Pope the Poet

This satirical print against Pope displays the backlash and hatred Pope received after publishing The Dunciad (1729). The image is a highly creative, but also disturbing reflection of what happens when one speaks against and parodies common rule/ popular following. In this image, Pope is depicted as a rat-like mutation hunched over as a result of the production variorumof his literature. While this image might be seen as cruel, I feel as though in a distinct way, Pope would have appreciated the creativity and extent to which this piece of literature (the image) was made.

In The Dunciad, Pope created a work which mocks the writers, critics, and readers whom he felt were simply dull, tasteless, irrelevant and corrupt. The goal of his piece was to shine light on the need for more powerful, meaningful literature. The poem is a shot at all those whom contribute to the production and release of such type of literature, forcing them to realize how ridiculousness their work truly is.

In The Dunciad, Pope writes:

“Whate’er the talents, or howe’er design’d,
We hang one jingling padlock on the mind:
A Poet the first day, he dips his quill;
And what the last? a very Poet still.
Pity! the charm works only in our wall, [165]”

Here Pope makes bold assertion that no matter what the talents of a person are, they will always be a poet and that in and of itself is of extreme importance. Therefore no words against him shall prosper but only be reflected under light at the end of the day.


-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

“Don’t Make An Ass of Yourself” -One of Pope’s Haters Probably


“Beneath her foot-stool, Science groans in Chains,
And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.
There foam’d rebellious Logic, gagg’d and bound,
There, stript, fair Rhet’ric languish’d on the ground.”

Alexander Pope wrote satirical pieces on the Enlightenment and some of its key figures because this was a period in which people disguised their hatred and dislike of other religions, peoples, and practices as science and logic. Being able to see that and criticize that hypocrisy made Pope the perfect target for images like the one above.

Especially when Pope writes pieces like the one quoted above that paint an image of the Enlightenment as some sort of wild animal that has been chained up and held prisoner. If logic isn’t something positive and instead is “rebellious” then the Enlightenment is not actually about growth and a new line of thinking but instead just a facsimile for bigotry and similar sentiments. Science is also not about progress as it “groans in chains” because just like logic it is something that needs to be kept bound. It implies that if it wasn’t something would be horribly wrong. So the Enlightenment and its ideas frauds.

The sentiment that not everything is what it seems and that some things are in fact fraudulent seems to be echoed in the image above meant to mock Pope. The image makes it clear that what Pope writes and believes in is a mockery of something real and legitimate because his very works are being held by the donkey. As if to say “what you have to say Alexander Pope is that you’re an ass” and this makes him the fraud that he has accused others of being and in doing so not only damages his credibility as a critic but also as a person because he’s been made a subject for endless ridicule.

By Diana Lara


HELLO! You’re not perfect either!

After going over Alexander Pope’s “The Dunciad” and lecture notes I believe that the most appropriate image to use would be image #2. This image was used to academically ridicule Pope and satirize his work to the fullest, in this image Pope is shown as a small hunched monkey, and the satirist refers to Pope as “A P E”. Out of the three images I felt like this one had the darkest satire because the fact that the monkey was hunched illuminates Pope’s own illness of Tuberculosis. I feel like the artist used satire in describing Pope as a monkey for two reasons because 1) that would take from Pope’s credibility but also 2) he is using Pope’s illness and ailment against him. In “the Dunciad”, Pope does criticize other authors so I feel like the satire in the image is used to say, “HELLO! You’re not perfect either!” It is evident that Pope isn’t perfect and the artist may have took it too far bringing up his illness but I think another thing worth noting is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church was mentioned. Pope was known as a follower of the Catholic Church, but even then he was treated sort of as a second class citizen and evidently not respected. I feel like the image illuminates Book 4 because it fires back at Pope’s judgements and seemingly encourages him to humble himself.

I interpreted footnote 2 as satire because Pope is calling out those who “see things that don’t exist” I feel like here is an example of him undermining or even criticizing someone else. In image #2 I interpret the image of being an attack, but an appropriate one focused on literary battle. Pope went on a back and fourth battle and indeed shots were fired. Pope seemed very egotistical and this image definitely was used to shut it down!

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

Always a Critic…

By: Leena Maria Beddawi

In Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad is nothing short of what could be referred to as high-brow literature, where Pope looks down upon those who critically challenge his writing. This quote shows the attitude he had towards critiques in general, explaining that when all is said and done, they will have no page of their own, but the only words they will have will be seen through his work, through his eyes, and his ideas.

“Let standard authors thus, like trophies borne,

Appear more glorious as more hack’d and torn.

And you, my Critics! in the chequer’d shade,

Admire new light thro’ holes yourselves have made.

