Pope was born in London of Roman Catholic parents and moved to Binfield in 1700. During his later childhood he was afflicted by a tubercular condition known as Pott's disease that ruined his health and produced a pronounced spinal curvature. He never grew taller than 4 ft 6 in. (1.4 m). His religion debarred him from a Protestant education and from the age of 12 he was almost entirely self-taught.
Although he is known for his literary quarrels, Pope never lacked close friends. In his early years he won the attention of William Wycherley and the poet-critic William Walsh, among others. Before he was 17 Pope was admitted to London society and encouraged as a prodigy. The shortest lived of his friendships was with Joseph Addison and his coterie, who eventually insidiously attacked Pope's Tory leanings. His attachment to the Tory party was strengthened by his warm friendship with Swift and his involvement with the Scriblerus Club.
Pope's poetry basically falls into three periods. The first includes the early descriptive poetry; the Pastorals (1709); Windsor Forest (1713); the Essay on Criticism (1711), a poem written in heroic couplets outlining critical tastes and standards; The Rape of the Lock (1714), a mock-heroic poem ridiculing the fashionable world of his day; contributions to the Guardian; and "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady" and "Eloise to Abelard," the only pieces he ever wrote dealing with love. In about 1717 Pope formed attachments to Martha Blount, a relationship that lasted his entire life, and to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, with whom he later quarreled bitterly.
Pope's second period includes his magnificent, if somewhat inaccurate, translations of Homer, written in heroic couplets; the completed edition of the Iliad (1720); and the Odyssey (1725-26), written with William Broome and Elijah Fenton. These translations, along with Pope's unsatisfactory edition of Shakespeare (1725), amassed him a large fortune. In 1719 he bought a lease on a house in Twickenham where he and his mother lived for the rest of their lives.
In the last period of his career Pope turned to writing satires and moral poems. These include The Dunciad (1728-43), a scathing satire on dunces and literary hacks in which Pope viciously attacked his enemies, including Lewis Theobald, the critic who had ridiculed Pope's edition of Shakespeare, and the playwright Colley Cibber; Imitations of Horace (1733-38), satirizing social follies and political corruption; An Essay on Man (1734), a poetic summary of current philosophical speculation, his most ambitious work; Moral Essays (1731-35); and the "Epistle to Arbuthnot" (1735), a defense in poetry of his life and his work.
See the Twickenham edition of his poems (7 vol., 1951-61); his prose works ed. by N. Ault (1936, repr. 1968); his letters ed. by G. Sherburn (5 vol., 1956); biographies by G. Sherburn (1934, repr. 1963), N. Ault (1949, repr. 1967), P. Quennell (1968), and M. Maynard (1988); studies by G. Tillotson (1946; 2d ed. 1950; and 1958), F. W. Bateson and N. A. Joukovsky, ed. (1972), J. P. Russo (1972), P. Dixon, ed. (1973), F. M. Keener (1974), D. B. Morris (1984), L. Damrosch, Jr. (1987), and R. A. Brower (1986).
Alexander Pope, portrait by Thomas Hudson; in the National Portrait Gallery, London
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Born as Rinaldo di Jenne, a native of Jenne, near Anagni, he was, on his mother's side, a member of the de' Conti di Segni family, the counts of Segni, like Pope Innocent III (1198 - 1216) and Pope Gregory IX (1227 - 1241). His uncle, Pope Gregory IX made him Cardinal Deacon and Protector of the Order of Franciscans in 1227, Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church from 1227 until 1231 and Bishop of Ostia in 1231 (or 1232). He became Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1244 (or in 1240). On the death of Pope Innocent IV (1243 - 1254) he was elected Pope at Naples on December 12 1254.
Alexander IV succeeded Innocent IV as guardian of Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen, promising him protection; but in less than a fortnight he conspired against him and bitterly opposed Conradin's uncle Manfred. Alexander IV threatened excommunication and interdict against the party of Manfred, without effect. Nor could he enlist the Kings of England and Norway in a crusade against the Hohenstaufen. Rome itself became too Ghibelline for the Pope, who withdrew to Viterbo, where he died in 1261. He was buried in Viterbo Cathedral, but his tomb was destroyed during sixteenth century renovations.
His pontificate was signalized by efforts to unite the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, by the establishment of the Inquisition in France, by favours shown to the mendicant orders, and by an attempt to organize a crusade against the Tatars after the second raid against Poland in 1259.
On 12th April, 1261, shortly before his death, he granted a papal bull to Henry III of England, absolving him of oaths taken in the Provisions of Oxford, which was instrumental in the Second Barons' War.