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Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures$
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Ron Johnston

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265277

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265277.001.0001

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Pope’s Ethical Thinking: Passion and Irony in Dialogue

Pope’s Ethical Thinking: Passion and Irony in Dialogue

2011 Chatterton Lecture on Poetry

(p.34) (p.35) Pope’s Ethical Thinking: Passion and Irony in Dialogue
Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures

Christopher Tilmouth

British Academy

This lecture examines Alexander Pope's depictions of passion and sentiment in a range of early writings, including his ‘Prologue’ to Addison's Cato, Eloisa to Abelard and An Essay on Man. It then shows how often Pope belittled his own forays into affectivity and relates that tendency to a wider interest in ‘sceptical perspectivism’. The presence of the latter is traced in other works such as John Gay's Trivia, Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees and the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury's Characteristics, all of which – the last especially – are invoked to explain the dialogic methods employed in Pope's Rape of the Lock and his Dunciad Variorum. Finally, the argument suggests that, despite suffering a loss of self-confidence in the mid-1730s (evident in the Epistle to Arbuthnot), Pope was able to recover his satirical idiom precisely by fusing his passionate and dialogic concerns in the Epilogue to the Satires of 1738.

Keywords:   Alexander Pope, John Gay, Bernard Mandeville, Earl of Shaftesbury, emotions in literature, irony, dialogue

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