The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope

By Paul Baines | Go to book overview

(l)

SYSTEM AND SATIRE

It is firmly recorded, if somewhat astonishing, that on 12 March 1729 Sir Robert Walpole presented a copy of The Dunciad Variorum to George II, who pronounced its author 'a very honest man' (TE V:xxviii). Nonetheless, The Dunciad clearly marks the beginning of the end of any possible understanding between Pope and Walpole; the line 'Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first' (Book 1, line 6) burns Pope's boats, as Gulliver's Travels burned Swift's, and The Beggar's Opera (with its sequel of 1729, Polly, which Walpole banned) Gay's. After this affray, a conspicuous setting of boundaries between Pope's circle and the rest of contemporary literature (a sort of cultural antithesis befitting the master of the couplet), Pope set out to construct a more positive vision of social roles. Pope's political position became more clearly defined by his increasing friendship with Bolingbroke, who had returned from political exile at exactly the moment Atterbury was going into it in.

Pope had known Bolingbroke a little during the last years of Queen Anne, though he was more intimate with Harley, Bolingbroke's rival. Harley died in 1724, soon after Bolingbroke was conditionally pardoned, despite having fled the country on the accession of George I, and having acted as the Pretender's Secretary of State during the disastrous Jacobite campaign of 1715. Bolingbroke settled at Dawley Manor near Uxbridge, four miles from Pope's villa. His property was restored, but not his aristocratic title, and he was thus unable to act in any effective political way. Instead he became the central theorist of the opposition to Walpole, drawing to him Tories and disaffected Whigs-and Pope, who told Spence he found Bolingbroke 'something superior to anything I have seen in human nature' (Spence 1966:121). Severing all visible ties with the Stuarts, Bolingbroke set about producing a new political ideology (sometimes called 'Country' ideology, as opposed to 'Court' thinking), based on traditional English attachment to land ownership and management and attacking the newly-emerged financial institutions (the Bank of England, founded in 1694, the National Debt, the growth of insurance, paper money, the stock market) as so much 'corruption' (a key term of political opposition). Walpole was characterised as a master of financial manipulation, bribing for votes, managing slush funds and gifting jobs in order to shore up his own power. To Swift's existing myth of the displacement of (Tory) land by (Whig) money, Bolingbroke added a new and rather saintly version of the solid classical virtues of independence and civic pride. He changed the name of his property to Dawley Farm, indicating the practice of stewardship

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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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