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Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope and the Curious Case of Modern Scholarship and the Vanishing Text

Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope and the Curious Case of Modern Scholarship and the Vanishing Text Raymond Stephanson University of Saskatchewan Almost no one studies Pope’s correspondence as it was intended to be read in the 1730s when it was fi rst published. Howard Erskine-Hill is one of the few specialists to comment on this odd state of affairs, remarking that “attention has been diverted from the collections of Pope’s correspondence printed in his lifetime. . . . It is clear that Pope’s correspondence as reconstituted, selected and arranged by the poet himself . . . is Pope’s only major work not to have been edited in the twentieth century.”1 Pope’s poetry and life have received enormous attention. Why, then, has one of the great self-promotional texts of the eighteenth century all but vanished from our scholarly horizon?2 In examining this deficiency, my essay will explore three things: 1. the complex history of responses to Pope’s letters from Charles Wentworth Dilke and the Victorians to the present; 2. the unintentional limitations of George Sherburn’s magnificent 1956 standard edition of the correspondence; and 3. the precious little critical work that has been done on the 1730s editions. This essay does not engage in close analysis of specific letters, although the lack of scholarship certainly invites http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Eighteenth-Century Life Duke University Press

Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope and the Curious Case of Modern Scholarship and the Vanishing Text

Eighteenth-Century Life , Volume 31 (1) – Jan 1, 2007

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
© 2007 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0098-2601
eISSN
0098-2601
DOI
10.1215/00982601-2006-005
Publisher site
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Abstract

Raymond Stephanson University of Saskatchewan Almost no one studies Pope’s correspondence as it was intended to be read in the 1730s when it was fi rst published. Howard Erskine-Hill is one of the few specialists to comment on this odd state of affairs, remarking that “attention has been diverted from the collections of Pope’s correspondence printed in his lifetime. . . . It is clear that Pope’s correspondence as reconstituted, selected and arranged by the poet himself . . . is Pope’s only major work not to have been edited in the twentieth century.”1 Pope’s poetry and life have received enormous attention. Why, then, has one of the great self-promotional texts of the eighteenth century all but vanished from our scholarly horizon?2 In examining this deficiency, my essay will explore three things: 1. the complex history of responses to Pope’s letters from Charles Wentworth Dilke and the Victorians to the present; 2. the unintentional limitations of George Sherburn’s magnificent 1956 standard edition of the correspondence; and 3. the precious little critical work that has been done on the 1730s editions. This essay does not engage in close analysis of specific letters, although the lack of scholarship certainly invites

Journal

Eighteenth-Century LifeDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2007

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