“Slave to no sect”: From Part to Whole

  • G. Douglas Atkins


The focus on the parts–whole issue, prominent in An Essay on Criticism, appears throughout Pope’s poetry, by no means confined to critical or strictly literary matters. He explores its thematics from a variety of perspectives, in fact: from the lubricious and technically sophisticated “imitation” Sober Advice from Horace to the theodicy An Essay on Man and the Moral Essays. In these works, especially, Pope brings together poetry and philosophy, writing poems as essays and seeking to delineate the character of the relation that exists between parts and between parts and whole while revealing the power and importance of both participation and tension. The popular second “moral essay,” To a Lady, offers a striking illustration of this tension at work in the (self-)differences shown to characterize the female gender: Martha Blount thus appears as a whole made of seemingly competing parts.


Hanging Wall Literary Matter Individual Talent Paradise Lost Honest Part 
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    See my Strategy and Purpose in Pope’s Sober Advice from Horace, Papers on Language and Literature 15 (1979), 159–74, and Quests of Difference: Reading Pope’s Poems (Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1986), 99–146.Google Scholar
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    The Twickenham Edition of The Poems of Alexander Pope, Vol. 4, Imitations of Horace, ed. John Butt, 1939 (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1969).Google Scholar
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© G. Douglas Atkins 2013

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