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Alexander Pope: A Life Summary

Updated on September 14, 2017

Pope was born in London in 1688 of a Roman Catholic family. From early childhood he suffered numerous health problems, including a form of tubercolosis affecting the spine which deformed his body and stunted his growth. Perhaps as a result of this condition, the poet was hypersensitive and exceptionally irritable all his life. Pope's faith prevented him from attending public schools, so he was privately educated; but his refined education was above all the result of his personal efforts and his wide reading. Pope was a very precocious poet: he began to write at the age of sixteen. His literary career began when the playwright William Wycherley, pleased by Alexander's verse, introduced him into the circle of fashionable London wits and writers, who welcomed him as a prodigy. He soon reached fame and became largely appreciated. Pope made friends with the Tory writers, John Gay, Jonathan Swift and John Arbuthnot, as well as the Whigs, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. In 1712, Pope, Gay, Swift, Arbuthnot and Parnell formed the Scriblerus Club. The aim of the club was to satirize ignorance and pedantry. Pope's literary success enabled him to make a living exclusively by his works. In 1719 the poet bought a country-house at Twickenham, west of London, on the River Thames, where he retired and spent his time working and receiving the visits of the eminent personalities of the time. Pope's health, which had never been good, was failing and in 1744 he died in his villa surrounded by friends. He lies buried in the nave of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Twickenham.


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