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Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

The English poet and satirist Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was the greatest poet and verse satirist of the Augustan period. No other poet in the history of English literature has handled the heroic couplet with comparable flexibility and brilliance.

Alexander Pope inherited from John Dryden the verse from that he chose to perfect. He polished his work with meticulous care and, like all great poets, used language with genuine inventiveness. His qualities of imagination are seen in the originality with which he handled traditional forms, in his satiric vision of the contemporary world, and in his inspired use of classical models.

Pope was born on May 21, 1688, in London, where his Roman Catholic father was a linen merchant. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688 his family moved out of London and settled about 1700 at Binfield in Windsor Forest. Pope had little formal schooling, largely educating himself through extensive reading. Sir William Trumbull, a retired statesman of literary interests who lived nearby, did much to encourage the young poet. So did the dramatist and poet William Wycherley and the poet-critic William Walsh, with whom Pope became acquainted when he was about 17 and whose advice to aim at "correctness" contributed to the flawless texture and concentrated brilliance of Pope's verse.

A sweet-tempered child with a fresh, plump face, Pope contracted a tubercular infection in his later childhood and never grew taller than 4 feet 6 inches. He suffered curvature of the spine (necessitating the wearing of a stiff canvas brace) and constant headaches. His features, however, were striking, and the young Joshua Reynolds noticed in his "sharp, keen countenance … something grand, like Cicero's." His physical appearance, frequently ridiculed by his enemies, undoubtedly gave an edge to Pope's satire; but he was always warmhearted and generous in his affection for his many friends.

Early Poems

Precocious as a poet, Pope attracted the notice of the eminent bookseller Jacob Tonson, who solicited the publication of his Pastorals (1709). By this time Pope was already at work on his more ambitious Essay on Criticism (1711), an illuminating synthesis of critical precepts designed to expose the evils and to effect a regeneration of the contemporary literary scene.

The Rape of the Lock (1712, two cantos) immediately made Pope famous as a poet. The cutting off of a lock of Miss Arabella Fermor's hair by Robert, Lord Petre, had caused an estrangement between these prominent Catholic families; and Pope's friend John Caryll had suggested that he write a poem "to make a jest of it, and laugh them together again." In the poem Fermor is represented as Belinda and Lord Petre as the Baron. Adopting a mock-heroic style in the manner of Nicholas Boileau's Le Lutrin, Pope showed how disproportionate it was to treat the event overseriously, at the same time glancing good-humoredly at vanity and at the rococolike glitter of the beau monde. Rejecting Joseph Addison's advice not to enlarge his design, Pope published an extended version (1714, five cantos) containing the "machinery" of the sylphs (adopted from the Rosicrucian system) and various other epic motifs and allusions. These not only heightened the brilliance of the poem's world but also helped to place its significance and that of the "rape" in proper perspective.

Several other poems published by 1717, the date of the first collected edition of Pope's works, deserve a brief mention. "Windsor Forest" (1713), written in the tradition of Sir John Denham's "Cooper's Hill, " celebrated the peace confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht. A rich tapestry of historical and poetic allusions, it showed the Stuarts, and especially Queen Anne, in a quasi-mythical light. In 1717 appeared the sophisticated yet moving "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady" and "Eloisa to Abelard, " an example in the Ovidian manner of the currently popular form of heroic epistle. The representation of the cloistered Eloisa's conflicting emotions toward her former lover (the scholar Peter Abelard), the denouement, and the concluding epilogue make this poem, in effect, a drama in miniature.

Translations of Homer

Pope also engaged in poetic imitations and translations. His Messiah (1712), published by Sir Richard Steele in the Spectator, was an imitation of Virgil's fourth Eclogue, based on passages from Isaiah; and his early "translations" of Chaucer included the Temple of Fame (1715). In later life Pope published reworkings of several of John Donne's satires. But Pope's versions of Homer were his greatest achievement as a translator.

