Early Life and Juvenilia

  • Felicity Rosslyn
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


Alexander Pope was born on 21 May 1688 in London, to an elderly linen-merchant and his second wife. He was their only son, though there was a daughter from the first marriage, and he was correspondingly treasured through a happy early childhood, in which he rapidly discovered that his business was with words — while his proud but sober father impressed on him that there was room for improvement in this, as in all else. Joseph Spence records Pope’s mother saying in later life,

Mr Pope’s father … was no poet, but he used to set him to make English verses when very young. He was pretty difficult in being pleased and used often to send him back to new turn them. ‘These are not good rhymes’ he would say, for that was my husband’s word for verses.1

The young Pope’s education probably owes more to this, and his own excited explorations in the family library, than anything else. He also told Spence,

I had learned very early to read and delighted extremely in it. I taught myself to write very early, too, by copying from printed books with which I used to divert myself, as other children do with scrawling out pictures.2

The poet-to-be developed the intensity of relationship with books that other children develop with their favourite toys, and a fascination with books as artefacts that lasted all his life.


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Copyright information

© Felicity Rosslyn 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Felicity Rosslyn
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeicesterUK

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