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Pope image

Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
An Essay on Man
Autograph manuscript [ca. 1731]
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; MA 348
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The text of An Essay on Man was the result of a tortuous composition process. Pope first made prose notes on the philosophical arguments he wished to put forth, then worked out couplets on scraps of paper and composed a first draft. On fresh sheets, shown here, he neatly copied the verses he had composed thus far and reworked them heavily. Another fair copy with further revisions followed. Even after the poem was published, Pope continued to refine it for later editions. Dr. Johnson, who studied examples of Pope's manuscripts, found them a source of delight for those who wish "to trace the mind from the rudeness of its first conceptions to the elegance of its last."

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.