In the Christmas Tree

Sections II and V, both of which feature series of standalone lyrics, pick up There is much of the grotesque in Section III, a poem sequence titled “Virus,” in Centaur By Greg Wrenn University of Wisconsin Press Paperback.

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Saint Francis of Assisi.

Incredulity of Father Brown. Wisdom of Father Brown. Secret of Father Brown. Scandal of Father Brown. Innocence of Father Brown. Universe According to G. What I Saw in America. Man Who Was Thursday. Many editors have therefore abandoned these marks altogether; in this edition they have been retained wherever they did not appear likely to prove a stumbling-block to the present generation.

The usual indexes have been furnished, and a brief bibliographical note, which, while it does not pretend to exhaustiveness, may be of aid to the general reader. James T.


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Fields, by whose courtesy it is reproduced. Alexander Pope was born in London, May 21, We cannot be sure of anything better than respectability in his ancestry, though late in life he himself claimed kinship with the Earls of Downe. His paternal grandfather is supposed to have been a clergyman of the Church of England. His mother, Edith Turner, came of a family of small gentry and landowners in Yorkshire.

Alexander Pope, senior, was a successful linen merchant in London; so successful that he found it possible to retire early from business, and to buy a small estate at Binfield, on the edge of Windsor forest. In they removed to Chiswick, where a year later the father died.

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Soon afterwards Pope, then a man of note, leased the estate at Twickenham, on which he was to live till his death, in One of the main reasons for the choice of Binfield was that a number of Roman Catholic families lived in that neighborhood. But if to be a Roman Catholic in England then meant to move in a narrow social circle, it carried with it also more serious limitations. It debarred from public school and university; so that beyond the inferior instruction afforded by the small Catholic schools which he attended till his twelfth year, Pope had no formal education.

At twelve he had at least learned the rudiments of Greek, and could read Latin fluently, if not correctly. He had no bent for accurate scholarship, nor was breadth and accuracy of scholarship an accomplishment of that age. Addison, whose literary career was preceded by a long period of university residence, knew very little of Greek literature, and had a by no means wide acquaintance with the literature of Rome.

Yet scholarship in those days meant classical learning. Pope might no doubt have profited by the discipline of a regular academic career. He needed, as Mr. It is impossible not to see, at least, that the boy Pope knew how to read, if not how to study; and that what Latin and Greek he read was approached as literature,—a method more common then than now, it is probable.

This I did without any design but that of pleasing myself, and got the language by hunting Edition: current; Page: [ xii ] after the stories in the several authors I read: rather than read the books to get the language. In the meantime, as a more important result of his having to rely so much upon his own resources, his creative power was beginning to manifest itself with singular maturity. At twelve he wrote couplets which were long afterwards inserted without change in the Essay on Criticism, and even in The Dunciad.

With the Essay on Criticism, published five years later, Pope reached his full power.


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  • Such development as is to be found in his later work is the result of an increase in mental breadth and satirical force. His style was already formed. The tradition that in his childhood he was physically normal is made dubious by the reported fact that his father was also small and crooked, though organically sound.

    At all events, the Pope whom the world knew was anything but normal,—stunted to dwarfishness, thin to emaciation, crooked and feeble, so that he had to wear stays and padding, and all his life subject to severe bodily pain. Masculine society in eighteenth-century England had little place for weaklings. The late hours and heavy drinking of London were as little possible for the delicate constitution of Pope as the hard riding and heavy drinking of the country gentlemen with whom he was thrown at Binfield.

    Before reaching manhood he had been given more than one rude lesson in discretion. At one time over-confinement to his books had so much reduced his vitality as to convince him that he had not long to live.

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    A fortunate chance put his case into the hands of a famous London physician, who prescribed a strict diet, little study, and much horseback riding. Pope followed the advice, recovered, and thereafter, for the most part, took excellent care of himself; it was the price which he had to pay for living. One unfortunate result was that he was thrown back upon the companionship of women, always petted, always deferred to, always nursed. Such conditions naturally developed the acid cleverness, the nervous brilliancy of the poet Pope; and it is matter of great wonder that from such conditions anything stronger should survive; that there is, when all is said, so much virility and restraint in the best of his work.

    They were, like all modern pastorals, conventional; but they contain some genuine poetry, and are wonderful exercises in versification. Their diction is often artificial to the point of absurdity, but now and then possesses a stately grace, as in the famous lines:—. Pope had probably been encouraged to write the Pastorals by Sir William Trumbull, to whom the first of them is inscribed.

