Alexander Pope

An Exploration of ‘dulness’ in Pope’s Dunciad

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

One of Pope’s most fundamental premises in The Dunciad is the idea that the demise of the word cannot be blamed solely on the Grub Street hacks but also on academicians at large. Not only does the ‘uncreating word’ of Chaos (IV 653) pose as a religious and moral Armageddon – this allusion to the reinstatement of conditions that existed before creation being perhaps the most sinister image in the poem’s entirety – but also as a semantic and creative apocalypse. The textual critics such as the Tibbaldian hero of the previous editions of The Dunciad, clearly contribute to this dissolution, and their effect on the author’s ‘wits’ whom they study is violent and brutal:

When Dulness, smiling – ‘Thus revive the Wits!

But murder first, and mince them all to bits…

…Let standard authors, thus, like trophies born,

Appear more glorious as more hack’d and torn,

And you, my Critics! in the chequer’d shade,

Admire new light through holes yourselves have made. (IV 119-126)

Among the vast army of personae attacked by Pope in The Dunciad, two characters, Dr Busby and Richard Bentley are satirised at some length and as such, are held as the arch propagators of academic Dulness. Being projected very much as Dulness’ chief representative in schools, Busby’s heavy pedantry and a heavier hand is shown to debar pupils from genuine enlightenment:

We ply the Memory, we load the brain,

Bind rebel Wit, and double chain on chain,

Confine the thought, to exercise the breath;

And keep them in the pale of Words till death.

What’er the talents, or how’er design’d,

We hang one jingling padlock on the mind. (IV 157-162)

Warburton’s annotations to these lines likens the versified mnemonics in rote-learning as practiced by Dr Busby in Winchester to the bells put onto draught horses’ bridles, emphasises Pope’s own satire of an inescapable academic world in which, words instead of being a means to knowledge, are built into a barrier against it. This idea of textual Dulness as repressive, burdensome, and imprisoning has also been presented earlier to the reader:

Beneath her footstool, Science groans in chains,

And Wit dreads exile, penalties, and pains.

There foam’d rebellious Logic , gagg’d and bound,

There, stripp’d, fair Rhet’ric languish’d on the ground (IV 21-24)

But Pope’s satire extends beyond Busby’s stick-wielding classroom habits to political Dulness, immaturity and consequently independence, in the sense that the ‘Boy-Senator’, even after leaving school, still cringes in fear of being punished. As Valerie Rumbold notes, “…when such young men leave school Walpole takes on the absolute power of a Busby over them, making nonsense of their supposed role as representatives of a free people.” Pope seems to suggest that this education can be of little use as it takes no more account of the varying demands life will make on the students than it does of their varying talents. Seemingly, Busby’s academic Dulness not only stunts free-thinking creative growth, but also his influence resurfaces as a debilitating trait in his students later on in their careers.

Yet another perfect bte noire for the ‘ancients’ such as Pope, Bentley’s mangling of the text of Milton’s Paradise Lost is also exemplary for corrupting words in what is considered to be a superficial, unnecessary, and irrelevant exercise:

Turn what they will to verse, their toil is vain,

Critics like me shall make it prose again. (IV 213-214)

Bentley’s enlightened concern with accuracy is deliberately confounded with his Enlightenment arrogance, his inability to allow the dead poet his autonomy. As J. Philip Brockbank notes, “Our education, as transmitters of literary tradition, have some place in the creation story, and their function, according to Pope, has been to subdue all creative art to dullness.”

Having once censured ‘Dunce’ scholars such as Bentley and Theobald who either over-analyse texts (particularly problematic if the mistakes found therein are from Pope’s own works) or fragment literature to a series of meaningless words and disjointed letters, which cease therefore to signify, (“Tis true, on words is still our whole debate,/ Disputes of Me or Te , of aut or at,/ To sound or sink in cano , O or A,/ Or give up Cicero to C or K” {IV 219-222}) Pope’s satire on Dulness is further applied to the incongruity of things.

The way the characters in The Rape of the Lock attach immoderate importance to particular objects (the lock of hair itself), is one of Pope’s chief sources of social and cultural comment. In it, there is also a tendency for routine objects to be invested with almost religious significance and to be registered as precious or attractive. The same method is employed in The Dunciad, but the transitions which the objects experience are different. As critic Martin Blocksidge notes, “Wherein The Rape of the Lock the trivial was made significant, in The Dunciad, the potentially significant is trivialised in order to present a view of culture and learning which has become fatally fragmented and concerned with mere shards rather than with real objects.”

The whole superficiality of learning and apprehension is summed up in Pope’s treatment of the young man undertaking his grand tour. Pope offers a criticism of tourists which has with time become commonplace enough: that they are likely to visit places simply for the joy of having been there, rather than because they are particularly well equipped to get anything out of what they see. Pope’s ‘young Aeneas’ makes a breezy whistle-stop tour of Europe:

Intrepid then, o’er seas and lands he flew,

Europe he saw, and Europe saw him too…(IV 293-294)

Not only are Europe’s cultural monuments cheapened by the young man’s indiscriminating avidity before them (‘The Stews and Palace equally explor’d/ Intrig’d with glory, and with spirit whor’d’ {315-6}), some are degraded by time anyway. For example, the once-great city of Venice is now merely effete and vicious:

Where, eas’d of Fleets, the Adriatic main

Wafts the smooth Eunuch and enamour’d swain.

