my own two eyes being ravaged by bad looking things in other people's houses.  But I still hold that one of the worst things about living in the suburbs is the tastelessness. I will deal with my neighbors' excessive disposable income. My kid gets to go to a school with iPads and teachers assistants in every classroom, and free after school art classes that give me an extra hour to get home every Friday. I will deal with their whiteness I guess. I wish my kids saw more diversity around them, both cultural diversity and income diversity (they know our own poorness but have none poorer to compare it to). The rich vanilla issue is a serious issue.

But, as a person with an aesthetic, I really wish I didn't have to look at all these fucking wall sconces.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Call for Papers

This year I'm co-chairing the committee to organize Northern Illinois University's annual English Department Conference.  We call it the Midwest Conference of Literature, Language, and Media: MCLLM.

I know I have some grad student readers, so I wanted to post the CFP here and I hope you'll consider submitting.  You already know someone who's gonna be reading those submissions!  This is definitely a starter conference, so you can get your C.V. fleshed out a bit.  But even though we're easy, we're fun and professional too. We've got professors who come back to present every year, and someone is always in the crowd looking to hire talented presenters who are PhD'd (or almost there).

If you're totally new to this, don't worry. We will even give you tips to revise your proposal so that we can accept it. No kidding.

If you're an old hand... submit anyway!  The variety of panel topics will keep you busy all day, and you will meet some of the most friendly Midwesterners in the land.  This is a low-pressure, supportive conference.  We want to recognize talent, and foster fun and engaging conversation.  With beer too.

The theme of our conference is down to earth and practical this year.  "What do we do?" is the question we asked ourselves.  This whole "studying English" business is weird. How do we define it?  Especially in an age when books and language are always slipping away?  Especially when everyone's answers are supposed to be "BECAUSE SCIENCE."  Well what about "BECAUSE NOVELS"? (So the official theme is "What we do" because the faculty didn't want us to leave it as a question.  You're supposed to have some kind of answer. Be able to explain yourself. Maybe.)

Faculty also didn't want us to write "mount a conference" when we mean "organize a conference."  We keep trying to sneak in sexy action words, e.g. your paper should "tackle" something.  It's a graduate-run conference, so we'll mount and tackle all we want. (I must say that besides the word-splitting, our advisors are very helpful. We wouldn't know what the hell we were doing without them.)

The "What we do" theme for this conference is just a suggestion, something to get you thinking.  We welcome papers on everything under the sun, if you can call it L, L, or M (per the acronym).  For instance, one panelist is writing about jazz music in literature. He thought we would turn him down. We said bring it on.

Without further ado, here is the official CFP as sent out to universities across the country, with submission email at the bottom:


What We Do: English and Communication in Theory and Practice

Conference Date: March 28-29, 2014
Deadline for Proposals: January 31, 2014

The 22nd annual Midwestern Conference on Literature, Language, and Media (MCLLM) at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL is currently accepting proposals for 15 minute papers from individuals and panels. MCLLM welcomes proposals from a wide range of studies in the English and Communication fields. Some possible topics for investigation may include: literature and poetry, creative writing, linguistics, written and visual rhetoric, journalism, narrative and documentary film, games/video games, television, radio, new and social media, and pedagogy in these fields.

We are particularly interested in exploring the changing theory and practice of "What We Do" in our field(s) in the 21st century. For instance, how has the historical concept of a text changed in relation to evolving media? How has our use of technology and the Internet altered our research methods?

Please submit 200-250 word proposals by Friday, January 31, 2014 to including name, institutional affiliation, email, and phone number of each author. Panel proposals should include a brief overview of the panel's theme and purpose, along with a 200-250 word abstract for each paper.

The theme of this year's MCLLM is inspired by the work of Robin Valenza, Ph.D., associate professor of English at University of Wisconsin - Madison. Her research interests include the digital humanities and the history of academic disciplines. She is the author of Literature, Language, and the Rise of the Intellectual Disciplines in Britain, 1680-1820. Valenza will be presenting a talk entitled "What is Digital Humanities and what can I do in it?" on March 28.

The MCLLM Committee

Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Be Safe!"

I'm easily annoyed at words that stick together in catchy appellations, and even more annoyed when those phrases start appearing on advertisements, signage, train platforms, yogurt lids...etc.

"Be Safe!" is the latest verbiage on my shit list (as in, shit you shouldn't say).

But why, Byrd?  It's so friendly! It's so concerned!  Well, my number one reason for disliking "Be Safe!" is its feigned attitude of friendliness and concern.  It's not actually friendly, nor is it actually concerned about your welfare.  It's become one of those things that people say when parting, whenever anyone has to drive a distance, is about to go on a trip, is about to do something fun, or is just about to step into the street in front of a bus.  "Be Safe!" comes out of people's mouths as often as "Have a good one!"  But "Have a good one!" is actually something you wouldn't say unless you were feeling genuinely friendly. It's so colloquial, its use implies not a familiarity but maybe a desire for familiarity, or at least it implies the satisfaction of having momentarily shared a social space with someone. "Be Safe!" on the other hand, carries no actual care or concern with it. It's something people say because they think it is the cultural expectation now.  Where the hell did that come from?

