Alexander Pope

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Early LifeAlexander Pope was born May 21, 1688, in London, of Roman Catholic parents, his father being a well-to-do merchant. When he was small, the family moved, apparently first to Hammersmith, and then, in 1698, to a small house on a large property at Binfield in Windsor Forest. The move from London was partly or wholly to avoid what had become a law forbidding Roman Catholics to live within ten miles of Hyde Park Corner in London. Pope attended two Catholic schools, one near the home in Binfield, the other, oddly, at Hyde Park Corner. His regular schooling ended at age twelve. At about that age he became afflicted with Pott's disease, a lifelong problem both because of frequent serious pain and because it left him a humpbacked dwarf.

Pope turned to writing verse in early adolescence, having read widely in classical, French, English, and some Italian literature. An early poem, which he sent to Henry Cromwell in 1709, made him known to a number of established writers; they encouraged him to seek a publisher for his Pastorals, written when he was sixteen and published in 1709.

The resultant friendships caused him thereafter to spend much time in London. He never married, and while he had close woman friends, particularly Martha Blount, he almost surely had no sexual relationships.

Life's WorkOther poems quickly followed the Pastorals: An Essay on Criticism (1711), "The Messiah" (1712; published in Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's The Spectator, although Pope and Addison later became enemies), The Rape of the Lock (1712,and, in longer form, 1714), Windsor Forest (1713), the first portion of his translation of the Iliad (1715), and, in 1717, a volume collecting his works to date and adding two new poems, "Verses to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady" and Eloisa to Abelard.