From an early age a frequenter of Will's Coffeehouse, Pope was for a time friendly with men of both political parties. He wrote the prologue for Joseph Addison's Cato (1713), and the Whigs naturally hoped to secure his talents for their party. But growing opposition between him and Addison's followers (who met at Button's) made inevitable Pope's adherence to his other and more congenial group of literary friends—Jonathan Swift, Dr. John Arbuthnot, John Gay, and Thomas Parnell. Together they combined to form the Scriblerus Club, which aimed at a burlesque treatment of all forms of pedantry and which indirectly contributed to the creation of such works as Gulliver's Travels and the Dunciad. In 1715 Addison tried to forestall the success of Pope's translation of the Iliad by encouraging Thomas Tickell to publish a rival version, and this caused Pope a great deal of anxiety until the superiority of his own translation was acclaimed.

Pope undertook the translation because he needed money—the result of a sharp drop in the interest from his father's French annuities. The translation occupied him until 1720, and it was a great financial success, making Pope independent of the customary forms of literary patronage. Parnell and William Broome were among those who assisted with the notes, but the translation was entirely Pope's own. It has been highly praised by subsequent critics.

From the time his Iliad began to appear, Pope became the victim of numerous pamphlet attacks on his person, politics, and religion, many of them instigated by the infamous publisher Edmund Curll. In 1716 an increased land tax on Roman Catholics forced the Popes to sell their place at Binfield and to settle near the Earl of Burlington's villa at Chiswick. The next year Pope's father died, and in 1719 the poet's increased wealth enabled him to move with his mother to a semirural villa at Twickenham. There he improved house and gardens, making a special feature of the grotto, which connected house and gardens beneath the intervening road. At Twickenham, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu soon became Pope's neighbor. Several years earlier she had rivaled Martha Blount as an object of Pope's affection, but later a good deal of enmity existed between her and Pope, and she joined Lord (John) Hervey in attacking him.

During the 1720s Pope was engaged on a version of the Odyssey (1725-1726). Broome and Elijah Fenton were his collaborators, completing half of the translation between them. It was Pope's name, however, that sold the work, and he naturally received the lion's share of the profits (Pope earned about £9, 000 from his translations of Homer). It was this translation that led to Pope's association with the young Joseph Spence, who wrote a Judicious and engaging criticism of it and who later recorded his valuable Anecdotes of Pope.

Editorial Work

Pope also undertook several editorial projects. Parnell's Poems (1721) was followed by an edition of the late Duke of Buckingham's Works (1723), subsequently suppressed on account of its Jacobite tendencies. The trial of his friend Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, for complicity in a Jacobite plot also caused Pope a good deal of concern. Then, in 1725, Pope's edition of William Shakespeare appeared. Pope's emendations and explanatory notes were notoriously capricious, and his edition was attacked by Lewis Theobald in Shakespeare Restored (1726), a work that revealed a superior knowledge of editorial technique and that gained for its author the unenviable distinction of becoming the original hero of the Dunciad.

The Dunciad

In 1726-1727 Swift was in England and a guest of Pope. Together they published three volumes of Miscellanies in 1727-1728, in the last of which the Peri Bathous; or the Art of Sinking in Poetry was included. Renewed contact with Swift must have given a great impetus to Pope's poem on "Dulness, " which appeared as the three-book Dunciad (1728). Theobald was the prime dunce, and the next year the poem was enlarged by a ponderous apparatus (including "Notes Variorum") intended as a burlesque on the learned lumber of commentators and textual critics.

Clearly Pope used the Dunciad as personal satire to pay off many old scores. But it was also prompted by his distaste for that whole process by which worthless writers gained undue literary prominence. "Martinus Scriblerus" summarized the action of the poem as "the removal of the imperial seat of Dulness from the city to the polite world, " and this parody of Virgil's epic was accompanied by further mock-heroic elements—the intervention of the goddess, the epic games of the second book, and the visit to the underworld and the vision of future "glories, " with the former city-poet Elkanah Settle acting the part of the sybil. Indeed, despite its devastating satire, the Dunciad was essentially a phantasmagoric treatment of the forces of anticulture by a great comic genius.

