- Pope Well Noted
The first volume of the Longman Annotated English Poets edition of Pope, meticulously edited by Julian Ferraro and Paul Baines, is the first of the five-volume set designated for publication by Routledge and may prove to be the most critically important volume of the five in its influence on the received shape of Pope's poetic career. The new volume is confessedly not part of a "Complete Works" (the scope of an ambitious edition of a different kind in progress with Oxford University Press) nor even the "Complete Poems." Neither the prose nor, disappointingly perhaps, the major "Homer" translations, will be found in the projected set. The Longman "Dryden" chose to omit the great translation of Virgil's Aeneid, and again, doubtless due to production costs, the Longman "Pope" will lack the central work of Pope's poetic oeuvre. While this remit must necessarily circumscribe how the poet must now appear to us, yet in other important respects, covering four years of publication and over ten years of composition (Pope "lisp'd in numbers"), volume 1 presages a worthy replacement for the twentieth century's Twickenham Edition of Pope, or large parts of it. It is sensibly to the advantage of the new edition that volume 3, devoted to The Dunciad of 1728 and The Dunciad Variorum of 1729, will be Valerie Rumbold's highly reputable 2007 edition of these works. [End Page 56]
The new volume is organized with pleasing straightforwardness. The poems appear in the chronological order of their first occurrence in print: no respect is paid to the variously constituted categories of verse, initiated in Pope's lifetime according to the custom of subsequent major editions, including the Twickenham. As the editors observe in their preface, this tells "a particular kind of story (one which otherwise requires consultation of three separate volumes of the Twickenham Edition and a certain amount of textual reconstruction)" (xxi). The advantages are several in kind. First, the new arrangement avoids such question-begging categories as "Minor Poems." Some (accepted) small-scale pieces that easily slipped through the cracks then are now part of the sequential logic of this narrative. Pope's 1711 "Lines from The Critical Specimen," for example, his 1712 "On a Fan of the Author's Design" or the 1713 "Prologue, Design'd for Mr. D—'s Last Play" now interleave more developmentally significant works. Some youthful verses have attracted little attention beyond the specialist hothouse, and of these, the Ovidian translation of "Sapho to Phaon" (1712) is a case in point. Others, signally the Essay on Criticism, are more often known outside the environment of Pope's early productions than within its explanatory context. The new gathering can thereby suggest extra-generic connections between the Essay and, say, Pope's Ode for Musick. The proximity invites us to explore contexts beyond the usual, raises questions at an imaginative and conceptual level, and enables us to see both poems differently.
The only potential downside to this division, compared with the Twickenham, is that the first (1712) incarnation of the Rape of the Locke appears severed from the later, better-known, versions in which Pope adds the apparatus of the sylphs, Belinda's toilet, the game of ombre, and the speech of Clarissa in canto 5, itself seriocomically repurposed from the heroic rhetoric of Homer's "Episode of Sarpedon." This "Episode" was first printed in Tonson's Miscellaneous Poems of 1709 and is reprinted here. But given that the merit of the Rape's first version has been lost in the blaze of the last and that the poem's sources in Pope's early milieu require illustration, the drawbacks are few. Reference to the later versions can in any case be made in the notes: thus, Pope's couplet from the 1712 Rape, "If to her share some Female Errors fall, / Look on her Face, and you'll forgive 'em all" (ll. 33–34) has, we learn from the note, "forget" for "forgive" in the 1714 text (490n34), perhaps sharpening...