This book examines the literary career of the poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744). The son of a merchant, Pope became the dominant poet of his generation despite considerable ill-health and deformity. As a Catholic, he was a politically suspect outsider, but turned his internal exile into a platform from which to comment on the social and political events of his time. Once regarded as too elegant, or too vicious, to be a true poet, Pope is now celebrated for the richness of his imaginative transfiguration of the world around him.
In Part I of this book, Life and Contexts, the main events of Pope's life are narrated in detail: his childhood in Windsor Forest, his early literary career, the success of his translation of Homer, his creation of a place of principled independence at his villa at Twickenham, his relations with women, the scandalous warfare of The Dunciad, the major satires of the 1730s, his political position, and the final darkening poetry. In Part II, Works, extensive readings of nine poems or sets of poems are given: Essays on Criticism, Windsor-Forest, Rape of the Lock, Eloisa to Abelard, Essay on Man, Epistles to Several Persons, Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, Imitations of Horace, and The Dunciad. In Part III, Criticism, clear guidance to the main trends in criticism of Pope's work are given, with special attention to current areas of particular controversy: Pope and Politics; Pope, Gender and Body; Pope in Print and Manuscript.
The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope presents a synthesis of the latest research on Pope while offering a fresh reading of the poems. Readers who need a clear account of Pope's life and background, or who need a reliable guide to particular poems, or who are interested in special aspects of the works, can begin in any section and follow the cross-references to other relevant sections; or the whole book can be read through as a handbook of Pope studies.