In 1742 Pope published a fourth book to the Dunciad separately, and his last published work was the four-book Dunciad (1743), which incorporated the new material and enthroned the brazen laureate Colley Cibber as prime dunce in place of Theobald. This revenge on Cibber, who had recently exposed a ridiculous escapade of the poet's youth, provided the poem with a more considerable hero. It also gained in artistic completeness, since the action of the fourth book depicted the fulfillment of Settle's prophecy.

Epistles and An Essay on Man

"The Epistle to Burlington" (1731), reminiscent of the Dunciad in its vivaciously satiric portrait of "Timon, " was designed as part of a "system of ethics in the Horatian way" of which An Essay on Man (1733-1734) was to constitute the first book. Though this plan was never realized, the poem illustrates, along with its companion, "Epistle to Bathurst" (1733), antithetical vices in the use of riches. These two epistles were subsequently placed after those "To Cobham" (1734) and "To a Lady" (1735), which were thus intended to provide the projected magnum opus with an introductory section on the characters of men and women. "To Cobham" fits easily into this scheme, but "To a Lady" is rather a deliciously witty portrait gallery in Pope's best satiric manner.

"To Burlington" also compliments a nobleman friend of long standing who influenced Pope's appreciation of architecture as did Allen Bathurst his appreciation of landscape gardening. To these pursuits Pope devoted much of his time, being disposed to regard a cultivated esthetic taste as inseparable from a refined moral sense.

Pope's friendship with the former statesman Henry St. John Bolingbroke, who on his return from exile had settled a few miles from Twickenham, stimulated his interest in philosophy and led to the composition of An Essay on Man. Some ideas were doubtless suggested by Bolingbroke; certainly the argument advanced in Epistle 4—that terrestrial happiness is adequate to justify the ways of God to man—was consonant with his thinking. But Pope's sources were predominately commonplaces with a long history in Western thought, the most central being the doctrine of plenitude (expressed through the metaphors of a "chain" or "scale" of being) and the assertion that the discordant whole is bound harmoniously together. Even Pope's doctrine of the "ruling passion" was not original—though he gave it its most extended treatment. In essence, however, the Essay is not philosophy but a poet's apprehension of unity despite diversity, of an order embracing the whole multifarious creation.

The Correspondence

In 1733 Pope's mother died. The same year he engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with Curll to have his letters published in the guise of a pirated edition. Appearing in 1735, this edition allowed him to publish an authoritative edition in 1737. Such maneuvers are not easy to justify. Nor is the careful rewriting and fabrication, designed to reflect the author in the best possible light. But at least Pope's letters suggest the extent of his many friendships and something of the hospitality he enjoyed whenever he indulged his love of traveling.

Imitations of Horace

The 1730s were also the years of the Imitations of Horace (1733-1738), pungent and endearing by turns. How congenial to Pope were the conversational framework and Horatian independence of tone is evident from the fact that they read not like "imitations" but have the freshness of originals. Indeed, the best of them—the "Epistle to Arbuthnot" (1735) and the "Dialogues" (1738)—have no precise source. The "Epistle, " with its famous portrait of Addison ("Atticus") and searing indictment of Hervey ("Sporus"), was both the satirist's apologia pro vita sua and his vindication of personally oriented satire. The two "Dialogues" continued this theme, introducing an additional element of political satire.

As Pope grew older, he came to rely more and more on the faithful Martha Blount, and to her he left most of his possessions. He described his life as a "long disease, " and asthma increased his sufferings in his later years. At times during the last month of his life he became delirious. He died on May 30, 1744, and was buried in Twickenham Church.

