The Pope and Blackmore Feud

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In the article, “A Mock-Biblical Controversy: Sir Richard Blackmore in the Dunciad,” Thomas Jemielity calls Blackmore “the Everlasting Blackmore” for two reasons: one, because Blackmore’s favourite form was the epic (he wrote at least four epics between 1695 and 1723), and two, because Alexander Pope’s ridicule of Blackmore in Peri Bathous immortalizes him as a prominent figure in Eighteenth-century poetry (265). Unlike most poets who perfected the lyric and pastoral first, Blackmore ambitiously began his poetic career with an epic called, Prince Arthur: An Heroick Poem in Ten Books (1695), and this decision, as Samuel Johnson indicates, left him “that much more open to criticism” (Solomon 43). Johnson’s prediction was unequivocally accurate, and no one criticized Blackmore more than Pope, who included Blackmore’s poetry in Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1727), a “how-to” manual on writing bad poetry. This essay will begin with a discussion of the possible causes behind the Blackmore-Pope, followed by an analysis of Peri Bathous, a comparison between Prince Arthur, and Creation, and finally a brief look at Pope’s Essay on Man (1734) and Blackmore’s Creation. Ultimately, this essay will show how Pope’s ridicule of Blackmore in Peri Bathous was not fully justified as Pope initiated their feud, unfairly chose Blackmore’s first work instead of his best work to criticize, and failed to acknowledge Blackmore for his contributions to An Essay on Man, Pope’s greatest work. The cause of the Pope-Blackmore feud is by no means easy to explain, especially with so many speculations as to why their antagonism started in the first place. One possible explanation comes from Abigail Williams who claims that Pope and Blackmore’s c... ... middle of paper ... if he knew how he would respond? After all, Pope decided to write a poem mocking a biblical text, so he understood the backlash he would receive from critics like Blackmore. By writing such a blasphemous poem, if he intended to publish it or not, Pope was asking for trouble, which places the blame entirely on his shoulders. Peri Bathous is a mock Ars Poetica, or Art of Poetry, a parodic treatise on how not to write poetry. It is a humorous inversion of Longinus's classical treatise, Peri Hupsous: or, The Art of the Sublime (1st century AD). Pope takes Longinus's description of the five sources of the sublime – grandeur of thought; inspired passion; the effective use of rhetorical figures; nobility of diction; and the dignity of the overall composition – and ironically advocates their opposites as guidance in the modern poet's quest to achieve true profundity.

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