Led by my hand, he saunter’d Europe round,

And gather’d ev’ry Vice on Christian ground; (IV 309-312)

Introducing a satirical account of what was considered to be a necessary part in the completion of the education of the member of the ruling class in the eighteenth century, this Grand Tour did little to mature the minds of the young travellers but instead was blamed for introducing foreign corruption into politics, religion and culture, as well as allowing the men to indulge in unrestrained debauchery in a city of decadent carnivals involving masking and fancy dress. And Venice, in ‘dull’ decline despite a proud tradition of liberty, can furthermore also be seen as a specific warning to Britain.

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Review of the Poem “An Essay on Man” by Alexander Pope

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

“An Essay on Man A” Alexander Pope A Understand yourself as god will be able to accept you and begin to study you. Humans tend to believe they are the best but not quite. A man is just worthless, not understanding how much that impacts him as they decide from evil and good. If man were to commit to evil, they would have a reason for such; instead it was intelligent or not.

Humans tend to realize what effect they have R What one of my conclusions lead to a theme was when the pope decides that happiness is just another ex off. consciousness If only man and women were to live and treat gods ruling with open ears, all is happy and understands the world along with its system T The tone of the poem comes from telling us what people are in reality. The objective is where men and women and their place in our world. As the pope states that man is placed here but doesn’t know what a mans place or why man was set here, to begin with. The pope uses greek god mythology to explain and shows that society is not defined. What the pope is describing is how everyone has great qualities that everyone wants rather than the bad attributes the rest as along with them. W I’ve found some lines that I can quite understand and make points about. In lines 5-6are quite interesting. It is in a sense that number 5 shows a man that’s great and smart, just about perfect. In front 6 it explains how the other is weak. With both lines side by side, I believe it shows how man is weak yet man is also strong showing one good quality over the other, but then something changes on line 7.

Another person or man is between both the people as if he was stuck but not stuck, another example of how man is in the middle. Essay on Man is nine heroic couplets, 18 lines -a heroic couplet is a stanza consisting of two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter, some type of repeat into the rhyme scheme S It has a clear message in the entire poem. It starts by expelling some kind of a lousy intelligence as well as a sort of rude but grateful gesture and how man is somewhat smart and capable of problems but yet weak in its environment but finished with a calm man and a man that understands gods will. The poem itself is quite small but packs a ton of meaning into it as it expresses itself onto the reader as the reader must be open-minded to truly understand what the poem is attempting to speak out to the reader and being able to grasp all of its information CS.

In conclusion, this poem is represented as how a man is stuck between being perfect and imperfect. As it shows evidence as for how the poem wants a man to become just in between rather than attached and hopes to have all men freed into oblivious.

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Analysis of “An Essay on Man”

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The assertion of the first epistle of Pope’s “An Essay on Man” is that man has too narrow a perspective to truly understand God’s plan, and his goal is to “vindicate the ways of God to man” (Pope 16). The ignorance of man befits his place in the order of creation, and his confusion conceals the harmony of that order. The individual lines of this epistle appear to present a fatalistic universe, devoid of free will, where all things are fated to happen. Although if the work is viewed as a whole, Pope’s optimism shows through.

Pope begins by explaining that he can only comment on what can be known by man. “Through worlds unnumbered though the God be known,/’Tis ours to trace him only in our own” (1.21-22). Even though the universe my hold many worlds, only Earth can be known to man. It is the only frame of reference that Pope could write about, and his audience be made to understand. He advises his readers to put aside their hubris and consider “Is the great chain, that draws all to agree,/And drawn supports, upheld by God or thee?” (1.33-34). Only after man puts aside his ego and contemplates “the great chain,” will he be able to understand his place in God’s plan.

By saying, “Then say not man’s imperfect, Heaven in fault;/Say rather, man’s as perfect as he ought” (2.69-70), Pope is trying to illustrate that even perceived imperfection is part of the plan. Human imperfection should not be seen as a slight by God, but as a necessity. The epistle also states, “What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,/But gives that hope to be thy blessing now” (3.93-94), showing that human happiness is dependent on both hope and ignorance of the future. Mankind should not spend all its time trying to guess what God has planned, but merely have faith that life shall work out the way it should.

Pope shows his contempt for man’s pride by stating, “Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,/Redjudge his justice, be the God of God!/In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies” (4.121-123). Man is unwise to think that his ability to reason puts him on the same level as God, “And who but wishes to invert the laws/Of order, sins against the Eternal Cause” (4.129-130). This hubris is what leads to man’s unhappiness, because “to reason right is to submit” (5.164). If God is a perfect being, then man should accept that perfection and not question the direction the universe takes.

By stating, “the first Almighty Cause/Acts not by partial, but by general laws” (5.145-146), Pope is trying to make his readers understand that humans are not the whole of creation, and creation was not created wholly for them. There is an order to creation, where each position is filled by the correct life form. Man is where he should be in “the great chain” and should not envy the beasts below him or question God above. “The bliss of man […]/Is not to act or think beyond mankind’/No powers of body or of soul to share,/But what his nature and his state can bear” (6.189-192). This acceptance of creation is the key to man’s happiness, and that happiness is threatened by man’s ability to think and reason.

“Where, one step broken, the great scale’s destroyed:/From Nature’s chain whatever link you strike,/Ten or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike” (8.244-246). So if one rises above or falls below their position in God’s order, it will destroy the whole of the plan. It then becomes clear that wanting to subvert God’s plan, even to the benefit of mankind, is madness. Instead man should come to understand “All are but parts one stupendous whole,/Whose body Nature is, and God the soul” (9.265-266). So, one should not fear or doubt, but admit they are powerless and accept their place in creation.

