Alexander pope: a life

Maynard Mack was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University and an illustrious authority on Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Professor Maynard Mack was a affiliate of the Yale University for forty-five years. He began as an instructor in 1936 giving English lectures. Also, during the 1960’s he was the administrator of the English section and in 1965 he was titled Sterling Professor. He died wen he was ninety in New Haven. But it is important to mention that he was as well a productive author, whose books counted: “ King Lear in Our Time”, “ The Last and Greatest Art”, “ Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies” and “ Alexander Pope: A life”; which is the book I am going to talk about. Alexander Pope was born in London in a Roman Catholic family, but in 1700 he moved to Binfield. When he was a child he suffered a tubercular disease known as Pott’s disease. This ilness produced him a notable spinal curvature. Due to that he never grew much, aproximatly about 4 ft 6 in. Due to his religion he was excluded from a Protestant education and by the age of twelve he was almost completly self-taught. He might be known for his literary about arguments but Pope always had dear friends. During his initial years he counted with William Wycherley and the critic William Walsh as his friends. When he was still a teenager, London Society admitted him as a member and he was supported as a prodigy. The friendship that was not too long was with Joseph Addison and his inner circle. Who after all assaulted Pope’s Tory leanings. His devotion for the Tory party was encouraged by his close friendship with Swift and his attachment with the Scriblerus Club. The poetry of the Pope has basically three phases. The first one consists of the descriptive poetry: “ The Pastorals”(1709); “ “Windsor Forest”(1713); “ Essay on Criticism”(1711), a poem written in couplets emphasizing critical tendency and standards; “ The Rape of the Lock”(1714), a poem satirizing the fashionable world he lived in. He also participated in “ The Guardian”. And finally “ Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady” and “ Eloise to Abelard” which is his only work about love. In 1717 Pope built attachments to Lady Mary Wortley and to Martha Blount. With the first one he will argument later in a bitter way. On the contrary his relationship with Blount will last his whole life. During Pope’s second period he translate in a magnificent way the masterpiece “ Homer” which is written in heroic couplets, he also translate the completed edition of the “ Iliad” and the “ Odyssey”(with the help of William Broome and Elijah Fenton) Thanks to these translations and the poor edition of “ Shakespeare” he got to amassed a huge fortune. He even bought a house in Twickenham for him and his mother in 1719. In the third and last period of his lifework, Pope started to write satires and moral poems. For example “ The Dunciad”(1728-43), a mordant satire in which he harshly attacks his enemies. Like the critic who considered Pope’s Shakespeare edition as unsatisfactory, Lewis Theobald. Other works of this period are; “ Imitations of Horace”(1733-38) in which he makes a denunciation about political corruption. “ An Essay on Man”(1734) a summary of the philosophical speculation in those days. “ Moral Essays”(1731-35) one of his most ambitious labor. And “ Epistle to Arbuthnot”(1735), in which he makes a defense of him and his work through the poetry. Altought Pope has been considered a prominent poet, there were a need of this book in order to remaind it. Because by the eighteenth century new styles of poetry appeared. Ten years after Pope’s death, J. Warton said that Pope’s technique of poetry was not the most exceptional form of art. After that, in the early years of the ninentheet century, the Romantic movement rose, and was more ambivalent to his work. And though Lord Byron considered Pope as one of his main influences(it is said that his satire of contemporary English literature “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” is a continuance of Pope’s knowledge), William Wordsworth determined that Pope’s style was basically too decadent to symbolize the human condition. So in the twentieth century there were many efforts to awake Pope’s reputation and it was pretty successful. Pope’s work was found to be replete of references of people, places and culture of his century, and this is believed to be important for the understanding of the past. The period after the war stressed the power of his poetry and recognised that the immersion of the Pope in the Biblical and Christian tradition gave depth to his poetry. Maynard Mack put a lot of his thouth in Pope’s poetry. He debated that Pope’s vision of the human moral deserved as much respect as his technical brilliance. Maynard Mack’s book “ Alexander Pope: A life” is considered: ” The first complete biography of Pope, the greatest English poet between Milton and Wordsworth, published this century”–Library Journal “ A biography of extraordinary amplitude, both of scale and spirit, its very size reflecting the biographer’s attitude of mind;   the style, comfortably pitched for the general reader who is prepared for the long haul through a thousand-page life, is leisurely, genial, digressive, richly circumstantial.”