Pope, Alexander


Pope, Alexander

biographical name


Alexander Pope, portrait by Thomas Hudson; in the National Portrait Gallery, London—Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

(born May 21, 1688, London, Eng.—died May 30, 1744, Twickenham, near London) English poet and satirist. A precocious boy precluded from formal education by his Roman Catholicism, Pope was mainly self-educated. A deformity of the spine and other health problems limited his growth and physical activities, leading him to devote himself to reading and writing. His first major work was An Essay on Criticism (1711), a poem on the art of writing that contains several brilliant epigrams (e.g., “To err is human, to forgive, divine”). His witty mock-epic The Rape of the Lock (1712, 1714) ridicules fashionable society. The great labour of his life was his verse translation of Homer's Iliad (1720) and Odyssey (1726), whose success made him financially secure. He became involved in many literary battles, prompting him to write poems such as the scathing mock-epic The Dunciad (1728) and An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1735). The philosophical An Essay on Man (1733–34) was intended as part of a larger work that he never completed.

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