Although Pope’s language is harsh and seemingly fatalistic, a critical reading of the first epistle to “An Essay on Man” shows his optimism in God’s plan. Pope appears to believe that not only does God have a plan, but that plan serves the best interest of the whole of creation. Just because man has difficulties accepting his place in the plan, does not mean the plan is flawed, merely that man must accept that he is not the sole beneficiary. After all, “One truth is clear: Whatever is, is right” (10.292).

Works Cited

Pope, Alexander. “An Essay on Man.” Eds. Paul Davis, et al. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Book 4. Boston: Edford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 260-267. Print.

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Fortasse, Pope, Idcirco Nulla Tibi Umquam Nupsit (The Rape of the Lock)

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Alexander Pope is known for his scathing but intelligent critiques of high English society. His acclaimed poem The Rape of the Lock does support female passivity and subordination in marriage; however, the fact that they are endorsed in Pope’s satirical world demonstrates his detestation of these ideas, and more importantly, of the society (comprised of both males and females) that upholds these conventions.

In many aspects Belinda is infantilized; her judgment and intelligence reduced to that of a child and subject to an authority figure of some sort. For example, Pope writes: “Some secret truths, from learned pride concealed/ To maids alone and children are revealed” (ROTL 1.37-38). Here, the “learned pride” represents the men, who, for all their erudition, are not privy to the existence of the chimerical creatures. Women, however, are not above believing in the machinery because they are nave as children are. Her “ideas crowd a vacant brain,”(ROTL 1.83) suggesting that she is not capable of any substantial considerations, certainly not anything transcending her “infant thought[s]”(ROTL1.29). Later, she is depicted as juvenile and unreasonable during her crying fit, while the Baron is heroic, surpassing even Aeneas in steadfastness for his refusal to return the lock of hair (ROTL 5.5).

Another way she is compared to a child is her inability to fend for herself and thus needing the Sylphs, who “guard the purity of melting maids” (ROTL 1.71). Belinda was “claimed” (ROTL 1.105) by Ariel, which demonstrates how the woman is not only objectified by the men she encounters, but by the Sylphs as well. Although it is specified that their sex is interchangeable, Ariel, the Sylph chiefly responsible for Belinda’s well-being, is identified as a male with the masculine pronoun “he” (ROTL 1.115, etc.). By defining Ariel as a man, Pope places Belinda under the care of yet another virile figure.

An important aspect of the child/woman comparison is that the ignorance is attributed to innocence. This is meant to demonstrate the virtue and sexual purity a woman was expected to possess, but this wholesomeness is undermined throughout the poem by the repeated suggestions of Belinda’s sexual desire and even the satiation of this desire. First, the poet describes how a “birthnight beau…even in slumber caused her cheek to glow.” (ROTL 1.23-24) This hints at sexual desire so potent within Belinda that she cannot escape it while sleeping. Pope’s discussion of female desire extends to the root of it and the facility by which a man can incite it. For example, in Canto 1, Lines 86-90 Pope writes:

And in soft sounds, ‘your Grace’ salutes their ear

‘Tis these that early taint the female soul,

Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to know,

And little hearts to flutter at a beau.”

The lines suggest that flattery “taints” the female soul from youth. Additionally, their blushing cheeks and fluttering hearts denote the awakening of their passions. Belinda’s yearning is mostly fiercely attacked in lines 105-110. Here Pope juxtaposes her honor to a brocade. This implies that her worldly goods (a brocade was usually made of rich fabric and were very expensive) were esteemed on the same level as her nobility. Next, it indicates that her honor would be as easy to stain as an article of clothing. The point that Pope makes in his mentions of female desire is that attention is sought more than sexual gratification. For instance, Belinda is described as having “a thirst of fame” (ROTL 3.25) when she sits to play ombre with the knights. Pope’s use of sexually charged vocabulary (“thirst”, “invites”, and “burns”) implies that her attention mongering is as satisfying as a sexual experience.

The act of cutting the lock itself is the greatest statement on female compliance. The Baron is glorified for acting in the name of love in Canto Two, lines 30-34:

He saw, he wished, and to the prize aspired.

Resolved to win, he meditates the way.

By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;

For when success a lover’s toil attends,

Few ask if fraud or force attained his ends.

The diction in these lines demonstrates how the Baron saw Belinda as a trophy to be won by any means. Later, he boasts of his conquest, claiming that “so long [his] honor, name, and praise shall live!” (ROTL 4.169) Although the act is not worthy of the uproar expressed in the mock epic, it would be contestable even in modern times. Instead of facing any retribution, he was exculpated from the opening lines of the poem when his motives for the assault are explained to be no stranger than those that “Could make a gentle belle reject a lord” (ROTL 1.9-10) Belinda cements the notion in her last speech when she voices the notion that “she who scorns a man must die a maid” (ROTL 5.28). The assumption in these lines is that a woman is obligated to accept any man that courts her without regard to her personal preferences and that it is dishonorable to die without a husband. Both ideas weaken the woman because they undercut the possibility of an independent woman being socially acceptable in their society. It is here that the reader realizes that the roles of victim and perpetrator are switched and Belinda will assume culpability for everything that happens to her.

Pope makes a strong statement about the role of women in The Rape of the Lock, but it is important to consider that the statement is not encouraging the behavior and standards he presents; rather he condemns those who maintain those conventions. He is not attacking women in general; he is attacking the kind of woman he describes in the mock epic (and probably the kind of woman that rejected him.)

