Questionable Criticism

Alexander Pope was definitely an interesting character. Thus, I decided to go with Image 1, which is a reflection of the treatment Pope dealt with.  The printed image maliciously depicts Popes physical disability as well as his standing as a civilian. I believe the image was primarily made to discredit Pope’s satire about the institutions rising dullness. Pope was not so subtlety calling out the suppression of the arts, education and the sciences to dullness, and doing so insultingly. At the very end of the poem Pope wrote

Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;

Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!

Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored;

Light dies before thy uncreating word:

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;

And universal darkness buries all. (The Dunciad)

Once England has been handed over to Dulness, everything lost sense, and the people of the land grew tired, physically. Without stimulation of the arts and different schools of education, the masses have nothing to keep them alert. Pope was certainly extreme in depicting this, but in precarious times, extreme actions are sometimes the wake-up call the people need. The image “The Poetical Tom-Titt perch’d upon the Mount of Love, Being the Representation of a Merry Description in Mr. Cibber’s Letter to Mr. Pope”, was only made to distract the population from the truth of Pope’s satire. The image shows Cibber saving Pope from what is said to be a prostitute, the door is flung open demonstrating the “real” Pope. Pope himself is shown as a very small man clinging to the body of a half nude woman, with a rather small head. This suggests that he was clinging onto a half-truth, the size of the woman’s head could be a statement about the legitimacy of Pope’s argument.

The image began printing the same year the fourth book of The Dunciad was published. While this could have been true, I believe that it was just a mean picture meant to discourage the population from believing Pope, and Pope from continuing his writing. The topic and nature of his words really lit a fire beneath people and the response was a satirical image. So, while images like these are important to contextualize work, one should really take them with a grain of salt. Always learn more about why an image depicts what it does, and the message that it is sending out, because this image was just a direct response of Pope’s satirical work.

– Sabrina Vazquez

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