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Biography of Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

At 6:45PM on May 21, 1688, Alexander Pope was born. His father, Alexander Pope, was a linen merchant married to his second wife and Pope's mother, Edith Turner Pope.

As a child Alexander had many troubles. He survived being trampled on by a cow and also struggled with Potts' Disease, tuberculosis of the spine (which deformed and stunted his growth -- he never grew beyond 1.37 meters [4ft. 6in.]), as well as having crippling headaches throughout his life.

Pope was educated mostly at home, partly due to laws upholding the Church of England. He began writing at the age of twelve, however his first publication, An Essay on Criticism came in 1711, when he was 23. His next contribution, The Rape of the Lock, came just one year later in 1712 (revised in 1714) and his most popular poem, Eloisa to Abelard and Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady came in 1717.

From 1715 to 1720, Pope worked on translating Homer's lliad. With its success, along with William Broome and Elijah Fenton, Pope translated Odyssey between 1725 and 1726. With that, Pope became the first English poet to ever live off the sales of his works alone. "Indebted to no prince or peer alive" he stated.

During the same period, Pope brought out an edition of Shakespeare, which "regularised" his meter and verse in several places. This led Lewis Theobald and other scholars to attack Pope's edition incouraging him to write the satire The Dunciad, the first of his moral and satiric poems, in 1728.

Pope's other major contributions were Moral Essays (1731-1735), Imitations of Horace (1733-1738), Epistle to Arbuthnot (1735) and Essay on Man (1734).

Pope went on to befriend Jonathan Swift and in the 1720s they formed the Scriblerus Club with John Gay and others.

Alexander Pope died on May 30, 1744. He was only 56, a week and a few days.

Poems by Alexander Pope