–Ian Donaldson,  Times Literary Supplement The biography of Alexander Pope by Maynard Mack is one of those works which people talks about and say “ The future generations will consider it as indispensable” or “ This is likely to be the definitive biography”. And it can be true, in a way. In universiy circles have been waiting 20 years for Mack to finish writing it. And know they can read it, but is it indispensable? Well I would recommend it. Mack knew a lot about the eighteenth Century and Pope, it is clear that he has analysed countless files and documents which may not be unknow but must be hard to get. He even has turned up some unpublished plums, for example the correspondece that Pope had with an unknown lady in his last eight years of life. There were letters and poems. [pic] These letters, which could be consideres as erotic in that times, and their meetings is a reminder that writers and poets used to be culture heroes. And it is clear that mack misses that time. He presents Pope as one of the last poets whose opinions counted and who were able to translate the social vision into poetic language which was understood and read. Mack tries to make look Pope as a hero, and where there is a hero, there is a villain. In this case, the “ villain” is Sir Robert Walpole, who was England’s prime minister during Pope’s working like. Walpole is shown as a brutally anti-intellectual leader but brilliant in the politics. As the man who put a wedge between politians and poets. On the opposite side Mack writes about a Pope who is a courageous, humanistic and fearlessly poet. And who will not doubt about struggling political and religious predjudices. Showing Pope as a “ poet hero” is not easy to do. It is true that Pope’s close friends were open with their political ideas during the Walpole years. And the Pope himself was always willing to take the guns of his satiric skills on the Establishment’s army. But his points were usually foot-soldiers; actually most of the casualties in his book “ The Dunciad” were secondary figures at the time While Mack’s knowledge of the past struggles is more than impressive, his persistence on making Pope a kind of hero for our times is exaggerated. In the eighteenth century, the poems were ransacked, for example for evidence of putative feminism. Like in the Pope’s work “ The Rape of the Lock” whose heroine, Belinda is compared to a pro athlete and a rock star So, will this book remain as the definitive biography of Pope? Well I think it will, for some reasons. The interpretaion that Mack makes of Pope is may be too generous, but he certainly knows what he is talking about, and controls the events. Or at least most of them, as he addmits in the books “  ” where Pope himself stood on these matters can probably never be confidently known”. In my opinion, it is a very hepful book, not only because of the information about the society, the culture or the economy that it gives us, but because Pope’s work is easier to understand if you read this book. By knowing aspects of his life and knowing what was going on around him by the time he wrote his works you could get a better understanding of them. For example; we can understand better * “ An Essay on Man” if we know that by that time he had a friendship with the statesman Henry St. John Bolingbroke, who was settled just a few miles away from Twickenham(where Pope lived his last years with his mother). And that friendship simulated his interest in philosophy and guided to the creation of “ An Essay on Man”. Some of the ideas that appear in it were probably reccomended by Henry St. John.(The idea that the happiness in the earth is enough to excused the ways of God to man, was Bolingbroke’s belief). However, the Essay is not philosophy, it is poet way of say that he believes in unity despite differences. The main idea of this worik is the doctrine of plenitude, which the Pope explained by metaphors. * Thanks to “ The Rape of the Lock” Pope was immediately a famous poet. It is a large humorous poem written with the classical techniq The poem is about the attempt of a man to achieve the lock of hair from his loved’s head. And i. It was based on a true fact, that happened to people from his circle. * In 1725, Pope’s volumes on the works of Shakespeare were published, and this edition was attacked by Lewis Theobald in “ Shakespeare Restored”. The Pope was upset because of that so he as his revenge, he made Theobald the hero of “ The Dunciad”. Now we know that Pope used this book as a personal satire so he could have his vendetta. Although, this was also a result of his distate for the process by which writers who were a waste gained non deserve literary important. The parody of the classic epic is followed by mock-heroic components, like the intervention of a goddes, the games of the second book and the vision of future glories or the trip to the underworld So, as we can appreciate in the las examples, “ Alexander Pope: A life” helps us to have a complete understanding of Pope’s poetry. Bibligraphy: “ Alexander Pope: A life” (1985) Maynard Mack “ Rape of the Lock” (1712) Alexander Pope “ The Dunciad” Alexander Pope “ Essay on Man”(1732-1734) Alexander Pope Yale University Press, “ Alexander Pope” “ Alexander Pope: a life by Maynard Mack(Yale University)” Los Angeles Times