Pope and the 'Painted Scene'

Robert W. Williams


In the years between 1711 and 1713 Alexander Pope was actively engaged in learning the art of painting. As can be seen from his early letters, he had already been a practitioner for some years, and by June 1713 he had begun to take lessons from his friend, the fashionable portrait-painter Charles Jervas. During 1712 and the early part of 1713 he was also busy revising the poem Windsor Forest, and preparing it for the press. In the winter of 1712-13 he wrote to his friend, John Caryll: 'I am endeavouring to raise up around me a painted scene of woods and forests in verdure and beauty, trees springing, fields flowering, Nature laughing. Earlier in the letter he had quoted a number of 'beautiful winter-pieces of the poets', and if his own activities are intended as a contrast to these, it seems likely, as commentators have surmised, that in writing of his attempts to raise a 'painted scene' Pope refers to these revisions. If so, then Pope's conception of Windsor Forest as a 'painted scene' raises several interesting possibilities.

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