It has been the aim of the editor in preparing this little book to get together sufficient material to afford a student in one of our high schools or colleges adequate and typical specimens of the vigorous and versatile genius of Alexander Pope. With this purpose he has included in addition to The Rape of the Lock, the Essay on Criticism as furnishing the standard by which Pope himself expected his work to be judged, the First Epistle of the Essay on Man as a characteristic example of his didactic poetry, and the Epistle to Arbuthnot, both for its exhibition of Pope's genius as a satirist and for the picture it gives of the poet himself. To these are added the famous close of the Dunciad, the Ode to Solitude, a specimen of Pope's infrequent lyric note, and the Epitaph on Gay.
The first edition of The Rape of the Lock has been given as an appendix in order that the student may have the opportunity of comparing the two forms of this poem, and of realizing the admirable art with which Pope blended old and new in the version that is now the only one known to the average reader. The text throughout is that of the Globe Edition prepared by Professor A. W. Ward.
The editor can lay no claim to originality in the notes with which he has attempted to explain and illustrate these poems. He is indebted at every step to the labors of earlier editors, particularly to Elwin, Courthope, Pattison, and Hales. If he has added anything of his own, it has been in the way of defining certain words whose meaning or connotation has changed since the time of Pope, and in paraphrasing certain passages to bring out a meaning which has been partially obscured by the poet's effort after brevity and concision.
In the general introduction the editor has aimed not so much to recite the facts of Pope's life as to draw the portrait of a man whom he believes to have been too often misunderstood and misrepresented. The special introductions to the various poems are intended to acquaint the student with the circumstances under which they were composed, to trace their literary genesis and relationships, and, whenever necessary, to give an outline of the train of thought which they embody. In conclusion the editor would express the hope that his labors in the preparation of this book may help, if only in some slight degree, to stimulate the study of the work of a poet who, with all his limitations, remains one of the abiding glories of English literature, and may contribute not less to a proper appreciation of a man who with all his faults was, on the evidence of those who knew him best, not only a great poet, but a very human and lovable personality.
T. M. P. Princeton University, June 4, 1906.