Alexander Pope: The Critical Heritage

By John Barnard | Go to book overview

Introduction

I

The sharpest outline of Pope's eighteenth-century reputation is given by his portraits. They overwhelmingly present him as a contemporary who had attained classic immortality. Richardson's painting of Pope wearing the 'Critick's Ivy', Kneller's drawing of the 'English Homer' wearing the poet's bays, or his painting showing Pope pensively holding the Greek Iliad, Roubiliac's sensitive marble busts of the poet as Roman stoic, or Hayman's engraving of the dying Pope in his grotto surrounded by Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, and the Muse, all sought to show him as the crowning glory of English Augustan poetry. Numerous copies, medallions, prints, and even pieces of garden statuary , popularized this picture. Between 1726 and 1729, Voltaire recorded that 'The picture of the prime minister hangs over the chimney of his own closet, but I have seen that of Mr. Pope in twenty noblemen's houses.' 1 Pope's poetry was the literary equivalent of the extraordinary burst of creative energy which spread the orders of classical architecture throughout eighteenth-century England.

The serene confidence with which Pope stood alongside Homer in the libraries and gardens of great country houses was offset by bitter attacks. Dahl's portrait of the great writer in the act of composition was crudely travestied by a print published in 1729, which depicts Pope as an ape wearing a papal crown, and accompanied by an ass. Michael Rysbrack's bust met with swift abuse in the newspapers: 2

To. Mr. REISBRANK, on his Carving A POPE'S Busto
REISBRANK, no longer let thy Art be shown
In forming Monsters from the Parian Stone;
Chuse for this Work a Stump of crooked Thorn,
Or Logg of Poyson-Tree, from India born,
There carve a Pert, but yet a Rueful Face,
Half Man, half Monkey, own'd by neither Race…

The frontispiece to Ingratitude (1733), abandoning any pretence to satire, showed the diminutive Pope held down by a nobleman, while another stands by laughing, and a third urinates on the poet. With

-1-

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Alexander Pope: The Critical Heritage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface v
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Preface xv
  • I - Introduction 1
  • Note on the Text 39
  • Part I - Contemporary Criticism 41
  • General Reactions 43
  • Pastorals 59
  • An Essay on Criticism 71
  • Messiah, a Sacred Eclogue 87
  • Windsor Forest 89
  • The Rape of the Lock 93
  • Iliad 114
  • A Roman Catholick Version of the First Psalm 139
  • Eloisa to Abelard 140
  • Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady 143
  • Epitaph on John Hewet and Sarah Drew in the Churchyard at Stanton Harcourt 144
  • General Reactions 147
  • Odyssey 164
  • The Dunciad 208
  • The Dunciad Variorum 219
  • General Reactions 236
  • 'Ethick Epistles' (An Abandoned Project) 263
  • Moral Essays Iv: Epistle to Burlington, of Taste 265
  • Moral Essays Iii: to Allen Lord Bathurst, of the Use of Riches 268
  • Imitations of Horace, Satire Ii. I 269
  • An Essay on Man 278
  • Epitaph on Mr. Gay in Westminster Abbey 317
  • Imitations of Horace: Serm. I. II (Sober Advice from Horace) 319
  • An Epistle from Mr. Pope to Dr. Arbuthnot 329
  • Epilogue to the Satires: Dialogue II 331
  • The New Dunciad: As It Was Found in the Year 1741 333
  • The Dunciad in Four Books 342
  • A Final Tribute 346
  • Part II - Later Criticism 351
  • Appendix A 529
  • Appendix B 532
  • Bibliography 537
  • Index 539
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