In the second edition of the Rape of the Lock, Pope enlargedthe two cantos to five and did this mainly by adding to the machinery. His choice of supernaturals shows how alive he was to literature which could not be counted on to help him to be a poet—for he found his sylphs in Le Conte de Gabalis, a roman written forty years earlier in France by the Abbé de Montfaucon de Villars, and which had been twice translated into English. This short novel is itself a skit on the sylphs of a system, the Rosicrucian philosophy, which had been inaugurated in Germany a hundred years earlier. It would have been a weakness in Pope’s poem if he had had to invent these machines, since the machinery of the serious epic derived from established mythology; and the ‘mythology’ of the Rosicrucians was known well enough to count as established.
Pope, then, owed to Gabalis the right to assume the existence of this particular system of elemental sprites. The novel lays it down that:
the Elements are inhabited by most Perfect Creatures; from the Knowledge and Commerce of whom, the Sin of the Unfortunate Adam, has excluded all his too Unhappy Posterity. This immense Space, which is between the Earth, and the Heavens, has more Noble Inhabitants, than Birds and Flyes: This vast Ocean has also other Troops, besides Dolphins and Whales: The Profundity of the Earth, is not only for Moles; And the Element of Fire, (more Noble than the other Three) was not made to be Unprofitable and Voyd.
The Air is full of an innumerable Multitude of People,
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Publication information: Book title: The Rape of the Lock. Contributors: Geoffrey Tillotson - Editor, Alexander Pope - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1989. Page number: 93.
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