Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Overview
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 and Tennyson. Pope is famous for his use of the heroic couplet
Heroic couplet
A heroic couplet is a traditional form for English poetry, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry; it refers to poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. The rhyme is always masculine. Use of the heroic couplet was first pioneered by Geoffrey Chaucer in...

.

Pope was born to Alexander Pope Senior (1646–1717), a linen merchant of Plough Court, Lombard Street, London, and his wife Edith (née Turner) (1643–1733), who were both Catholics.
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Quotations

Happy the man whose wish and care A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air In his own ground.

"Ode on Solitude", st. 1 (c. 1700)

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.

"Ode on Solitude", st. 5 (c. 1700)

They dream in Courtship, but in Wedlock wake.

"The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), line 103

The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole Can never be a mouse of any soul.

"The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), lines 298-299. Compare: "I hold a mouses wit not worth a leke, That hath but on hole for to sterten to", Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "The Wif of Bathes Prologue", line 6154; "The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken", George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum.

Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies, And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.

"The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), line 369

Histories are more full of Examples of the Fidelity of dogs than of Friends.

Letter to Henry Cromwell (19 October 1709)

I am his Highness' dog at Kew; Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

"On the Collar of a Dog"

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light.

Epitaph intended for Sir Isaac Newton

The flying Rumours gather'd as they roll'd, Scarce any Tale was sooner heard than told; And all who told it, added something new, And all who heard it, made Enlargements too, In ev'ry Ear it spread, on ev'ry Tongue it grew.

The Temple of Fame (1711), lines 468-472

Nor Fame I slight, nor her favors call; She comes unlooked for, if she comes at all.

The Temple of Fame (1711), line 513
Encyclopedia
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 and Tennyson. Pope is famous for his use of the heroic couplet
Heroic couplet
A heroic couplet is a traditional form for English poetry, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry; it refers to poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. The rhyme is always masculine. Use of the heroic couplet was first pioneered by Geoffrey Chaucer in...

.

Life


Pope was born to Alexander Pope Senior (1646–1717), a linen merchant of Plough Court, Lombard Street, London, and his wife Edith (née Turner) (1643–1733), who were both Catholics. Edith's sister Christiana was the wife of the famous miniature painter Samuel Cooper
Samuel Cooper
Samuel Cooper was an English miniature painter, and younger brother of Alexander Cooper.He is believed to have been born in London, and was a nephew of John Hoskins, the miniature painter, by whom he was educated. He lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, and frequented the Covent Garden...

. Pope's education was affected by the recently enacted Test Acts, which upheld the status of the established
State church
State churches are organizational bodies within a Christian denomination which are given official status or operated by a state.State churches are not necessarily national churches in the ethnic sense of the term, but the two concepts may overlap in the case of a nation state where the state...

 Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and banned Catholics from teaching, attending a university, voting, or holding public office on pain of perpetual imprisonment. Pope was taught to read by his aunt, and went to Twyford School
Twyford School
Twyford School is a co-educational, independent, preparatory boarding and day school, located in the village of Twyford, Hampshire.-History:Twyford claims to be the oldest preparatory school in the United Kingdom....

 in about 1698/99. He then went to two Catholic schools in London. Such schools, while illegal, were tolerated in some areas.

In 1700, his family moved to a small estate at Popeswood
Popeswood
Popeswood is a village in Berkshire, England, near Bracknell. The village is within the civil parish of Binfield.The settlement lies near to the A329 motorway and is approximately west of Bracknell. It contains the John Nike Leisuresport complex and ski slope. It is named after Alexander Pope who...

 in Binfield
Binfield
Binfield is a village and civil parish in the Bracknell Forest borough of Berkshire, England. According to the 2001 census it has a population of 7,475...

, Berkshire, close to the royal Windsor Forest
Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park is a large deer park of , to the south of the town of Windsor on the border of Berkshire and Surrey in England. The park was, for many centuries, the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle and dates primarily from the mid-13th century...

