Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

Author of The Iliad and the Odyssey

Includes the names: Alexander Pope
Also includes: POPE (2)

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Alexander Pope was the only child of a London linen merchant and his wife, recent converts to the Roman Catholic faith. He was barred from public schools because of his religion, and attended secret Catholic school, but was largely self-educated. He learned Latin, Greek, Italian, and French, and wrote his earliest surviving work, Ode to Solitude, at age 12. That same year he began having symptoms of the debilitating bone disorder that would stunt his growth and cause him much pain and suffering. His poem Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1735) referred to "this long disease, my life." His family moved to a small estate at Binfield in Berkshire to escape anti-Catholic legislation and prejudice. Pope's Essay on Criticism, published anonymously in 1711, established the heroic couplet as his principal measure and attracted the attention of Jonathan Swift and John Gay, who became his lifelong friends and collaborators. Together they formed the Scriblerus Club for writers. The Rape of the Lock, Pope’s best-known work and the one that secured his fame, was first published in 1712. The following year, he began work on a six-volume translation of Homer's Iliad, and later translated the Odyssey as well. His burlesque masterwork The Dunciad (1728) ridiculed bad writers, scientists, and his critics. He died at age 56. The Academy of American Poets says that today Pope is considered "the dominant poetic voice of his century, a model of prosodic elegance, biting wit, and an enduring, demanding moral force."
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