THE BIOGRAPHY OF ALEXANDER POPE:

EARLY LIFE:

Alexander Pope, (born May 21, 1688, London, England-died May 30, 1744, Twickenham, near London), poet and satirist of the English Augustan period, best known for his poems An Essay on Criticism  (1711), The Rape of the Lock  (1712–14), The Dunciad (1728), and An Essay on Man (1733–34). He is one of the most epigrammatic of all English authors. Pope’s father, a wholesale linen merchant, retired from business in the year of his son’s birth and 1700 went to live at Binfield in Windsor Forest. The Popes were Roman Catholics, and at Binfield, they came to know several neighboring Catholic families who were to play an important part in the poet’s life. 

EARLY WORKS:

Windsor Forest was near enough to London to permit Pope’s frequent visits there. He early grew acquainted with former members of John Dryden’s circle, notably William Wycherley, William Walsh, and Henry Cromwell. By 1705 his “Pastorals” were in draft and were circulating among the best literary judges of the day. In 1706 Jacob Tonson, the leading publisher of poetry, had solicited their publication, and they took the place of honor in his Poetical Miscellanies in 1709.

This early emergence of a man of letters may have been assisted by Pope’s poor physique. As a result of too much study, so he thought, he acquired curvature of the spine and some tubercular infection, probably Pott’s disease, that limited his growth and seriously impaired his health. His full-grown height was 4 feet 6 inches (1.4 meters), but the grace of his profile and fullness of his eye gave him an attractive appearance. He was a lifelong sufferer from headaches, and his deformity made him abnormally sensitive to physical and mental pain. Though he was able to ride a horse and delighted in travel, he was inevitably precluded from much normal physical activity, and his energetic, fastidious mind was largely directed to reading and writing.

CAREER AS A SATIRIST :

As Pope’s career continued, his satirical writings became more and more pointed. The Dunciad, first published anonymously in 1728, would come to be considered a masterful piece of poetry but earned him a huge amount of hostility. The poem is a mock-heroic narrative that celebrates an imaginary goddess and her human agents who bring ruin to Great Britain. The allusions in the poem were aimed at many prominent and aristocratic figures of the day, as well as the Whig-led government. Pope’s satire earned him so many enemies that, for a time, whenever he left the house, he brought his Great Dane with him and carried pistols, in case of a surprise attack by one of his targets or their supporters. In contrast, his An Essay on Man was more philosophical, reflecting on the natural order of the universe and suggesting that even the imperfections in the world are part of rational order.

FINAL YEARS AND LEGACY:

After 1738, Pope mostly stopped producing new work. He began working on additions and revisions to the Dunciad, publishing a new “book” in 1742 and a complete revision in 1743. In the new version, Pope more clearly satirized and criticized Horace Walpole, a Whig politician who was in power and who Pope blamed for many of the problems in British society.

By that point, however, Pope’s lifelong poor health was catching up to him. He had suffered from chronic pain, respiratory problems, a hunchback, frequent high fevers, and other problems since childhood. In 1744, his doctor reassured him that he was improving, but Pope only made a joke and accepted his fate. He received the last rites of the Catholic Church on May 29, 1744 and died at his villa, surrounded by his friends, the following day. He was buried at St. Mary’s Church in Twickenham.

In the decades following his death, Pope’s poetry went out of fashion for a time. 

Published by Ayisha Shabana. M….