A Literary Biography
Howard Erskine-Hill (Edited by Alexander Lindsay)
This critical biography places Pope’s life and poetry in the context of the political state of Britain following the Revolution of 1688. It gives close readings of Pope’s major poems, including the less commonly discussed translations of Homer. Frequent resort is made to Pope’s letters, including new items. A final chapter discusses Pope’s literary reputation in the later eighteenth-century.
This critical biography is a posthumous publication by a Pope scholar of international reputation. It gathers the scholarship and insights of the author’s earlier books and essays on Pope into a final work of new research and a lifetime’s reflection on its subject, aimed at the informed general reader as well as students and professional scholars.
The book places Pope’s life, friendships, and poetry in the context of the political state of Britain following the Revolution of 1688, the year of the poet’s birth. It is sympathetic to the revisionist history which argues that Jacobitism was a serious and persistent phenomenon, and it brings out more fully than previously the extent of Pope’s contact with Catholic and Jacobite circles in England and abroad, giving this biography a distinctive approach and emphasis. Pope’s friendships, with both Whigs and Tories, with men and women, are brought into relation to the poetry.
Professor Erskine-Hill gives sensitive close readings of all Pope’s major poems, but also of the less commonly explored, notably the translations of Homer and especially of the Iliad. Frequent resort is made to Pope’s letters, among the finest of the age, including new items. A final chapter discusses Pope’s literary reputation in the later eighteenth-century subsequent to his death.
About the Author
The late Howard Erskine-Hill (1936-2014) was Emeritus Professor of Literary History, University of Cambridge, Fellow of Pembroke College and of the British Academy. A graduate of the University of Nottingham, his doctoral thesis ‘Tradition and Affinity in the Poetry of Pope’ marked the beginning of a lifetime’s concern with this poet. After teaching at the University of Wales, Swansea, from 1960 to 1965, he moved to the English Faculty of the University of Cambridge, where he remained until his retirement in 2003. With wide teaching and research interests in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries besides Pope, Professor Erskine-Hill was consistently committed to the study of relations between literature, history, and politics. Alexander Lindsay is an independent scholar, a graduate of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and of Trinity College, Dublin. He has edited, with Howard Erskine-Hill, William Congreve: The Critical Heritage (Routledge, 1989); and the Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Vol. III, 1700-1800, Parts 3 and 4 (Mansell, 1992-1997), the former in collaboration with Margaret M. Smith. He has also contributed articles to several scholarly journals.