Pope and the Destiny of the Stuarts: History, Politics, and Mythology in the Age of Queen Anne

Pope and the Destiny of the Stuarts: History, Politics, and Mythology in the Age of Queen Anne

Pope and the Destiny of the Stuarts: History, Politics, and Mythology in the Age of Queen Anne

Pope and the Destiny of the Stuarts: History, Politics, and Mythology in the Age of Queen Anne

Synopsis

This radical new look at the literary and political climate of England during the reign of Queen Anne examines the work of the greatest poet of the age, Alexander Pope. Pope and the Destiny of the Stuarts provides the fullest contextual account to date of Windsor-Forest (1713), widely seen asa key text in the evolution of early eighteenth-century poetry. It examines the poem's topical and political aspects and offers a reconfiguration of Pope's early career, demonstrating that this was a pivotal period, marking a critical watershed in both his personal and literary development. The bookgives a complete account of Pope's life and work in his early twenties, and supplies a new political interpretation, including a careful analysis of possible Jacobite colourings.Attention is directed towards a range of literary, historical, ideological, and artistic issues. The book draws on classical studies (the role of Virgil and Ovid especially), Renaissance scholarship, literary history, political history, and artistic contexts. The key ideas and techniques of Windsor-Forest are related to Pope's other early works, including the Pastorals and, centrally, The Rape of the Lock.Rogers goes on to reassess the poet's dealings with the Scriblerus group. He shows previously unnoted textual connections with the work of Swift, Gay, Parnell, and also Prior, and casts fresh light on the tortuous process of composition and revision of Windsor-Forest, with a description of themanuscript and an account of the publishing and textual history, while numerous allusions are traced for the first time.Pope and the Destiny of the Stuarts will be of interest to scholars and students of eighteenth-century literature, history, and politics.

Excerpt

It is just over two hundred years since Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, came to the throne on 8 March 1702. Her reign would be marked by great achievements in literature, architecture, and science for example—this was after all the age of Newton and Halley, of Swift and Defoe, of Wren and Vanbrugh. But it was a time dominated by the long war with France, punctuated by the great victories of Marlborough as well as some less auspicious events. As Anne’s reign came to an end, she was exhausted by the political and diplomatic struggles of the previous twelve years, and most of the nation greeted the Peace of Utrecht with considerable relief. But one major problem remained unresolved, the issue of the succession, and it was one which even the arrival of George I did not immediately settle, as the Jacobite rising in 1715 and subsequent events were to show. No writer reflects more of this tumultuous period than Alexander Pope, and no work of his deals with these large issues more comprehensively than Windsor-Forest.

This book tells the story of Pope’s poem—how it came to be written, what elements went into it, how it was received, and what the aftermath was, in terms of the nation’s destinies and those of the poet himself. It explores the milieu in which Pope operated, especially his audience and the support group assembled to sponsor such projects as the translation of Homer. The argument focuses on one phase of the writer’s career, in which he produced his Pastorals, The Rape of the Lock, Messiah, and An Essay on Criticism among other works, as well as embarking on his Homeric enterprise. Although the main emphasis here is on Windsor-Forest, attention is given in Chapter 2 to some of this contemporary writing. It is obvious that WindsorForest can be fully understood only in the context of other things that were going on around Pope, and this book seeks to make the connections which will enhance its articulacy to a modern reader.

The poem is at once transparent in its texture and heavily layered in its symbolism. One is tempted to say that in the richness of its organization it comes closest to Finnegans Wake, except that it is not so simple. In a parallel study, The Symbolic Design of ‘Windsor-Forest’ (SDW), I have attempted to explore the workings of the poem, especially as they draw on classical and Renaissance modes such as the court masque, history painting, panegyric, and river poetry. Some cross-reference has been unavoidable and the argument of the present book is complemented at almost every point by the case made in its sister study. However, this is a self-contained book which devotes itself to a clear-cut task; that is, exploration of Windsor-Forest as it confronts the realities of its age. The fate of the Stuarts was intimately bound up . . .

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