Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet best known for his sarcastic poems and translations of Homer’s writings. He was born in London, England, and was raised as a Catholic, which was a cause for concern because Catholics were stripped of their fundamental rights and forced out of the city. He didn’t let this stop him from learning, and he devoured anything he could get his hands on. He was influenced by the works of classical literary figures such as Horace, Juvenal, Homer, Virgil, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Dryden from an early age. He wrote key works like as ‘Pastorals,’ ‘Essays on Criticism,’ ‘Essay on Man,’ ‘The Rape of the Lock,’ ‘Windsor Forest,’ and so on during his life. ‘The Dunciad,’ which he originally published in 1728, was his major achievement. Later, until the 1740s, he came up with new editions of ‘The Dunciad.’ The majority of his compositions are written in the heroic couplet style. Read the following lines to learn more about his life and career.
Childhood and Adolescence
Alexander Pope was born in London, England, to Alexander Pope and Edith nee Turner. His father was a linen wholesaler. He grew up in a Catholic household.
Ironically, the young Pope was born during a period when Catholics’ rights to teach, educate, vote, and hold public office were restricted due to the passage of the Test Acts, which elevated the Church of England’s position.
As a result, he got most of his education at home. He didn’t start attending Twyford School until 1698. Later, he enrolled in two Catholic schools that were operating illegally.
As Catholics were forcibly expelled 16 kilometers from the region of London or Westminster, his family relocated to a tiny estate at Popeswood in Binfield, Berkshire, due to rising anti-Catholic sentiment.
He spent much of his time reading the works of classical literary luminaries such as satirists Horace and Juvenal, poets Homer and Virgil, and novelists William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Dryden when in the countryside.
He also prepared himself by studying a variety of languages. He read works by numerous poets in English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek thanks to his language knowledge.
While in Binfield, he became friends with John Caryll, who subsequently inspired him to write ‘The Rape of the Lock.’ Caryll was the one who introduced him to notable literary figures in London, including William Wycherley, William Congreve, Samuel Garth, William Trumbull, and William Walsh. He also made lifelong friends with the Blount sisters, Teresa and Martha.
Career of Alexander Pope
In 1709, he published his first piece, ‘Pastorals,’ in the sixth part of Tonson’s Poetical Miscellanies. The work was well received, and he gained a lot of recognition and notoriety as a result of it.
He was encouraged to write more after receiving excellent feedback on his piece ‘Pastorals.’ He published ‘An Essay on Criticism’ in 1711. This work, like its predecessor, was well-received and well-liked.
The work was composed in a heroic couplet style, which was a new poetic genre at the time, as a reaction to the question of whether poetry should be produced in a natural style or follow the predefined principles of classical works.
He met Tory writers John Gay, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Parnell, and John Arbuthnot the same year. He co-founded the satirical Scriblerus Club with them. The club’s major goal was to publish works that took a sarcastic approach to stupidity and pedantry by creating a fictional figure named Martinus Scriblerus.
Two of his literary pieces, ‘Messiah’ and ‘The Rape of the Lock,’ were published in 1712. While the former dives into the issue of combining Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Messaih’s birth, the latter is a satirical take on high society’s attitude. It depicts Arabella Fermor’s bitter feud with Lord Petre, who plucked a lock of her hair from her head without her permission.
The poem ‘Windsor Forest’ was written the next year. The piece was well-received and got high praise. Following the publication of ‘Windsor Forest,’ he worked with Joseph Addison on the play ‘Cato.’ He also contributed to periodicals such as ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Spectator.’
From 1715 to 1720, he worked as a translator of Illiad’s works. Meanwhile, the political situation deteriorated with the death of Queen Anne and the escalation of the Hanoverian-Jacobite struggle.
‘Eloisa to Aberland,’ ‘Three Hours After Marriage,’ and ‘Elegy to the Memory of the Unfortunate Lady’ were his three compositions in 1717. He wrote six volumes of ‘The Works of Shakespeare’ between 1723 and 1725.
He created the work ‘Translations of the Odyssey’ between 1725 and 1726. The popularity of his previous ‘Translations of the Illiad’ led him to create this piece. ‘Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry,’ was published in 1727.
His work, ‘The Dunciad,’ was first published in 1728. In 1728, he produced the first version of the ‘three volume’ Dunciad, which was characterised by literary sarcasm. The next year, he published the Dunciad Variorum and the second version.
He worked on ‘Essay on Man,’ a philosophical poem written in heroic couplet style, from 1733 to 1734. Despite the fact that he wanted the work to be the centerpiece of his proposed system of ethics, he did not live long enough to complete or develop it.
His work, ‘The Prologue to the Satires,’ was published in 1735. He wrote ‘Imitations of Horace’ between 1733 and 1738. He reduced his output after 1738. He attempted to write a patriotic epic in blank verse called Brutus, but he only got as far as the first few lines.
Much of his later life was devoted to rewriting and developing his masterpiece, ‘The Dunciad.’ He came up with the fourth book, ‘The New Dunciad,’ which was a sequel to the first three volumes.
He then wrote ‘The Dunciad in Four Books,’ a corrected version of the first three books and a slightly updated version of the fourth book, which was published in 1743. He altered the protagonist of the piece from Tibbald to Bays, unlike his predecessor.
Personal History and Legacy
He apparently had a romantic relationship with Martha Blount, despite the fact that they never married.
Since he was a toddler, he has had serious health issues. He was diagnosed with Pott’s illness at the age of twelve, which caused his physique to distort. It also stunted his growth at 4ft 6 inches, resulting in a hunchback.
He developed numerous health problems as a result of the sickness, including respiratory problems, high fevers, swollen eyes, and abdominal pain.
In the 1740s, his health deteriorated, and he died in his villa on May 30, 1944. At the time of his death, he was surrounded by friends. Surprisingly, he went to a priest the night before he died and got his Roman Catholic Church’s Last Rites.
He was laid to rest in the nave of Twickenham’s Church of England Church of St Mary the Virgin.
Alexander Pope Net Worth
Alexander is one of the wealthiest poets and one of the most well-known. Alexander Pope’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
After Shakespeare and Tennyson, he is the third most frequently quoted author in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.