The Rape of the Lock

By Geoffrey Tillotson; Alexander Pope | Go to book overview
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APPENDIX D

THE LIFE OF POPE

Mr. John Butt, the General Editor of the Twickenham Pope, has kindly supplied the following biography [ED. ].

Alexander Pope was born on 21 May 1688 in the city of London, where his father is believed to have worked in the wholesale linen trade. Nothing is known for certain of the boy’s early years, except that his physique was never good. As the result of too much study (so he thought), he acquired a curvature of the spine and some tubercular infection, which limited his growth—his full-grown height was four feet six inches—and seriously impaired his health. He struggled to ignore these handicaps—and indeed he could honestly protest at times that he was

The gayest valetudinaire,
Most thinking rake, alive,

but it was inevitable that his deformity and his poor health should interfere with his activities throughout what he pathetically calls ‘this long Disease, my Life’, and should increase his sensitiveness to mental and physical pain.

Pope’s parents left London to live at Binfield in Windsor Forest when their son was about twelve years old. They made this move, in all probability, because they were Roman Catholics, for to be a Catholic at this time was to lay oneself open to suspicion and persecution. Several laws were passed forbidding Catholics to live within ten miles of London, preventing their children from being taught by Catholic priests, and compelling them to forfeit two-thirds

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