1. Historical facts


Handout 5: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)



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Handout 5: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)


  • the dominant poetic figure of the Augustan Age, one of the greatest neo-classical satirist

  • middle-class background, Catholic, cripple, private education, influenced by Homer, Virgil, Spenser, Milton, Dryden

  • under Queen Anne’s reign high position, but later lost of political patronage (George I)



I/ First period


Pastorals (1709)

  • imitation of Virgil’s Eclogues, Spenser’s Shepherd’s Calendar

- action of a shepherd, dramatic or narrative form, simple fable, plain thoughts, lively language – ”image of the Golden Age”; neo-classical poems
Windsor Forest (1713)

  • nature and political poem, ”local” poetry (Dr. Johnson)

  • symbolically represents the excellence and order of England


Essay on Criticism (1711)

- critical ideas in heroic couplets

- based on Aristotle (Poetics), Horace (Ars Poetica), Longinus (On the Sublime) and Boileau

- Part I: rules of taste (key terms: genius, wit); relation bw. Art and Nature; importance of the ancients; maxims: ”First follow Nature, and your judgement frame,

By her just standard, which is still the same.”

”Be Homer’s Works your study, and Delight,

Read them by Day, and meditate by Night.”

”Learn hence for ancient Rules a just Esteem,

To copy Nature is to copy them.”

- Part II: pride, imperfect learning, wrong emphasis, prejudice as causes of bad judgment

- Part III: positive rules for good criticism (truth, sincerity, civility)
Rape of the Lock (1712; 1714):

- mock-herioc, satirical and topical poem; high burlesque on ’beau monde’ (SEMINAR!)


”Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady” (1717), ”Eloisa to Abelard” (1717)
II/ Middle period:

- translation of Homer’s Iliad (1715-20) and Odyssey (1725-6); edition of Shakespeare’s works (1725) – Lewis Theobald’s criticism --


III/ Last period:

The Dunciad (1728, 1729, 1742), The New Dunciad (1743)

-- Theobald (then Colley Cibber) as the king of dunces in Dullness

- satirical mock-heroic on contemporary standards of creative and critical writings

- Light (truth, creation, Enlightenment) vs. Darkness (ignorance, chaos, Middle Ages)


Epistles to Several Persons or Moral Essays (1730s, 1740s)

  • Horatian satires on contemporary social conditions


An Essay on Man (1733-34)

- verse essay; deist teaching; belief in order and the great chain of being

”Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” (1735); Imitations of Horace (1733-38)




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