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Allusion and Its Effects in Pope and Johnson

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In some eighteenth century works, the emphasis on alluding to and drawing inspiration from the past proved to be one of the most effective methods in composing a satirical piece. Appearing in two forms, Juvenal or Horatian, a satire is “a poem, or in modern use sometimes a prose composition, in which prevailing vices or follies are held up to ridicule” (Drabble). Alexander Pope’s The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace Imitated alludes to the past as well as the present in a piece representative of Horatian satire. Serving as the example of Juvenalian satire is Samuel Johnson’s London: A Poem, In Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal. The significance of the allusions present in both pieces is central to understanding the overall intention of each satire.

Alexander Pope’s The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace Imitated, published in London in 1733, is Pope’s endeavor to defend himself and his satirizing works, by writing yet another satire (Pope 1-14). In the poem, he defends himself by alluding to some of his previous victims and subjects, declaring satire to be the truth as well as his guilty pleasure and if he ceased to write he would “think/ and for my Soul I cannot sleep a wink/…Fools rush into my head, and so I write” (Pope 29). Writing, particularly of the follies and vices of others is his primary passion. The poem is written as a dialogue between Pope and a friend who acts as his “council learned in the Law” and as Pope justifies his satire, the friend attempts to convince him of the dangers of his writing (Pope 27). Having the piece written as a dialogue allows the reader a chance to hear an outsider’s opinions as the text jumps from the friend’s main concerns followed by Pope’s justifications. Incorporating dialogue between Pope and another into the poem adds an extra dimension to it by allowing the reader to place themselves into the text as a second character in the dialogue.

The controversial nature of his allusions and subjects are the source of the displeasure towards his poems. Arguably, the “precise question is whether Pope’s verses constitute satire or libel” (Maresca 366). Is he merely making a mockery of those included in his works, or is he in fact guilty of slander against them? Pope defends his earlier works, referencing when he wrote satires that seemed “too bold/ Scarce to wise Peter complaisant enough/ And something said of Chartres much too rough” (Pope 27). Pope affirms he wrote satire and not libel since both references were to guilty men, thus Pope “undermines the charge of libel in the very act of presenting it by referring to his attacks” (Maresca 367). Pope believes he is not guilty of libel when the words he wrote were that of public opinion.

He satirizes the traditional poets methods of writing merely for the pleasure and satisfaction of others such as the poet “Sir Richard, rumbling, rough and fierce/ With Arms and George, and Brunswick crowd the Verse”, who writes what Pope considers to be shallow poetry written purely for the affections of royalty (Pope 29). Pope refers to what he sees as lesser poets thus providing an example to further defend that he must be the one to satirize the truth otherwise no one will. The friend encourages Pope to use his poetry to “Let Carolina smooth the tuneful Lay/ Lull with Amelia’s liquid Name the Nine/ And sweetly flow through all the Royal Line” because in immortalizing the royal family he has the greater possibility of immortalizing his own writing (Pope 31). Pope writes poetry in order to give insight into the human condition and to uncover the flaws that exists in everyone. When comparing Pope’s satire to Horace’s original, and in regards to writing poetry for the glorification of royalty, Pope’s and Horace’s “excuse for not writing heroic poetry is literally true of them; their talents are insufficient” (Maresca 386). Pope deems royalty unworthy of such immortalization without just cause.

Pope further alludes to the past when professing his dedication to remaining honest and true in his works:

My Head and Heart thus flowing thro’ my Quill,

Verse-man or Prose-man term me which you will,

Papist or Protestant, or both between,

Like good Erasmus in an honest Mean. (Pope 33)

Erasmus was one of the great sixteenth-century scholars, known for a number works including translations of the Bible and classics that helped revolutionize European literary culture (Drabble). In alluding to Erasmus, Popes draws a comparison between himself and another great intellectual. Erasmus authored The Praise of Folly in 1511 which satirized church dignitaries and theologians (Drabble). Erasmus satirized others and was still considered ‘good’ and ‘honest’, traits which Pope himself wishes he and his satires can be associated with as well. Pope draws from the past in order to compare and relate them both with one another, allowing for the association to positively impact Pope’s own reception with his readers.

Pope further defends his use of satire in the lines:

I only wear it in a Land of Hectors,

Thieves, Supercargoes, Sharpers, and Directors,

Save but our Army! and let Jove incrust

Swords, Pikes, and Guns, with everlasting rust! (Pope 35)

Pope has alluded to the past as well as the present here in order to defend his satire. He uses satire against the “Land of Hectors/ Thieves, Supercargoes, Sharpers, and Directors” who represent the “corrupt and vice-ridden England” that exists in the present (Maresca 390). His inclusion of the government arises from his use of the term “Minister” which “emphasizes the fact that the court is principally responsible for the disorder of England and so indirectly responsible for Pope’s compulsion to write satire” (Maresca 391). Pope cleverly brings the satire full circle in claiming those who criticize his use of it are the sources of his material for writing it. His ultimate defense is that he must write it. Along with these present allusions, Pope’s use of “Jove” alludes to the the ancient Roman god, also known as Jupiter. Jove is the king of the gods, and the allusion to him emphasizes the power Pope places in the notion of peace. He asks for peace in asking Jove to destroy the weapons of their armies, in the same way he asks for peace from his readers.

