Deflating postmodern irony has been a long time coming. Donald Nichol sees it aborning already in the heyday of classicism, with Alexander Pope’s third, and last, great poem.

The Rape of the Lock represents Pope’s acknowledgement of the triumph of style over substance – a mock-salute to the spirit of inconsequentiality, which seemed to be on the rise in the early eighteenth century (vide John Gay’s Trivia) and looks ahead to Seinfeldian comedy, the great show about nothing, a celebration of the quotidian where the minor itches of life are scratched large. It was to be the last major original poem of Pope’s early career.”