Alexander Pope

Born: 21-05-1688, London
Died: 30-05-1744, Twickenham


The poet Alexander Pope was born on May 21st, 1688. He was the son of a linen merchant, Alexander Pope Sr and Edith Turner. Because of the Test Acts, the education of Pope was different. The family were Catholics and based on this Test Act of 1673, it wasn’t allowed for Catholics to attend any school. Therefore, Pope received his education from his aunt, Christiana Cooper. She was married to the miniature painter Samuel Cooper. Afterwards, he was sent to two Catholics schools in London, who were illegal, but tolerated.

The Pope family moved to a small estate in Berkshire (Popeswood, Binfield). This was the cause because of the legislation. Catholics weren’t allowed to live within 16 kilometres (ten miles) from London or Westminster. At that time, Pope started writing poetry and his poem Windsor Forest is inspired by the landscape. He did not receive more education and started reading work of important writers. He studied several languages, including Latin, Greek and Italian. He began to show interest in poetry and made friends in the literary world of that time. Some of his friends included John Caryll, Samuel Garth and William Walsh.

It was Caryll who introduced Pope to poetry. His friends looked beyond his appearance that must have been remarkable. Pope had Pott’s disease when he was twelve years old. As a result, his height was about 1.37 m.

Since Pope was Catholic, he wasn’t allowed to participate in society. This made him more a less a loner. He was forced to stay in for many years. Pott’s disease wasn’t the only health issue, he was struggling with. Even with the way Catholics were treated, Pope managed to get his work published. In 1709, the poem Pastorals was published in Tonson’s Poetical Miscellanies. The poem made Pope a famous man.

Around the time his work An essay of criticism was published, 1711, he made more friends: John Gray, Thomas Parnell and Jonathan Swift. They formed the Scriblerus Club and wrote satirical verses and essays. He wasn’t allowed to enjoy his fame. Again, the laws became stricter and the political climate changed after the death of Queen Anne.

Although the climate changed, he was able to publish his work, with a lot of difficulties this involved. As of 1738, Pope began to write less. In the last years of his life, he wrote the book The Dunciad Book Four (1742). In 1744, his health was failing and he died on May 29.


Image credit

The image used in this article is a painting by Michael Dahl. The source of this image is Wikimedia Commmons.

Poems published on this website

Alexander Pope
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Alexander Pope
Read the biography of the English poet Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744).
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The Ministry of Poetic Affairs

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