Leave not a foot of verse, a foot of stone,

A page, a grave, that they can call their own;

But spread, my sons, your glory thin or thick,

On passive paper, or on solid brick.”

I chose this photo because if you see this through the critics perspective, you can see the very Pope in which wrote the above quote, the egotistical, passive, and dismissive figurehead. He places himself above others, much like an actual religious figure, which is where the photo comes in, perfectly portraying these ideas of superiority which exudes from his writings.


We can see, with his physical appearance being made fun of, that he was very, at the very least, culturally well-known. Pope argues that most of the authors at his time were boring and similar, that he held his works of literature to a higher regard because they were not such works of redundant fiction.

He believes the critics of such fiction are even worse off than the writers of said fiction because they focus on an almost worship said literature.  I would even argue that this has a double meaning, being connected to the actual church and religious leaders being placed on higher pedestals by the very people who criticize and worship them all the same.


Using Satire as Fodder for Satire

The satirical engraving of Colley Cibber pulling Alexander Pope off of a prostitute (image #1), which criticized Pope’s satirical works, is both a malicious attack on Pope’s physical appearance, but also the fodder which Pope likely used to parody and replicate for The Dunciad. The engraving features a noble Cibber “saving Pope” from a prostitute, likely a symbolization of disease and therefore poor writing. Cibber, in the description below the image, is said to have saved British poetry by this act, since Pope was known to satirize old texts. While the comic was likely intended to cause emotional distress, it may have given Pope many of the ideas he used in The Dunciad, a critique on writers who are dull and/or corrupt. It is also worthwhile to mention that Pope’s work was significantly influenced by the ongoing rift between the sciences and humanities, the latter of which was recently under attack by poor writers and corruption, something Pope likely took personal offense to. Cibber, one of Pope’s more successful enemies and Poet Laureate, attack one another satirically, Pope using some of the same elements from the engraving and replicating them in a carnival fashion.

For example, Cibber in The Dunciad, is given the role of Dulness’ son, the Queen of the Kingdom of Dull, and the enemy of the sciences and humanities. He has a nobility role in this topsy-turvy land, and similar to the engraving, which imbues him with the duty to pull Pope off the prostitute and save literature. He is tasked, along with Dulness, to imprison and destroy Science, Wit, Logic, Rhet’ric, etc., the personifications of themselves. It is clear from the engraving that Cibber is supposedly doing Pope a favor for the good of everyone else, and Pope interprets this too in The Dunciad, although flipping the meaning. Pope interprets it as chaotic and evil, writing that when Cibber and his legion of supporters (Dulness, clerk, etc.) have successfully eradicated all Enlightenment ideals, “thy dread Empire, CHAOS! Is restor’d…And Universal Darkness buries All”. Even the prostitute makes a significant appearance in both satirical works, both symbolizing a blight upon the world, although one in a negative connotation; in The Dunciad, as a positive one. It is important to recognize that the prostitute in the satirical engraving allows for a deformed Pope to perch “pertly on the Mount of Love” and thus be inflicted by poor writing. In The Dunciad, the prostitute’s role is the same, although instead of afflicting Pope, she is the harbinger for “Division”, giving scorn to the Muses of ancient Greece, and therefore Enlightenment ideals.

Based on these similar points, it is likely that Pope took the form of the satirical engraving meant to mock him and use it to mock his enemies. While not a direct hypertext, Pope incorporates many of the same elements such as pretention and blight, and the characters of Cibber and the prostitute. Seeing as Pope was a master of satire, it is not hard to fall under the assumption that Pope likely saw the engraving and utilized it for his own gain.

-Sara Nuila-Chae


Surprisingly, People Still Believe that their 2 cent Speech is Needed

Perhaps I am being to cynical and critical of religion, but from what literature has come to teach is just how influential it can be, but also how it is contradictory and mocked. There is no need to delve into what satire is by this point as we all have come to form our own definitions of it. So, in looking at the second image, it comes to no shock that religion must be mocked. In his poem, Alexander Pope does not try to be coy about who he is trying to make a statement about. He is straightforward and while the image is meant to mock Pope himself, it comes off more as fuel to the fire, a greater need for people to read his work in order to understand that the image is merely promoting his work. In the image there are two distinct animals presented, the rat and the donkey and the statement is quite clear that pope is disgusting and an ass[hole]. Why put this forward unless its creator was deeply offended for Pope using satire to point out the truth and flaws of both religion, society but also what is a legitimate work of literature.


The gath’ring number, as it moves along,

Involves a vast involuntary throng,

Who gently drawn, and struggling less and less,

Roll in her Vortex, and her pow’r confess.

Not those alone who passive own her laws,

But who, weak rebels, more advance her cause.

Whate’er of dunce in College or in Town

Sneers at another, in toupee or gown;

Whate’er of mungril no one class admits,

A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.


