May 21 1688|
May 30 1744 (aged 56)|
Twickenham (today part of London)
Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 - 30 May 1744) was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson. Pope is famous for his use of heroic couplets.
Pope was born to Alexander Pope, Senior (1646-1717), a linen merchant of Plough Court, Lombard Street, London, and his wife Edith (Turner) (1643-1733), who were both Catholics. Edith's sister Christiana was the wife of the famous miniature painter Samuel Cooper. Pope's education was affected by the recently enacted Test Acts, which upheld the status of the established Church of England 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 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 in Binfield, Berkshire, close to the royal Windsor Forest. 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 and Juvenal, the epic poets Homer and Virgil, as well as English authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and John Dryden. 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 Congreve, Samuel Garth, William Trumbull, and William Walsh.
At Binfield, he also began to make many important friends. One of them, John Caryll (the future dedicatee of The Rape of the Lock), was twenty years older than the poet and had made many acquaintances in the London literary world. He introduced the young Pope to the aging 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, both of whom would remain lifelong friends.
From the age of 12, he suffered numerous health problems, such as Pott's disease (a form of tuberculosis 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 Template:Convert/m 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.
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, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Parnell and John Arbuthnot, who together formed the satirical Scriblerus Club. 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 and Richard Steele. In March 1713, Windsor Forest was published to great acclaim.
Pope's next well-known poem was The Rape of the Lock, 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, 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, as well as writing for The Guardian and The Spectator. Around this time he began the work of translating the Iliad, 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 Hanoverians and the Jacobites, 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 fled to France.
Essay on CriticismEdit
An Essay on Criticism 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 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.
Translation of the IliadEdit
Pope had been fascinated by Homer since childhood. In 1713, he announced his plans to publish a translation of the Iliad. 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 wrote: "It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.").
Twickenham and the GrottoEdit
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 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 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 OdysseyEdit
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 Edit
In this period, Pope was also employed by the publisher Jacob Tonson 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. 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. (Other lines were excluded from the edition altogether.) In 1726, the lawyer, poet, and pantomime deviser Lewis Theobald 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.
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.
Later career: Essay on Man and satiresEdit
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, Bounce, and a pair of loaded pistols in his pocket.
In 1731, Pope published his "Epistle to Burlington", on the subject of architecture, the first of four poems which would later be grouped under the title Moral Essays (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 and his estate, Cannons. 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 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 (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 (1733-1738). 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 to satirise life under George II, 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. 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 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 of the Catholic Church.
Essay on ManEdit
- Main article: An 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 anthrocentric 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 centers 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 workEdit
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. Lord Byron identified Pope as one of his chief influences (believing his scathing satire of contemporary English literature English Bards and Scotch Reviewers a continuance of Pope's tradition), while William Wordsworth found Pope's style fundamentally too decadent to represent the human condition truly.
The last decades of the 20th century brought further challenges to Pope's literary reputation. These critics were prompted by theoretical perspectives, such as Marxism, feminism and other forms of post-structuralism. Hence Hammond focused on Pope's singular achievement in making an independent living solely from his writing. Laura Brown's 'Alexander Pope' (1985) adopted a Marxist approach and accused Pope of becoming an apologist for the oppressive upper classes. A year after Brown's study, Brean Hammond published an article about Pope inspired by Cultural Materialism in the British context and the USA-based New Historicism. Following Hammond's approach, Raymond Williams explained 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 claimed that Pope drew upon the low culture which he despised in order to produce his own 'high art'. They asserted that Pope was implicated in the very material he was attempting to exclude, an observation not far different from the arguments of Pope's contemporaries.
Feminists also criticised Pope's works. Ellen Pollak's 'The Poetics of Sexual Myth' (1985) argued that Pope followed an anti-feminist tradition. Pollak believed that Pope regarded women as inferior to men both intellectually and physically. Carolyn Williams identified a crisis in the male role during the 18th century in Britain and discussed its impact on Pope as well as on his writing.
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.
In popular cultureEdit
Pope's line, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" was used in the title of E.M. Forster's first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905). That line was also used as the first line of "Fools Rush In," a Johnny Mercer/Rube Bloom pop song from the 1930's.
- 1700: Ode on Solitude
- 1709: Pastorals
- 1711: An Essay on Criticism
- 1712: The Rape of the Lock (enlarged in 1714)
- 1713: Windsor Forest
- 1715-1720: Translation of The Iliad]
- The Temple of Fame: A vision. London: Printed for Bernard Lintott, 1715.
- 1717: Eloisa to Abelard
- 1717: Three Hours After Marriage
- 1717: Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady
- 1723–1725: The Works of Shakespear, in Six Volumes
- 1725-1726: Translation of The Odyssey
- 1727: Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
- 1728: The Dunciad
- 1733–1734: An Essay on Man. London: Lintot, 1733; Dublin: S. Powell for George Risk, George Ewing, & William Smith, 1733. w
- 1735: The Prologue to the Satires (see the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot and Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?)
- The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope. London: Printed by W. Bowyer for Bernard Lintot, 1717. Volume II,
- The Works of Alexander Pope Esq. London: L. Gilliver, 1735. Volume II, Volume VI
- The Works of Alexander Pope: In four volumes complete. (4 volumes), London: Printed for the Editor, 1778. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV.'
- The Works of Alexander Pope: In nine volumes complete (with notes by Joseph Warton). (9 volumes), London: Printed for B. Law et al, 1797. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, Volume VI, Volume VII, Volume VIII, Volume IX.
