"my works will in one respect be like the works of Nature, much more to be liked and understood when consider'd in the relation they bear with each other, than when ignorantly look'd upon one by one"
-- Pope to Swift, 16 February 1732/3
In the poetic career of Alexander Pope, 1717 may justly be called an annus mirabilis. Within a few weeks of his twenty-ninth birthday on 21 May, Pope established himself as a poet, a translator, and an editor. On 3 June he published simultaneously, through Bernard Lintot , The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope and volume three of his translation of Homer Iliad (books 9-12). Six weeks later, on 13 July and again through Bernard Lintot, Pope published anonymously Poems on Several Occasions, a miscellany by various hands that included many of Pope's unacknowledged minor poems and juvenilia, which had been excluded from the earlier Works. 1
To observe Pope performing his roles as poet, translator, and editor, we need look only at his Works. No one has yet dealt with this collection as a collection to see in what ways the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts or to consider how the arrangement of poems creates a sort of dialogue among the separate pieces. Nor has anyone attempted to identify the possible principles by which Pope organized his Works. And, finally, no one has treated the organizing role the illustrations play in the quarto Works (only the finepaper folios are illustrated). 2 Unfortunately, hard evidence is scanty of how actively Pope controlled the arranging and illustrating of his Works, but several comments in his correspondence suggest that Pope took at least as much interest in the preparation of his most significant publication to date as we would expect of a man who, as Samuel Johnson said, "hardly drank tea without a stratagem."3
The strongest evidence we have of Pope's involvement in the production of his Works appears in a letter to William Broome in which he asks Broome to pass on to the printer specific instructions about the size of an illustration and several editorial matters. In another letter that clearly pre