Pope was born 21 May, 1688, in London. His father was a cloth merchant living in the City (a part of London); both his parents were Catholic. It was a period of intense anti-Catholic sentiment in England, and at some point (ca. 1700) in Alexander's childhood, the Pope family was forced to relocate to be in compliance with a statute forbidding Catholics from living within ten miles of London or Westminster. They moved to Binfield (Berkshire).
A portrait of Pope at age 7
Pope's early education was affected by his Catholicism: Catholic schools, although illegal, were allowed to survive in some places. Prior to the move to Binfield Pope spent a year at Twyford, where he wrote "a satire on some faults of his master," which led to his being "whipped and ill-used...and taken from thence on that account." (Spence). From Twyford Alexander went to study with Thomas Deane, a convert to Catholicism (who lost his position at Oxford as a result of his religious beliefs). After the Pope family moved to Binfield Alexander became self-taught.
Pope's disease--apparently tuberculosis of the bone--became evident when he was about twelve. Later in Pope's life, Sir Joshua Reynolds described him as "about four feet six high; very humpbacked and deformed." (A sketch of Pope) A more recent biographer (Maynard Mack 155-6) has written that Pope was "afflicted with constant headaches, sometimes so severe that he could barely see the paper he wrote upon, frequent violent pain at bone and muscle joints...shortness of breath, increasing inability to ride horseback or even walk for exercise...."
William Wycherley, impressed by some of Pope's early poetry, introduced him into fashionable London literary circles (in 1704). Public attention came with the publication of Pastorals in 1709. The Rape of the Lock helped secure Pope's reputation as a leading poet of the age.
Pope moved to his villa in Twickenham in 1717. While there he
received visitors (just about everyone), attacked his literary
contemporaries (just about eveyone, although notable exceptions were
Swift and Gay, with whom he had close friendships), and continued to publish
poetry. He died on 30 May, 1744, at Twickenham.
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