Samuel Johnson’s London: A Poem, In Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal was published in London of 1738 (Johnson 1). This poem employs Juvenal satire to express Johnson’s disappointment and disgust over the present state of his beloved city of London. As Pope did, Johnson also alludes to the past and the present, though since the poem is Juvenal satire, the allusions are less playful and more abrasive and critiquing (Drabble). Having the poem be an imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal immediately associates the poem with the past. In constructing his poem this way, each line though different from the original, still bears some connection to it. The structures and ideas within the lines of Johnson’s London were written in a manner reflective of the original, bringing the past to his new poem.

Within the first stanza of the poem Johnson emphasizes the poor state of London:

I praise the Hermit, but regret the Friend,

Who no resolves, from Vice and London far,

To breathe in distant Fields a purer Air,

And, fix’d on Cambria’s solitary Shore,

Give to St David one true Briton more. (Johnson 3)

His use of the phrase “from Vice and London far” presents the reader with the association between vice and London essentially equating one with the other. London has become so corrupt and broken that it is nearly synonymous with the term vice. Even a “true Briton” can no longer take up residence there, seeking relief where there is a “purer Air” (Johnson 3). His use of “true Briton” to describe the personae of the speaker, Thales, in the poem implies a strong sense of pride, but even that pride is not powerful enough to make one stay in London. Thales acts as “a stereotype of the good man ‘harass’d’ by the vileness of his city…[who] must endure the agony of exile in order to survive as a ‘foe to vice’” (Bloom 116). Johnson draws such a critical distinction between Thales and the vice-ridden Londoners. In presenting the image of this fractured London, Johnson reveals how society has “in itself the elements of its own destruction, an enemy within which will subvert and betray it” (Varney 204). When Johnson asks “For who would leave, unbrib’d, Hibernia’s Land/ Or change the Rocks of Scotland for the Strand” he draws subtle allusions of the past in using more classical names Cambria and Hibernia to refer to Wales and Ireland (Johnson 4). These more classical terms imply a sense of history or the overall passing of time.

Some of the most powerful allusions to the past are included in the third stanza of the poem:

Struck with the Seat that gave Eliza Birth,

We kneel, and kiss the consecrated Earth;

In pleasing Dreams the blissful Age renew,

And call Brittannia’s Glories back to view;

Behold her Cross triumphant on the Main,

The Guard of Commerce, and the Dread of Spain. (Johnson 5)

The suggestion of the “consecrated Earth” where Queen Elizabeth was born brings up what is considered one of the greatest reigns of England. Elizabeth I ruled from 1558 to 1603, and during her successful reign was immortalized in countless works of literature and art (Drabble). Her inclusion in the poem draws a clear distinction between the present London of Johnson’s poem, and London back in its days of greater glory. In alluding to Elizabeth I Johnson begs the reader to consider the seriousness of his poem in forcing the reader to make their own comparisons between London of the present and the past.

Since the poem refers to one of the most renowned political figures of England, it draws a stark contrast between past and current administrations. Politics has a heavy hand in influencing London and many of the downfalls Johnson see within it. London “reflected and contributed to the volatile political atmosphere of 1738 and its popularity was undoubtedly bolstered by its fiercely engage content and tone”, thus making it one of Johnson’s most publicized works (Varney 203).

Further emphasis on the political issues in London in 1738 are brought up as Johnson asks readers to “call Britannia’s Glories back to view/ Behold her Cross triumphant on the Main/ The Guard of Commerce, and the Dread of Spain” (Johnson 5). Looking to the past is necessary to comprehend Johnson’s insistence that London is rapidly falling apart. When compared to “Britannia’s Glories” of the past, London in 1738 appears in even greater shambles. He reminds readers of the days when the English army was triumphant and defeated the Spanish Armada, drawing another comparison to its present lack of victories. The depth of Thales’ pain for London’s downfall is evident as he “is more shaken by the world he decries and may even have taken on something of its fated and self-destructive character. He is more a product of the world he lives in and less independent” (Varney 205). This description reveals the level of involvement of Thales, how unbearable and destructive the nature of things are. If London falls, all of its people will fall with it. Johnson cannot stress the importance enough.

The allusions used by Pope and Johnson serve primarily to add a new dimension and depth to their satires, whether Horatian or Juvenal. Drawing from the past in order to make a point about the present proves a successful means for each. In his First Satire of the Second Book of Horace, Pope defends himself over his use of satire. He sharply defends himself where others have found reason to critique him, not for the quality of his writing, but for his subjects. In his writing Pope believes in “the virtuous intent of his satire, and points out that under other kings satirists, not flatterers, had been rewarded with royal favor” (Maresca 391). Pope alludes to Erasmus to bring similarities between the two of them, with the hopes of receiving the same respect Erasmus received. Drawing from the past brings an element of time to the work. Pope connects the past and present, almost questioning why Erasmus was so well received for his satire while Pope is so harshly judged. This all relies on the distinction between satire and libel, and in walking the fine line between the two, Pope is making himself subject to such criticisms.

Johnson’s efforts to draw inspiration and allusion from the past seems to have a greater and more profound effect upon his work than on Pope’s. His allusions come from a variety of areas whether historical, political, mythological, or cultural. In order to emphasize the social and political issues occurring in London in 1738, he takes advantage of these allusions to stress the changes that have changed London from the most wonderful city, to a decrepit and fallen city. He uses historical political figures such as Elizabeth I and Edward III to remind prideful Londoners of the glory their nation once possessed. In addition to reminiscing about better days, he reveals what he believes are the problems with London at present- from vanity, to poverty, to shame, and all the vices employed therein. London is such a success “not just because of the accuracy, mordancy, and poetic brilliance with which Johnson has suited Juvenal’s satire…but because Johnson fuses with his public satire a deeply impassioned presentation of the mind in distress” (Varney 204). Johnson’s Thales is so passionate about the city he loves that it effects his actual being; it is not just about the city of London, but of the physical and emotional state of Londoners themselves. He possesses a strong love for London, even in its current troubled state, and his words serve to reignite such spirit in his fellow Londoners.

