Laureate of Peace: On the Genius of Alexander Pope

By G. Wilson Knight | Go to book overview

PREFACE

ON the presentation of this study--the first, so far as I know, to be devoted to the to the total contents, as opposed to the style in isolation, of Pope's poetic work--a few preliminary notes may prove helpful.

The book is composed of five sections, all but one of which are new. The opening is in the nature of a general survey intended to make a rough stage-setting for what follows.1 This is followed by "'The Vital Flame'", which appeared first in The Burning Oracle in 1939 and has been for long out of print. It has been given a surface revision, mainly a smoothing of syntax, and I have incorporated three or four new quotations, but nothing has been added to the thought. Since its first publication, this essay has helped to reorientate the contemporary un understanding of Pope's poetry, particularly (as I note on pp. 48, 51 and 171-2 below with references to Professor Maynard Mack's important and standard edition 2) in respect to the Essay on Man. Such defences are forced on me by the nature of the opposition which my methods of interpretative analysis are still, after twenty-five years, receiving in England. An attempt is made to clarify the issue in my third section, a study of the unjustly neglected Temple of Fame, in the course of which I have occasion to discuss the mutually interpretative functions of the arts of space and time in direct relation to my own technique of spatial interpretation.

The fourth section is given to Byron's praise of Pope. Of this I knew nothing when I composed "'The Vital Flame'" some sixteen years ago, and, when I came across it during my Byronic studies, I was indeed gratified to find that my own understanding of Pope had been so closely paralleled by Byron. If I was mad in respecting

____________________
1
I rather think that my characterizing (on pp. 7-9) of literary periods in terms of certain favoured mechanisms may owe something to a conversation with Professor Lewis Horrox some twenty years ago.
2
I take this opportunity to pay my tribute to the excellence of the Twickenham edition, now nearing completion under the general editorship of John Butt.

-vii-

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Laureate of Peace: On the Genius of Alexander Pope
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - Diction and Doctrine 1
  • II - The Vital Flame: An Interpretative Study 15
  • III - Symbolic Eternities: An Introduction to 'the Temple of Fame' 77
  • IV - The Book of Life: On Byron's Adulation of Pope 111
  • V - Afterthoughts 163
  • Index 183
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