Alexander Pope is known to be the first professional poet in England. At a time in which many still depended on the system of patronage in order to make a reputation as a writer, Pope negotiated his own deals with printers, booksellers, and publishers. He is said to have made a profit equivalent to a modern day millionaire status from his writings.
Pope, however, was a Catholic - a religious minority in England. As a result of the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the Catholic King James II was dethroned in favor of his daughter Mary and her Protestant husband William of Orange. An increase in anti-Catholic legislation ensued. Catholics who refused to abjure their faith were subject to double taxation, forbidden to live within a ten mile-radius from London, and even prohibited from owning a horse, in an era when carriage transport was often the most efficient way of travel.
Pope received no formal education, was barred entrance to university, and, notwithstanding his talent and success, could never expect to be appointed a Poet Laureate or a burial in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Despite being alienated from formal recognition and prestigious honors, Pope continued to write in search of connectedness with the public.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the effects of religious persecution in the life and career of the world's first professional English poet. Citing from references to his faith in his poetry, I shall argue that Pope's legally disadvantaged status played an ironic yet significant role in cultivating his literary ambitions and tendency for overachievement.
Megumi Ohsumi, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland
Stream: Ethics; Religion; Philosophy
This paper is part of the ACERP2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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