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LEXANDER POPE' was born in London, May 22,

1688, of parents whose rank or station was never ascertained: we are informed that they were of gentle blood ;2 that his father was of a family of which the Earl of Downe 3 was the head, and that his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esquire, of York, who had likewise three sons, one of whom had the honour of being killed, and the other of dying, in the service of Charles the First; the third was made a general officer in Spain, from whom the sister inherited what sequestrations and for. feitures had left in the family.

This, and this only, is told by Pope;' who is more willing, as I have heard observed, to shew what his father was not, than what he was.

It is allowed that he grew rich by trade; but whether in a shop or on the Exchange was never discovered, till Mr. Tyers told, on the authority of Mrs. Racket, that he was a linen-draper in the Strand. Both parents were papists.

Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender and

1 See Boswell's Johnson on this Life, and Various Readings, vol. iv. pp. 13, 14, 15.

2 Epist. to Dr. Arbuthnot, Ald. Pope, vol. iii. p. 16. 3 Warton's Essay on Pope, vol. ii. p. 256, ed. 1806. 4 In the note to his Epist. to Dr. Arbuthnot, Ald. P. vol. iii. p. 16.

5 Mrs. Rackett was Pope's half-sister Magdalen, the daughter of his father by a previous marriage.

Spence and Ruffhead state that Pope was born May 21st in Lombard Street.



delicate; but is said to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of disposition. The weakness of his body continued through his life, but the mildness of his mind perhaps ended with his childhood. His voice, when he was young, was so pleasing, that he was called in fondness the little Nightingale.

Being not sent early to school, he was taught to read by an aunt; and when he was seven or eight years old, became a lover of books. He first learned to write by imitating printed books; a species of penmanship in which he retained great excellence through his whole life, though his ordinary hand was not elegant.

When he was about eight, he was placed in Hampshire under Taverner,' a Romish priest, who, by a method very rarely practised, taught him the Greek and Latin rudi. ments together. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by the perusal of Ogylby's ? “Homer," and Sandys's



1 Ruffhead's Life of Pope, p. 11. Spence gives the name “Banister," ed. Singer, pp. 192, 283.

2 John Ogilby (1600-1676), of a good Edinburgh family, but so reduced, that after releasing his father from a debtor's prison, he apprenticed himself to a dancing master in London.

Picking up scholarship as best he could, he was employed by Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, and accompanied him to Ireland. There he translated Æsop's Fables into English verse, and soon after started a theatre in Dublin. The breaking out of the rebellion in Ireland ruined him, and after suffering shipwreck on the voyage, he arrived destitute in London. He made his way to Cambridge on foot; there he was encouraged, and translated the Works of Virgil. He then, about 1654, addressed himself to the study of Greek, and proceeded to translate Homer. He also published an elaborate edition of the English Bible, but lost all his hardly. earned property in the fire of London. That his life was one continued struggleagainst ever-returning difficulties, explains the sympathy of Johnson for one of the worst of poets. Ogilby's translation of the Iliad was published in 1660, and his translation of the Odyssey in 1665, both of them on imperial paper, and with plates by Hollar and other eminent engravers. According to Spence (Anecdotes, p. 276) it was this illustrated edition which first set Pope upon reading the Iliad when he was a boy at school.



“Ovid:"? Ogylby's assistance he never repaid with any praise ; but of Sandys he declared, in his notes to the “Iliad,” that English poetry owed much of its present beauty to his translations. Sandys very rarely attempted original composition.

From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was considerable, he was removed to a school at Twyford near Winchester, and again to another school about Hydepark Corner; from which he used sometimes to stroll to the playhouse, and was so delighted with theatrical exhibitions, that he formed a kind of play from Ogylby's “Iliad,” with some verses of his own intermixed, which he persuaded his schoolfellows to act, with the addition of his master's gardener, who personated Ajax.

At the two last schools he used to represent himself as having lost part of what Taverner had taught him, and on his master at Twyford he had already exercised his poetry in a lampoon. Yet under those masters he translated more than a fourth part of the “Metamorphoses.” If he kept the same proportion in his other exercises, it cannot be thought that his loss was great.

He tells of himself, in his poems," that he lisp'd in numbers ; and used to say that he could not remember the time when he began to make verses.

In the style of fiction it might have been said of him as of Pindar, that when he lay in his cradle, the bees swarmed about his mouth.

About the time of the Revolution his father, who was undoubtedly disappointed by the sudden blast of popish

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Sandys published his translation of the Metamorphoses of Ovid in 1632, vid. supr. vol. i. p. 391.

Epist. to Arbuthnot, Ald. P. vol. iii. p. 7. 3 Little is known with certainty of the life of the greatest lyric poet of Greece. He is supposed to have flourished about B.c. 520-440. Cf. Pausanias, IX. 23, 2.

prosperity, quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in Windsor Forest,' with about twenty thousand pounds; for which, being conscientiously determined not to entrust it to the government, he found no better use than that of locking it up in a chest, and taking from it what his expences required; and his life was long enough to consume a great part of it, before his son came to the inheritance.

To Binfield Pope was called by his father when he was about twelve years old; and there he had for a few months the assistance of one Deane,' another priest, of whom he learned only to construe a little of “Tully's Offices." 4 How Mr. Deane could spend, with a boy who had translated so much of “ Ovid,” some months over a small part of “ Tully's Offices,” it is now vain to enquire.

Of a youth so successfully employed, and so conspicuously improved, a minute account must be naturally desired; but curiosity must be contented with confused, imperfect, and sometimes improbable intelligence. Pope, finding little advantage from external help, resolved thenceforward to

1 Binfield is about nine miles from the town of Windsor on the skirt of the forest. Here Pope's father purchased twenty acres of land in the Royal Chase, and a small house near the public road, described by Pope as—

- A little house with trees a row,
And like its master, very low.”

The house has been rebuilt, but Pope's study is preserved.

? The improbability of this story is insisted on by Mr. Caruthers (p. 15), who shows that the Popes possessed other property in England, as well as money invested in French securities.

3 Thomas Deane, Fellow of University College, Oxford. Mr. Cunningham mentions that he stood in the pillory at Charing Cross (18th Dec. 1691) under the name of Thomas Franks, for concealing the author of a libellous pamphlet against the government. He was fond of pamphleteering, and is described by Pope in 1727 as “ all his life a dupe to some project or other.”

4 Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Officiis.


direct himself, and at twelve formed a plan of study which he completed with little other incitement than the desire of excellence.

His primary and principal purpose was to be a poet, with which his father accidentally concurred, by proposing subjects, and obliging him to correct his performances by many revisals; after which the old gentleman, when he was satisfied, would say, these are good rhymes.

In his perusal of the English poets he soon distinguished the versification of Dryden, which he considered as the model to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his instructer, that he persuaded some friends to take him to the coffee-house which Dryden frequented," and pleased himself with having seen him.

Dryden died May 1, 1701,' some days before Pope was twelve; so early must he therefore have felt the


of harmony, and the zeal of genius. Who does not wish that Dryden could have known the value of the homage that was paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer?

The earliest of Pope's productions is his “Ode on Soli. tude," 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 spent wholly in reading and writing. As he read the Classicks, he amused himself with translating them ; * and at fourteen made a version of the first




1 Will's coffee-house, vid supr. Life of Dryden, vol. i. p. 423.

2 1700.

3 Vid. supr. Life of Cowley, vol. i. p. 5.

4 Warton states that when Pope was yet a mere boy Dryden gave him a shilling, by way of encouragement for a translation he had made from Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe. Essay on Pope, vol. i. p. 82, and Warton's Life of Pope, p. xiii.

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