Alexander Pope


1688

21 May: AP born. His father, a linen-draper, is 42, his mother 46. Both are Roman Catholics, and his father, Alexander Sr., retires from business after his son's birth, because a new act of Parliament prohibited Catholics from living within ten miles of London.

1696-1700

AP is tutored at home by a priest, and then enrolled in two Catholic schools, but he is largely self-educated. Being RC, he is unable to attend University, or pursue a career in law or medicine or the Clergy. He can read Latin, Greek, French and Italian while still very young.

1700

The Pope family moves out of London.

1705

Contracts a tubercular bone disease, attributed at the time to his "perpetual application" to his studies. Attacks of this disease will recur at intervals throughout what he would refer to as "this long Disease, my Life." It leaves him frail, prone to various other illnesses, humpbacked, and permanently stunted: fully grown, he will attain a height of only four and one-half feet.

1709

The "Pastorals," his first published works.

1711

"Essay on Criticism" published anonymously. It is furiously attacked in print by John Dennis, a famous literary critic of the day whom AP satirizes in the poem. Dennis retaliates by referring to AP as a "hump-backed toad," but the "Essay" brings him to the attention of Swift, Addison, Gay, Parnell, Oxford, and Steele, all Tory members of the Martinus Scriblerus Club.

1712

At the suggestion of John Caryll, a friend and a member of the circle of prominent Catholics which centered on the Englefields and the Blounts, AP writes and publishes the first version of "The Rape of the Lock," ostensibly to reconcile two prominent but feuding Catholic families.

1714

Publishes a more complex version of "The Rape of the Lock."

1715-1720

Begins work on his verse translation of Homer's Iliad (which, with his translation of The Odyssey, written in collaboration with William Broome and Elijah Fenton, would be the great literary labor of his life) and which, published at intervals over the years, in six volumes, was also a great popular and financial success.

1717

Collected Works, v. 1 published.

Father dies.

1718

Leases the villa of Twickenham on the Thames near Richmond, where he moves with his widowed mother: Over the years he entertains his friends there, and oversees the construction of his famous grotto. He is the first author in English history to be able to sustain himself financially entirely on the profits derived from the publication of his own works.

1725

Publishes his edition of Shakespeare's Works, and the first three volumes of his translation of The Odyssey also appear.

1726

Final three volumes of The Odyssey published.

1727

He and Swift publish the first two volumes of their Miscellanies, and AP himself works on his Dunciad.

1728

The final volume of the Swift-Pope Miscellanies appears.

1733

First three epistles of An Essay on Man are published anonymously.

Mother dies.

1734

Fourth epistle of the Essay on Man appears, also anonymously.

1735

Edmund Curll, perhaps (and this is saying a good deal) the most unscrupulous publisher of his day, brings out an expurgated and incomplete edition of AP's letters; an edition which appeared to be unauthorized. However, AP initiated the work himself, carefully edited all of the letters, and himself put them in Curll's hands.

Collected Works, v. 2 published.

1737

AP produces an "authorized" version of his letters, and, when his authorship of the Essay on Man is acknowledged, he comes under vehement attack for the religious views he expressed there.

1743

Final version of The Dunciad, in 4 volumes.

1744

30 May: Dies at Twickenham.



True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence —
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.


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