Further Reading

The definitive edition of Pope's works is The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, edited by John Butt (10 vols., 1951-1967), a monumental and illuminating scholarly achievement. Pope's Poetical Works, edited by Herbert Davis (1967), presents the poems, without annotation, as in their original format.

George Sherburn, The Early Career of Alexander Pope (1934), is a scholarly literary biography of Pope to about 1726. A less scholarly but readable, reliable, and up-to-date biography is Peter Quennell, Alexander Pope: The Education of Genius, 1688-1728 (1968), the first volume of a projected two-volume study. Marjorie Nicolson and G.S. Rousseau, "This Long Disease, My Life": Alexander Pope and the Sciences (1968), is a good treatment of Pope's illness and a history of science of the time. A short but colorful biography is Bonamy Dobrée, Alexander Pope (1951). See also Samuel Johnson, The Lives of the English Poets (3 vols., 1779-1781; several recent editions); Emily Morse Symonds, Mr. Pope, His Life and Times (2 vols., 1909); Edith Sitwell, Alexander Pope (1930); Norman Ault, New Light on Pope (1949); and William K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope (1965).

Useful critical studies of the poetry include Geoffrey Tillotson, On the Poetry of Pope (1938) and Pope and Human Nature (1958); Aubrey L. Williams, Pope's Dunciad (1955); Reuben A. Brower, Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion (1959); Thomas R. Edwards, This Dark Estate: A Reading of Pope (1963); and Maynard Mack, comp., Essential Articles for the Study of Alexander Pope (1964; rev. ed. 1968).

Recommended for general reading are James R. Sutherland, A Preface to Eighteenth Century Poetry (1948); Ian Jack, Augustan Satire (1952); and Geoffrey Tillotson, Augustan Poetic Diction (1964). □

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Pope, Alexander

Alexander Pope

Born: May 21, 1688
London, England
Died: May 30, 1744
London, England

English poet

The English poet Alexander Pope is regarded as one of the finest poets and satirists (people who use wit or sarcasm to point out and devalue sin or silliness) of the Augustan (mid-seventeenth to mid-eighteenth century English literature) period and one of the major influences on English literature in this time and after.

Early years

Alexander Pope was born on May 21, 1688, in London, England, to Alexander and Edith Pope. His Roman Catholic father was a linen merchant. His family moved out of London and settled in Binfield in Windsor Forest around 1700. Pope had little formal schooling. He educated himself through extensive studying and reading, especially poetry.

Although Pope was healthy and plump in his infancy, he became severely ill later in his childhood, which resulted in a slightly disfigured bodyhe never grew taller than 4 feet 6 inches. He suffered from curvature of the spine, which required him to wear a stiff canvas brace. He had constant headaches. His physical appearance, frequently ridiculed by his enemies, undoubtedly gave an edge to Pope's satire (humor aimed at human weaknesses), but he was always warmhearted and generous in his affection for his many friends.

Early poems

Pope was precocious (showed the characteristics of an older person at a young age) as a child and attracted the notice of a noted bookseller who published his Pastorals (1709). By this time Pope was already at work on his more ambitious Essay on Criticism (1711) designed to create a rebirth of the contemporary literary scene.

The Rape of the Lock (1712) immediately made Pope famous as a poet. It was a long humorous poem in the classical style (likeness to ancient Greek and Roman writing). Instead of treating the subject of heroic deeds, though, the poem was about the attempt of a young man to get a lock of hair from his beloved's head. It was based on a true event that happened to people he knew. Several other poems were published by 1717, the date of the first collected edition of Pope's works.

Translations of Homer

Pope also engaged in poetic imitations and translations. His Messiah (1712) was an imitation of Virgil (7019 b.c.e.). He also did a version of Geoffrey Chaucer's (13421400) poetry in the English of Pope's day. But it was Pope's versions of Homer (c. 700 b.c.e.) that were his greatest achievement as a translator.

