Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

ALEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 22, 1688, of parents whose rank or station was never ascertained.

He was from his birth of a constitution tender and delicate; but is said to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of disposition. When he was about eight, he was placed in Hampshire, wder Taverner, a Romish priest, who taught him the Greek and Latin rudiments together. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by the perusal of “ Ogilby's Homer" and "Sandys' Ovid.”

The earliest of Pope's productions is his “Ode on Solitude," written before he was twelve, in which there is nothing more than other forward boys have attained, and which is not equal to Cowley's performances at the same age. His time was now wholly spent in reading and writ. ing. As he read the classics, he amused himself with translating them; and at fourteen made a version of the first book of “ The Thebais," which, with some revision, he afterWard published. He must have been at this time, if he had no help, a considerable proficient in the Latin tongue.

By Dryden's fables, which had then been not long published, and were much in the hands of poetical readers, he was tempted to try his own skill in giving Chaucer a more fashionable appearance, and put“ January and May,” and the “Prologue of the Wife of Bath,” into modern English. He translated likewise the epistle of “ Sappho to Phaon," from Ovid, to complete the version which was before im. perfect; and wrote some other small pieces, which he after. ward printed.

From the age of sixteen the life of Pope, as an author, may be properly computed. He now wrote his Pastorals, which were shewn to the poets and critics of that time; as they well deserved, they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree; they were, however, not published till five years afterward.

In 1709 was written the “ Essay on Criticism;" a work which displays such extent of comprehension, such nicety of distinction, such acquaintance with mankind, and such knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are not often attained by the maturest age and longest experience. It was published aboạt two years afterward.

In “The Spectator" was published the Messiah, which he first submitted to the perasal of Steele, and corrected in compliance with his criticisms.

It is reasonable to infer, from bis Letters, that the“ Verses on the Unfortunate Lady" were written about the time when his Essay was published.

Not long after, he wrote “ The Rape of the Lock," the most airy, the most ingenious, and the most delightful of all his compositions, occasioned by a frolic of gallantry, rather too familiar, in which Lord Petre cut off a lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair, About this time he pub. lished “ The Temple of Fame," which, as he tells Steele in their correspondence, he had written two years before ; that is, when he was only twenty-two years old, an early time of life for so much learning and so much observation as that work exhibits. Of the epistle from “ Eloisa to Abelard,” we do not know the date.

In the next year (1713) he published “Windsor Forest ;" of which part was, as he relates, written at sixteen, about the same time as his Pastorals, and the latter part was added afterward: where the addition begins, we are not told. He soon produced a bolder attempt, by which profit was sought as well as praise. He resolved to try how far the favour of the public extended, by soliciting a subscription to a version of the “ Iliad," with large


Parnell contributed the life of Homer, which Pope found so harsh, that he took great pains in correcting it ; and by his own diligence, with such help as kindness or money could procure him, in somewhat more than five years he completed his version of the “Iliad,” with the notes. He began it in 1712, his twenty-fifth year, and concluded it in 1718, his thirtieth year.

Being, by the subscription, enabled to live more by choice, and having persuaded his father to sell their estate at Binfield, he purchased that house at Twickenham, to which his resi

« ZurückWeiter »