I know the forms of "Goodbye" mentioned above are different from "Be Safe!" because they are simply versions of parting words. "Be safe!", at first, replaced only phrases like "Drive Safely!" and "Be careful tonight!"  But those are situation specific.  "Be Safe!", on the other hand, has even started to replace the usual parting words for some people.  It's too specific to do that.

Not every parting occurs under potentially dangerous conditions. Unless you habitually part in dark alleys.  Or, unless you are a super-hero who is continually rescuing curb-side-stepping idiots from certain bus-whompings. Or, unless you are a cop who talks to people in the mean city streets on Saturday nights. There is a narrow set of circumstances where "Be Safe!" makes perfect sense.  But no, you, regular everyday civilian folk, don't have any goddamn reason to suspect the person from whom you are removing yourself is in any more danger now that you're gone than they were when you were right there with them.  That's a pretty stupid thing to think, non-super-person.

Second, that phrase is too damn up in my business. I can't stand that "Be Safe!"  is so much of a command.  It's in the imperative mood, like so many partings; but it assumes so much authority!  Even "Have a good one!" is giving someone an imperative.  But having "a good one" is so metaphorical and vague, you can have a good one of anything and still satisfy your friend's or acquaintance's culturally imperative parting imperative. I ate a croissant. Done!  Or, I hugged a towel fresh from the dryer. Done!  Having a good one is easy, and it makes me glad that other folks might wish me to have one, in any of its forms.  But whether I do safe things after talking with you is none of your damn business.  While I might not be in immediate danger after leaving a Be-Safer's presence, I certainly feel the pressure of this imperative, because it is delivered with such ownership. It's like the bestower of the imperative is a grand master of safety, and you, on the other hand, are a stumbling, bumbling, drunken, ne'er-do-well whom they have every right to expect will get into trouble tonight. Me? Be safe? YOU be safe. Boring safe person.

I've said much about the individual's usage of "Be Safe!", but this last gripe applies to both Be-Safers and "Be Safe!" signage.  I simply can't stand the pragmatics of that phrase. Telling someone, imperatively, to be safe, is just not sensible. While it may be too specific for a generic parting, it's not specific enough for signage or for an actual safety concern. Without more direction, your signs and well-wishes are meaningless.  What exactly do you want me to do to accomplish safety? And, more importantly, do I ever really have any control over whether I am safe? 

I can take measures.  I can chew food completely before swallowing.  I can tie my shoes mightily tight to avoid tripping on laces.  I can avoid dark alleys, rabid-looking animals, diving pools, dive bars.  But even in this relatively safe bubble I may create by avoiding the joys of sticky bar stools and rabies shots, "Be[ing] Safe!" is not under my control.  There are highwaymen. There are asteroids. There are papers that cut. You, Be-Safer, and your "Be Safe!" signs, are telling me to do something quite humanly impossible. What the hell do you expect? 

This evening as I walked up to the train platform at 57th Street, after traipsing through the famously sketchy U Chicago neighborhood, there it was.  A blinking sign announced the next arrival time, and then it flashed: "BE SAFE!...BE SAFE!...BE SAFE!"  I donned my ear muffs, toed right up to the yellow bumpy edge of the sunken tracks, and let the wind push me a little as a freight train screamed by with its 3000 tons of petroleum tankers.  I imagined them flying off the tracks and exploding against the side of the platform.  I felt as safe as I could be.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On the Rhetoric of Being Mean

In order to have a little something to post, I've stolen a short thing I wrote for my rhetoric of satire class.  Actually, it's an eighteenth century lit class.  Actually, it's a Pope and Swift class.  (Actually, it's all of those things, which means it covers tons of coursework requirements, and is a weekly, 3-hour knowledge bath.)

We have to write a paper answering a simple question each week.  The requirements for these little "I understood the reading and thought about it" papers are not spelled out.  After two semesters with this professor (who is a font of wisdom but also a tough teacher) I'm finally figuring out what he wants.  He wants you to write about the ideas, the way they work, and write about a bit of the text that you know a little something extra about.  So I've started to seize on the philosophy references, which are easy to find in Pope and Swift.  (What he doesn't want is literary theory sorts of discussions, humor, -isms of any kind, or tangents. I can avoid most of those things easily, but I really miss having a class where I can go off on a tangent and mine it for everything tangential!)

