The Iliad Of Homer, Translated by Mr. Pope.
RA Collection: Book
Half-title: Homer's Iliad
The frontispiece portrait in Volume I is signed as engraved by G. Vertue; the fold. map, as engraved by Iohn Senex. The map in Volume II is signed as made by I. Harris. The plate of 'The Shield of Achilles' in Volume V is signed as designed by N. Vleughels and engraved by Saml. Gribelin Junr.
Headpieces, tailpieces and decorated initials are unsigned.
R.H. Griffith, Alexander Pope, a bibliography (2 v., 1922-1927; repr. 1968).
D.F. Foxon, Pope and the early eighteenth-century book trade (1991).
M.M. Rubel, Savage and barbarian: historical attitudes in the criticism of Homer and Ossian in Britain , 1760-1800 (1978).
For studies of Homer in art see the bibliographic note on F. Inghirami's Galleria Omerica (1831).
Pope's 'Observations On The Shield Of Achilles' in volume V (1720) are discussed in M.R. Brownell, Alexander Pope & the Arts of Georgian England (1978), p.40-50.
Here the fountain-head of European literature is presented in a translation which, as Johnson said, 'tuned the English tongue'. But Homer's poem was also highly valued as a source of subject-matter for history-painting. In his Preface Pope praises the creative fire of Homer's imagination, narrative and language ('like the colouring of some great masters, laid on boldly and executed with rapidity'). He concedes that in Homeric times 'a spirit of revenge and cruelty reigned through the world', but finds in him 'a clear and surprising vision of things nowhere else to be found', a 'simplicity in oppposition to the luxury of succeeding ages'. This nobly primitive Homer appealed to many writers and artists in the later eighteenth century, such as Gavin Hamilton (widely familiarised in the engravings of Cunego) and John Flaxman, whose figures are drawn in 'primitive' outline against a plain background.
The Royal Academy sometimes set Homeric subjects to competitors for the biennial prizes or 'premia' in history-painting or sculpture. Lists are not complete; but the following have been recorded: (for sculpture) 1772 Odysseus addressing Nausicaa (Odyssey 6); 1788 Achilles consoled by Thetis (Iliad 18); 1841 and 1879 Venus rescuing Aeneas from Diomed (Iliad 5); 1859 Lycaon imploring Achilles (Iliad 21); 1871 Ulysses drawing the arrow from Tydides' foot (Iliad 11); (for painting) 1869 Ulysses and the nurse (Odyssey 19).
Name as Subject
Greek poetry - Epics - Epic poetry - Narrative poetry - Greece - ca. 8th century B.C.
Translations into English - English poetry - Translations from Greek - Great Britain - 18th century