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LEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 22, 1688, of parents whofe rank or ftation was never afcertained: we are informed that they were of gentle blood; that his father was of a family of which the Earl of Downe was the head, and that his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Efquire, of York, who had likewife three fons, 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 fifter inherited what fequeftrations and forfeitures had left in the family.
This, and this only, is told by Pope; who is more willing, as I have heard obferved, to fhew what his father was not, than what he was. It is allowed that he grew rich by trade; but whether in a fhop 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 papifts.
Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender and delicate; but is faid to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of difpofition. 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 fent early to fchool, 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 fpecies of penmanfhip in which he retained great excellence through
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 practifed, taught him the Greek and Latin rudiments together. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by the perufal of Ogylby's Homer, and Sandys's Ovid: Ogylby's affiftance 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 compofition.
From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was confiderable, 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 fo delighted with theatrical exhibitions, that he formed a kind of play from Ogylby's Iliad, with some verfes of his own intermixed, which he perfuaded his schoolfellows to act, with the addition of his master's gardener, who perfonated Ajax.
At the two laft fchools he used to reprefent himself as having loft part of what Taverner had taught him, and on his master at Twyford he had already exercifed his poetry in a lampoon. Yet under those masters he tranflated more than a fourth part of the Metamorphofes. If he kept the fame proportion in his other exercises, it cannot be thought that his lofs was great.
He tells of himself, in his poems, that he lifp'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 faid of him as of Pindar, that when he lay in his cradle, the bees fwarmed about his mouth.
About the time of the Revolution his father, who was undoubtedly disappointed by the fudden blaft of popish profperity, quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in Windfor Foreft, with about twenty thoufand pounds; for which, being confcientioufly determined not to entrust it to the government, he found no better ufe than that of locking it up in a cheft, and taking from