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Biography of Alexander Pope


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ALEXANDER POPE, an eminent English poet, was born in London, May 21, 1688. His father, a linen merchant, saved a moderate competency, and received some accessions of fortune by his marriage with Edith Turner, his second wife, and the poet's mother. He died at Chiswick, in 1717. His son shortly afterwards took a long lease of a house and five acres of land at Twickenham, on the banks of the Thames, whither he retired with his widowed mother, to whom he was tenderly attached, and where he resided till his death, cultivating his little donlain with exquisite taste and skill, and embellishing it with a grotto, temple, wilderness, and other adjuncts, poetical and picturesque. In this famous villa, Pope was visited by Frederick, Prince of Wales, and by the most celebrated wits, statesmen, and beauties of the day, himself being the most popular and successful poet of his age. He was a poet almost from infancy; he "lisped in numbers," and when a mere youth, surpassed all his contemporaries in metrical harmony and correctness. His pastorals and some translations appeared in Tonson's Miscellany, in 1709; but were written three or four years earlier. These were followed by the Essay on Criticism, 1711; Rape of the Lock (when completed, the most graceful, airy, and imaginative of his works), 1712-1714; Windsor Forest, 1713; Temple of Fame, 1715. In a collection of his works printed in 1717, he included the Epistle of Eloisa, and Elegy on an Unfortnnate Lady, two poems inimitable for "pathetic beauty and finished melodious versification." From 1715 till 1726, Pope was chiefly engaged in his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, which, though wanting in true Homeric simplicity, naturalness, and grandeur, are splendid poems. In 1728-1729, he published his greatest satire - the Dunciad - an attack on all poetasters and pretended wits and on all other persons against whom the sensitive poet had conceived an enmity. Between the years 1731 and 1739, he issued a series of poetical essays, moral and philosophical, with satires and imitations of Horace, all admirable for sense, wit, spirit, and brilliance. Of these delightful productions, the most celebrated is the Essay on Man, to which Bolingbroke is believed to have contributed the spurious philosophy and false sentiment; but its merit consists in detached passages, descriptions and pictures. A fourth book to the Dunciad, containing many beautiful and striking lines, closed the poet's cares and toil; he died on the 30th of May, 1744, and was buried in the church at Twickenham. Pope was of very diminutive stature, and deformed from his birth. As a poet, he was deficient in originality and creative power, and thus was inferior to his prototype, Dryden; but as a literary artist, and brilliant declaimer, satirist, and moralizer in verse, he is still unrivalled. He is the English Horace, and will as surely descend with honors to the latest posterity.