Childhood & Early Life
Alexander Pope was born to Alexander Pope and Edith nee Turner in London, England. His father worked as a linen merchant. He had a Catholic upbringing.
Ironically, young Pope was born at a time when rights of the Catholics to teaching, education, voting and holding public office was banned due to the enactment to the Test Acts which uplifted the status of the Church of England.
As such, he received much of his education at home. It was only in 1698 that he attended Twyford School. Later on, he admitted himself at two Catholic school which operated illegally.
Due to the increasing aggression and rise in the anti-Catholic movement, his family shifted base to a small estate at Popeswood in Binfield, Berkshire, as Catholics were forcefully eradicated 16 kms from the vicinity of London or Westminster.
While at the countryside, he dedicated much of time to reading the works of classical literary figures, such as satirists Horace and Juvenal, poets Homer and Virgil, and authors, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Dryden.
Additionally, he equipped himself with studying various languages. It was with the know-how of the language that he read works of various poets as such English, French, Italian, Latin and Greek.
While at Binfield, he befriended John Caryll who later served as an inspiration for his work, ‘The Rape of the Lock’. It was Caryll who introduced him to significant literary personalities of the London literary society such as William Wycherley, William Congreve, Samuel Garth, William Trumbull, and William Walsh. He also befriended Blount sisters, Teresa and Martha for life.
Continue Reading Below
His first ever work titled, ‘Pastorals’ was published in 1709 in the sixth part of Tonson’s Poetical Miscellanies. The work was widely appreciated and guaranteed him much fame and publicity.
It was after the positive reception of his work ‘Pastorals’ that he was inspired to writer further. In 1711, he came up with ‘An Essay on Criticism’. Much like its predecessor, this work too was much appreciated and liked.
Written in a heroic couplet style, which was a developing genre of poetry then, the work was written as a response to whether poetry should written in a style that is natural or follow the predetermined rules of the classical works.
Same year, he made friends with Tory writers John Gay, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Parnell and John Arbuthnot. Together with them, he formed the satirical Scriblerus Club. The main aim of the club was to bring upon works with satirical take on ignorance and pedantry through the creation of a fictional character of Martinus Scriblerus.
Year 1712 witnessed the release of two of his poetry works, ‘Messiah’ and ‘The Rape of the Lock’. While the former delves into the theme of merging the prophecy of Isaiah about the birth of Messaih, the latter is a satirical take on the attitude of high society people. It depicts the fierce quarrel between Arabella Fermor and Lord Petre who snipped a lock of hair from the former’s head without her permission.
The following year, he came up with the poetry, ‘Windsor Forest’. The work was much acclaimed and received positive reviews. Post the publication of ‘Windsor Forest’, he assisted Joseph Addison in the latter’s plays ‘Cato’. Furthermore, he even wrote articles in the publications, ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Spectator’.
From 1715 to 1720, he indulged in translating the works of Illiad. In the meanwhile, the political situation worsened with the death of Queen Anne and the rise of the conflict between Hanoverians and the Jacobites.
In 1717, he came up with three works, ‘Eloisa to Aberland’, ‘Three Hours After Marriage’ and ‘Elegy to the Memory of the Unfortunate Lady’. From 1723 to 1725, he penned ‘The Works of Shakespeare’ in six volumes.
From 1725 to 1726, he came up with the work, ‘Translations of the Odyssey’. It was the success of his earlier ‘Translations of the Illiad’ that inspired him to come up with this work. In 1727, he came up with the work, ‘Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry’.
Continue Reading Below
Year 1728 witnessed the release of his work, ‘The Dunciad’. Landmarked by literary satire, he first published the first version, ‘three book’ Dunciad in 1728. Subsequently, the following year, he released the second version and the Dunciad Variorum.
From 1733 to 1734, he worked on ‘Essay on Man’, which was a philosophical poem written in heroic couplet style. Though he originally intended the work to be a centrepiece of the proposed system of ethics, he did live long to expand it or complete it.
In 1735, he came up with his work, ‘The Prologue to the Satires’. From 1733 to 1738, he came up with ‘Imitations of Horace’. Post 1738, he limited his work. He worked towards coming up with a patriotic epic in blank verse, titled Brutus, he could not succeed further than the opening lines.
He dedicated much of his later life revising and expanding his masterpiece 'The Dunciad'. He came up with the fourth book, which was a sequel to the first three books, titled, ‘The New Dunciad’.
He then came up with ‘The Dunciad in Four Books’ which was a revised version of the original three books and a slightly revised version of the fourth book published in 1743. Unlike the predecessor, he changed the protagonist of the work from Tibbald to Bays.
Personal Life & Legacy
Though he never went into the nuptial bliss, he allegedly was romantically involved with Martha Blount.
He suffered from major health complications ever since he was a child. At the age of twelve, he was inflicted with the Pott’s disease which caused deformation of his body. Furthermore it inhibited his growth at 4ft 6 inches and caused a hunchback.
It was due to the disease that he faced other health complications such as respiratory problems, high fevers, inflamed eyes and abdominal pain.
His health worsened in 1740s and consequently led to his demise on May 30, 1944 in his villa. He was surrounded by friends at the time of his death. Remarkably, a night before his death, he called on a priest and received his Last Rites of the Roman Catholic Church.
He was interred in the nave of the Church of England Church of St Mary the Virgin in Twickenham.