. This was due to strong anti-Catholic sentiment and a statute preventing Catholics from living within 10 miles (16 km) of either London or Westminster. Pope would later describe the countryside around the house in his poem Windsor Forest. Pope's formal education ended at this time, and from then on he mostly educated himself by reading the works of classical writers such as the satirists Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

 and Juvenal
Juvenal
The Satires are a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD.Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided among five books; all are in the Roman genre of satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a...

, the epic poets Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 and Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

, as well as English authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

, William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 and John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

. He also studied many languages and read works by English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek poets. After five years of study, Pope came into contact with figures from the London literary society such as William Wycherley
William Wycherley
William Wycherley was an English dramatist of the Restoration period, best known for the plays The Country Wife and The Plain Dealer.-Biography:...

, William Congreve
William Congreve
William Congreve was an English playwright and poet.-Early life:Congreve was born in Bardsey, West Yorkshire, England . His parents were William Congreve and his wife, Mary ; a sister was buried in London in 1672...

, Samuel Garth
Samuel Garth
Sir Samuel Garth FRS was an English physician and poet.Garth was born in Bolam in County Durham and matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1676, graduating B.A. in 1679 and...

, William Trumbull
William Trumbull
Sir William Trumbull was an English statesman who held high office as a member of the First Whig Junto.-Biography:...

, and William Walsh.

At Binfield, he also began to make many important friends. One of them, John Caryll
John Caryll the younger
John Caryll was the second Jacobite Baron Caryll of Durford.A friend of Alexander Pope, Caryll was the son of Richard Caryll , of West Grinstead, Sussex, and Frances , daughter of Sir Henry Bedingfield, and nephew and heir of John Caryll, Jacobite first Baron Caryll of Durford. He succeeded his...

 (the future dedicatee of The Rape of the Lock
The Rape of the Lock
The Rape of the Lock is a mock-heroic narrative poem written by Alexander Pope, first published anonymously in Lintot's Miscellany in May 1712 in two cantos , but then revised, expanded and reissued under Pope's name on March 2, 1714, in a much-expanded 5-canto version...

), was twenty years older than the poet and had made many acquaintances in the London literary world. He introduced the young Pope to the ageing playwright William Wycherley and to William Walsh, a minor poet, who helped Pope revise his first major work, The Pastorals. He also met the Blount sisters, Teresa and (his alleged future lover) Martha
Martha Blount
Martha Blount was an English woman, a friend of many English literary figures, especially Alexander Pope.-Life:Martha was born 15 June 1690 probably at the family seat, Mapledurham, near Reading. She was educated first at Hammersmith, London, probably at the Roman Catholic convent there, and...

, both of whom would remain lifelong friends.

From the age of 12, he suffered numerous health problems, such as Pott's disease
Pott's disease
Pott's disease is a presentation of extrapulmonary tuberculosis that affects the spine, a kind of tuberculous arthritis of the intervertebral joints...

 (a form of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 that affects the bone), which deformed his body and stunted his growth, leaving him with a severe hunchback. His tuberculosis infection caused other health problems including respiratory difficulties, high fevers, inflamed eyes, and abdominal pain. He grew to a height of only 1.37 metre tall. Pope was already removed from society because he was Catholic; his poor health only alienated him further. Although he never married, he had many female friends to whom he wrote witty letters. Allegedly, his lifelong friend, Martha Blount, was his lover.

Early career


In May, 1709, Pope's Pastorals was published in the sixth part of Tonson's Poetical Miscellanies. This brought Pope instant fame, and was followed by An Essay on Criticism, published in May 1711, which was equally well received.

Around 1711, Pope made friends with Tory writers John Gay
John Gay
John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera , set to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch...

, Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

, Thomas Parnell
Thomas Parnell
Thomas Parnell was a poet and clergyman, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a friend of both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. He participated in the Scriblerus Club, contributing to The Spectator, and he also aided Pope in his translation of The Iliad...

 and John Arbuthnot
John Arbuthnot
John Arbuthnot, often known simply as Dr. Arbuthnot, , was a physician, satirist and polymath in London...

, who together formed the satirical Scriblerus Club
Scriblerus Club
The Scriblerus Club was an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell. The group was founded in 1712 and lasted until the death of the founders, starting in 1732 and ending in 1745, with Pope and Swift being...

. The aim of the club was to satirise ignorance and pedantry in the form of the fictional scholar Martinus Scriblerus. He also made friends with Whig writers Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison was an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician. He was a man of letters, eldest son of Lancelot Addison...

 and Richard Steele
Richard Steele
Sir Richard Steele was an Irish writer and politician, remembered as co-founder, with his friend Joseph Addison, of the magazine The Spectator....

. In March 1713, Windsor Forest was published to great acclaim.

Pope's next well-known poem was The Rape of the Lock
The Rape of the Lock
The Rape of the Lock is a mock-heroic narrative poem written by Alexander Pope, first published anonymously in Lintot's Miscellany in May 1712 in two cantos , but then revised, expanded and reissued under Pope's name on March 2, 1714, in a much-expanded 5-canto version...

, first published in 1712, with a revised version published in 1714. This is sometimes considered Pope's most popular poem because it was a mock-heroic epic, written to make fun of a high-society quarrel between Arabella Fermor (the "Belinda" of the poem) and Lord Petre
Robert Petre, 7th Baron Petre
Robert Petre, 7th Baron Petre was a British peer, the son of Thomas Petre, 6th Baron Petre and his wife Mary Clifton, daughter of Sir Thomas Clifton. He succeeded to his title, at the age of 17, upon the death of his father....

, who had snipped a lock of hair from her head without her permission. In his poem he treats his characters in an epic style; when the Baron steals her hair and she tries to get it back, it flies into the air and turns into a star.

During Pope's friendship with Joseph Addison, he contributed to Addison's play Cato
Cato, a Tragedy
Cato, a Tragedy is a play written by Joseph Addison in 1712, and first performed on 14 April 1713. Based on the events of the last days of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , a Stoic whose deeds, rhetoric and resistance to the tyranny of Julius Caesar made him an icon of republicanism, virtue,and...

, as well as writing for The Guardian
The Guardian (1713)
The Guardian was a short-lived newspaper published in London from 12 March to 1 October 1713. It was founded by Richard Steele and featured contributions from Joseph Addison, Thomas Tickell, Alexander Pope and Ambrose Philips...

 and The Spectator
The Spectator (1711)
The Spectator was a daily publication of 1711–12, founded by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele in England after they met at Charterhouse School. Eustace Budgell, a cousin of Addison's, also contributed to the publication. Each 'paper', or 'number', was approximately 2,500 words long, and the...

. Around this time he began the work of translating the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, which was a painstaking process – publication began in 1715 and did not end until 1720.

In 1714, the political situation worsened with the death of Queen Anne and the disputed succession between the Hanoverian
Hanoverian
The adjective Hanoverian is used to describe:* British monarchs or supporters of the House of Hanover, the dynasty which ruled the United Kingdom from 1714 to 1901.* things relating to the Electorate of Hanover, Kingdom of Hanover, or Province of Hanover...

s and the Jacobites
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

, leading to the attempted Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Though Pope as a Catholic might have been expected to have supported the Jacobites because of his religious and political affiliations, according to Maynard Mack, "where Pope himself stood on these matters can probably never be confidently known". These events led to an immediate downturn in the fortunes of the Tories, and Pope's friend, Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories, and supported the Church of England politically despite his atheism. In 1715 he supported the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 which sought to overthrow the...

 fled to France.

Essay on Criticism


An Essay on Criticism
An Essay on Criticism
An Essay on Criticism is one of the first major poems written by the English writer Alexander Pope . It is written in a type of rhyming verse called heroic couplets....

 was first published anonymously on 15 May 1711. Pope began writing the poem early in his career and took about three years to finish it.