Works Cited

Bloom, Edward A., and Lillian D Bloom. “Johnson’s London and Its Juvenalian Texts”. Huntington Library Quarterly 34.1 (1970): 1-23. JSTOR. Web. 9 November 2011.

Drabble, Margaret, and Jenny Stringer. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. eBook.

Johnson, Samuel. London: A Poem, In Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal. London, 1738. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Web. 9 November 2011.

Maresca, Thomas E. “Pope’s Defense of Satire: The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace, Imitated”. ELH 31.4 (1964): 366-394. JSTOR. Web. 9 November 2011.

Pope, Alexander. The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace, Imitated. London, 1733. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Web. 9 November 2011.

Varney, Andrew. “Johnson’s Juvenalian Satire On London: A Different Emphasis”. The Review of English Studies 40.158 ( May 1989): 202-214. JSTOR. Web. 9 November 2011.

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A Satire of the English Nobility in Alexander Pope’s Poem the Rape of the Lock

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Unlike Milton, in Paradise Lost, Alexander Pope was not trying to make any moral pronouncements or display any larger than life message in his mock epic, The Rape of the Lock. Pope was merely satirizing the English nobility of his time and chose to use the style of the epic to further prove just how ridiculous his subject matter was. By using elevated language, holy metaphors, and other techniques native to epics, Pope was able to silently mock the silliness of his subjects’ behavior by portraying them as far more important than he felt they really were; he made them seem worthy of an epic.

The incident on which the epic is based took place between two real life lovers. As the story goes, a lock of hair belonging to Arabella Fermor was clipped and stolen by her lover, the son of close family friends. The reason he did this is unknown, but although he seemingly meant no harm, this act infuriated the Fermor’s family and sent the two families into a feud. John Caryll, seeing how preposterous this all was, asked Pope to write a poem that could lighten the mood of these families and show them how impractical they were behaving.

To emphasize the epic-like style of writing, Pope starts off the poem by calling for the inspiration of a muse, an occurrence common in past epics, and uses grand metaphors to describe minor happenings right from the start. Describing a card game between Belinda and two of the men, Pope writes,

Behold, four Kings in Majesty rever’d,

With hoary Whiskers and a forky Beard;

And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a Flow’r,

Th’ expressive Emblem of their softer Pow’r;

Four Knaves in Garbs succinct, a trusty Band,

Caps on their heads, and Halberds in their hand;

And Particolour’d Troops, a shining Train,

Draw forth to Combat on the Velvet Plain.

This display of grandeur to something is simple as a card game was Pope’s main technique throughout the poem. By using exaggerations of this type, Pope is able to prove how trifling the aristocracy can be. Similarly, he compares the interaction of the two sexes to combat when he says “thrice the foe drew near,” describing the Baron’s attempt at Belinda’s hair.

Further proving this point, throughout Rape of the Lock, Pope uses rhymes that would otherwise seem opposite. For example, when he writes, “Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey, Dost sometimes Counsel take–and sometimes Tea,” he asserts that, to these people, matters of government are just as important as matters of social pleasure, such as tea. In this way, by using his sense of humor, Pope is able to make a hysterical situation seem somewhat more amusing to those observing as well as those involved in it. When Pope writes,

Oh, hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize

Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!”

he is obviously criticizing Belinda’s obsession with her outward facade proving that the actual act of “violating” her by cutting her hair wasn’t what truly upset her. Rather, it was the effect it will have on her reputation now that she will no longer be perfect in appearance. By using strong verbs such as “ravish”, “betray”, and “rape”, Pope further perpetuates the sexuality of the poem, portraying Belinda as a sexual conquest for the Baron. After the turmoil dies down, she demands the lock of hair back, and a battle similar to the Trojan War ensues, evoking past Romans gods and alluding to the Aneid. This poem closes much like other epics: giving compliments to the hero, in this case Arabella, the one whom Belinda was based on, and giving credit to the author for immortalizing her and her “adventure.”

In Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, a noble family’s dilemma is trivialized through the use of a mock epic. In his epic, Pope’s content is decisively petty, his style is incredibly light-hearted, and his plot extremely thin, all of which contribute to the inconsequential nature of the people he is poking fun at. By Bringing to light the absurdity of the matter, Pope manages both to reconcile the two families and to prove his incredible knack for comedy and wit.

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An Image of Victorian Women in Alexander Pope’s and Anne Ingram’s Epistles

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Debating Victorian Women: Epistle to a Lady and Epistle to Mr. Pope

Between the works, Epistle to a Lady II and Epistle to Mr. Pope, the bone of contention is the character of women. Pope accuses women of amorous passion, fickle and temperamental dispositions, vanity, irrationality and ambition for power. This school of thought corresponds to the prevalent spirit of the seventeenth century Age of the Enlightenment whose emphases are Reason and Humanism. Ingram, in her Epistle to Mr. Pope, opposes Pope’s view and argues that dominant patriarchy, lack of proper education for females are to blame for their faults. Further, she posits that the male and female sex have the same natures and therefore share the same faults. Thus, both epistles clash and carry divergent views on the female character.