Pope undertook the translation of Homer's Iliad because he needed money. The interest earned from his father's annuities (money from investments) had dropped sharply. The translation occupied him until 1720. It was a great financial success, making Pope independent of the customary forms of literary patronage (support from wealthy people), and it was highly praised by critics.

From the time parts of Iliad began to appear, Pope became the victim of numerous pamphlet attacks on his person, politics, and religion. In 1716 an increased land tax on Roman Catholics forced the Popes to sell their place at Binfield and to settle at Chiswick. The next year Pope's father died, and in 1719 the poet's increased wealth enabled him to move with his mother to Twickenham.

From 1725 to 1726 Pope was engaged in a version of Odyssey. He worked with two other translators, William Broome and Elijah Fenton. They completed half of the translation between them. It was Pope's name, however, that sold the work, and he naturally received the lion's share (biggest part) of the profits.

Editorial work

Pope also undertook several editorial projects. Parnell's Poems (1721) was followed by an edition of the late Duke of Buckingham's Works (1723). Then, in 1725, Pope's six volumes on the works of William Shakespeare (15641616) were published. Pope's edits and explanatory notes were notoriously capricious (impulsive and not scholarly). His edition was attacked by Lewis Theobald in Shakespeare Restored (1726), a work that revealed a superior knowledge of editorial technique. This upset Pope, who then made Theobald the original hero of Dunciad.

The Dunciad

In 1726 and 1727 the writer Jonathan Swift (16671745) was in England and a guest of Pope. Together they published three volumes of poetry. Renewed contact with Swift must have given a driving force to Pope's poem on "Dulness," which appeared as the three-book Dunciad (1728). Theobald was the prime dunce, and the next year the poem was enlarged by a burlesque (broad comedy) on commentators and textual critics.

Clearly Pope used Dunciad as personal satire to pay off many old scores. But it was also prompted by his distaste for that whole process by which worthless writers gained undeserved literary prominence (fame). The parody (comic imitation) of the classical epic (heroic poem) was accompanied by further mock-heroic elements, including the intervention of a goddess, the epic games of the second book, and the visit to the underworld and the vision of future "glories." Indeed, despite its devastating satire, Dunciad was essentially a phantasmagoric (created by the imagination) treatment by a great comic genius. In 1742 Pope published a fourth book to Dunciad separately, and his last published work was the four-volume Dunciad in 1743.

An Essay on Man

Pope's friendship with the former statesman Henry St. John Bolingbroke, who had settled a few miles from Twickenham, stimulated his interest in philosophy and led to the composition of An Essay on Man. Some ideas expressed in it were probably suggested by Bolingbroke. For example, the notion that earthly happiness is enough to justify the ways of God to man was consistent with Bolingbroke's thinking.

In essence, the Essay is not philosophy (the study of knowledge) but a poet's belief of unity despite differences, of an order embracing the whole multifaceted (many-sided) creation. Pope's sources were ideas that had a long history in Western thought. The most central of these was the doctrine of plenitude, which Pope expressed through the metaphors (a figure of speech in which words or phrases are used to find similarities in things that are not comparable) of a "chain" or "scale" of being. He also asserted that the discordant (not harmonious) parts of life are bound harmoniously together.

Later years

Pope wrote Imitations of Horace from 1733 to 1738. (Horace was a Roman poet who lived from 65 to 8 b.c.e.) He also wrote many "epistles" (letters to friends) and defenses of his use of personal and political satire. As Pope grew older he became more ill. He described his life as a "long disease," and asthma increased his sufferings in his later years. At times during the last month of his life he became delirious. Pope died on May 30, 1744, and was buried in Twickenham Church.

Alexander Pope used language with genuine inventiveness. His qualities of imagination are seen in the originality with which he handled traditional forms, in his satiric vision of the contemporary world, and in his inspired use of classical models.

For More Information

Mack, Maynard. Alexander Pope: A Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.

Quennell, Peter. Alexander Pope: The Education of Genius, 16881728. New York: Stein and Day, 1968.

