Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope, poet and landscape designer was born in London on the 21st May 1688. Early on he was educated by relatives although he also attended subsequent Catholic schools. During the late-seveenteenth century, and Queen Anne's Protestant England, Pope pushed his Catholic background into the shadows. By 1700, the Pope family had moved to Benfield, Windsor Forest, from Hammersmith and this is where Pope's self-education began. There he embarked on a career as a poet and satirist by learning foreign languages as well as reading English literature.

By 1711, Pope's poetic career was well launched and he had amassed an influential network of friends including John Gay, Jonathon Swift and John Abuthnot, all Tory writers, as well as the Whigs, Joseph Addison (whose relationship with Pope later soured) and Richard Steele. Pope's health, however, was of some concern at this time. From the age of about fifteen, Pope had suffered from Pott's disease, or tuberculosis of the bone, which would affect him later in life by inhibiting his growth, causing fevers, the inflammation of the eye, as well as problems with his heart and lungs.

Pope's first work, Pastorals (1709) was an English pastoral in the Virgilian tradition. Pope's early work followed a similar trajectory to that of Virgil's as it began with the Pastorals to the Georgic Poem Windsor Forest (1714) and there to the mock epic Rape of the Lock (1712, 1714).

By his early twenties Pope had become one of England's most famous poets, and as such was the subject of attention from Addison and his Whig circle of friends. Having failed to capture Pope's talents for political purposes, Addison manoeuvred his protege, Thomas Tickell, into a position where he was offered a contract to translate Homer's Illiad. This was undertaken knowingly by Addison, in order to foil Pope's own translation that had been started since 1714. Despite the publication of a rival work, Pope still managed to make £5000 from both his publisher and subscribers.

Shortly after George I's accension in 1714, Pope found himself in a political arena that had become increasingly unstable for his Tory friends. Following the Jacobite Rising of 1715, and the targetting of Pope's aquaintences and their subsequent imprisonments and exiles, Pope moved to Chiswick under the protection of Lord Burlington. Burlington was at that time in the position to shelter Catholics. This situation led a short period where Pope had to tread carefully within political circles. He was soon on social terms with Sir Robert Walpole and began to attend informal suppers with the First Minister. It is likely that these connections were enforced by a small number of Walpole supporters who felt that Pope should be recruited into the interests of the powers that be.

It was around this time, in 1719. that Pope leased a few parcels of land and cottages at Cross Deep, Twickenham. There he built a riverside Palladian villa in addition to the first 'wild gardens' in Britain. These included his famous grotto which contained rare and shining stones. This house and grounds were to become Pope's residence for the rest of his life.

During the mid- to late-1720s Pope wrote the Dunciads, a series of satirical poems that challenged the Hanoverian Kings as well as Walpole and his associates. These poems led to his reputation being associated with personal satire, and as such, he received an array of personal attacks that had resulted from the inclusion of initials that were inlayed within the poetry.

In the early 1730s Pope wrote both the 'Epistle to Burlington' on the subject of architecture as well as 'An Essay on Man'. The former was written in response to his growing unease with the Walpole administration and Pope's own movement towards the oppositiion led by Bolingbroke.

By the late 1730s Pope wrote little apart from writing the final book of the Dunciad (1742). He later died on the 30th May 1744 at his villa in Twickenham.

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