At the time the poem was published, the heroic couplet
Heroic couplet
A heroic couplet is a traditional form for English poetry, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry; it refers to poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. The rhyme is always masculine. Use of the heroic couplet was first pioneered by Geoffrey Chaucer in...

 style in which it was written was a moderately new genre of poetry, and Pope's most ambitious work. An Essay on Criticism was an attempt to identify and refine his own positions as a poet and critic. The poem was said to be a response to an ongoing debate on the question of whether poetry should be natural, or written according to predetermined artificial rules inherited from the classical past.

The poem begins with a discussion of the standard rules that govern poetry by which a critic passes judgment. Pope comments on the classical authors who dealt with such standards, and the authority that he believed should be accredited to them.
He discusses the laws to which a critic should adhere while critiquing poetry, and points out that critics serve an important function in aiding poets with their works, as opposed to the practice of attacking them.

The final section of An Essay on Criticism discusses the moral qualities and virtues inherent in the ideal critic, who, Pope claims, is also the ideal man.

Translations of the Iliad


Pope had been fascinated by Homer since childhood. In 1713, he announced his plans to publish a translation of the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

. The work would be available by subscription, with one volume appearing every year over the course of six years. Pope secured a revolutionary deal with the publisher Bernard Lintot, which brought him two hundred guineas a volume, a vast sum at the time.

His translation of the Iliad appeared between 1715 and 1720. It was acclaimed by Samuel Johnson as "a performance which no age or nation could hope to equal" (although the classical scholar Richard Bentley
Richard Bentley
Richard Bentley was an English classical scholar, critic, and theologian. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge....

 wrote: "It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.").

Twickenham and the Grotto


The money made from the Homer translation allowed Pope to move to a villa at Twickenham in 1719, where he created his now famous grotto and gardens. Pope decorated the grotto with alabaster, marbles, and ores such as mundic
Mundic
Mundic was used from the 1690s to describe a copper ore, which began to be smelted at Bristol and elsewhere in southwestern Britain. Smelting was carried out in cupolas, that is reverberatory furnaces using mineral coal...

 and crystals. He also used Cornish diamonds, stalactites, spars, snakestones and spongestone. Here and there in the grotto he placed mirrors, expensive embellishments for the time. A camera obscura
Camera obscura
The camera obscura is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to photography. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side...

 was installed to delight his visitors, of whom there were many. The serendipitous discovery of a spring during its excavations enabled the subterranean retreat to be filled with the relaxing sound of trickling water, which would quietly echo around the chambers. Pope was said to have remarked that: "Were it to have nymphs as well – it would be complete in everything." Although the house and gardens have long since been demolished, much of this grotto still survives. The grotto now lies beneath Radnor House Independent Co-ed School, and is occasionally opened to the public.

Translation of the Odyssey


Encouraged by the success of the Iliad, Pope translated the Odyssey. The translation appeared in 1726, but this time, confronted with the arduousness of the task, he enlisted the help of William Broome and Elijah Fenton. Pope attempted to conceal the extent of the collaboration (he himself translated only twelve books, Broome eight and Fenton four), but the secret leaked out. It did some damage to Pope's reputation for a time, but not to his profits.

Edition of Shakespeare's works


In this period, Pope was also employed by the publisher Jacob Tonson
Jacob Tonson
Jacob Tonson, sometimes referred to as Jacob Tonson the elder was an 18th-century English bookseller and publisher....

 to produce an opulent new edition of Shakespeare. When it finally appeared, in 1725, this edition silently "regularised" Shakespeare's metre and rewrote his verse in a number of places.[6] Pope also demoted about 1560 lines of Shakespearean material to footnotes, arguing that they were so "excessively bad" that Shakespeare could never have written them.[7] (Other lines were excluded from the edition altogether.[8]) In 1726, the lawyer, poet, and pantomime deviser Lewis Theobald
Lewis Theobald
Lewis Theobald , British textual editor and author, was a landmark figure both in the history of Shakespearean editing and in literary satire...

