The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope

By Paul Baines | Go to book overview

feminist criticism, which give short shrift to authorial intention and humanistic coherence, have not left Pope untouched; nor has that branch of materialist criticism which reads significance into the 'sociology of the text', or the actual forms in which literary works are produced. It will be appropriate therefore to review some main developments in these more specialised fields.


(b)

POLITICS

'Still Dunce the Second Reigns Like Dunce the First'

Pope's supposed political allegiances were always a ready handle for his enemies. His name itself offered a convenient opportunity to associate his poetry with Catholic absolutism, as in Pope Alexander's Supremacy and Infallibility Examin'd (1729; see Guerinot 1969:166-70). John Oldmixon's The Catholick Poet (1716) succinctly demolishes Pope's Iliad translation with the charge that 'This Papish dog…has translated HOMER for the Use of the PRETENDER' (Guerinot 1969:40). Such comments as these, so obviously deriving from vested interests, were largely ignored in later reception of Pope's work: the poetry has been taken more or less at its own estimation, as the work of one who attempted to transcend party divisions and speak from a principled independence. More recently, however, political (and politicised) analysis of Pope's oeuvre has become a distinctly animated area of study.

Mack (1969) began the work of reanalysing Pope's later career (1731-43) in political terms. In a volume plentifully illustrated with pictures of Pope's house and garden and satirical and political engravings, Mack sought the 'enabling myth' (vii) of Pope's Horatian stance, his appropriation of Horace's rural virtues of independence, frugality, and hospitality into a focused image in the house and grotto at Twickenham. Finding that 'certain aspects of Pope's abode and life at Twickenham become luminous with implication' (25), Mack describes the way Pope turned a forced exclusion from London into the 'pursuit of politics from the vantage of retirement' (116). 'Twit'nam', as Pope familiarly calls it in Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, was both a place of retreat and psychological safety, and a sign of his success in overcoming political obstacles. From this platform it was possible to indict Walpole's regime in the Horatian poems [119-30] and revised Dunciad [130-49], to the extent that Pope could figure himself and Walpole as 'mighty opposites', warring for the soul of Britain. The garden and grotto 'supplied a rallying point

-163-

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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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