Grant, Mary Amelia. Folktale and Hero-Tale Motifs in the Odes of Pindar. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1967.
POPE, ALEXANDER (1688-1744) Alexander Pope was born in London to a Roman Catholic father who worked as a linen draper. After a sketchy early education Pope could not attend university because of his religious faith. He compensated with an extraordinary self-education, augmented by studies of classical languages with a local priest begun while he was still a child. He later learned French and Italian, expanding his knowledge of languages beyond Greek and Latin. He began early paraphrasing and imitating of classical poets, biblical writers, and English language models, including Abraham Cowley and Chaucer. He may have written The Pastorals, a significant work, as early as age 16; it would be published in 1709. Technically astute, The Pastorals reflect his ability to draw upon the tradition of Virgil and Edmund Spenser. In 1700 Pope contracted tuberculosis, a disease that would leave him permanently weakened with a bent spine. His condition, exacerbated by asthma, shortened his stature. At less than five feet tall Pope required aid in dressing and had to wear a supporting brace. Also in 1700 his family relocated to Binfield in Windsor Forest.
After moving to London as an adult, Pope joined various literary circles and began the career that would make him the most acclaimed man of letters of his day. He published An Essay on Criticism in 1711 and gained the support of the politically powerful English essayist Joseph Addison, a member of the Whig Party and member of Parliament for whom Pope would later write "To Mr. Addison." Pope was drawn into Addi-son's group for a time and with the members' support published in 1712 the religious eclogue "Messiah" in Addison's publication with Richard Steele The Spectator. That same year he also published the original version of his later famous "The Rape of the Lock," a mock-epic, mock-heroic poem that would interest feminist critics in centuries to follow. This witty work established his reputation in London, where he began to feel more secure in his art. Continuing to move in high literary company, he became friendly with the playwrights William Wycherley and William Con-greve. He began to drift from his Whig friends, who held anti-Catholic views, drawn toward the Tory point of view. By 1713 he had met Jonathan Swift, the leader of the Tory conclave, with whom he would remain a lifelong friend. That year he joined the Scrib-lerus Club, a group born form discussions of literature headed by Swift.
Pope's next major publication, WINDSOR Forest (1713), reflected his Royalist sentiments through pastoral. The poem celebrates Queen Anne and her peaceful tenure. As that publication attracted Pope additional notice, he worked to complete his ambitious translation of Homer's Iliad, its first volume published in 1715. Complete in 1720, it contained extraordinary descriptive elements, although the narrative did not remain completely true to the original. Extremely well received, it, along with the less successful The Odyssey (1725-26), allowed Pope a financial freedom never before enjoyed by a poet.
By 1717 Pope's collected works made him a celebrated man. The works included several important pieces, such as Chaucer's The House of Fame, "Ode for Music on St. Cecilia's Day," and "Eloisa to Abelard," one of his later most-studied works. Its melancholy tone extended also to "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady." Some scholars think the poems' haunting tone reflected Pope's conflict in his relationship with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, once a friend, but with whom Pope interacted with little after 1723, after a quarrel. Samuel Johnson wrote of Pope:
He was fretful and easily displeased, and allowed himself to be capriciously resentful. He would sometimes leave Lord oxford silently, no one could tell why, and was to be courted back by more letters and messages than the footmen were willing to carry. The table was indeed infested by Lady Mary Wortley, who was the friend of Lady oxford, and who, knowing his peevishness, could by no intreaties be restrained from contradicting him, till their disputes were sharpened to such asperity that one or the other quitted the house.
He did find a happy relationship with Martha Blount, inspiring his "Epistle to Miss Blount." Pope experimented in drama, collaborating with fellow members of the Scriblerus Club, John Arbuthnot, to whom he would write "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," and John Gay. Their play Three Hours enjoyed a modicum of success.
Anti-Catholic sentiment that buoyed the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 resulted in legal measures that prompted Pope to leave London. During a period of self-doubt and rejection of literature, he moved in 1719 to Twickenham, an estate that would remain his lifelong home, inspiring later verse. His relations with Lady Mary were still positive at that time, and Pope embraced horticulture and landscaping, designing his famous grotto. During the next happy years he enjoyed his surroundings and often entertained friends, particularly Swift, whom he advised on Gulliver's Travels.
Resuming literary activity, Pope published Shakespeare's Works, criticized especially by Lewis Theobald in a counterwork titled Shakespeare Restored (1726). However, Pope also completed Odyssey in 1726 to strong acclaim. He continued publishing by contributing to volumes by the Scriblerians, with two titled Miscellany in 1727 and another the following year. The volumes contained an early edition of the "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," as well as an attack on William Broome, Pope's collaborator on the Shakespeare piece, with whom he had a falling-out, and others titled Mar-tinus Scriblerus peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry. As other 18th-century satirists did, Pope used his genre to lay a metaphoric whip on the back of those who insulted him or whom he viewed as lesser literary lights. He continued by illustrating what he considered the low elements in contemporary verse in a comic send-up of Longinus's treatise on the sublime Peri Hup-sous. Simultaneously he worked on another criticism of popular writing and writers titled The DUNCIAD, originally featuring Theobald in its first three books published in 1728. Pope enlarged it a year later and added a fourth book in 1743 by which time its antihero had become Colley Cibber, poet laureate.
Constantly imagining new work, Pope planned an "Opus Magnum" to include four books. He would never complete it, but his timeless An ESSAY ON Man, written in four epistles, was published 1733-34. The second book was to be yet another version of The Dunciad, and the third he never wrote. However, the fourth, Moral Essays or Ethics, was published between 1731 and 1735. In 1733 Pope produced miscellaneous Imitations of Horace, which consisted of translations and adaptations of Horace's Odes, Satires, and Epistles. He was yet to produce the poem considered his masterpiece.
An Epistle from Mr. Pope to Dr. Arbuthnot reflected all the important elements of 18th-century poetry and served as a prologue to Pope's Horatian satires. Written as a celebration of Pope's personal physician and best friend, who lay on his deathbed at the time, it beautifully reflects the theme of perfect friendship, while countering that image of his relationship with Arbuth-
not with several attacks on onetime friends who had betrayed him, including Addison and Montagu. In 1735 an edition of Pope's correspondence appeared that he claimed to be pirated, although he had arranged for its publication himself.
A man of vast interests and talents that extended beyond literature to landscaping, architecture, and painting, Alexander Pope proved the consummate Augustan poet. Johnson wrote that John Dryden had to be judged Pope's superior, were the two compared, but he qualified that statement, writing of Dryden, "What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave." He then illustrated how difficult the choice of the better poet had been for him when he added:
The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.
Johnson clearly could not declare Dryden superior in all areas.
While subsequent generations found little to admire in Pope's sharp, driven delivery, the 20th century embraced his work with great appreciation. A major topic of academic study, Pope's work also remains available to the general public, who often quote him unawares. Lines such as "A little learning is a dangerous thing" and "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" are among many of Pope's often repeated lines.
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