The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope

By Paul Baines | Go to book overview

Galatea, remained unpublished in his lifetime). It was also from Ovid that he translated, about 1707, Sapho to Phaon [172, 194], an intriguingly expressive poem in which the Lesbian poetess Sappho, abandoned by the youth Phaon with whom she has fallen in love, laments her confused sexual longings and reviews her languishing life as a poet. His version of Statius' Thebaid, book I, was written about 1703 (published 1712), and gave him confidence in the use of heroic couplets in 'high' style; the story itself, which deals with the internecine wars of succession after the resignation of the incestuous parricide Oedipus from the throne of Thebes, is a monstrous and gory exploration of politics, sex and death: there is nothing tame about Pope's interest in classical mythology. Pope also began translating sections of Homer, probably about 1707.

He also practised a form of 'imitation' or stylistic mimicking; around 1701 he was impersonating the polished amatory verses of Waller, the metaphysical conceits of Cowley, and the anti-feminist lyrics of the Earl of Dorset in particular. A short pastiche of Chaucer allowed him to tell a bawdy joke; 'The Alley', an imitation of Spenser, took the stanza form of The Faerie Queene and applied it mockingly to the filthy pathways of contemporary London. 'On Silence', a substantial imitation of Rochester's 'Upon Nothing', points forward to the sceptical social satire of his mature work. This work was all complete before 1709, but Pope later edited some of it as evidence of his poetic development, or simply as makeweights in anthologies.


(c)

LITERARY LONDON

Pope was twenty when his first poems were published, in May 1709, significantly enough adjacent to the first full 'Copyright Act' which defined authorial property in ways which were to allow Pope to make more money from writing than any poet before him. The Pastorals appeared in Poetical Miscellanies, The Sixth Part, an anthology published by Jacob Tonson the elder, the most eminent publisher of the day: he had acquired the rights to Milton, Shakespeare, and Dryden, and ran a Whig club of authors known as the Kit-Cat Club. Pope contributed three works to the anthology (which also included work by Swift, later to become one of Pope's closest friends). Two of these emerged from Pope's self-imposed apprenticeship in translating and imitating: January and May was a rewriting in modern idiom of Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, written about 1704 and giving Pope the opportunity to be elegant and witty about sex and marriage; The Episode of Sarpedon

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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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