Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Pat Rogers, Ph.D., Litt. D.

Committee Member

William Heim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laura Runge, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sape Zylstra, Ph.D.


Moral Essays, poetry, eighteenth-century, architecture, reconciliation


The overarching goal of this study is to suggest that Alexander Pope did not abandon his project for a "system of ethics in the Horatian way," but rather that in his final days he did find a way to unite the parts at hand into a viable whole. Constructing such an argument, however, requires a similar building up from the parts, and so the core focus becomes a study on the way the image of an arch can serve as a metaphor for Pope's reconciliation scheme in his Moral Essays as he "steers betwixt" seeming opposites.

To justify this approach, I note the works of critics who have studied Pope's use of the sister arts, the works of architectural theorists and historians, as well the works of critics who focus on various reconciliatory strategies. Perhaps more importantly, I look back to Pope's correspondence and Joseph Spence's record to establish not only Pope's interest in architecture, but also his actual architectural endeavors.

From this foundation, I relate Pope's intentions for his opus magnum and indicate the connections that can be drawn between the four epistles of Essay on Man and the four epistles that Pope selected to comprise the "death-bed" edition of his ethic work, namely To a Lady, To Cobham, To Bathurst, and To Burlington. Finally, I examine Pope's method of reconciling the extremes he presents by exemplum in the Moral Essays by comparing the personal and societal pressures that form the basis of Pope's satire to the vertical and lateral thrusts that enable an arch to stand, even as they threaten its destruction should the forces become unbalanced.

From such an architectural perspective, one can trace Pope's conception of man in his middle state as he makes the transition from the abstract plan established in Essay on Man, through the pendentive formed by the arches of the Moral Essays, and ultimately to the ideal state of existence that is represented by the dome. The final result can be conceived of as no less than a monument to Pope's life and art.