Alexander Pope at Columbia
!/■ If N^FIE reputation of Alexander Pope, greatest English poet
of the eighteenth century, has suffered its vicissitudes.
Today, having been reassessed by the full resources of
modern critical theory and historical scholarship, he is firmly
acknowledged as a master. With the heroic couplet as his only
medium he achieved an astonishing range of expression—as can
be seen in such contrasted mock-epics as The Rape of the Lock
and the Dunciad, and in the satiric Epistles and the philosophic
Essay on Man.
Pope's manuscripts, when revised copies, are valuable for show¬
ing the intense care and craft he put into poetic composition;
and when "fair" copies, they demonstrate his exquisite callig¬
raphy. A plentiful number of both kinds of manuscripts survive.
As the major ones are gradually being published in facsimile, the
Columbia Libraries have been acquiring them—most recently
the sumptuous edition of the Essay on Man edited by Maynard
Mack and issued by the Roxburgh Club. But now at last the
Library has acquired an original autograph. It comes from the
library of the late Professor Elizabeth Reynard, and was pre¬
sented to Columbia in 1962 by Virginia C. Gildersleeve, Dean
Emeritus of Barnard College.
Pope frequently sat for his portrait, and although many exam¬
ples are extant their history and authenticity are complicated.
A two-volume study of The Portraits of Alexander Pope by
William K. Wimsatt, Jr., will be published next year by the
Y ale University Press; it will reproduce and discuss all the known
portraits. Special Collections has recently acquired one—it will
appear as No. 63.16 in Professor Wimsatt's numbering—and thus
at approximately the same time Coluinbia has come into pos-