- The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq.: In verse and prose (edited with a memoir by Rev. William Lisle Bowles). (10 volumes), London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1806. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, Volume VI, Volume VII, Volume VIII, Volume IX, Volume X.
- Works of Alexander Pope (edited by William Roscoe). (10 volumes), London: J. Rivington, 1824.
- The Prose Works (edited by Norman Ault & Rosemary Cowler). (2 volumes), Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1936, 1986.
- The Poems (edited by John Bull). (11 volumes), New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1939, 1969.
- Selected Prose (edited by Paul Hammond). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
- The Iliad of Homer (edited by Stephen Shankman). Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1996.
- The Poems (edited by Valerie Rumbold). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 2007.
- Letters of the Late Alexander Pope, Esq: To a Lady. London: J. Dodsley, 1769.
- The Correspondence (edited by George Sherborne). (5 volumes), Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1956.
- Selected Letters (edited by Howard Erskine-Hill). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Poems by Alexander PopeEdit
See also Edit
- 'Alexander Pope', Literature Online biography (Chadwyck-Healey: Cambridge, 2000).
- The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Oxford University Press, 5th ed., 1999).
- Baines, Paul. The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope (Routledge Publishing, 2001), pp. 67-90.
- Cassirer, Ernst. An essay on man; an introduction to a philosophy of human culture (Yale University Press, 1944).
- Gordon, Ian. 'An Epistle to a Lady (Moral Essay II)', The Literary Encyclopedia. 2002-01-24, accessed 2009-04-17.
- Erskine-Hill, Howard. 'Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, Sept 2004, online edn, Jan 2008). Accessed 18 April 2009.
- Mack, Maynard. Alexander Pope: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), the definitive biography.
- Nuttal, Anthony. 'Pope's Essay on Man' (Allen and Unwin, 1984), pp. 3-15, 167–188.
- Rogers, Pat. The Cambridge Companion to Alexander Pope (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
- Rogers, Pat. The Major Works (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 17-39.
- ↑ Dictionary of Quotations (1999)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Erskine-Hill, DNB
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 'Alexander Pope', Literature Online biography (2000)
- ↑ "An Act to prevent and avoid dangers which may grow by Popish Recusants" (3. Jac. 1, v). For details, see Catholic Encyclopedia, "Penal Laws".
- ↑ Gordon (2002)
- ↑ 'Mount', Britannica (2009)
- ↑ The Life of Alexander Pope, by Robert Carruthers, 1857, with a corrupted and badly scanned version available from Google Books, or as an even worse 23MB PDF. For reference to his relationship with Martha Blount and her sister, see pp.64-68 (89th and following pages of the PDF). In particular, discussion of the controversy over whether the relationship was sexual is described in some detail on pp.76-78.
- ↑ Rogers (2006)
- ↑ Baines (2001)
- ↑ NPG 299; Alexander Pope
- ↑ Gordon (2002)
- ↑ London Evening Standard 2 Nov 2010
- ↑ The Universal Prayer
- ↑ Alexander Pope 1688-1744, Poets' Graves, Cameron Self. Web, June 23, 2013.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 Nuttal (1984)
- ↑ Cassirer (1944)
- ↑ Alphabetical list of authors: Montgomerie, Alexander to Shakespeare, William. Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919). Bartleby.com, Web, May 19, 2012.
- ↑ Alexander Pope, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 12, 2016.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 Cox, Michael, editor, The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-860634-6
- ↑ William Lisle Bowles 1762-1850, Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 11, 2012.
- ↑ Letters of the Late Alexander Pope, Esq: To a Lady, Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, Text Creation Partnership. Web, Feb. 27, 2016.
- Alexander Pope in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900: "On a certain Lady at Court," "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady," "The Dying Christian to his Soul"
- Alexander Pope 1688-1744 at the Poetry Foundation
- Alexander Pope profile & 6 poems at the Academy of American Poets
- Alexander Pope (1688-1744) info & 10 poems at English Poetry, 1579-1830
- Pope in The English Poets: An anthology: Extract from the Essay on Criticism, Extract from The Iliad, Book VIII, "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady," Extract from Moral Essays, Epistle I, "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," from The First Epistle of The Second Book of Horace Imitated Extract from the Epilogue to The Satires
- Extracts from the Essay on Man: Book I, Book IV
- Selected Poetry of Alexander Pope (1688-1744) (25 poems) at Representative Poetry Online.
- Alexander Pope at PoemHunter (83 poems)
- Alexander Pope at Poetry Nook (274 poems)
- Alexander Pope quotations at About.com
- Alexander Pope Quotes at BrainyQuote
- Alexander Pope Quotes at GoodReads
- Alexander Pope at the Quotations Page
- Works by Alexander Pope at Project Gutenberg
- Selected Bibliography: Alexander Pope (1688-1745) by Frans De Bruyn, University of Ottawa
- Alexander Pope poems at YouTube
- BBC audio file. In Our Time, radio 4 discussion of Pope.
- Pope, slide show
- Alexander Pope in the Encyclopædia Britannica
- Alexander Pope: A brief biography at the Victorian Web
- Alexander Pope at NNDB.
- Alexander Pope in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Pope, Alexander (1688-1744) in the Dictionary of National Biography
- Alexander Pope (1688-1744) at Luminarium.
- Critical Introduction by Mark Pattison
- Alexander Pope at Poets' Graves
- The Twickenham Museum
- Richmond Libraries' Local Studies Collection. Local History. Accessed 2010-10-19
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