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“Slave to no sect”: From Part to Whole

  • G. Douglas Atkins
Chapter
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Abstract

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.

Keywords

Hanging Wall Literary Matter Individual Talent Paradise Lost Honest Part 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    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
  2. 2.
    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
  3. 3.
    For the sake of convenience and accessibility, I have, wherever possible, quoted from Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope, ed. Aubrey Williams (Boston: Riverside-Houghton Mifflin, 1969).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    John Dryden, Poems and Fables, ed. James Kinsley (London: Oxford UP, 1962).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Miriam Leranbaum, Alexander Pope’s “Opus Magnum” 1729–1744 (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1977).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See my Tracing the Essay: From Experience to Truth (Athens: U of Georgia P, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (London: Methuen, 1920), 45.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    T.S. Eliot, Ash-Wednesday: Six Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 1930).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sir William Habington, quoted in Henry David Thoreau, The Portable Thoreau, ed. Carl Bode (New York: Viking Penguin, 1947), 559.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Michel de Montaigne, “Of Practice,” The Art of the Essay, ed. Lydia Fakundiny (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), 686.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
  12. 12.
    Helen Vendler, Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2006). The remark actually appears on the dustjacket; no mention appears in Vendler’s critical text.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    T.S. Eliot, “The Metaphysical Poets,” Selected Essays, 3rd ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), 281–91.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Eduardo Nicol, quoted in Phillip Lopate, ed., The Art of the Personal Essay (New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1994), xxxvii.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jacques Derrida, Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow (Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 1978).Google Scholar

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© G. Douglas Atkins 2013

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