In the above passage, it is very obvious that no one is immune to stupidity. The last line specifically calls out anyone of both extremes of the intelligence spectrum to indicate how at the end of the day we are all at the base, human. No matter the change of scenery or schooling, everyone is the same in the sense that we are all human and not a rat or a donkey. In that phrase alone, Pope is denouncing all his critics because the way that it comes across is that at the end of the day people are going to be reading his works more often than they will be seeing an image that someone who had gotten offended and had to retaliate some way (which unlike today would be calling someone out on Twitter, they choose to spend time drawing that). Pope knew his work would thus be remembered for the nature of it being blunt and calling out people to realize their privilege and not be so self centered that their works may not be the next big thing. In doing so, he is trying to give them a reality check that not everyone can write the greatest poem, epic, play, Bible, etc. and to in a sense be open to criticism. So, people can rant all they want but in order to be an author and not someone who just writes stuff, they have to have a backbone and understand that criticism is not a personal attack but a tool to help make a work better. And if they choose to believe that it is the greatest thing on earth, then they are merely a dunce with wits.


Today’s post was brought to you by Xotchitl Garibay and the letter “S” for satire and the number “2” for the 2 cent speech that is not always needed.

What Comes Around Goes Around

“Beneath her foot-stool, Science groans in Chains,
And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.
There foam’d rebellious Logic, gagg’d and bound,
There, stript, fair Rhet’ric languish’d on the ground;
His blunted Arms by Sophistryare born, 
And shameless Billingsgate her Robes adorn.
Morality, by her false Guardians drawn,
Chicane in Furs, and Casuistry in Lawn,
Gasps, as they straiten at each end the cord,
And dies, when Dulness gives her Page the word.”

A response to Image 2

Alexander Pope was heavily criticized by many writers of his time-period, the Enlightenment. In Image 2, he is represented as a mutation between a rat and a monkey with his recently published work at the time, The Dunciad. These verses represent the image because Pope claimed that being dull was praised and thus, people, mainly authors and artists, were offended by Pope’s accusation which resulted in the photo.
            Although the mocking images of Pope are inappropriate and unprofessional, one must not forget that The Dunciad is filled with slander of other authors. After Pope anonymously published the book in response to Theobald’s criticism of his Shakespeare edition, a childish back and forth slander between Pope and his criticizers began. While it may be easy to side with Pope because he was not afraid to criticize other writers of lacking skill, therefore ruining literature, he abuses his authorship.
            Not every piece of literature, whether it be in the form of books, essays, articles, magazines, blog posts, etc. we read is going to be enjoyable for us. However, that does not mean it is unacceptable and cannot be published. Why? Because of free speech. There are quite a few books and especially posts (i.e. Facebook or Twitter) that advocate immoral values, such as racism, but every person is entitled to their own opinion and can express it in their own way.
There was nothing wrong in Theobald criticizing Pope. Pope took it too personally and began the back and forth name-calling and degrading between him and the writers of his time. In fact, he should not have been surprised that these pictures of him were created in order to ridicule him.

By Charise Cating

“Ha, Ha, Mr. Pope!”

This image depicts Alexander Pope, Colley Cibber (the character from The Dunciad: Book 4), Edward Rich, and a woman who seems to portray a prostitute from that time period. The Dunciad was originally written to satirize Pope’s enemies, people that he had believed were too ignorant to understand his work. However, his enemies were not as dumb as he believed, and they retaliate with this image;

Pope visual satire

This image shows Cibber trying to pull Pope from the harlot on the bed, and peering through the wall is Rich. Cibber is desperate to get Pope away from the woman so that he may “save” him from sin, with Pope portrayed as a very small man, due to his physical disability during the time he was alive.

One of the quotes that had caught my attention and had pushed me to focus on image #1 was as follows;

“When lo! a Harlot form soft sliding by, 20  [45]

With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye;

Foreign her air, her robe’s discordant pride

In patch-work flutt’ring, and her head aside:

By singing Peers 21  up-held on either hand,

She tripp’d and laugh’d, too pretty much to stand; [50]

Cast on the prostrate Nine 22  a scornful look,

Then thus in quaint Recitativo 23 spoke.”

(Pope 45-52)

This quote focuses solely on the harlot, and makes her appear strong and more powerful than any man around her. Usually, prostitutes are seen as dirty, sinful, and diseased; however, with this scene, the harlot becomes a woman of pride and strength, unable to be stopped or controlled by any mere man. Having Pope on top of the woman shows that he is unafraid to step towards something seen as wrong in order to put his thoughts out there, with Rich standing as a watchman so that he may stand away from putting his opinions forward over the subject.

– Jody Omlin