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Matthew Arnold's really rather offhand judgement, already referred to, set a new and unfortunate tone for Pope-criticism in the later nineteenth century, from which the twentieth was slow to emancipate itself. The studies of Lytton Strachey and Dame Edith Sitwell, written during the period of reaction against Victorianism which followed the First World War, read to-day somewhat like the efforts of literary dandies, self-consciously embracing an unpopular position. More substantial work, however, was to be done by such critics and scholars as Professor Bonamy Dobrée, Professor Geoffrey Tillotson, Mr. Norman Ault and Professor John Butt. To these we may add the highly individual, but imaginative and stimulating interpretation of Mr. G. Wilson Knight. The fresh and much more balanced and informed appreciation of Pope that has thus grown up, is typified by the magnificent Twickenham Edition of his writings to whose extremely full notes I must acknowledge my indebtedness. It is an edition fully worthy of a great poet.

For Pope's reputation to-day once more stands high-probably higher than it has for two centuries. Although the values of the twentieth century are very different from those of the eighteenth, we nevertheless need to make less of a historical adjustment of attitude than did our grandparents to appreciate his poetry. We have seen the harm which, carried to extremes, Romantic emotional self-indulgence can bring out, and are the more disposed to accept writing which, though passion is not banished from it, nevertheless remains cool, detached and ironic—yet at the same time morally committed. Furthermore, as we have already remarked, Pope's strenuous opposition in his maturer work to the corruption of standards brought about by the commercialization of literature remains of immense contemporary urgency. Pope is a poet who can be read and re-read with increasing pleasure. At first one is probably most taken with the brilliance of his wit and the immense technical skill of his versification. But as one gets to know his poetry better, and as one's own experience of life increases, one is more and more struck by the truth and accuracy—often the daring

accuracy of his insights into human nature and society. "The proper study of mankind,' he wrote, 'is Man.' Of the study of Man, as a social being, his own poetry remains a magnificent exemplar. It is complemented, not abrogated, by the additional study which the great Romantics were to make of Man as the eternal solitary.


The Poems of Alexander Pope (The Twickenham Edition, General Editor John Butt, Six Volumes, 1940-60; One volume edition, 1963).

Samuel Johnson, 'Life of Pope' in Lives of the Poets, edited by G. Birkbeck Hill (Oxford, 1905).

Leslie Stephen, Pope (English Men of Letters Series, 1880).

Edith Sitwell, Alexander Pope (1934).

George Sherburn, The Early Career of Alexander Pope (1934).

Norman Ault, New Light on Pope (1949).

Bonamy Dobrée, Alexander Pope (1951).

Geoffrey Tillotson, On the Poetry of Pope (Revised Edition, 1950).

G. Wilson Knight, The Laureate of Peace (1954).

A. L. Williams, Pope's Dunciad (1955).

F. R. Leavis, Revaluations (1936).

Ian Jack, Augustan Satire: Intention and Idiom (1951).

Brigid Brophy, Mozart the Dramatist (1964).

As well as a general analysis of 18th century culture, contains a free interpretation of The Rape of the Lock.

Extract from

The Fourth Pastoral

Daphne is Dead

Ye gentle Muses, leave your crystal spring,
Let Nymphs and Sylvans cypress garlands bring;
Ye weeping Loves, the stream with myrtles hide,
And break your bows, as when Adonis died;
And with your golden darts, now useless grown,
Inscribe a verse on this relenting stone:
'Let nature change, let heav'n and earth deplore,
Fair Daphne's dead, and love is now no more!'

'T is done, and nature's various charms decay,
See gloomy clouds obscure the cheerful day!
Now hung with pearls the dropping trees appear,
Their faded honours scatter'd on her bier.
See, where on earth the flow'ry glories lie,
With her they flourish'd, and with her they die.
Ah what avails the beauties nature wore?
Fair Daphne's dead, and beauty is no more!
For her the flocks refuse their verdant food,
Nor thirsty heifers seek the gliding flood.
The silver swans her hapless fate bemoan,

In notes more sad than when they sing their own;
In hollow caves sweet Echo silent lies,
Silent, or only to her name replies;

Her name with pleasure once she taught the shore,
Now Daphne's dead, and pleasure is no more!

No grateful dews descend from evʼning skies,
Nor morning odours from the flow'rs arise;



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