Alexander Pope

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English essayist, critic, satirist, and one of the greatest poets of Enlightenment. Pope wrote his first verses at the age of 12. His breakthrough work, AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM (1711), appeared when he was twenty-three. It included the famous line a little learning is a dangerous thing. Popes physical defects made him an easy target for heartless mockery, but he was considered literary dictator of his age and the epitome of English Neoclassicism. Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what neer was, nor is, nor eer shall be. (from An Essay on Criticism) Alexander Pope was born in London as a son of a Roman Catholic linen-merchant. At that time Catholics suffered from repressive legistlation and prejudices - they were not allowed to enter any universities or held public employment. Thus Pope had an uneven education, which was often interrupted. He was largely educated at home. Latin and Greek he learned from a local priest and later he acquired knowledge of French and Italian. In 1700, when his family moved to Bonfield in Windsor Forest, Pope contracted tuberculosis. It was probably Potts disease, a tubercular affection of the spine. He also suffered from asthma and headaches, and his humpback was a constant target for his critics in literary battles - Pope was called a hunchbacked toad. In middle age he was 4ft 6in tall and weared a stiffened canvas bodice to support his spine. After moving to London, Pope published his first major work, An Essay on Criticism, a discussion based on neoclassical dotrines. It deriving standards of taste from the order of nature: Good nature and good sense must ever join; / To err is human, to forgive divine. Pope associated with anti-Catholic Whig friends, but by 1713 he moved towards the Tories, becaming one of the members of Scriblerus Club. His friends among Tory intellectuals included Jonathan Switft, Gay, Congreve, and Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford. In 1712 Pope published an early version of The rape of the lock, an elegant satire about the hysterical battles between the sexes, and follies of Belinda with her puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux. The work was expanded in 1714. Popes admired Horace and Vergilius and valued them as models for poetry. His great achievements was the translations of Iliad and Odyssey into English. They were very successful and enabled him to move to Twickenham from anti-Catholic pressure of the Jacobites. However, Pope remained a Catholic even after the death of his parents. The publication in 1717 of his collected works established him as a leading man of letters in his day. Pope was one of the first professional poets to be self-sufficient as a result of his non-dramatic writings.
His surroundings in Twickenham inspired Pope to study horticulture and landscape gardening. He formed an attachment with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, his neigbour. When the friendship cooled down, he started a life long relationship with Martha Blount. ...


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