Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


DASSIER, Jacques-Antoine: England, 1741, Bronze, 54 mm
Bust of Pope (r) ALEXA-NDER POPE.
Inscription with ornamental device POETA ANGLUS. M.DCC.XLI.
Ref: Eimer 83/564; Med.Ill. ii, 565/198;  Weiss BW674

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), English essayist, critic, and satirist, is generally regarded as the greatest English poet of the early eighteenth century and one of the greatest poets of the Enlightenment.

From early childhood Pope suffered numerous health problems, including Pott's disease (a form of tuberculosis affecting the spine), which deformed his body and stunted his growth; he never grew beyond 4 feet 6 inches tall. He also was not allowed to enter any of the Protestant universities because Pope's father, the son of an Anglican vicar, had converted to Catholicism. This caused the family many problems, for at that time Catholics suffered from repressive legislation and prejudices.

Pope, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer, is the second most frequently quoted writer in the English language, after William Shakespeare. His breakthrough work, An Essay on Criticism, appeared when he was twenty-three. It included the famous lines, "A little learning is a dangerous thing", "To err is human, to forgive, divine", and "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread". It also included this wonderful couplet:
"True wit is Nature to advantage dress'ed,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd."

Among his other noteworthy works are The Rape of the Lock, The Duncaid, and An Essay on Man, the latter of which included the famous quotation "The proper study of mankind is man".

Pope's physical defects made him an easy target for heartless mockery, but this did not prevent him from achieving his place in History as a leading literary critic and the epitome of English Neoclassicism.