Two weeks ago, I saw a non-philosophical opportunity to say a little about the rhetoric of being insulting.  I am still working on my "Rhetoric of Fuck," so this is an offshoot, or maybe even a broader category, of that.  Pope at his meanest shows that if your text or argument sets up the necessity of swearing or insulting, then it must live up to its own demands.  Maybe this is not an infallible rhetorical method, but it does make for a nicely encapsulated rhetorical environment where the speaker makes the rules -- and once he shows you that he can play by them, you are hopefully enticed to try the game.

Pope tells it like it is (because he thinks everyone should)
In Pope’s “Epistle to Dr. Abuthnot,” the poet attacks several contemporary writers in satiric verse. Most prominent among these writers are Joseph Addison, an essayist and Pope’s former friend, and John Hervey, an aristocratic political writer and friend to the royalty.  In a stanza full of scathing accusations of literary cowardice, Pope critiques Addison’s critical persona.  His attacks on Lord Hervey get a bit more personal, as he questions Hervey’s sexuality and responds to Hervey’s attacks on Pope himself.  Do either of these writers deserve the treatment they receive from the tip of Pope’s pen? 
In the case of Addison, I think the attack was a bit unwarranted, based on a personal quarrel about whether Pope’s Iliad was any good, a quarrel that Pope let destroy the friendship.  When he writes Arbuthnot, Pope sees in his former comrade an easy vehicle for critiquing literary trends that rub him the wrong way, and winds his way toward a critique of the writer himself.  The stanza on Addison (ll. 193-214) comes after the poet has spent two stanzas lamenting trends in both contemporary literary criticism and the reading habits of the ever-growing literate (but unrefined) populace.  In ll. 159-172 he critiques the fascination with style for style’s sake (an empty habit of gazing at writing rather than reading it, reducing reading to “word-catching” and counting of syllables) and in ll. 175-192 he condemns writers who borrow other’s works to the point where they cannot create their own except for “eight lines a year.”  He may not associate all of these these bad habits with Addison, but he uses the writer’s name in an ironic manner in l. 192: “not Addison himself was safe” he quips, suggesting Addison’s work is not even worth pilfering. Whether Pope puts Addison in this stanza because the preceding critiques reminded him of that writer is uncertain, but what is certain is that he had something particular to say about Addison and he needed to get to it while he was riled about writing.  He makes note of Addison’s potential literary genius, but accuses Addison of being the opposite sort of social critic that Pope believes himself to be.  Pope views his own, sometimes savage, attacks as necessary evils (if he thinks them evil at all…) in an increasingly literate, increasingly published society where it is becoming harder to break through the literary clutter, harder to set oneself apart and make one’s points heard, and harder to stay in with the right crowd (for him anyway).  Pope believes he is not slighting others for personal gain or merely out of retaliation, but because he is virtuous, and cannot help but be virtuous, like an eighteenth century Socrates. He has no choice but to satirize and condemn those who make literature low-minded or unreadable, and he considers himself brave for doing so.  Addison, on the other hand, is a milk-toast of a critic in his Spectator, because he is afraid of damaging his image as a good-natured wit.  He does not commit to his critiques, he never “dislikes” but only makes a “hint at fault.”  Addison “Damn[s] with faint praise,” while Pope, as he sees it, tells it like it is.
Pope’s attack on Lord Hervey is both more justified and more explicit in its cruelty.  Hervey had made personal attacks on Pope, not leaving out his physical deformities.  So how could Pope ignore Hervey’s sexual (and writerly) waffling between “that and this” if he were serious about causing “wounds,” about striking one’s opponent instead of just making others “sneer”?  Pope hits hard when he calls Hervey a lady, but this is only for rhetorical effect.  The courtier's romantic habits are not what Pope condemns.  It is Hervey's inability to write an attack without telling vicious lies that really galls him because, again, a good critique should get at the truth. (If it's an ugly truth, well then all the better for your argument.  But you can't just make one up.)  While jealousy of Hervey could have been a contributing factor here, Pope is not amiss to continue to uphold his requirement (the requirement that Addison couldn’t meet) that critics, especially satirists, tell it like it is without pulling punches. There is no praise of Hervey’s genius, latent or not.
While Pope’s critique of Addison may be somewhat unwarranted, it is not all that nasty compared to Pope’s crucifixion of Hervey, “that mere white curd of ass’s milk” (l. 306).  If Pope’s main concerns are with the preservation of meaningful literature, with maintaining a literary society that is at once virtuous and au fait -- a society where intelligent men can openly challenge each other’s work -- then this epistle does what he wanted it to do.  The premise of the text requires personal attacks, and as Pope tells us in the sort of disclaimer that precedes some editions, “No injury can possibly be done by [my abuse], since a Nameless Character can never be found out, but by its Truth and Likeness.”  Pope considers himself free and clear – any fault in the poem is actually a fault within the reader.  The somewhat mean-spirited (but not entirely hateful) Addison critique sets up the model and the expectations for a good satirical treatment, and in Pope’s treatment of Hervey a few stanzas later, he happily (and angrily) abides by his own rules.