Russo, John Paul. Alexander Pope; Tradition and Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972.

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Pope, Alexander (1688–1744)

POPE, ALEXANDER (16881744)

POPE, ALEXANDER (16881744), English poet, translator, and critic. A celebrity not only in fact but also by profession, Alexander Pope was the unmatched superstar of English neoclassical literature and arguably the first author in England to make his living exclusively through literary talent. During a comparatively short life focused on literary and cultural activities, Pope alternately defined, improved, invented, satirized, critiqued, and reformed the genres and conventions of early-eighteenth-century British verse.

Born in 1688 amidst a "Glorious Revolution" that put an end to the absolutist claims of Stuart monarchs and set Britain on a course for a constitutional if not altogether secular government, Pope's life was characterized by the contradictions of new gentility and chastised affluence. Despite their urban origins and their mercantile vocation, Pope and his forebears drifted in Tory, royalist circles; despite physical deformity and entrenchment in the upper middle classes, Pope affected the stylish, rakish ways of high life; despite profiting handsomely from his publications and living like a conforming country squire on his suburban Twickenham estate, Pope persisted in Catholicism (enduring heavy economic and political sanctions) and enjoyed provoking persecution from an officialdom that was also his audience and customer. The story of Pope's meteoric risefrom the publication of his Pastorals (1709) at the age of twenty through the runaway success of his versified critical treatise, The Essay on Criticism (1711), at twenty-three through his best-selling translations of Homer (17151726) through his unlikely versified philosophical hit, An Essay on Man (17331734), and on through his snarling but astonishingly successful Dunciad (1743)may read like the contrived biography of some twentieth-century movie idol, but it also points up Pope's lucky historical position at a moment when an enlarged readership and an expanding urban culture were transforming the "literary career" from a private preserve for gentlemen to an open public spectacle. So powerful and pervasive was this new idiom of the public writer that Pope could maintain influential friends across the political and cultural spectrum, from the conservative Jonathan Swift to the snappy Joseph Addison and from Richard Boyle, the Whiggish earl of Burlington, to Tory movers-and-shakers such as Robert Harley, earl of Oxford and Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke.

Pope routinely presents himself as a conservative spokesman (and satirist) for sound common sense and as a sturdy pillar of English classicism. His works, however, are emphatically neoclassical. They stress what the period called "imitation," a speculative, psychological, and altogether modern attempt to write "as if" one were an ancient author who happened to be living and writing in Augustan London. "Wit," "genius," "grace," and other eighteenth-century literary values vie for hegemony with assorted classical "rules." Pope's works advocate experimentation and adaptation, applying putatively classical norms to eighteenth-century contexts, topics, and genres. Pope's early Pastorals (1709) apply Virgilian techniques to English landscapes to produce a modern Georgics. An Essay on Criticism (1711) borrows from Horace's Ars Poetica (Art of poetry) to characterize and to spoof Augustan rhetorical miscarriages. The Rape of the Lock (1714) fuses contemporary mockery (as practiced by John Dryden, John Philips, Samuel Garth, and John Gay) with Homeric heroism to produce a ridiculous mock-heroic "epic" about domestic adventures in the boudoir. Not unlike the Rape is Windsor Forest (1713), a more sober but no less historically mixed attempt to combine Elizabethan versified history with Augustan heroic couplets to produce an epic story of the British monarchy, an epic that somewhat preposterously culminates in the coronation of Queen Anne.

Pope's later works preserve his commitment to this unabashedly transhistorical classicism while also negotiating between the differing demands of moral, satiric, and heroical writing, three strands that intertwine but never completely braid in Pope's increasingly tense later verse. The Essay on Man (17331734) flutters nervously if brilliantly between versified popularizations of philosophical optimism (as preached by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and others) and broad satiric indictments of human shortsightedness. Several verse essays and epistles in imitation of Horace, collectively known as the Moral Essays (17331738), along with the companion An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1735), tackle a range of philosophical topics, from architectural aesthetics to the character of women, in a sometimes theatrical, sometimes compassionate, sometimes deliberative, generally satiric voice. Pope's last large work, The Dunciad (1743), a re-issue and extension of his earlier Dunciad Variorum (1729), deploys crashingly gigantic heroic couplets to record, judge, and satirize a veritable encyclopedia of "dunces," poetasters, and seekers after literary fame who, in Pope's mind, have succeeded only in sucking the life out of neoclassicism.

