Alexander Pope: a Life

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  • Topic: Alexander Pope, Poetry, Robert Walpole
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  • Published : May 7, 2012
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Maynard Mack was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University and an illustrious authority on Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Professor Maynard Mack was a affiliate of the Yale University for forty-five years. He began as an instructor in 1936 giving English lectures. Also, during the 1960’s he was the administrator of the English section and in 1965 he was titled Sterling Professor. He died wen he was ninety in New Haven. But it is important to mention that he was as well a productive author, whose books counted: “King Lear in Our Time”, “The Last and Greatest Art”, “Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies” and “Alexander Pope: A life”; which is the book I am going to talk about.

Alexander Pope was born in London in a Roman Catholic family, but in 1700 he moved to Binfield. When he was a child he suffered a tubercular disease known as Pott’s disease. This ilness produced him a notable spinal curvature. Due to that he never grew much, aproximatly about 4 ft 6 in. Due to his religion he was excluded from a Protestant education and by the age of twelve he was almost completly self-taught. He might be known for his literary about arguments but Pope always had dear friends. During his initial years he counted with William Wycherley and the critic William Walsh as his friends. When he was still a teenager, London Society admitted him as a member and he was supported as a prodigy. The friendship that was not too long was with Joseph Addison and his inner circle. Who after all assaulted Pope’s Tory leanings. His devotion for the Tory party was encouraged by his close friendship with Swift and his attachment with the Scriblerus Club. The poetry of the Pope has basically three phases.

The first one consists of the descriptive poetry: “The Pastorals”(1709); “”Windsor Forest”(1713); “Essay on Criticism”(1711), a poem written in couplets emphasizing critical tendency and standards; “The Rape of the Lock”(1714), a poem satirizing the fashionable world he lived in. He also participated in “The Guardian”. And finally “Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady” and “Eloise to Abelard” which is his only work about love. In 1717 Pope built attachments to Lady Mary Wortley and to Martha Blount. With the first one he will argument later in a bitter way. On the contrary his relationship with Blount will last his whole life.

During Pope’s second period he translate in a magnificent way the masterpiece “Homer” which is written in heroic couplets, he also translate the completed edition of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”(with the help of William Broome and Elijah Fenton) Thanks to these translations and the poor edition of “Shakespeare” he got to amassed a huge fortune. He even bought a house in Twickenham for him and his mother in 1719.

In the third and last period of his lifework, Pope started to write satires and moral poems. For example “The Dunciad”(1728-43), a mordant satire in which he harshly attacks his enemies. Like the critic who considered Pope’s Shakespeare edition as unsatisfactory, Lewis Theobald. Other works of this period are; “Imitations of Horace”(1733-38) in which he makes a denunciation about political corruption. “An Essay on Man”(1734) a summary of the philosophical speculation in those days. “Moral Essays”(1731-35) one of his most ambitious labor. And “Epistle to Arbuthnot”(1735), in which he makes a defense of him and his work through the poetry.

Altought Pope has been considered a prominent poet, there were a need of this book in order to remaind it. Because by the eighteenth century new styles of poetry appeared. Ten years after Pope’s death, J.Warton said that Pope’s technique of poetry was not the most exceptional form of art. After that, in the early years of the ninentheet century, the Romantic movement rose, and was more ambivalent to his work. And though Lord Byron considered Pope as one of his main influences(it is said that his satire of contemporary...
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