Who was Alexander Pope?
Alexander Pope was a renown English poet whose highly polished verse is famous throughout the world. It is said that he
brought Dryden’s heroic couplet to perfection. He was born on 1688 and died on 1744.
Pope was the son of a London cloth merchant. His parents’ religion, Roman Catholicism, banned him from the Protestant
universities of England. Priests took care of his early education but after his twelfth birthday he was largely self-taught.
He became prominent in Greek, Italian, Latin, and French.
A horrible illness (presumably tuberculosis) struck him during childhood and left him scarred for the rest of his life.
He never grew more than 4 feet and 3 inches and he suffered severe headaches throughout his life. Perhaps as a result of this
deformation, he became a hypersensitive and irritable man.
In 1717 he moved to a villa called Twickenham, located on the west of London. He lived here for the rest of his life. The
most important celebrities of the age came to visit him. He was a belligerent man and openly criticized and belittled his
colleagues. However, he was also capable of affection and friendship as shown through his close friendship with the Anglo-Irish
writer Jonathan Swift and the English writer John Gray.
Pope’s literary career started in 1704 when the playwright William Wycherley introduced him to the prominent poets
and writers of the era. He was seen as a prodigy among them. In 1709 he attracted attention with his Pastorals. His
famous essay, Essay on Criticism, was published in 1711 as an exposition of the canons of taste. The Rape of the
Lock, his most famous poem was first published in 1712 and later revised and republished in 1714. It was a mock-heroic
work based on true events that established as a prominent writer. Windsor Forest, published in 1713 endeared him to
the Tories since it alluded to the Peace of Utrecht. In 1717 a collection of Pope’s most memorable works were published.
His famous translation of Homer’s Iliad was published from 1715 to 1720 in six volumes. A translation of the
Odyssey appeared soon after. In addition to these works, he also published an edition of Shakespeare’s plays
Alexander Pope and his friend Jonathan Swift considered some writers of the era mediocre and in 1727 they began writing
parodies of these writers. This in turn resulted in a tirade from the aggrieved writes. In 1728 Pope satirized them with his
renown The Dunciad, a satire eulogizing dullness. Pope’s last works Imitations of Horace, from 1733 to 1739,
were attacks on political enemies of his friends.
His witty heroic couplet turned this into the dominant poetic figure of the century. His poetry has been translated into
many languages and he is recognized as one of the most important literary figure of the world.