Alexander Pope Biography

Who was Alexander Pope?

Alexander Pope was an 18th century English poet and satirist was born on 21 May 1688 in a Roman Catholic family to Alexander Pope Senior, a linen merchant of Plough Court, and Edith.

Pope’s education was vastly affected by a series of English penal laws. These laws pressed various civil disabilities on Roman Catholics and nonconformists. These acts strengthened the status of the orthodox church of England. It banned Catholics from engaging in any educational, governmental or other activities.

Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope

Here are some facts about Alexander Pope

Early Life of Pope

Pope was taught to read by his aunt, Christiana, the wife of the famous miniature painter Samuel Cooper. He went to Twyford School in 1698. He then went on to study in two Roman Catholic schools.

In 1700, a 12-year-old Pope moved with his family to an estate at Popeswood in Binfield, Berkshire. The strong anti-Catholic sentiment and a statute prevented Papists from living in or near London or Westminster.

His formal education was complete by this time. He read the works of famous classical writers such as Horace, Juvenal, Homer and Virgil and also read English authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and John Dryden. As a linguist, Pope read works by many English, French, Latin, Italian and Greek poets.

As a child, Pope suffered numerous health problems. He got Pott’s disease which deformed his body and stunted his growth. It left him a hunchback. This disease further caused respiratory difficulties, high fevers, inflamed eyes and abdominal pain.

One of his friends was John Caryll, the future dedicatee of ‘The Rape of the Lock’. He introduced Pope to the playwright William Wycherley and the poet William Walsh. They helped Pope revise his first major work, The Pastorals.

Alexander Pope Contribution

Around 1705, five years later, Pope came in contact with many famous writers and poets from the London literary society such as William Wycherley, William Congreve, Samuel Garth and many more. In 1709, Pope published his work, The Pastorals, in Tonson’s Poetical Miscellanies.

Again, in May 1711 he published An Essay on Criticism, which, too, was well-received. The poem answered the question of whether poetry should be natural or written according to the rules inherited from the classical past.

Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope
Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope

He made friends with Jonathan Swift, Thomas Parnell and John Arbuthnot, the Tory writer. Together they formed the satirical ‘Scriblerus Club’. The club was to satirised ignorance and pedantry with the aid of the fictional scholar Martinus Scriblerus.

The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope

In 1712, Pope published another of his famous poems, a mock-epic, The Rape of the Lock. It mocks the beau-monde of 18th-century England.

In March 1713, Pope published Windsor Forest. He described the countryside around his house in Binfield, Berkshire which was close to the Royal Windsor Forest. It, too, published to great acclaim.

He became friends with Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, the Whig writers. His friendship with Joseph Addison led to the contribution of Pope in his play, Cato. He even made significant contributions in the writing of The Guardian and The Spectator. He started translating the Iliad the publication for which began in 1715 and ended in 1720.

Mawson Arms, Chiswick, Pope's Home
Mawson Arms, Chiswick, Pope’s Home

Between 1716 and 1719 Pope lived in his parent’s house in Mawson Row, Chiswick. It is now the Mawson Arms, commemorating him with a blue plaque. In 1719 he moved to a villa at Twickenham. It was there where he created his now famous grotto and gardens.

Pope published another one of his famous poems, An Essay on Man, written in heroic couplets between 1732 and 1734. He intended to make it into a larger work; however, he did not live to complete it.

Famous Quotes

The proper study of Mankind is Man.
The world forgetting, by the world, forgot.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in the night. God said, Let Newton be! and all was light!
Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.
All nature is but art unknown to thee.
What dire offense from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things!
True wit is nature to advantage dress’d, What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.

List of works

Alexander Pope as a poet

Here is the list of Alexander Pope poems

An Essay on Criticism
Alexander Pope an essay on man
Argus
Couplets on Wit
Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady
Eloisa to Abelard
Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog…
EPISTLE II: TO A LADY (Of the Characters of Women )
Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle IV, To Richard Boyle
Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot
Essay on Man
Imitations of Horace: The First Epistle of the Second Book
Impromptu, to Lady Winchelsea
Lines on Curll
Ode on Solitude
On a Certain Lady at Court
Sound and Sense
Summer
The Dunciad: Book IV
The Dying Christian to His Soul
The Iliad: Book VI (excerpt)
The Rape of the Lock
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 1
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 2
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 3
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 4
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 5
The Riddle of the World
Two Or Three: A Recipe To Make A Cuckold
Universal Prayer
You Know Where You Did Despise

Alexander Pope eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

These lines are from the poem Eloisa to Abelard. Pope’s lines used in the movie are powerful because they are a hopeless fantasy. The movie goes further in its fantasy world where your memories apparently can successfully be erased, they still exist in others to haunt you; there’s simply no escaping them.

Odyssey of Homer

He translated Odyssey by Homer. Read the text of the book here.

Hope springs eternal

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Counterpart

Counterpart is the Starz Original Series. Alexander Pope is the name of a mysterious Dimension Two character who appeared in it.

Poem Windsor forest

Alexander Pope’s Windsor Forest in PDF format

Alexander Pope Solitude

‘Solitude’ is the best stage of life, although many people relate it with loneliness. But it not about being lonely but it is about being happy in the company of oneself. In this poem, Pope says that the solitude is the blessed thing of life.

The poem talks about the freedom of responsibility from society and social norms. Pope talks about the joy of a person who is in his native land and not bounded or forced with the rules. The person should not be bound by the laws of society and be answerable the community.

Poetry – the quiet life

“The Quiet Life” poem by Alexander Pope describes a man truly content with his place in the world. It describes how this man is “content to breathe his native air,” suggesting that he has succeeded in fulfilling all of his aspirations.

Read this beautiful poem The Quiet Life.

Alexander Pope heroic couplets

In his earlier poetry “An Essay on Criticism,” Alexander Pope made use of the heroic couplet. A heroic couplet is a poetic form in which two lines written in iambic pentameter end with perfect rhymes. In case you are not familiar, an iamb is a foot or beat consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, or a short syllable followed by a long syllable. e.g. deLIGHT, the SUN, forLORN, 

Alexander Pope satire

Pope used poetry as a great instrument of moral improvement. His belief was that satire was his most effective weapon to destroy corrupt customs and to expose the wicked. Pope used Horatian satire in his famous epic poem, The Rape of the Lock. Pope’s opinion was satire  “heals with morals what it hurts with wit”.

Later Life

Between 1733 and 1738, he wrote The Imitations of Horace. The model of Horace to satirised life under George II. As an introduction to the “Imitations”, he added an original poem, An Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot and reflected his literary career. It included the famous portraits of Lord Hervey, Sporus, and Addison, Atticus.

After 1738, Pope started to write less. In the later years, he revised and expanded his masterpiece The Dunciad.
His health began to deteriorate gradually.

On 29 May 1744, Pope had called for a priest for the Last Rites of the Roman Catholic Church. The next day, on 30 May 1744, the morning of his death, when his physician told him that his health was up, Pope replied, “Here am I, dying of a hundred good symptoms”. He died at 11 in the night. He lies in the nave of St Mary’s Church, Twickenham.

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