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Alexander Pope

Poet, Writer, Translator

Country:England

Lifetime: 1688 - 1744 Passed: ≈ 278 years ago

Alexander Pope was a poet and satirist of the Augustan period and one of its greatest artistic exponents. Considered the foremost English poet of the early 18th century and a master of the heroic couplet, he is best known for satirical and discursive poetry, including The Rape of the LockThe Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism, and for his translation of Homer. After Shakespeare, he is the second-most quoted author in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations,[2] some of his verses having entered common parlance (e. g., damning with faint praise). 

 

 
Alexander Pope was born on May 21, 1688, in London, England, to Alexander and Edith Pope. His Roman Catholic father was a linen merchant. His family moved out of London and settled in Binfield in Windsor Forest around 1700. Pope had little formal schooling. He educated himself through extensive studying and reading, especially poetry. 

 

Although Pope was healthy and plump in his infancy, he became severely ill later in his childhood, which resulted in a slightly disfigured body—he never grew taller than 4 feet 6 inches. He suffered from curvature of the spine, which required him to wear a stiff canvas brace. He had constant headaches. His physical appearance, frequently ridiculed by his enemies, undoubtedly gave an edge to Pope's satire (humor aimed at human weaknesses), but he was always warmhearted and generous in his affection for his many friends. 

 

Pope was precocious (showed the characteristics of an older person at a young age) as a child and attracted the notice of a noted bookseller who published his Pastorals (1709). By this time Pope was already at 

 

The Rape of the Lock (1712) immediately made Pope famous as a poet. It was a long humorous poem in the classical style (likeness to ancient Greek and Roman writing). Instead of treating the subject of heroic deeds, though, the poem was about the attempt of a young man to get a lock of hair from his beloved's head. It was based on a true event that happened to people he knew. Several other poems were published by 1717, the date of the first collected edition of Pope's works. 

 

Pope also engaged in poetic imitations and translations. His Messiah (1712) was an imitation of Virgil (70–19 B.C.E.). He also did a version of Geoffrey Chaucer's (1342–1400) poetry in the English of Pope's Day. But it was Pope's versions of Homer (c. 700 B.C.E.) that were his greatest achievement as a translator. 

 

Pope undertook the translation of Homer's Iliad because he needed money. The interest earned from his father's annuities (money from investments) had dropped sharply. The translation occupied him until 1720. It was a great financial success, making Pope independent of the customary forms of literary patronage (support from wealthy people), and it was highly praised by critics. 

 

From the time parts of Iliad began to appear, Pope became the victim of numerous pamphlet attacks on his person, politics, and religion. In 1716 an increased land tax on Roman Catholics forced the Popes to sell their place at Binfield and to settle at Chiswick. The next year Pope's father died, and in 1719 the poet's increased wealth enabled him to move with his mother to Twickenham. 

 

From 1725 to 1726 Pope was engaged in a version of Odyssey. He worked with two other translators, William Broome and Elijah Fenton. They completed half of the translation between them. It was Pope's name, however, that sold the work, and he naturally received the lion's share (biggest part) of the profits. 

 

Pope wrote Imitations of Horace from 1733 to 1738. (Horace was a Roman poet who lived from 65 to 8 B.C.E.) He also wrote many "epistles" (letters to friends) and defenses of his use of personal and political satire. As Pope grew older, he became more ill. He described his life as a "long disease," and asthma increased his sufferings in his later years. At times during the last month of his life he became delirious. Pope died on May 30, 1744, and was buried in Twickenham Church. Alexander Pope was a poet and satirist of the Augustan period and one of its greatest artistic exponents. Considered the foremost English poet of the early 18th century and a master of the heroic couplet, he is best known for satirical and discursive poetry, including The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism, and for his translation of Homer. After Shakespeare, he is the second-most quoted author in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations,[2] some of his verses having entered common parlance (e. g., damning with faint praise).  

  

  
Alexander Pope was born on May 21, 1688, in London, England, to Alexander and Edith Pope. His Roman Catholic father was a linen merchant. His family moved out of London and settled in Binfield in Windsor Forest around 1700. Pope had little formal schooling. He educated himself through extensive studying and reading, especially poetry.  

  

Although Pope was healthy and plump in his infancy, he became severely ill later in his childhood, which resulted in a slightly disfigured body—he never grew taller than 4 feet 6 inches. He suffered from curvature of the spine, which required him to wear a stiff canvas brace. He had constant headaches. His physical appearance, frequently ridiculed by his enemies, undoubtedly gave an edge to Pope's satire (humor aimed at human weaknesses), but he was always warmhearted and generous in his affection for his many friends.  

  

Pope was precocious (showed the characteristics of an older person at a young age) as a child and attracted the notice of a noted bookseller who published his Pastorals (1709). By this time Pope was already at  

  

The Rape of the Lock (1712) immediately made Pope famous as a poet. It was a long humorous poem in the classical style (likeness to ancient Greek and Roman writing). Instead of treating the subject of heroic deeds, though, the poem was about the attempt of a young man to get a lock of hair from his beloved's head. It was based on a true event that happened to people he knew. Several other poems were published by 1717, the date of the first collected edition of Pope's works.  

  

Pope also engaged in poetic imitations and translations. His Messiah (1712) was an imitation of Virgil (70–19 B.C.E.). He also did a version of Geoffrey Chaucer's (1342–1400) poetry in the English of Pope's Day. But it was Pope's versions of Homer (c. 700 B.C.E.) that were his greatest achievement as a translator.  

  

Pope undertook the translation of Homer's Iliad because he needed money. The interest earned from his father's annuities (money from investments) had dropped sharply. The translation occupied him until 1720. It was a great financial success, making Pope independent of the customary forms of literary patronage (support from wealthy people), and it was highly praised by critics.  

  

From the time parts of Iliad began to appear, Pope became the victim of numerous pamphlet attacks on his person, politics, and religion. In 1716 an increased land tax on Roman Catholics forced the Popes to sell their place at Binfield and to settle at Chiswick. The next year Pope's father died, and in 1719 the poet's increased wealth enabled him to move with his mother to Twickenham.  

  

From 1725 to 1726 Pope was engaged in a version of Odyssey. He worked with two other translators, William Broome and Elijah Fenton. They completed half of the translation between them. It was Pope's name, however, that sold the work, and he naturally received the lion's share (biggest part) of the profits.  

  

Pope wrote Imitations of Horace from 1733 to 1738. (Horace was a Roman poet who lived from 65 to 8 B.C.E.) He also wrote many "epistles" (letters to friends) and defenses of his use of personal and political satire. As Pope grew older, he became more ill. He described his life as a "long disease," and asthma increased his sufferings in his later years. At times during the last month of his life he became delirious. Pope died on May 30, 1744, and was buried in Twickenham Church. 

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