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ALEXANDER POPE, ESQ.
ALEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 22, school at Twyford, near Winchester, and again to 1660, of parents whose rank or station was never another school about Hyde Park Corner; from acertained; we are informed that they were of which he used sometimes to stroll to the play" gentle blood;" that his father was of a family of house; and was so delighted with theatrical exhiwhich the Earl of Downe was the head; and that bitions, that he formed a kind of play from Ogilby's his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Hiad,' with some verses of his own intermixed, Esq. of York, who had likewise three sons, one of which he persuaded his school-fellows to act, with whom had the honour of being killed, and the other the addition of his master's gardner, who personof dying, in the service of Charles the First: theated Ajax. tnrt was made a general officer in Spain, from At the two last schools he used to represent himwhom the sister inherited what sequestrations and self as having lost part of what Taverner had tanght borditures had left in the family.
him; and on his master at Twyford he had already ** This, and this only, is told by Pope; who is more exercised his poetry in a lampoon. Yet under those willing, as I have heard observed, to show what his masters he translated more than a fourth part of the Failer was not, than what he was. It is allowed · Metamorphoses.' If he kept the same proportion dat he grew rich by trade; but whether in a shop in his other exercises, it cannot be thought that his or on the 'Exchange, was never discovered, till Mr. loss was great. Tyers told, on the authority of Mrs. Racket, that He tells of himself, in his poems, that" he lisp'd he was a linen-draper in the Strand. Both parents in numbers;” and used to say that he could not rehere papists.
member the time when he began to make verses Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender In the style of fiction it might have been said of him and delicate; but is said to have shown remarkable as of Pindar, that, when he lay in his cradle, “the gentleness and sweetness of disposition. The weak- bees swarmed about his mouth.” Dness of his body continued through his life;* but the About the time of the Revolution, his father, who nildness of his mind perhaps ended with his child-was undoubtedly disappointed by the sudden blast hood. His voice, when he was young, was so of Popish prosperity, quitted his trade, and retired pleasing, that he was called in fondness "the little to Binfield, in Windsor Forest, with about twenty Nightingale."
thousand pounds; for which, being conscientiously Being oot sent early to school, he was taught to determined not to entrust it to the government, he read by an aunt; and, when he was seven or eight found no better use than that of locking it up in a years old, became a lover of books. He first learn- chest, and taking from it what his expenses reed to write by imitating printed books; a species of quired; and his life was long enough to consume a penmanship in which he retained great excellence great part of it, before his son came to the inherthrough his whole life, though his ordinary hand itance. was not elegant.
To Binfield, Pope was called by his father when When he was about eight, he was placed in he was about twelve years old; and there he had Hampshire, under Taverner, a Romish priest, who, for a few months the assistance of one Deane, anoby a method very rarely practised, taught him the ther priest, of whom he learned only to construe a Greek and Latin rudiments together. He was now little of “Tully's Offices.' How Mr. Deane could first regularly initiated in, poetry by the perusal of spend, with a boy who had translated so much of
Ogilby's Homer,' and · Sandys' Ovid.' Ogilby's Ovid,' some months over a small part of. Tully's assistance he never repaid with any praise; but of Offices, it is now vain to inquire. Sandys' he declared, in his notes to the Iliad,' that Of a youth so successfully employed, and so conEnglish poetry oed much of its beauty to his spicuously improved, a minute account must be natutranslations. Sandys very rarely attempted origi- rally desired; but curiosity must be contented with nal composition.
confused, imperfect, and sometimes improbable inFrom the care of Taverner, under whom his pro- telligence. Pope, finding little advantage from exficiency was considerable, he was removed to a ternal help, resolved thenceforward to direct him
self, and at twelve formed a plan of study, which * This weakness was so great that he constantly wore he completed with little other incitement than the mars. His method of taking the air on the water was to have a redan chair in the boat, in which he eat with the desire of excellence.
His primary and principal purpose was to be a
poet, with which his father accidently concurred, Most of his puerile productions were, by his maby proposing subjects, and obliging him to correct turer judgment, afterwards destroyed; · A'lgandero his performances by many revisals: after which the the epic poem, was burned by the person in old gentleman, when he was satisfied, would say, Atterbury. The tragedy was founded on tho la gone " these are good rhymes.”
of St. Genevieve. Of the comedy there is norac In his perusal of the English poets he soon distin- count. guished the versification of Dryden, which he con Concerning his studies, it is related, that he sidered as the model to be studied, and was impres- translated Tully on Old Age; and that, besides his sed with such veneration for his instructer, that he books of poetry and criticism, he read. Templeks persuaded some friends to tak him to the coffee Essays, and Locke on Human Understanding. His house which Dryden frequented, and pleased bim- reading, thongh his favourite authors are not known, self with having seen him.
