Rape of the Lock

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A poem by Pope, in two cantos, published in Lintot's Miscellany 1712; subsequently enlarged to five cantos and thus published 1714.

When Lord Petre having forcibly cut off a lock of Miss Arabella Fermor's hair, the incident gave rise to a quarrel between the families. With the idea of allaying this, Pope treated the subject in a playful mock‐heroic poem, on the model of Boileau's Le Lutrin. He presents Belinda at her toilet, a game of ombre, the snipping of the lock while Belinda sips her coffee, the wrath of Belinda and her demand that the lock be restored, the final wafting of the lock, as a new star, to adorn the skies. The poem was published in its original form with Miss Fermor's permission. Pope then expanded the sketch by introducing the machinery of sylphs and gnomes, adapted from a light erotic French work, Le Comte de Gabalis, a series of five discourses by the Abbé de Montfaucon de Villars, which appeared in English in 1680; in his dedication he credits both Gabalis and the Rosicrucians. See also Paracelsus.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Alexander Pope (1688—1744) poet

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