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The literary works of Alexander Pope are found to cover a long period, from 1709 to 1743, during which may be traced three distinct stages of his authorship. Each stage, however, bears testimony to his excellence as well as originality as a literary master. 

The first stage, which is mainly the formative but most active literary period of Pope’s workmanship, consists of several publications—Pastorals, An Essay on Criticism, The Rape of the Lock, The Windsor Forest, The Temple of Fame, Verses to the Memory of an unfortunate Lady and many other shorter works, of those works, The Rape of the Lock is a consummate expression of Pope’s genius as an artist and satirist, While A Essay on Criticism proves a fine collection of literary epigrams. 

The second stage reveals Pope mainly as a great master in translations and annotations. The literary production of the age comprises the translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the annotations of the works of Shakespeare and of John Sheffield. Besides, Epistles to Addison, and Miscellanies, containing certain critical works of Pope, belong to this stage. 

The third stage marks Pope’s celebrated satirical works and includes The Dunciad, Moral Essays, An Essay on Man, Satires and Epistles of Horace Imitated, Esisttes to Arbuthnot. The Dunciad is a great satire on the literary men of the age, and An Essay on Man forms a rich storehouse of popular and epigrammatic sayings in the English language. 

Pope’s earlier poems are notable for their metrical smoothness and perfection and for certain passages of pleasant fancy. His notable work An Essay on Criticism contains little original thought. It sums up the art of poetry as taught first by Horace and the seventeenth century classicists. It testifies to Pope’s meticulous care for rules, Nature and wit in poetry. Pope’s heroic couplet is here polished, incisive and antithetical. Widson Forest has some fine passages and presents a great advance on the earlier Pastorals. But these are imitative of Roman writers like Virgil and Theocritus. They are stiff and artificial. 

In 1712 Pope published the first draft of The Rape of the Lock—a poem celebrating in light and spirited mock heroic verse, the exploits of a certain Lord Petre who had cut a lock from the hair of the beautiful Arabella Fermore. We may agree with Dr. Johnson “that The Rape of the Lock is the most airy, most ingenious and the most delightful of all Pope’s compositions.” The poem is notable for it expresses the artificial life of the age: the life of cards, parties, toilets, lapdogs, tea-drinking, snuff taking, and idle vanities. It marks the excellence of mock-heroic art. It has the epic devices of Invocation, supernatural agencies, epic battle, descent to the underground etc. There is maximum imitation of the epic. The contrast between the slight subject and the epic style produces the humour. The feud between two families is ridiculed and settled. 

The Traslation of Homer’s Iliad brought Pope both fame and money. The success of the book consisted in the fact that Pope interpreted Homer in the elegant artificial language of his time. Pope translated also half of the Odyssey. 

Pope directed his next work The Dunciad against his rivals. It is an elaborate satire on the dunces—the bad poets, pedants and pretensious critics of Pope’s day. His main target of attack was Theobald who criticized his edition of Shakespeare. Pope satirizes the host of minor writers. This poe™ in changed with biting wit; it has vigour and variety of pace, but is spiteful and often coarse. 

An Essay on Man is a poem in four epistles in which Pope undertakes a defence of moral evil in it. The work is, however, the influence of his "ends and specially of Lord Bolingbroke, Other Moral Essays are philosophical poems-To Lord Bathurst, Of the Use of Riches, Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men, of the Characters of Women. 

The best of Pope's later works consists of his epistles and satires in imitation of Horace. In Epistles to Dr. Arbuthnot, he attacks many of his contemporaries—Hervey, Halifax, Theobald etc. He indulges in self-laudation. It is a Horatian satire, but in its malicious attacks and moral indignation K is close to Juvenal. It contains brilliant portraits of Lord Hervey and Addison. His couplet here has all its old strength, together with a certain new ease and flexibility. 

Pope represents many essential qualities of his age. He imitated the ancients and insisted on the rules of poetry thoroughly in accordance with the spirit of the age. He is marvelously clever and adroit literary craftsman and has perfected the neat, compact and epigrammatic style of writing which was the classical ideal of writing. Pope makes poetry out of the most polished drawing room manners. It is from this point of view-the point of view of perfect craftsmanship and a clear, intelligible, well-written and yet telling manner of expression that Pope should be assessed as a poet. 

As a writer of Prose, Pope’s position is not at all ignorable in English literature. His genius, as s prose writer, is even admitted by Matthew Amold who does not hold much high opinion about the poetry—“Dryden and Pope are not the classics of our poetry; they use the classics of our prose.” His masterly style in the sphere of English prose is sufficiently demonstrated in his Preface to the the Iliad, Dedication of the Hiad, Preface to the Works of Shakespeare and Letters. 

In fine we can say that Pope is the foremost of the correct and classical poets of England. He stands firmly as the mouthpiece of the age. In Pope we find a poet who thoroughly belongs to his age and possesses the secret of the mt to express perfectly the feeling and thought of the age. Pope is found to be a unique master.


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