In addition to his poetic offerings, Pope made substantial contributions to literary criticism (mostly through the seemingly simple but always subtle witticisms in An Essay on Criticism [1711]), to the rise of bibliography and textual studies (through his not always competent production of an edition of Shakespeare [1725] and through his relentless, ravaging attacks on other editors), and to the rise of the private epistle as a literary form (through his audacious publication of his own correspondence [1735]). Pope was a major figure in the history of the print culture and of the publishing industry through his lively interactions with eighteenth-century publishing magnates such as Jacob Tonson, Bernard Lintot, and the scandalous Edmund Curll. Pope's opinions on naturalistic landscape gardening are definitive for their period. These and many other contributions mark him as a quintessential if not always representative figure in early eighteenth-century English culture.

See also Addison, Joseph ; English Literature and Language ; Glorious Revolution ; Steele, Richard ; Swift, Jonathan .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Pope, Alexander. The Poems of Alexander Pope. Edited by John Butt. London, 1963. A one-volume edition of the Twickenham text with selected annotations.

Secondary Sources

Brower, Reuben. Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion. Oxford, 1959. Classic study of Pope's poetic technique and topical allusions.

Brownell, Morris R. Alexander Pope and the Arts of Georgian England. Oxford, 1978.

Griffin, Dustin H. Alexander Pope: The Poet in the Poems. Princeton, 1978. Analysis of Pope, Pope's persona, and the role of the author in neoclassical verse.

Mack, Maynard. Alexander Pope: A Life. New Haven, 1985. Standard, highly detailed biography of Pope.

Quintero, Ruben. Literate Culture: Pope's Rhetorical Art. Newark, Del., 1992. Updated account of the rhetorically attuned culture in which Pope flourished.

Kevin L. Cope

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"Pope, Alexander (1688–1744)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Pope, Alexander

Alexander Pope, 1688–1744, English poet. Although his literary reputation declined somewhat during the 19th cent., he is now recognized as the greatest poet of the 18th cent. and the greatest verse satirist in English.

Life

Pope was born in London of Roman Catholic parents and moved to Binfield in 1700. During his later childhood he was afflicted by a tubercular condition known as Pott's disease that ruined his health and produced a pronounced spinal curvature. He never grew taller than 4 ft 6 in. (1.4 m). His religion debarred him from a Protestant education and from the age of 12 he was almost entirely self-taught.

Although he is known for his literary quarrels, Pope never lacked close friends. In his early years he won the attention of William Wycherley and the poet-critic William Walsh, among others. Before he was 17 Pope was admitted to London society and encouraged as a prodigy. The shortest lived of his friendships was with Joseph Addison and his coterie, who eventually insidiously attacked Pope's Tory leanings. His attachment to the Tory party was strengthened by his warm friendship with Swift and his involvement with the Scriblerus Club.

Works

Pope's poetry basically falls into three periods. The first includes the early descriptive poetry; the Pastorals (1709); Windsor Forest (1713); the Essay on Criticism (1711), a poem written in heroic couplets outlining critical tastes and standards; The Rape of the Lock (1714), a mock-heroic poem ridiculing the fashionable world of his day; contributions to the Guardian; and "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady" and "Eloise to Abelard," the only pieces he ever wrote dealing with love. In about 1717 Pope formed attachments to Martha Blount, a relationship that lasted his entire life, and to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, with whom he later quarreled bitterly.