In the Epistle to a Lady, Pope incarnates amorous passion in several female historical and legendary heroines characterizing women. Each female has a voice in the stanza in which she expresses her liking and bent. To express female sexuality, Pope alludes to Calypso, goddess known in myth for her enthralling charm and passion. Philomede refers to Aphrodite or Venus, goddess of fertility, erotic passion and beauty. Female erotica is also personified in Pastora, who refers to the pastoral genre of literature and art whose main focus is idealized love between shepherds and shepherdesses in an Eden where one’s energies are directed to making sonnets, odes, lamentations of love to the beloved. Sappho is a great Greek female poet whose writings and works reflect a mind occupied with passion, and eroticism. Helen of Troy, originally from Sparta, also represents the goddess of fertility in certain cults and is notorious for her unsurpassing beauty and passion. Thus, Pope establishes the ruling impulses of passion in women.

Pope levels another accusation against women classifying them as “chameleons” (2601), unstable, and capricious creatures. Pope makes reference to Cynthia, the goddess of fertility and the moon. The moon is a known planetary body, believed to control seasonal changes and the humours. Another character that refers to the temperamental nature of women is Papillia. Papillio is a genus of colourful butterflies and so Pope labels women as flighty creatures whose main employment is to look attractive, fluttering from place to place, in other words, social butterflies. The butterfly is a sexual creature since it aids in flower pollination so female sexuality and flightiness unite. Fannia is a genus of housefly but used as a female’s name. In the context of Epistle to a Lady, Fannia symbolizes the flightiness and instability of women whose place is in the house. So women are inconstant, frivolous creatures.

Pope illustrates women’s natural preoccupation with beauty by depicting paragons of physical beauty and female splendour. Callista derives from Callisto who is a legendary huntress, recognized for her prepossessing beauty. The name Callisto in Greek actually means

most beautiful. Narcissica evokes in the reader’s mind, the Greek myth about Narcissus who occupies himself looking at his reflection in a river and falls in love with himself. Self-absorbed pride and vanity are destructive. Beauty becomes a downfall. Pope argues against this general superficiality in women. Pope feminizes Narcissus to represent women as narcissistic. However, Ingram argues that feminine beauty is the only device and employment of women to gain control and distract themselves, since they are deprived of education and denied exposure in the public sphere.

In Epistle to Mr. Pope, Ingram contests Pope’s assumption of women’s inherent lack of reason and their “impotence of mind” (2600). Women’s lack of learning is due to the customary manner of their upbringing or the lack thereof. Philosophy and reason are male dominated fields while dance, aesthetics and music are considered standard female employment. These distractions do not cultivate the mind, neither do they endow the woman with virtue and reason and so she remains unschooled, her mind is in a state of abandon. As a consequence, women are made “strangers to reason and reflection” (2606). Neglect of the mind’s cultivation is the root cause of female unbridled passion, and general lack of understanding. Furthermore, Ingram adds that there are as many empty-headed, trifling, and irrational men as there are women. “Nugators… and nugatrixes” are nouns of male and female triflers whose names derive from the Latin word nugatorius which means frivolous, trifling and ineffective.

According to Pope, the female gender is “a whole sex of queens” (2603) where “every lady would be queen for life” (2603). Pope charges women with lusting after power and refers to them as queens or goddesses, embodiments of beauty and power using in his Epistle to a Lady II female characters who are mostly goddesses and queens. However, Ingram counters that “power alike both males and females love” (2605) and supports in naming the typical male occupations of soldier, hunter, and king as pursuits of glory, fame and self interest. Both sexes crave control and love of sway. Ambition only manifests itself in different forms because of man’s wide, public sphere and woman’s private sphere. In whatever gendered occupation, therein lies ambition.

Ingram asserts that “women if taught would be as bold and as wise” (2605). She turns Pope’s attention to the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome where illustrious taught women are of steady character, virtuous, learnt and hold high values. Women such as Cleolia ( Clelia), a young Roman maiden held captive, swims the river Tiber to liberty and liberates her compatriots. She is a model of courage, exemplifying lofty ideals in her life. Lucretia is another Roman heroine and noblewoman, a paragon of virtue and moral excellence. Her rape and suicide catalyze decolonization and Roman Republicanism. Cornelia stands as another example of female steadiness and virtue. She is full of wifely duty and maternal dedication to her two sons, the Gracchus brothers, who were instrumental in defending and extending the rights of lower-class and landless Roman citizens. Portia, the daughter of Cato, renowned Roman statesman, general, and historian, she reaps the rewards of education. Taught in the school of philosophy and reason, she emerges a consummate in philosophy, full of understanding and courage. As a visible token of her trustworthiness and fidelity to her husband, Brutus, she stabs herself in the thigh, endures the pain and pledges her faith to him. In her, reason and feminine honour unite. Here Ingram counterattacks Pope’s accusation on female incompetence and immorality presenting exceptional figures of women who are sturdy in character, with immaculate virtue who develop qualities by solid formative education.

Ingram is an egalitarian feminist who believes that men and women carry essential similarities for “in either sex, the appetite’s the same” (2605) . They share the very same passions, predispositions and potential. Ingram rivals Pope in the use of the iambic pentameter and rhyming couplet and maintains that same form throughout her poem. Both Epistles are written in decasyllabic verse with rhyming couplets aa, bb. This poetic scheme is also used by Shakespeare and evokes the pastoral genre which both Pope and Ingram satirize. Ingram reinforces the sameness of man and woman by replicating Pope’s poetic form with as much expertise and flair and he.

