Abbildungen der Seite

has made nature his study confines himself wholly to external or inanimate phenomena. Thomson and Cowper link their descriptions to the natural emotions and finer sentiments of the heart, and to all the healthful and exhilarating occupations of rural life. They make the “world's tired denizens” breathe a fresher and purer existence; they connect with national or local scenes historical and patriotic events; or, taking a wider survey, they awaken those primary solemn and religious feelings with which men in all ages and countries have regarded the grander aspects of the visible universe. Pope's physical constitution, no doubt, helped to shape his mental habits; but it was fortunate that he had this early taste of the country. His recollections of Windsor Forest, and of the mornings and sunsets he had enjoyed within its broad circumference of shade, or from the “stately brow" of its historic heights, may be tracked like the fresh green of spring along the fiery course of his satire, and through the mazes of his metaphysics. Milton, let us remember, was familiar with the same scenery. Horton is within sight of Windsor, and the great poet must often have listened to the echoes of the royal chace in the forest. In his five years of retirement at Horton—a paradisiacal lustrum of unbroken tranquillity and study_Milton composed his Lycidas and Comus, and, probably, his Allegro and Penseroso. There he inhaled that love of nature which never deserted him, even when he could see it only with that inward eye that told

Of things invisible to mortal sight. Pope excelled all his contemporaries, and led the public tasto in graceful and picturesque landscape gardening. He had an exquisite eye for dressed nature, nature trimmed by Kent,ll the lawn, the grove, and parterre; the variety of

11 Pleased let me own, in Esher's peaceful grove,
Where Kent and Nature vie for Pelbam's love.

* Ep. to Satires. William Kent (born 1685, died 1748] was considered by Walpole the



perspective, the multiplied walks, and bounded wilderness. But Milton's description of the garden of Eden shows how well the epic bard had imbibed in youth, and intensely appreciated, that true taste which makes art the handmaid of nature.

From his infancy Pope was considered a prodigy. He had inherited from his father a crooked body, and from his mother a sickly constitution, perpetually subject to severe headaches; and hence great care and tenderness were required in his nurture. His faithful nurse, Mary Beach, lived to see him a great man; and when she died in 1725, the poet erected a stone over her grave, at Twickenham, to tell that 'Alexander Pope, whom she nursed in infancy, and affectionately attended for twenty-eight years, was grateful for her services. He had nearly lost his life when a child, from a wild cow that threw him down, and with her horns wounded him in the throat. He charmed all the household by his gentleness and sensibility, and, in consequence of the sweetness of his voice, was called “the little nightingale." This musical distinction seems to have continued, for Lord Orrery mentions that “honest Tom Southerne” the dramatist used, in advanced life, to apply to him the same musical appellation. He was taught his letters by an old aunt, and he taught himself to write by copying from printed books. This art he also retained through life, and often practised with singular neatness and proficiency. Johnson remarks that his ordinary hand was not elegant. But this opinion must have been formed from a hasty survey of the Homer MSS. in the British Museum, which are carelessly written and crowded with interlineations. His letters to Henry Cromwell (the originals of which still exist), his letters to ladies, and his inscriptions in books presented to his friends, are specimens of fine, clear, and scholar-like penmanship.

inventor of modern gardening : "he leaped the sunk fence and saw that all nature was a garden." Pope both instructed and was instructed by Kent.

In his eighth year Pope was put under the tuition of the family priest, (whom Spence calls Banister, a name subscribed to some of the notes in the Dunciad), and the priest taught him the accidence and first parts of grammar, by adopting the method followed in the Jesuits' schools, of teaching the rudiments of Latin and Greek together. He then attended two little schools, at which he learned nothing. The first of these, according to Spence, was the Catholic seminary at Twyford, near Winchester; but it is more likely to have been at Twyford, on the river Loddon, near Binfield. At Twyford he wrote a lampoon on his master for some faults he had discovered in him, so early had he assumed the characters of critic and satirist! He was flogged for the offence, and his indulgent father, in resentment, took him away and placed him in a London school.12 This was kept by a Catholic convert named Deane, who had a school first at Marylebone, and afterwards at Hyde Park Corner, at both of which places Pope was under his charge. “I began writing verses of my own invention,” he says, “ farther back

12 Spence. But a correspondent of Curll's, “ E. P.,” gives the following authentic like statement from alleged personal knowledge :-“The last school he was put to before the twelfth year of his age was in Devonshirestreet, near Bloomsbury; there I also was, and the late Duke of Norfolk, at the same time. It was kept by one Bromley, a popish renegade, who had been a parson, and was one of King James's converts in Oxford. Some years after that prince's abdication he kept a little seminary, till, upon an advantageous offer made him, he went as travelling tutor to the present Lord Gage. Mr. Alexander Pope, before he had been four months at this school, or was able to construe Tully's Offices, employed his muse in satirising his master. It was a libel of at least one hundred verses, which a fellow-student having given information of, was found in his pocket, and the young satirist was soundly whipped, and kept a prisoner to his room for seven days; whereupon bis father fetched him away; and I have been told he never went to school more." There was a William Bromley entered of Christ Church, Oxford, 1673. The Devonshire-street school may have been attended by Pope in a short intermediate period before he went to Deane's. For the latter we have the authority of Spence and Ayre.



[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors]



[Page 17.

« ZurückWeiter »