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Alexander Pope

1688 – 1744 CE

Second most quoted English writer

Second most quoted English writer after Shakespeare, anonymous and profound influence on culture, compassionate commentator on humankind’s foolishness; Pope foresaw and criticized the growing materialism and consumerism of his era. His critiques were so pointed and insightful, they aroused such hatred that he was viciously slandered with lies and was forced to carry a pistol when he went for walks. From a Catholic family in England when Catholics were banned from teaching or going to a university; Pope’s aunt had to teach him to read and he was largely self-taught with help of sages like Homer, Horace, Virgil, Shakespeare, and Chaucer. Suffering ill health from an early age, he had a kind of tuberculosis from age 12 that turned him into a severe hunchback and limited his height unto only 4 feet, 6 inches. Transmuting his difficulties into art, he completed impressive translations, critical essays, and poems that created new forms as well as inspiring both people of his times and ours.

Eras

Sources

An Essay on Criticism

An Essay on Man

Unlisted Sources

An Essay on Criticism, 1709

An Essay on Man, 1736

Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

Imitations of Horace, 1733

In An Essay on Criticism, 1749

Respect to the Universe

Temple of Fame

Quotes by Alexander Pope (25 quotes)

“Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said ‘Let Newton be’ and all was light.”

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“Alike fantastic, if too new, or old;
Be not the first by whom the new are try'd,
Not yet the last to lay the old aside.”

from An Essay on Criticism

Themes: Middle Way

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“A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”

from An Essay on Criticism

Themes: Golden Chains

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“All Discord, Harmony, not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, 'Whatever IS, is RIGHT.'”

from An Essay on Man

Themes: Reality Problems

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“Go, wondrous creature, mount where science guides.
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the sun;
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule,
Then drop into thyself and be a fool.”

from An Essay on Man, 1736

Themes: Science

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“Good-nature and good-sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive divine.”

from In An Essay on Criticism, 1749

Themes: Forget

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“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.”

from An Essay on Man, 1736

Themes: Know Yourself

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“One Science only will one Genius fit;
So vast is Art, so narrow Human Wit.”

from An Essay on Criticism, 1709

Themes: Art Less is More

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“Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be, blest.”

from Respect to the Universe

Themes: Hope

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“To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.”

Themes: Anger

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“Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the fault I see, that mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me.”

Themes: Golden Rule

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“No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.”

Themes: Mistakes

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“Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?”

from Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

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“Pride, the never-failing vice of fools.”

from An Essay on Criticism, 1709

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“Amusement is the happiness of those who cannot think.”

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“For forms of government, let fools contest;
What’er is best administer’d is best.”

from An Essay on Man, 1736

Themes: Government

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“For modes of faith, let graceless zealots fight;
He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.”

from An Essay on Man

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“And, after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but the truth in a masquerade.”

Themes: Lies

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“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Themes: Wisdom

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“Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.”

Themes: Beauty Marriage

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“The difference is too nice - where ends the virtue or begins the vice.”

Themes: Virtue

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“Years following years steal something every day;
At last they steal us from ourselves away.”

from Imitations of Horace, 1733

Themes: Time Old Age

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“Superior and alone, Confucius stood
Who taught that useful science,—to be good.”

from Temple of Fame

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“In grave Quintilian’s copious works we find
The justest rules and clearest method join’d”

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“I read Chaucer still with as much pleasure as almost any of our poets. He is a master of manners, of description, and the first tale-teller in the true enlivened natural way.”

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