All in all, both argument between Pope and Ingram clash. On one hand, Pope argues that women are “softer males” with ungovernable attitudes, perverse tendencies and inferior wit, whereas Ingram debates the high worth of women in society. She shows that women deserve equal place, equal respect and equal opportunities in society. In English society, these portraits of women are not simply opinions but realities, for women have had to face negative labeling, bias, and exclusion but also women have been embraced and can be embraced as true heroines recognized for their contributions.

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Attack on Vanity in Sheridan’s School for Scandal and Pope’s the Rape of the Lock

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

The primary theme in both Sheridan’s School for Scandal and Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is the tendency that high society of the time has to overemphasize matters that are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, in particular breaches of proper decorum brought on by vanity. Pope employs a mock-epic style to satirize the upper echelons of society (the “beau-monde”) in eighteenth century England, but his account perhaps holds more depth than a simple satirical attack on the vanity of the elite classes. For all his criticism, it is apparent he has some admiration for Belinda and the society that surrounded her. Pope himself did not belong inside the “beau-monde”, and was therefore able to make clear judgment on a self-obsessed society that he was observing from a distance. In the School for Scandal, Sheridan presents vanity as some form of cover, as “a polished surface to conceal a discordant inside”, in the words of critic John Picker. Sheridan’s comedy appears to the audience as being complete only in a superficial sense, and like the hypocritical figure of Joseph Surface, the play satisfies an audience on the outside, but the vanity beneath confirms the misleading nature of appearances.

In The Rape, the incident at the centre of the poem is a feud of epic proportions that explodes after the Baron’s theft of a lock of Belinda’s hair, the real incident the poem was based on taking place between a Lord Petre and a Miss Arabella Fermor. This small act of greed and created an estrangement of two families that continued for many years, portraying the extent to which their sense of their own importance was exaggerated. In keeping with this, Pope continually uses disproportionately grandiose language to assist with preparing the reader for his satirical stance, and this is present from the very first lines of the poem: “What dire Offence from am’rous Causes springs/ What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things.” In comparison, Sheridan makes it clear throughout School for Scandal that gossip and vanity only work well in the form of corroding personalities, for example the effect Mrs Candour’s actions have on Charles Surface, leading him straight to “absolute ruin”. Mrs Candour’s ability to transform these human flaws into the defining feature of a person enable the ‘reduction’ of a character to take place. This is shown in “His extravagance…the town talks of nothing else.” Vanity in particular appears to adopt such a prominent role in the level of social acceptance of characters, especially when one’s own vanity is displaced onto someone else. For example Mrs Candour’s statements that Mrs Vermilion is a poorly made-up face, Mrs Pursy a “fat dowager”, and of Mrs Evergreen as an aging case of extreme vanity. This clearly shows that Mrs Candour’s tendency towards vanity and being “critical in beauty” leads to nothing more than a lack of individuality, essentially an overall disintegration of eighteenth century society.

Pope places Belinda’s integrity under doubt early on in The Rape, most noticeably at the point of the revelation of Ariel. Belinda is informed that a small part of her will live on after death: “Her Joy in gilded Chariots, when alive/ And Love of Ombre, after Death survive.” Although Belinda’s “succeeding vanities” are discussed considerably in this section, it is possible to assume that the surviving part would be the deepest part of her personality, and the “first Elements” of her soul. However, the surviving “vanities” described imply that Belinda is made up of not much more than a selfish love of pleasure. However, this self-obsession does not necessarily lead Belinda to demise, but rather to some form of religion and intense devotion. This is shown in the linguistically rich description of her toilette: “Each Silver Vase in mystic Order laid… rob’d in White, the Nymph intent adores/ With Head uncover’d, the Cosmetic Pow’rs”. This morning routine is a parody of the arming of the epic hero, and the irony present in the reversal from the immediately obvious “cosmic powers” to “Cosmetic powers” portrays the full extent of her “devotion to her religion of narcissism”, in the words of critic Ellen Pollack. Similarly, this reversal is present in the form of comic farce in School for Scandal, specifically in the well-known “screen scene”. An example of this is when Joseph Surface attempts to seduce Lady Teazle by using convoluted logic that will add to her own vanity, and therefore attract her: “Your character…is like a person in a plethora – absolutely dying from too much health.” Sheridan’s use of this device is somewhat similar to the serpant praising Eve’s intelligence using twisted logic, in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The main difference between Sheridan and Pope’s style of attack on vanity is one is displayed through carefully crafted wit, and the other through a means that is not quite as good-humoured. The Rape is written as a Horatian satire, given this name after a Roman satirist whose opinion was that “every play should either instruct or delight”. Pope’s decision to write entirely in heroic couplets satirises the vanity of a society he could never be a part of, where trivialities are overemphasized and grand creatures are turned into trivialities, as shown in “The tortoise here and elephant unite/ Transformed to combs, the speckled and the white.”, an example of bathos. This is solidified in the mock epic catalogue (“Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux’.) where Pope places the auspicious Bible amongst unimportant items in order to create a commentary on the complete lack of morality in his society. However, these lines remain light-hearted and without intention for malice. In contrast, Sheridan does use a form of malice in School for Scandal to degrade a society where gossip and vanity is described as a “multi-headed Hydra”, vital for survival and never-ending. The characters in The Rape and School for Scandal are integrally linked by their vanity, and their “motives to depreciate each other”.

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