Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift both believed, with varying degrees of self-assuredness, that some part of themselves would outlast their lives. They differed, however, as to precisely what would or could endure. From their earliest works, including Swift's A Tale of a Tub and Pope's Pastorals, through their joint efforts as members of the Scriblerus Club, and on to later achievements, such as The Dunciad, Pope's Imitations of Horace, and Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, they executed strategies of authorial identitycreation and control designed to achieve ends in purposeful contradistinction. Whereas Pope's belief in the redemptive potential of his own poetic prowess—a belief not always unwavering in the face of the cultural decline he set out to combat—compelled him to give the model of Pope-as-author pride of place in future memory, Swift tended to emphasize the expedient at the expense of textual self-memorializing. This essay examines how their nuanced but fundamental disagreements about the purpose of writing, the value of authorial “remains,” and the nature of possible futures constitute the subject of a dialogue that takes place not only in their “private” correspondence, but also through their public poetry and prose.
Seth Rudy; Pope, Swift, and the Poetics of Posterity. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 September 2011; 35 (3): 1–28. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-1336781
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