Alexander Pope - Biography and Works

Alexander Pope was the most influential poet and critic of the 18th century or the neoclassical period of English literature. He is the first professional poet of English literature also. Because the Catholics were not allowed to live within ten miles of London, his family had to move to a village.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

The London society was extremely degraded, immoral and snobbish. The upper-class was corrupted, lazy and vain. Ladies did nothing more than gossip and make-up. Even the royal family and ministers were no better. In general, the people of London gave too much attention to the small and needless things of outward show; they confused the meaningful and meaningless things in life. Pope wrote powerful satires about that corrupted culture. He wrote in heroic couplets, with two rhymed lines of 10 syllables each. His polished, concise verse shows a keen feeling for sound and rhythm. Pope has become one of the most quotable poets. He wrote many famous lines, including a couplet from An Essay on Criticism.

Pope's careers can be divided into three periods. During the first period, from about 1709 to 1717, he wrote An Essay on Criticism (1711). This witty poem about criticism and writing made him famous at the age of 23. Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1712) is the most famous mock-epic poem in the English language. In the poem, Pope satirizes the vanities of fashionable people. It tells about a pretty young woman whose lock of hair is snipped off by a suitor at a party. The Rape of the Lock is a parody of classical epic, which parodies the phony culture of London in the grand language of the epic.

During the second period, from 1715 to 1726, Pope devoted him to translating and editing. His translation of the Greek epic poem Iliad (1715-1720) made him financially independent. With the profits Pope bought a villa at Twickenham in 1719, and spent most of his remaining years there writing.

During the last period, Pope wrote his most serious satires. They express his belief in the value of common sense, a moral life, friendship, poetry and good taste. An Essay on Man (1733-1734) is a long, ironic, philosophical poem. Pope's four Moral Essays (1731-1735) are satirical poems in the form of letters. One of these poems lightly exposes the follies that Pope saw in women, and other ridicules people who misuse wealth.

Pope’s last major works was The Dunciad (1728-1743), an attack on dunces. The poem ridicules dull writers, biased critics, overly scholarly professors, and stupid scientists. Pope particularly ridiculed the critic Lewis Theobald and the writer Colley Cibber.

Pope was born in London and at age of 12, he suffered a tubercular spinal infection. As a result, he grew to an adult height of only 4 feet 6 inches (137 centimeters) and developed a hunchback. Pope was extremely sensitive about his appearance. He died in his villa on 30th May 1744.

Cite this Page!

Sharma, K.N. "Alexander Pope - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 20 Oct. 2013,