Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was an English poet, best remembered for The Rape of the Lock. Pope is also famous for his use of the heroic couplet, a rhyming pair in iambic pentameter, which makes him the second most quoted author The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, following only Shakespeare. Pope also produced one of the most important English translation of Homer’s work, both the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Alexander Pope was born in London in the year of the Glorious Revolution, when William and Mary ascended to the English throne. However, because his family was Catholic, they were forced to move to Berkshire. Pope also suffered from numerous physical ailments, including Pott’s disease, which stunted his growth and left him a hunchback.
Alexander Pope published his first work, Pastorals, in 1709. He soon moved among England’s highest literary circles, including Jonathan Swift among his friends. The Rape of the Lock was first published in 1712, satirizing a high society quarrel over a piece of hair. His Essay on Man, written between 1732 and 1734, was intended to be the centerpiece of his ethical system, presented in verse. Pope intended to make the poem much longer, but did not live to complete the work. After 1738, Alexander Pope’s writing diminished, and his health declined steadily. He died in 1744 and was buried in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Twickenham, an area of southwest London.