The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope

By Paul Baines | Go to book overview

nues to indict the familial politics which has forbidden a match with her desired lover and driven her to her death in exile. Alongside this we have Eloisa to Abelard [77-82, 153, 177], an original take on the motif of the letter of an abandoned female lover popularised in Ovid's Heroides. Eloisa, a medieval heroine, laments the loss of her husband and lover Abelard to the castrating vengeance of her uncle. Both these poems conclude with vignettes of the sympathising poet, making a degree of personal investment part of the meaning of the poems.


(h)

WORKS AND DAYS

Both these poems were published for the first time in The Works of Alexander Pope, which appeared on 3 June 1717, alongside the third volume of the Iliad translation, and available in the same large sizes, with the same attention to embellishments, paper quality and layout. Though not yet thirty, Pope felt able to align his own work with that of the greatest of classic poets, whom he was now translating. His main works (Pastorals, Windsor-Forest, Essay on Criticism, Rape of the Lock and Temple of Fame) offered monumental stature, with translations and miscellanies giving a sample of the juvenilia from which these achievements grew. It was a highly conscious act of self-presentation; the frontispiece depicting Pope was etched from a portrait executed by Jervas in 1714, and shows the poet from the waist up, showing no sign of the distinctive hunched back or diminished size, and giving Pope the air of a gallant young man. The Preface offered, in writing of 'great sprightliness and elegance' (Johnson 1905:135) a similarly aristocratic poise: 'The life of a Wit is a warfare upon earth', Pope comments, speaking ruefully to his genteel audience as if they were somehow outside such mundane considerations. The process of careful self-editing, deleting and selection, to which Pope alludes, sought to raise the Works which were now offered with due deference to the public above the level of the Grub-Street antics of Curll and others. In claiming complete political independence, as an author who 'never made his talents subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of Party or self-interest' (PW I:295) Pope began to develop the best role available to him in his politically excluded position.

Pope's father died suddenly on 23 October 1717, leaving him rather less than might have been expected (Johnson 1905:85). At this point Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, tried to get Pope to turn protestant on prudential grounds, as Swift had before, resulting in a careful statement of Pope's position:

-21-

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The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Editors' Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations and Referencing xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Life and Contexts 3
  • (A) - A Catholic Childhood 5
  • (B) - Forest Retreats 7
  • (C) - Literary London 10
  • (D) - Kings and Queens 14
  • (E) - Scriblerus 15
  • (F) - Epic Intent 17
  • (G) - Booksellers and Ladies 19
  • (H) - Works and Days 21
  • (I) - Twickenham 23
  • (J) - Shakespeare 26
  • (K) - Epic of Fleet Street 28
  • (L) - System and Satire 32
  • (M) - Horace 35
  • (N) - Letters 38
  • (O) - Laureate in Opposition 40
  • (Q) - The End 44
  • Part II - Work 47
  • (A) - An Essay on Criticism (1711) [Te I:195-326] 49
  • (C) - The Rape of the Lock (1712/1714/1717) [Te Ii:79-212] 65
  • (D) - Eloisa to Abelard (1717) [Te Ii:291-349] 77
  • (E) - Essay on Man (1733-34) [Te Iii:I] 82
  • (F) - Epistles to Several Persons (1731-35) [Te Iii:Ii] 93
  • (G) - Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot (1735) [Te Iv:91-127] 110
  • (H) - Imitations of Horace (1733-40) [Te Iv] 119
  • (I) - The Dunciad (1728-42) [Te V] 130
  • Part III - Criticism 151
  • (A) - Pope and Poetry 153
  • (B) - Politics 163
  • (C) - Gender and Body 171
  • (D) - Pope in Print and Manuscript 189
  • Bibliography 205
  • Index 215
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