Summary and Info
This is the first study to assess the entire career of Alexander Pope (1688-1744) in relation to the political issues of his time. While much has been written on the politics of Pope, most of this relates to his possible Jacobite sympathies and his involvement in the opposition to Sir Robert Walpole in the 1730s. This new biography covers the whole range of the poet's life, starting with his family background and the extended Catholic circle in which he continued to move, an important factor in the making of The Rape of the Lock. Analysis of subscription lists for the Homer and Shakespeare ventures makes possible a more rounded account of his connections among the political class. The book shows for the first time the continuing impact on his work of party divisions in London (deriving partly from his father's career as a merchant) and offers a fresh reading of The Dunciad as a commentary on City politics. It brings out a sustained commentary on the fortunes of the Tory party, especially the fate of Robert Harley, Matthew Prior and Francis Atterbury, which supplies a hidden subtext in the Epistle to Bathurst. The longstanding quarrel with the publisher Edmund Curll is seen to connect in unexpected ways with the public dramas of the day. While the book gives detailed attention to Pope's poetry and prose, exploring both major and minor texts, it draws on his own letters, together with the correspondence of friends such as Jonathan Swift, John Gay and Dr John Arbuthnot. A wide-ranging scan has been made of newspapers and pamphlets of the time, yielding several new findings, and extensive research into unpublished archives such as wills, marriage settlements and court records has provided new insights into the world in which Pope operated. The treatment naturally incorporates discussion of the work of previous scholars on aspects of Pope, including Maynard Mack, Howard Erskine-Hill, Howard Weinbrot and Christine Gerrard, but it seeks to offer a fuller picture of the poet's response to the wider world. It considers not just ideology but also the actions and commitments of Pope in real-life situations.