appears' to haye been sufficiently extensive and Dryden died May 1, 1701, some days before Pope wultifarious; for his early piecesshow, with sof was twelve; so early must he therefore have feli ficient evidence, his knowledge of books. the power of harmony, and the zeal of genius. He'that is pleased with himself easily fmagine Who does not wish that Dryden could have known that he shall please others. Sir William Trumai. the value of the homage that was paid him, and ball, who had been ambassador at Constantinople, foreseen the greatness of his young admirer? and secretary of state, when he retired fi'an, busi
The earliest of Pope's productions is his ‘Ode on ness fixed his residence in the neighbourhood of: Solitude,' written before he was twelve, in which Binfield. Pope, not yet sixteen, was introduced there is nothing more than other forward boys have to the statesman of sixty, and so distinguished him attained, and which is not equal to Cowley's per- self, that their interviews ended in friendship and formances at the same age.
correspondence. Pope was, through , his whole His time was now wholly spent in reading and life, ambitions of splendid acquaintance; and he writing. As he read the classics, he amused him-seems to have wanted neither diligence 'nof success self with translating them; and at fourteen made a in attracting the notice of the great; for, frotą his version of the first book of the “ Thebais,' which, first entrance into the world, and his entrance was with some revision, he afterwards published. He very early, he was admitted to familiagiy. must have been at this time, if he had no help, a those whose rank or station made them nypst corn considerable proficient in the Latin tongue. spienous. By Dryden’s ‘Fables,' which had then been not From the age of sixteen, the life of Pope'
, as cha long published, and were much in the hands of author, may be properly computed. He noi wrote poetical readers, he was tempted to try his own his “Pastorals, which were shown to the Poetswald skill in giving Chaucer a more fashionable appear-critics of that time; as they well deserved, they ance, and put · January and May,' and the Pro- were read with admiration, and many praises were logue of the Wife of Bath,' into modern English. bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which He translated likewise the Epistle of Sappho to is both elegant and learned in a high degree; they Phaon' from Ovid, to complete the version which were, however, not published till five years after. was before imperfect; and wrote some other small wards. pieces, which he afterwards printed,
Cowley, Milton, and Pope, are distinguished. He sometimes imitated the English pocts, and among the English poets by the early exertions of: professed to have written at fourteen his poem upon their powers; but the works of-Cowley alone vere *Silence,' after Rochester’s ‘Nothing.' 'He had now published in his childhood, and therefore of him .. formed his versification, and the smoothness of his only can it be certain that his puerile performances numbers surpassed his original; but this is a small received no improvement from his maturer sludits: part of his praise; he discovers such acquaintance At this time began his acquaintance with Wych.. both with human and public affairs, as is not easily erley, a man who seems to have had among
his conceived to have been attainable by a boy of four- contemporaries bis full share of. reputation iB teen in Windsor Forest,
have been esteemed without virtae; and caresser. Next year he was desirous of opening to himself without good humour. Pope was proud of his.no new sources of knowledge, by making himself ac- tice: Wycherley wrote verses in his praese, which quainted with modern languages; and removed for he was charged by Dennis with writing to hinisçit; a time to London, that he might study French and and they agreed, for a while, o fattof one another. Italian, which, as he desired nothing more than to It is pleasant to remark how soon. Pope learned the read them, were by diligent application soon de- cant of an author, and began to treat critics, with spatched. Of Italian learning he does not appear contempt, though he has yet stiffered' nothing, from to have ever made much use in his subsequent them... studies.
But the fondness of Wycherley was toð violent He then returned to Binfield, and delighted him to last. His esteem of Pope was such, that he subself with his own poetry. He tried all styles and mitted some poems to his revision; and when Pape, many subjects. He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an perhaps proud of such annfidence; was sufficiently epic poem, with panegyrics on all the princes of bold in his criticisms, ám liberal in hris alteratione, Europe; and, as he confesses, - tholiclit himself the the old scribbler was angry, to see his pages degreatest genius that cver was.” Self-confidence is faced, and felt more pain from the detection, than the first requisite to great undertakings. He, in- content from the amendment of hüs faults. They deed, who forins his opinion of himself in solitude, parted; but Pope always considered him with kindwithout knowing the powers of other men, is very ness, and visited him a little time before he died. liable to crror: but it was the felicity of Pope to Another of his early correspondents was Mr. rate himself at his real value.
Cromwell, of whom I have learned nothing par.