YOU KNOW WHERE YOU DID DESPISE:
You know where you did despise
(Tother day) my little Eyes,
Little legs, and little Thighs,
And some things, of little Size,
You know where.
You, tis true, have fine black eyes,
Taper legs, and tempting Thighs,
Yet what more than all we prize
Is a thing of little Size,
You know where.
~~ Alexander Pope, His Majesty`s Obedient Dog At Kew ~~
Alexander Pope was born into his hurly burly world on the 21st May, 1688, in Olde London Town; although by this time, London was quite possibly the world`s most populous city, seething with the presence, the commerce and the stink of humanity. Why did the aristocracy keep so many large houses? Why, Sir, to flee from one to `tother, when they had filled up the privies to the brim, and needed to escape the odour awhile, for human waste operatives to dredge up the filth and cart it away.
Alexander`s father was a Catholic cloth merchant living in this most unefficacious city. It was a period of intense anti-Catholic sentiment in England, and at some time in the first ten years of little Alexander`s life, the family were forced to up sticks and relocate in order to comply with a statute forbidding Catholics to live within ten miles of London or Westminster. So they alighted upon Binfield in Berkshire.
Alexander`s early education was in fits and starts, simply because Catholic schools were illegal, although allowed to survive here and there; after the family left London for Binfield, his intellect being so fearsomely intense, he became self taught. Later in life, Sir Joshua Reynolds described him as being around the four foot six in height mark; this can be explained by the unfortunate development of tuberculosis of the bone around twelve years of age; from this, he became hunch backed and deformed out of kind.
You Know Where You Did Despise can be viewed as a sarcastic comment on his own lack of proportion in various departments; at a time when sexual prowess was of paramount importance in fashionable circles, Pope`s shortage of inches all round, was of some concern to him. Having been introduced to the literary chattering classes by William Wycherley (a gent impressed with young Alexander`s writing powers ), he quickly gained fame as one of the leading poets of the age. Pope retired to his villa at Twickenham in 1717, where he received visitors ( just about anyone who wanted a good old natter), and attacked his literary contemporaries ( he was dubbed the Wasp of Twickenham) left, right and centre, with fulsome exultation of spirit. To be insulted by Pope became de rigueur to anyone with a reputation to uphold.
Only Swift and Gay escaped punishment from Pope`s acidic pen. He expired at Twickenham on 30th May, 1744, having gained a reputation second to none as a poet and satirist. His corrosive opinions on so many, and so much of what he saw was possibly in part, due to his physical malady, and the resulting pain which bit and nibbled at him constantly without respite. Whatever, he was a razor sharp literary rottweiler of epic proportions; one of a breed of highly intellectual thugs that seems to have withered on the vine.