As an admirer of Alexander Pope, and as a student of caves, I was pleased to learn that it is still possible to visit (with special permission, and only once a year) Pope’s Grotto, the artificial caves the poet had built below his home and garden in Twickenham around 1720. The accompanying picture gives what I can only assume is a very limited idea of the interior of the grotto, but it suggests an organic quality, and brings to mind certain scenes from the 1966 submarine film Fantastic Voyage, in which miniature scientists explore the interior of the human body. Until such a time as we can in fact reduce ourselves, and enter the human grotto via a hypodermic, we must content ourselves with the savagery of surgery, which rips the body open, but at the same time offers up for view heavy stalagmite organs and dripping stalactite glands, the blood that courses and pools among them, the blind cave-dwellers that reside within, the stones that accumulate in passages. I imagine a remake of the movie, but this time set in the 18th century, so that the flea-sized surgeons can enter Pope’s bloodstream, navigate through his deformities, diagnose (in heroic couplets) his tuberculosis, and cure it.

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