Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: The major English poet in the neoclassical tradition, Pope also wrote critical introductions to his edition of the works of William Shakespeare and his translation of Homer’s Iliad and took up important critical concepts in An Essay on Criticism and certain others of his works in both verse and prose.
Alexander Pope was born May 21, 1688, in London, of Roman Catholic parents, his father being a well-to-do merchant. When he was small, the family moved, apparently first to Hammersmith, and then, in 1698, to a small house on a large property at Binfield in Windsor Forest. The move from London was partly or wholly to avoid what had become a law forbidding Roman Catholics to live within ten miles of Hyde Park Corner in London. Pope attended two Catholic schools, one near the home in Binfield, the other, oddly, at Hyde Park Corner. His regular schooling ended at age twelve. At about that age he became afflicted with Pott’s disease, a lifelong problem both because of frequent serious pain and because it left him a humpbacked dwarf.
Pope turned to writing verse in early adolescence, having read widely in classical, French, English, and some Italian literature. An early poem, which he sent to Henry Cromwell in 1709, made him known to a...
(The entire section is 1920 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
The two most important elements in Alexander Pope’s life were his being born a Catholic and his contracting, during his twelfth year, a severe tubercular infection from which he never fully recovered. Because of his Catholicism, Pope was compelled to live outside London and was not allowed to enroll in a formal university program. Because of his illness, Pope attained a height of only four and a half feet, suffered from migraine headaches, was obliged to wear several pairs of hose and an elaborate harness to compensate for the slightness of his legs and the curvature of his spine, and was subject to frequent and caustic ridicule by critics, such as John Dennis, who directed their rancor at his physical deformities as much as at his poetic efforts. Pope’s physical ailments and the acrimony with which political and literary pundits attacked both his person and his work should never be forgotten in evaluating, say, the optimistic faith of An Essay on Man or the acidulous satire of The Dunciad. The affirmations of the former poem were not written out of ignorance of human suffering, and the vituperations of the latter poem cannot be understood apart from the contumely that Pope suffered at the hands of his adversaries—Lady Mary Wortley Montague, Lord Hervey, John Dennis, Joseph Addison, and Lewis Theobald, to name a few. Pope’s reference in Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot to “this long disease, my life,” is no literary confabulation but an...
(The entire section is 591 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Alexander Pope was born in the City of London, England, on May 21, 1688, the year of the Glorious Revolution. He was the only child of Catholic parents. The Pope family lived on Lombard Street until Alexander was five years old. A portrait of him painted when he was about ten shows his face to be round, pretty, and of a fresh complexion. Later, an illness disfigured him. In the same year that he was born, an act of Parliament prohibited Catholics from living within ten miles of the City of London. This act became a major factor in determining the course of Pope’s life.
Pope received his first education when he was about eight years old from a priest named John Banister. Later, he attended Twyford School near Winchester, a school for Catholic boys. At the age of twelve, Pope’s father decided to move the family from London in order to conform to the act restricting Catholics. Whitefield House and seventeen acres of land in Windsor Forest near Binfield became the new home. This move brought Pope’s formal education to an end, and thereafter he educated himself. About 1704, at the age of sixteen and now suffering from the dreaded Pott’s disease, a form of spinal tuberculosis, he thought he was about to die. His farewell to the Abbe Southcote caused him to secure the services of Dr. John Radcliffe, an eminent physician of the day, who successfully...
(The entire section is 1181 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Like other significant writers of his time, Alexander Pope’s life revolved around the London literary scene and his wide circle of friends. Among his most important works are An Essay on Criticism, The Rape of the Lock, and The Dunciad. Through his early fancy to his more mature universal satire, Pope created for his time a true reflection of society. He is firmly established as one of the truly outstanding poets of English literature.
(The entire section is 75 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Alexander Pope, who became known as the “prose and reason” poet, was the son of a prosperous linen merchant and his second wife. The fact that Pope’s parents were Roman Catholics had a bearing on his education and economic and social status. Schools and universities were closed to him, he could not buy or inherit land, he paid double taxes, and he could not legally live within ten miles of London. He was educated at irregular times by private tutors, usually priests, but for the most part he “dipped into a great number of English, French, Italian, Latin and Greek poets.” This was no meager education in itself, for poets of the early 1700’s copied many forms and ideas from the classical writers of ancient Rome; not for nothing was the period called the Augustan age.
At the age of twelve a serious illness left Pope a hunchbacked cripple, standing four feet, six inches tall. Nevertheless, before he was seventeen he was admitted into the society of London wits, and men of fashion encouraged this young prodigy. By the time he was thirty he was acclaimed the chief poet of his times.
Pope’s first important publication was his Pastorals in 1709. Two years later, at the age of twenty-three, he published An Essay on Criticism, which is typical of the eighteenth century “salon”-type verse. Here Pope gives some of his...
(The entire section is 748 words.)