    Trumbull was a man of Oxford training, who after a distinguished diplomatic career had come to end his life upon his estate near Binfield, and who had been drawn to the deformed boy by the discovery of their common taste for the classics. For some time before the publication of the Pastorals the manuscript was being circulated privately among such men of established literary reputation as Garth, Walsh, Congreve, and Wycherley, and such patrons of letters as George Granville, Halifax, and Somers.

    To Walsh in particular Pope afterward expressed his obligation. Through Walsh Pope became acquainted with Wycherley, who introduced the young poet to literary society in London; that is, to the society of the London coffee-houses. The character of the older resorts had already begun to change. It was natural that the age of Anne, in which increasing public honors were paid to literary men, should have been also an age in which literary men took an increasing interest in politics. During his first years of London experience, Pope probably knew Richard Steele more intimately than any one else.

    It was Steele who urged Pope to write the Ode on St. Another Whig friend was Jervas the painter, a pupil of Kneller, but an artist of no very considerable achievement. The poet at one time had some lessons in painting from him, and always held him in esteem. So far Pope allowed himself to associate with the Whigs; but he had no intention of taking rank as a Whig partisan. If he wrote prose for Whig journals, it was in honor of the Tory government that the conclusion was added to Windsor Forest in The first cause of offence was not long in coming; and an offence sown in the mind of Pope was certain to grow very fast and to live very long.

    The Pastorals were published by Tonson at the end of a volume which opened with some exercises in the same kind of verse by Ambrose Philips. Whatever his poetry may not have been, it was certainly downright; but his method of getting it before the public, of annotating it, and of reinforcing its thought, was habitually circuitous and not seldom dishonest. Steele, it is said, was so far deceived as to print the paper in good faith. In the Satires and The Dunciad, poor namby-pamby Philips comes up again and again for a punishment to which, in recompense, he now owes his fame.

    The insertion of the Tory passage in Windsor Forest might have been taken as a direct challenge to the Whig champion, whose famous celebration of the Whig victory at Blenheim had been so popular. That his relations with Addison were not affected by it is shown by his supplying a prologue for Cato, which was produced within a month of the publication of Windsor Forest.

    Cato itself was to supply the real bone of contention. It was attacked by the veteran critic John Dennis, against whose strictures Pope undertook to take up the cudgels, in an anonymous Narrative of Dr. Robert Norris on the Frenzy of J. The result was a resentment which bore its final fruit in the lines on Atticus in the Epistle to Dr.

    Whatever may have been the rights of the difficulty between Addison and Pope, there Edition: current; Page: [ xv ] is no doubt that in one point, evidently a mere point of judgment, Addison was wrong. Without the additions which the author made, in spite of this advice, it would hardly stand, as it now does, an acknowledged masterpiece in its kind. Despite the apparently local and temporary nature of its theme, the poem attracted much greater attention when, in , it appeared in the new form.

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    It is as admirable in proportion as it is made of nothing:—. It is made of gauze and silver spangles. The most glittering appearance is given to everything,—to paste, pomatum, billet-doux, and patches. Airs, languid airs, breathe around; the atmosphere is perfumed with affectation. A toilette is described with the solemnity of an altar raised to the Goddess of Vanity, and the history of a silver bodkin is given with all the pomp of heraldry.

    No pains are spared, no profusion of ornaments, no splendor of poetic diction, to set off the meanest things. The balance between the concealed irony and the assumed gravity is as nicely trimmed as the balance of power in Europe. The little is made great, and the great little. You hardly know whether to laugh or weep.

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    It is the triumph of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and folly. It is the perfection of the mock-heroic. It was, according to the account of the poet, composed in and published in The present editor is inclined to think that justice has never been done to this extraordinary work, either as a product of precocity, or in its own right.

    It is, in his opinion, not only a manual of criticism, to which the practitioner may apply for sound guidance upon almost any given point, but an exhaustive satire upon false methods of criticism. It is a compendious rule of criticism which works both ways; hardly less rigorous than Aristotle, hardly less catholic than Sainte-Beuve. It does not, as has been alleged, constitute a mere helter-skelter summary of critical platitudes: there is hardly a predicament in modern criticism from which it does not suggest an adequate means of extrication. At all events, it represented, as Mr. With the accession of the house of Hanover in the literary situation in London was considerably modified.