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Alexander Pope is Born

Today in Masonic History Alexander Pope is born in 1688.

Alexander Pope was a British poet.

Pope was born on May 21st, 1688 in London, England. Pope, a Roman Catholic, was born 10 years after the passage of the Test Acts which were directed at Roman Catholics. It prevented Roman Catholics from attending school or teaching. Because of this, Pope's early education was largely restricted to what his parents taught him. He did attend Catholic schools around London which were technically illegal, although tolerated in certain parts of the city. In 1700 the family moved from London to Binfiield, Berkshire. This was due to heavy anti-Catholic sentiment in London. This ended Pope's more formal education, from then on he was self taught with whatever books he found. He also taught himself languages including French, Italian, Latin and Greek. After moving to Binfield he also began to suffer health issues. He developed Pott's Disease, a form of tuberculosis affecting the bones. This stunted his growth and caused him to develop a permanent hunchback. As a Catholic at the time he was already a social outcast, the physical deformities made it even worse.

Pope's first major work was published in 1709 called Pastorals which made him an instant success. Two years later he wrote An Essay on Criticism. At the same time he began to associate with a group of Tory writers including Jonathan Swift. Pope, Swift and other writers formed a group called the Scriblerus Club. The club's purpose was to satirize ignorance and pedantry in the form of the fictional scholar Martinus Scriblerus. Pope also socialized with Whig writers as well. During this time he also wrote for two publications.

In 1713, Pope, who had been obsessed with Homer since his youth, announced he was releasing a translation of the Iliad. In 1715 the first of 6 volumes was released. Over the next six years Pope released another volume with further translations of the Iliad. In 1726, Pope's translation of the Odyssey appeared.

In 1714, Queen Anne passed away and the dispute between the Hanoverians and the Jacobites increased leading to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Pope, despite being Roman Catholic and closely associated with the Tories did not side with the Jacobites. In fact it is unclear what Pope's political stance was, if he had any.

It was also in 1714 Pope published Rape of the Lock, rape by the definition of the period meaning abduction. The story was a mock-epic, satirizing traditional epic heroes. In the poem Pope satirizes a high society quarrel where a man steals a lock of a woman's hair. In the poem Pope addresses the onset of acquisitive individualism and a society of conspicuous consumers. It also depicts a world where trivial things assume dominance.

In 1725, Pope released a new edition of Shakespeare's plays. In it Pope "regularized" Shakespeare's meter. A total of 1,560 lines were moved to footnotes by Pope. He stated the lines were so "excessively bad" there was no way Shakespeare wrote them himself.

On May 30th, 1744 Pope passed away.

Pope was a member of Lodge 16 in London, England. It was a short lived lodge, meeting at the "Goat at the Foot of the Haymarket" tavern in London. The year after Pope's passing the lodge was closed.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.