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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Poet

Poet; son of a Roman Catholic linen draper; deformed by illness at the age of twelve and his health permanently impaired; Pastorals, his first published work, appeared in J. Tonson's Poetic Miscellanies, 1709, Essay on Criticism, published anonymously, 1711, attracted the attention of Addison; Rape of the Lock published in Lintot's Miscellanies, 1712, and separately, 1714; left Addison's 'little senate' to join the 'Scriblerus Club' of Swift, Gay and Oxford; the Iliad translated 1715-20 and the Odyssey, 1725-26; his close friends included Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with whom, as with many others, he quarrelled, and Martha Blount; among later works were the Dunciad, 1728-43, Moral Essays, 1731-35, the Essay on Man, 1733-34, the Horatian Satires and the Epistles, 1733-38; moved, 1719, to Twickenham; buried in Twickenham Church.

‘A lively little Creature', according to a description, almost certainly the sitter's own, 'with long Arms and Legs: A spider is no ill Emblem of him'; and in Sir Joshua Reynolds' account of 1742: 'about four feet six high; very humpbacked and deformed; he wore a black coat; and according to the fashion of that time, had on a little sword; ... he had a large and very fine eye, and a long handsome nose; his mouth had those peculiar marks which always are found in the mouths of crooked persons; and the muscles which ran across the cheek were so strongly marked as to appear like small cords ... an extraordinary face, not an everyday countenance, - a pallidly studious look; not merely a sharp, keen countenance, but something grand, like Cicero's.' [1]

Footnotesback to top

1) Sir George Scharf, Historical and Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures, Busts & etc. in the National Portrait Gallery, new and enlarged edition, 1888, pp 359-60.

Referencesback to top

Ault (ed.) 1936
Prose Works of Alexander Pope, ed. N. Ault, 1936.

Hilles (ed.) 1952
Portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, ed. F. W. Hilles, New York, 1952.

Prior 1860
J. Prior, Life of Edmond Malone, 1860.

Sherburn 1934
G. Sherburn, The Early Career of Alexander Pope, 1934.

Sherburn (ed.) 1956
The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, ed. G. Sherburn, 1956.

Spence 1820
J. Spence, Anecdotes, 1820.

Whinney 1971
M. Whinney, Victoria and Albert Museum, English Sculpture 1720-1830, 1971.

Wimsatt 1965
W. K. Wimsatt, The Portraits of Alexander Pope, 1965.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.