The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope

By Paul Baines | Go to book overview

mistresses (Barnard 1973:11)); even twentieth-century criticism has largely approved its claims to a 'female' sensibility, often by contrast with Pope's more problematic versions of womanhood in The Rape of the Lock [181]. In an important article Gillian Beer argues that some genuine power emerges for female roles in this and other poems of its tradition because of its 'appeal to the authority of women, who were assumed to be naturally learned in the realms of erotic knowledge and suffering' (Beer 1982:140). Though the form is based on disempowerment and martyrdom, it nonetheless encodes a constant protest against it. Other critics have approved of Eloisa's imaginative resolution, the genuineness of the Christian repentance, and Pope's psychological analysis of or identification with his heroine (Kalmey 1980; Jack 1988; Manning 1993; Williams 1995). Others remind us that Eloisa's voice is always ventriloqual, mediated and dramatized, and can be read as a sort of study in self-deception (Jackson 1983; Bygrave 1990). For these critics, Eloisa is displayed, as it were, as continually self-dramatizing, made to write of herself in the third person ('Eloisa yet must kiss the name', EA, 8), and invite voyeuristic interest ('See in her Cell sad Eloisa spread', EA, 303); her final retreat is to abandon the quill to the later male poet (who has of course been constructing this spectacle).


(e)

ESSAY ON MAN (1733-34) [TE III:I]

In the opening lines of the Essay on Man [34, 37], Pope proposes to 'vindicate the ways of God to Man' in a sweeping survey of God's 'mighty maze', and thus conspicuously picks up the mantle of poetic and theological authority from Milton, whose Paradise Lost sought to 'justify the ways of God to Man' (references to 'A Wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous shoot,/Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit', EM, I:7-8, make the 'target' poem still more obvious); but the context has changed from Milton's apocalyptic and fundamentalist account of the archetypal human Fall to a far more diagrammatic view of the universe, in which all forms of life, from flies to humans to angels, have an allotted, correct place. Pope's cosmos functions as an expression of complementary forces; Milton's dynamic narrative of war in heaven is replaced by a system of balances; catastrophe and redemption become stasis and resignation. No doubt Milton's poem derives some of its energies from the conflicts of the Civil War, while Pope's was written in an era of greater political stability, at least nominally. Nonetheless, despite the monumental (and sometimes

-82-

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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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