 published a scathing pamphlet called Shakespeare Restored, which catalogued the errors in Pope's work and suggested a number of revisions to the text. Pope and Theobald were probably well acquainted, and Pope no doubt interpreted this as a violation of the rules of friendship.[9]

A second edition of Pope's Shakespeare appeared in 1728, but aside from making some minor revisions to the Preface, it seems that Pope had little to do with it. Most later 18th-century editors of Shakespeare dismissed Pope's creatively motivated approach to textual criticism. Pope's Preface, however, continued to be highly rated. It was suggested that Shakespeare's texts were thoroughly contaminated by actors' interpolations and they would influence editors for most of the 18th century.[10]

Later career: An Essay on Man and satires



Though the Dunciad was first published anonymously in Dublin, its authorship was not in doubt. As well as Theobald, it pilloried a host of other "hacks", "scribblers" and "dunces". Mack called its publication "in many ways the greatest act of folly in Pope's life". Though a masterpiece, "it bore bitter fruit. It brought the poet in his own time the hostility of its victims and their sympathizers, who pursued him implacably from then on with a few damaging truths and a host of slanders and lies...". The threats were physical too. According to his sister, Pope would never go for a walk without the company of his Great Dane
Great Dane
The Great Dane , also known as German Mastiff or Danish Hound , is a breed of domestic dog known for its giant size...

, Bounce, and a pair of loaded pistols in his pocket.

In 1731, Pope published his "Epistle to Burlington
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork PC , born in Yorkshire, England, was the son of Charles Boyle, 2nd Earl of Burlington and 3rd Earl of Cork...

", on the subject of architecture, the first of four poems which would later be grouped under the title Moral Essays
Moral Essays
Moral Essays is a series of four poems on ethical subjects by Alexander Pope, published between 1731 and 1735...

 (1731–35). In the epistle, Pope ridiculed the bad taste of the aristocrat "Timon". Pope's enemies claimed he was attacking the Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, MP, PC was the first of fourteen children by Sir James Brydges, 3rd Baronet of Wilton Castle, Sheriff of Herefordshire, 8th Baron Chandos; and Elizabeth Barnard...

 and his estate, Cannons
Cannons (house)
Cannons was a stately home in Little Stanmore, Middlesex built for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos between 1713 and 1724 at a cost of £200,000 but which in 1747 was razed and its contents dispersed....

. Though the charge was untrue, it did Pope a great deal of damage.

Around this time, Pope began to grow discontented with the ministry of Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC , known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain....

 and drew closer to the opposition led by Bolingbroke, who had returned to England in 1725. Inspired by Bolingbroke's philosophical ideas, Pope wrote An Essay on Man
An Essay on Man
An Essay on Man is a poem published by Alexander Pope in 1734. It is a rationalistic effort to use philosophy in order to "vindicate the ways of God to man" , a variation of John Milton's claim in the opening lines of Paradise Lost, that he will "justify the ways of God to man" . It is concerned...

 (1733–4). He published the first part anonymously, in a cunning and successful ploy to win praise from his fiercest critics and enemies.

Despite the Essay being written in heroic couplets, many translations into European languages rapidly followed, especially in Germany, where the Essay was regarded as a serious contribution to philosophy.

The Imitations of Horace followed (1733–38). These were written in the popular Augustan form of the "imitation" of a classical poet, not so much a translation of his works as an updating with contemporary references. Pope used the model of Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

 to satirise life under George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

, especially what he regarded as the widespread corruption tainting the country under Walpole's influence and the poor quality of the court's artistic taste.

Pope also added a wholly original poem, An Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot, as an introduction to the "Imitations". It reviews his own literary career and includes the famous portraits of Lord Hervey ("Sporus") and Addison ("Atticus"). In 1738 he wrote the Universal Prayer.

