How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!


Poor old Pope: He was a hunchback,barely five feet tall, and he was a Catholic. On account of the latter  he sits forever on the naughty step of the (read Protestant) Tradition of English poetry. His revenge: being more epigrammatic than anybody ever (with the possible exception of Oscar Wilde) and so quotable you don’t even know you’re quoting him—e.g., “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” “Damn with faint praise,” “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,”
It may come as no surprise that he is the second-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations after Shakespeare. It is worth remembering that was “the Augustan Age” (starring Swift, Addison, and Steele; so called because London had come to fancy itself the equal of Augustus’ Rome).This was a conservative, well ordered time when rhyming couplets, fine manners, syphilis, powdered wigs, and elaborate gardens were all you needed to get a reputation as a tastemaker. Not that Pope was himself one of the cognoscenti of the time. Nevertheless for sheer venom and bile, his satires still ooze vitriol.

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