Celebrating Alexander Pope at the Mawson Arms
You may be familiar with the usual kind of “POETS day” (an acronym for “P off early, tomorrow’s Saturday). This week we are celebrating another kind at Fuller’s.
In February 2019 it has been 300 years since one of Britain’s greatest poets, Alexander Pope, moved from Chiswick to Twickenham.
There he set up his famous river-side “Pope’s Lodge,” and an underground cave he called his Grotto. But before he moved there he spent three years living with his Mum and Dad at the Mawson’s Buildings in Chiswick, now known as Fuller’s very own Mawson Arms pub.
Alexander Pope’s time at The Mawson’s Buildings
If you visit the Mawson Arms for a pint, or to start or finish one of our famous brewery tours, you can see the Blue Plaque up on the wall, marking Pope’s three years spent living on the historic spot from 1716 to 1719.
He was driven back to live with his parents in times of difficulty – something we can all relate to. His family was Catholic and with the Jacobite rising in 1715 things were becoming more difficult for Catholics. So, Pope went back to Chiswick – a safe distance out of London – to stay with his folks.
One advantage of being home in Chiswick was that he became good friends with the Earl of Burlington, the owner of Chiswick house, where Pope played a part in reshaping the gardens you can visit today.
Pope’s parents were Alexander Pope (Senior) and his wife Edith (nee Turner), who was herself born a Turner. We’re still trying to find out whether the Edith inhabiting the Mawson’s buildings in 1716, was any relation to John Turner that established the famous brewing partnership with John Bird Fuller and Henry Smith, on the same spot 131 years later in 1845.
While in Chiswick, Pope completed his translation of the Greek Epic the Iliad, and apparently made so much money from it that he was able to afford his own riverside property. So, he left for Twickenham in early February 1719, 300 years ago, to build his famous Pope’s Villa by the River, and the idiosyncratic Grotto underneath it.
Pope spent the remainder of his life based just up the river in Twickenham and is buried there at St Mary’s Church underneath a brass plaque. In a memorial event held there in February 2019, the current Vicar Revd. Jeff Hopkin Williams allegedly said: “I think I’m the only Anglican vicar to have a Pope buried in his Church!”
Today, the Mawson Arms pub next to Fuller’s Griffin Brewery in Chiswick has a private dining room upstairs called the Alexander Pope Room.
Pope’s life as a poet
Through his long life, Pope was incredibly prolific and is the second most quoted English Writer in the Oxford Dictionary of quotations – after William Shakespeare. You may have come across some of the phrases he coined, such as:
“To Err is Human, to Forgive Divine.”
“The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
(Did you see the film of that title starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett?), or
“Fools Rush in where Angels fear to Tread.”
One of our favourites though, and perhaps applicable to a visit to the Mawson Arms to discuss philosophy over a pint of London Pride, is:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”
Pope was also quite up on the pop music scene of his day:
"Happier thy fortunes! like a rolling stone,
Thy giddy dulness still shall lumber on,
Safe in its heaviness, shall never stray,
But lick up ev'ry blockhead in the way."
The final word can go to the great poet. This from his “Essay on Criticism”, here is something meatier to ponder over your pint:
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense;
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move slow:
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Raise a glass to Alexander Pope
Raise a glass with us to one of the greats at the Mawson Arms pub on the corner of Chiswick Lane South in Chiswick, London.
To find out more about about the life and times of Alexander Pope, visit English Heritage.