The Early Career of Alexander Pope

The Early Career of Alexander Pope

The Early Career of Alexander Pope

The Early Career of Alexander Pope

Excerpt

This account of the first part of Pope's career (down to about 1726 or 1727) is designed to present new facts and new interpretations of old facts in such a way as to give the reader an idea of the circumstances out of which Pope's works emerged, and an idea of the personality of the poet, which was, of course, a chief formative influence in the career. The volume contains little of literary criticism in the strict sense of the word. Few writers have suffered more from prejudiced views of their personalities than has Pope. Such prejudice has so commonly carried over into criticism that it seems worth while to examine, somewhat minutely, details of Pope's life, especially those that have through misinterpretation caused false ideas, first, as to his character, and then as to his achievement. It is certainly a tenable position that an author's personality should have no influence with a critic of his writing; but few will deny that Pope's supposed personality daily prejudices readers against his work. Although most of this book is not, then, literary criticism, it is hoped that it may serve as a preliminary to better criticism of Pope. The central purpose of the book, however, is not more to defend Pope the man than it is to show how circumstances and personal traits drove him from an early career of varied poetic composition into his true career (here untreated), which was that of perhaps the greatest of all formal satirists.

The preparation of the volume has intermittently occupied my time for a shocking number of years. As a result I am indebted to so many libraries and to so many more individuals that detailed acknowledgements are hardly possible. I must, of course, acknowledge the long-continued kindnesses of the libraries of the University of Chicago. Outside Chicago I have enjoyed the resources and courtesies of the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Harvard University Library, and the Huntington Library. My work on Pope was begun years ago in the Harvard Library, where, though a rank outsider . . .

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