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THE

L I F E

OF

ALEXANDER POPE, ESQ.

A

LEXANDER Pope was born, according to Mr.

Spence, in Lombard-street, London, on May 22d, 1688, in the house of his father, who was so eminent a linen-draper, and traded so successfully, that he gained a fortune of twenty thousand pounds. His mother was daughter of William Turner, Esq. of York, two of whose fons died in the service of Charles the First, and the other became a general officer in Spain.

The feebleness and delicacy of his constitution na. turally engaged the attention of his parents and relations; and he was still more endeared to them by the uncommon mildness and sweetness of temper, which he displayed in his childhood: And perhaps his father might say, as did the father of Boileau, 66 This child, if he lives, will never speak ill of any person." His voice, too, was so marvellously melo

dious,

VOL. I.

a

dious, that they used to call him the little nightingale. He was taught to read by an aunt that was particularly fond of him, and learnt to write by copying printed books, which he did with exquisite skill and dexterity. He was placed, at eight years old, under the care of Taverner, a Romilh priest, (as his father and mother were rigid Catholics,) who taught him the rudiments of the Greek and Latin languages at the fame time. Perhaps it may be wished that, for the promotion of true taste and literature, Greek was always taught in great schools before Latin, according to a hint of Erasmus. Having made confiderable improvements under Taverner, he was removed to a celebrated feminary of Catholics at Twyford, a pleasant village on the banks of the Itchin near Winchester; a circumstance that used frequently to be mentioned by the scholars of the neighbouring college, in their youthful compositions. Having written a lampoon on his master at Twyford, one of his first efforts in poetry, he was removed from thence to a school kept near Hyde-park Corner. : Before this removal, he had been delighted with a perusah of Ogilby's Homer, and Sandys's Ovid; he frequently spoke, in the latter part of his life, of the exquisite pleasure which the perufal of these two writers gave him. And having now an opportunity of sometimes frequenting the play-houses, our young bard was so delighted with theatrical performances; that he turned the chief events of the Iliad into a kind of drama, made

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He pers

úp of a number of speeches from Ogilby's translation, connected with verses of his own. suaded fome of the upper boys to act this piece, which, as an uncommon curiosity, one would have been glad to have beheld. The master's gardener represented the character of Ajax; and the actors were dressed after the pictures of his favourite Ogilby; which were indeed designed and engraved by artists of note.

At twelve years of age, our young bard retired with his father to Binfield near Oakingham ; who, unwilling to trust the money he had gained in trade to government security, lived on the principal, which gradually was consumed before he was aware. Another private tutor was now fought out for his fon; this was another priest, named Dean; from whom his pupil deriving very little advantage, he at laft determined to study on a plan of his own ; which he did with great diligence and perseverance; devouring all books that he could procure, especially poetical works. To indulge this darling passion, he left no calling nor profession, as fomany eminent poets and painters appear to have done: He was invariably and solely a poet, from the beginning of his life to the end. And it was now he first perused the writings of Waller, of Spenser, and of Dryden, in the order here mentioned. Spenser is faid to have made a poet of Cowley; that Ogilby fhould give our author his first poetic pleafures, is a remarkable circumstance.

But Dryden soon became his chief favourite, and his model. And as a desire to see eminent men is one of the first marks of a mind eager to excel, he entreated a friend to carry him to Button's coffee-house, which Dryden frequented, that he might gratify himself with the bare sight of a man whom he so much admired.

I have heard, that among works of profe, he was most fond of the second part of Sir William Temple's Miscellanies. How very early he began to write, cannot now be exactly ascertained; but his father frequently proposed familiar subjects to him, and after many corrections would say, “ These are now good “ rhymes.”

Though the Ode to Solitude, written at twelve years of age, is said to be his earliest production, yet Dodscy, who was honoured with his intimacy, had seen several pieces of a still earlier date. It is remarkable that, precisely at the same age, Voltaire produced his first copy of verses on record. They were written at the request of an old invalid, to be presented, in his name, to the only son of Louis XIV. If it should be urged, that too much is said of the childish performances of these two great men, let it be remembered that it is amusing to trace the fountain of the Nile. 2. Cowley and Milton had written pieces of equal - value at as early an age, and Tasso still earlier. Milton's Paraphrases of the 114th and 136th Pfalıns, made when he was only fifteen years old, are very poetical

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