Pope's second period includes his magnificent, if somewhat inaccurate, translations of Homer, written in heroic couplets; the completed edition of the Iliad (1720); and the Odyssey (1725–26), written with William Broome and Elijah Fenton. These translations, along with Pope's unsatisfactory edition of Shakespeare (1725), amassed him a large fortune. In 1719 he bought a lease on a house in Twickenham where he and his mother lived for the rest of their lives.

In the last period of his career Pope turned to writing satires and moral poems. These include The Dunciad (1728–43), a scathing satire on dunces and literary hacks in which Pope viciously attacked his enemies, including Lewis Theobald, the critic who had ridiculed Pope's edition of Shakespeare, and the playwright Colley Cibber; Imitations of Horace (1733–38), satirizing social follies and political corruption; An Essay on Man (1734), a poetic summary of current philosophical speculation, his most ambitious work; Moral Essays (1731–35); and the "Epistle to Arbuthnot" (1735), a defense in poetry of his life and his work.

Bibliography

See the Twickenham edition of his poems (7 vol., 1951–61); his prose works ed. by N. Ault (1936, repr. 1968); his letters ed. by G. Sherburn (5 vol., 1956); biographies by G. Sherburn (1934, repr. 1963), N. Ault (1949, repr. 1967), P. Quennell (1968), and M. Maynard (1988); studies by G. Tillotson (1946; 2d ed. 1950; and 1958), F. W. Bateson and N. A. Joukovsky, ed. (1972), J. P. Russo (1972), P. Dixon, ed. (1973), F. M. Keener (1974), D. B. Morris (1984), L. Damrosch, Jr. (1987), and R. A. Brower (1986).

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Pope, Alexander

Pope, Alexander (1688–1744). English poet and master of the heroic couplet. Largely self-educated, the son of a Roman catholic draper, and crippled by a tubercular condition during his adolescence, Pope was always an outsider, although his precocious poetic talents quickly brought him to the attention of the literati. He made his reputation with his Pastorals (1709), the verse Essay on Criticism (1711), and the heroi-comical Rape of the Lock (1712, 1714). Windsor-Forest (1713), at once a paean to peace and a celebration of British imperialism, led to his vital association with Swift, Gay, and the Scriblerus Club, and his later involvement in political satire, particularly at the expense of Walpole, beginning with The Dunciad (1728). While the Moral Essays (1731–5) and An Essay on Man (1733–4) employed moral and philosophical themes to expose contemporary failings, the more strident criticism of the Imitations of Horace prepared the way for the apocalyptic revised Dunciad of 1743. Although suspected of Jacobite sympathies because of his opposition to Walpole and George II, Pope's party allegiances are difficult to establish with confidence. Financially independent as a consequence of his translations of Homer, Pope moved in 1718 to Twickenham, where he spent the rest of his life, indulging his passion for gardening.

J. A. Downie

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"Pope, Alexander." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Pope, Alexander

Pope, Alexander (1688–1744). English poet and garden-designer. He laid out his own important garden at Twickenham, Mddx., which exemplified principles of light and shade, grouping and perspective, and contained a commemorative obelisk and urns, so had mnemonic and elegiac overtones. His insistence on respecting the genius loci (genius of the place) led to a growing sensitivity towards the natural features of a site (which even might be enhanced), and his was a powerful influence on the design of the C18 garden.

Bibliography

Batey (1999);
D. Coffin (1994);
Jane Turner (1996)

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"Pope, Alexander." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Pope, Alexander

Pope, Alexander (1688–1744) English poet. He first attracted attention for Essay on Criticism (1711), a poem in heroic couplets. Pope's reputation was established with the publication of his mock epic The Rape of the Lock (1712–14). The satire The Dunciad (1728–43) complemented his philosophical poem Essay on Man (1733–34). Pope also translated Homer's Iliad (1715–20) and The Odyssey (1726–26).

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"Pope, Alexander." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Pope, Alexander." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pope-alexander