Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

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  • Birth

    Alexander Pope was born to Alexander Pope senior (1646–1717), a Catholic linen merchant, and Edith Turner (1643–1733), at what was likely no. 2 Plough Court just off Lombard Street in the City of London. London had seen growing anti-Catholic sentiments through the 1670s, and starting in 1678 Charles II issued a series of edicts to bar Catholics who were not householders or tradesmen from being within ten miles of London. The year Pope was born, Parliament passed an Act "for removing papists, and reputed papists, from the cities of London and Westminster, and ten miles distance from the same."

  • The Revolution of 1688 and the abdication of James II

    The policies of religious tolerance of King James II, including his 1687 declaration of indulgence, attempts to pressure Parliament into repealing anti-Catholic laws, and his use of royal powers to suspend the statutes, had met with increasing opposition by members of both Whig and Tory parties, who were troubled by the king's Catholicism and his close ties with France. The crisis came to a head in 1688 with the birth of the king's son James Francis Edward Stuart, on 10 June. The birth of a son displaced the succession to the throne by James' eldest child Mary, a Protestant and the wife of the king's nephew William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange), and threatened the establishment of a Roman Catholic dynasty in Great Britain. English Parliamentarians invited William to England. Concerned about an increasingly hostile France and eager to form an alliance against the country, William had wanted to intervene in British foreign policy since at least 1672: he invaded England in November 1688. James finally fled to France on the 23rd of December, and William was crowned as William III of England with his wife Mary II of England on 11 April.

  • Move to Hammersmith

    By 1692, Alexander senior moved his family from Plough Court to the village of Hammersmith, about five miles west of the center of London. They likely remained there until moving to Binfield.

  • Arrival at Twyford School

    Little is known about Pope's time at Twyford, but according to Joseph Spence, Pope had told him it lasted "only one year," as he had written "a satire on some faults of his master," and was "whipped and ill-used ... and taken from thence on that account." He was subsequently sent to Thomas Deane's school at Marylebeone, which he attended for two or three years.

  • Move to Binfield, in Windsor Forest

    Pope Senior had acquired the house at Binfield, Berkshire, in 1698. Alexander left Mr. Deane's school and moved there with his family around 1700. He continued his schooling at home, driven primarily by his own interests. As he told Spence, "When I had done with my priests, I took to reading by myself, for which I had a very great eagerness and enthusiasm, especially for poetry: and in a few years I had dipped into a great number of the English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek poets. This I did without any design but that of pleasing myself, and got the languages by hunting after the stories in the several poets I read, rather than read the books to get the languages. I followed every where as my fancy led me, and was like a boy gathering flowers in the woods and the fields just as they fall in his way. I still look upon these five or six years as the happiest part of my life."

  • Accession of Queen Anne

    Upon William III's death on the 8 March 1702 Anne peacefully acceded to the throne. She was crowned 23 April (St George's day).

  • Start of the War of the Spanish Succession

  • Pope begins writing Pastorals.

  • Pope meets Martha and Teresa Blount.

  • Pope's first appearance in print

    On the 2nd of May 1709 Jacob Tonson published the sixth and final volume of Miscellanies, largely consisting of "Pastorals" by Pope and Ambrose Phillips. Tonson had written to Pope asking to publish the Pastorals three years earlier, on 20 April 1706. David Foxon suggests this might indicate that Pope, "a particularly favoured author," held out for "publication on his own conditions" (Pope and the Eighteenth-Century Book Trade, 23).