After 1738, Pope wrote little. He toyed with the idea of composing a patriotic epic in blank verse called Brutus, but only the opening lines survive. His major work in these years was revising and expanding his masterpiece The Dunciad
The Dunciad
The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

. Book Four appeared in 1742, and a complete revision of the whole poem in the following year. In this version, Pope replaced the "hero", Lewis Theobald, with the poet laureate Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling style...

 as "king of dunces". By now Pope's health, which had never been good, was failing, and he died in his villa surrounded by friends on 30 May 1744. On the previous day, 29 May 1744, Pope called for a priest and received the Last Rites
Last Rites
The Last Rites are the very last prayers and ministrations given to many Christians before death. The last rites go by various names and include different practices in different Christian traditions...

 of the Catholic Church. He lies buried in the nave of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Twickenham
Twickenham
Twickenham is a large suburban town southwest of central London. It is the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and one of the locally important district centres identified in the London Plan...

.

Essay on Man


The Essay on Man is a philosophical poem, written in heroic couplets and published between 1732 and 1734. Pope intended this poem to be the centrepiece of a proposed system of ethics that was to be put forth in poetic form. It was a piece of work that Pope intended to make into a larger work; however, he did not live to complete it.

The poem is an attempt to "vindicate the ways of God to Man," a variation on Milton's attempt in Paradise Lost to "justify the ways of God to Man" (1.26). It challenges as prideful an anthropocentric world-view. The poem is not solely Christian; however, it makes an assumption that man has fallen and must seek his own salvation.

It consists of four epistles that are addressed to Lord Bolingbroke. Pope presents an idea or his view on the Universe; he says that no matter how imperfect, complex, inscrutable and disturbing the Universe appears to be, it functions in a rational fashion according to the natural laws. The natural laws consider the Universe as a whole a perfect work of God. To humans it appears to be evil and imperfect in many ways; however, Pope points out that this is due to our limited mindset and limited intellectual capacity. Pope gets the message across that humans must accept their position in the "Great Chain of Being" which is at a middle stage between the angels and the beasts of the world. If we are able to accomplish this then we potentially could lead happy and virtuous lives.

The poem an affirmative poem of faith: life seems to be chaotic and confusing to man when he is in the center of it, but according to Pope it is really divinely ordered. In Pope's world God exists and is what he centres the Universe around in order to have an ordered structure. The limited intelligence of man can only take in tiny portions of this order and can experience only partial truths, hence man must rely on hope which then leads into faith. Man must be aware of his existence in the Universe and what he brings to it, in terms of riches, power and fame. It is man's duty to strive to be good regardless of other situations: this is the message Pope is trying to get across to the reader.

Criticisms of Pope's work


However, by the mid-18th century new fashions in poetry started to emerge. A decade after Pope's death, Joseph Warton claimed that Pope's style of poetry was not the most excellent form of the art. The Romantic movement that rose to prominence in early 19th-century England was more ambivalent towards his work. Though Lord Byron identified Pope as one of his chief influences (believing his scathing satire of contemporary English literature English Bards and Scotch Reviewers to be a continuance of Pope's tradition), William Wordsworth found Pope's style fundamentally too decadent to represent the human condition truly.

In the 20th century an effort to revive Pope's reputation began and was successful. Pope's work was now found to be full of references to the people and places of his time and these aided individuals' understanding of the past. The postwar period stressed the power of Pope's poetry and recognised that Pope's immersion in Christian and Biblical culture gave great depth to his poetry. Maynard Mack thought very highly of Pope's poetry. He argued that Pope's humane moral vision demanded as much respect as his technical excellence. In the years 1953–1967 the production of the definitive Twickenham edition of Pope's poems was published in ten volumes.

