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
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Publication information: Book title: Alexander Pope: The Critical Heritage. Contributors: John Barnard - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 1.
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