About the Author
Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer's Iliad (ISBN 9781480048348) and Odyssey (ISBN 9781490516424). Famous for his use of the heroic couplet, he is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson.
Pope had been fascinated by Homer since childhood. In 1713, he announced his plans to publish a translation of the Iliad. The work would be available by subscription, with one volume appearing every year over the course of six years. Pope was 25 years old. He secured a revolutionary deal with the publisher Bernard Lintot, which brought him two hundred guineas (£210) a volume, equivalent to about £26,000 as of 2012, a vast sum at the time.
Encouraged by the success of the Iliad, Pope translated the Odyssey. The translation appeared in 1726, but this time, confronted with the arduousness of the task, he enlisted the help of William Broome and Elijah Fenton. Pope attempted to conceal the extent of the collaboration (he himself translated only twelve books, Broome eight and Fenton four), but the secret leaked out. It did some damage to Pope's reputation for a time, but not to his profits.
By the mid-18th century new fashions in poetry emerged. A decade after Pope's death, Joseph Warton claimed that Pope's style of poetry was not the most excellent form of the art. The Romantic movement that rose to prominence in early 19th-century England was more ambivalent towards his work. Though Lord Byron identified Pope as one of his chief influences (believing his scathing satire of contemporary English literature English Bards and Scotch Reviewers to be a continuance of Pope's tradition), William Wordsworth found Pope's style fundamentally too decadent a representation of the human condition.
In the 20th century Pope's reputation was revived. Pope's work was found to be full of references to the people and places of his time, and these aided people's understanding of the past. The postwar period stressed the power of Pope's poetry, recognising that Pope's immersion in Christian and Biblical culture lent depth to his poetry. Maynard Mack thought highly of Pope's poetry, arguing that Pope's moral vision demanded as much respect as his technical excellence. In the years 1953–1967 the production of the definitive Twickenham edition of Pope's poems was published in ten volumes.