Pope through a modern lens


Modern criticism of Pope focuses on the man, his circumstances and motivations, prompted by theoretical perspectives such as Marxism, feminism and other forms of post-structuralism. Brean Hammond focuses on Pope's singular achievement in making an independent living solely from his writing. Laura Brown (1985) adopts a Marxist approach and accuses Pope of being an apologist for the oppressive upper classes. Hammond (1986) has studied Pope's work from the perspectives of cultural materialism
Cultural materialism
The term Cultural materialism refers to two separate scholarly endeavours:* Cultural materialism — an anthropological research paradigm championed most notably by Marvin Harris....

 and new historicism
New Historicism
New Historicism is a school of literary theory, grounded in critical theory, that developed in the 1980s, primarily through the work of the critic Stephen Greenblatt, and gained widespread influence in the 1990s....

. Along Hammond's lines, Raymond Williams explains art as a set of practices influenced by broad cultural factors rather than simply the vague ideas of genius alone.

In 'Politics and Poetics of Transgression' (1985) Peter Stallybrass and Allon White charge that Pope drew upon the low culture which he despised in order to produce his own 'high art'. They assert Pope was implicated in the very material he was attempting to exclude, not dissimilar to observations made in Pope's time.

Feminists have also criticised Pope's works. Ellen Pollak's 'The Poetics of Sexual Myth' (1985) argues that Pope followed an anti-feminist tradition, that regarded women as inferior to men both intellectually and physically. Carolyn Williams contends that a crisis in the male role during the 18th century in Britain impacted Pope and his writing.

Major works


Each year links to its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article:
  • 1709: Pastorals
  • 1711: An Essay on Criticism
    An Essay on Criticism
    An Essay on Criticism is one of the first major poems written by the English writer Alexander Pope . It is written in a type of rhyming verse called heroic couplets....

  • 1712: The Rape of the Lock
    The Rape of the Lock
    The Rape of the Lock is a mock-heroic narrative poem written by Alexander Pope, first published anonymously in Lintot's Miscellany in May 1712 in two cantos , but then revised, expanded and reissued under Pope's name on March 2, 1714, in a much-expanded 5-canto version...

     (enlarged in 1714)
  • 1713: Windsor Forest
  • 1715–1720: Translation of the Iliad
    Iliad
    The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

  • 1717: Eloisa to Abelard
    Eloisa to Abelard
    Published in 1717, Eloisa to Abelard is a poem by Alexander Pope . It is an Ovidian heroic epistle inspired by the 12th-century story of Héloïse's illicit love for, and secret marriage to, her teacher Pierre Abélard, perhaps the most popular teacher and philosopher in Paris, and the brutal...

  • 1717 – Three Hours After Marriage
    Three Hours After Marriage
    Three Hours After Marriage was a restoration comedy, written in 1717 as a collaboration between John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot. It premiered in 1717 and among its satirical targets were Richard Blackmore....

    , with others
  • 1717: Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady
    Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady
    "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady" is a poem in heroic couplets by Alexander Pope, first published in his Works of 1717. Though only 82 lines long, it has become one of Pope's most celebrated pieces....

  • 1723–1725: The Works of Shakespear
    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

    , in Six Volumes
  • 1725–1726: Translation of the Odyssey
    Odyssey
    The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

  • 1727: Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
    Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
    "Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry" is a short essay by Alexander Pope published in 1727. The aim of the essay is to ridicule contemporary poets.- Content :...

  • 1728: The Dunciad
    The Dunciad
    The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

  • 1733–1734: Essay on Man
  • 1735: The Prologue to the Satires (see the Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot
    Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot
    The Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot is a satire in poetic form written by Alexander Pope and addressed to his friend John Arbuthnot, a physician. It was first published in 1735 and composed in 1734, when Pope learned that Arbuthnot was dying. Pope described it as a memorial of their friendship...

     and Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
    Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
    "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" is a quotation – sometimes misquoted with "on" in place of "upon" – from Alexander Pope's "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot" of January 1735...

    )

Editions


External links