1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 142.



Pope is a poet of the intellect rather than of nature and the emotions. The nineteenth century raised the question, contested by Bowles on the adverse side, and Roscoe on the other, whether Pope was a poet at all. Wordsworth thought poorly of him; but Wordsworth had no wit, and wit is the predominant element in Pope. "There can be no worse sign for the taste of the times," says Byron, "than the depreciation of Pope, the most perfect of our poets, and the purest of our moralists.... In my mind, the highest of all earthly objects must be moral truth."

"In spite of the influences," says Mr. John Dennis (1876) "at work during the earlier years of this century, tending to lessen the poetical fame of Pope, his reptutation has grown, and is still growing." And Mr. John Ruskin, in his lectures on Art, after referring to Pope as one of the most accomplished artists in literature, adds: "Putting Shakspeare aside as rather the world's than ours, I hold Pope to be the most perfect representative we have, since Chaucer, of the true English mind."