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Alexandes 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;” 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, Esq. 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 forfeitures had left in the family. This, and this only, is told by Pope; who is more willing, as I have heard observed, to show 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. a Pope was from his birth of a constitution teader and delicate; but is said to have shown 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 sq 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 rudiments together. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by the perusal of ‘Ogilby's Homer,’ and “Sandys’ Ovid.” Ogilby'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 beauty to his translations. Sandys very rarely attempted origimal composition. From the care of Taverner, under whom his profriency was considerable, he was removed to a

"This weakness was so great that he constantly wore *. His method of taking the air on the water was to ** a sedan chair in the boat, in which he sat with the

school at Twyford, near Winchester, and again to another school about Hyde Park 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 ‘Ogilby’s Iliad,” with some verses of his own intermixed, which he persuaded his school-fellows to act, with the addition of his master’s gardner, 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 reraember the tirie when, he began to make verses In the style of fictici, it might, have been said of him as of Pindar, that, when he lay in his cradle, “the bees, swan Lied about his mouth.” • Aboat the time of the Revolution, his father, who wes.u.dpabtedly disappointed by the sudden blast of Ppposa-irosperity, quitted his trade, and retired Mb 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 expenses 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.” 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 inquire. 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 direct himsclf, and at twelve formed a plan of study, which he completed with little other incitement than the desire of excellence.

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His primary and principal purpose was to be a poet, with which his father accidently 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 coffeehouse 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 power 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 Solitude,” 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 wholly spent in reading and writing. As he read the classics, he amused himself with translating them; and at fourteen made a version of the first book of the “Thebais,” which, with some revision, he afterwards published. He must have been at this time, if he had no help, a considerable proficient in the Latin tongue. By Dryden’s ‘Fables,” which had then been not long published, and were much in the hands of poetical readers, he was tempted to try his own skill in giving Chaucer a more fashionable appearance, and put “January and May,’ and the ‘Prologue of the Wife of Bath, into modern English, He translated likewise, the Epistie'of ‘Sappho to Phaon' from Ovid, to complete the version which was before imperfect; and wrote some other small pieces, which he afterwards printed: ‘. . He sometimes imitated the English poets, and professed to have written at fourteep his poem upon “Silence,' after Rochester’s “Nothing.' He trad now formed his versification, and the smoothness of his numbers surpassed his original; but this is a small part of his praise; he discovers such acquaintance both with human and public affairs, as is not easily conceived to have been attainable by a boy of fourteen in Windsor Forest. Next year he was desirous of opening to himself new sources of knowledge, by making himself acquainted with modern languages; and removed for a time to London, that he might study French and Italian, which, as he desired nothing more than to read them, were by diligent application soon despatched. Of Italian learning he does not appear to have ever made much use in his subsequent studies. He then returned to Binfield, and delighted him. self with his own poetry. He tried all styles and many subjects. He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an epic poem, with panegyrics on all the princes of Europe; and, as he confesses, “thought himself the greatest genius that ever was.” Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings. He, in: deed, who forms his opinion of himself in solitude, without knowing the powers of other men, is very liable to error: but it was the felicity of Pope to rate himself at his real value.

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Most of his puerile productions were, by his maturer judgment, afterwards destroyed; “Alcander,’ the epic poem, was burned by the persuasion of Atterbury. The tragedy was founded on the legend of St. Genevieve. Of the comedy there is no account. Concerning his studies, it is related, that he translated Tully on Old Age; and that, besides his books of poetry and criticism, he read Temple’s Essays, and Locke on Human Understanding. His reading, though his favourite authors are not known, appears to have been sufficiently extensive and multifarious; for his early pieces show, with sufficient evidence, his knowledge of books. He that is pleased with himself easily imagines that he shall please others. Sir William Trumball, who had been ambassador at Constantinople, and secretary of state, when he retired from business fixed his residence in the neighbourhood of Binfield. Pope, not yet sixteen, was introduced to the statesman of sixty, and so distinguished him:self, that their interviews ended in friendship and correspondence. Pope was, through his whole life, ambitious of splendid acquaintance; and he seems to have wanted neither diligence nor success in attracting the notice of the great; for, from his first entrance into the world, and his entrance was very early, he was admitted to familiarity with those whose rank or station made them most conspicuous. From the age of sixteen, the life of Pope, as an author, may be properly computed. He now wrote his “Pastorals,” which were shown to the Poets and critics of that time; as they well deserved, they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree; they were, however, not published till five years afterwards. Cowley, Milton, and Pope, are distinguished among the English poets by the early exertion of their powers; but the works of Cowley alone were published in his childhood, and therefore of him only can it be certain that his puerile performances received no improvement from his maturer studies. At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man who seems to have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation, to have been esteemed without virtue, and caressed without good humour. Pope was proud of his notice: Wycherley wrote verses in his praise, which he was charged by Dennis with writing to himself; and they agreed, for a while, to flatter one another. It is pleasant to remark how soon Pope learned the cant of an author, and began to treat critics with contempt, though he had yet suffered nothing from them. But the fondness of Wycherley was too violent to last. His esteem of Pope was such, that he submitted some poems to his revision; and when Pope, perhaps proud of such confidence, was sufficiently bold in his criticisms, and liberal in his alterations. the old scribbler was angry to see his pages defaced, and felt more pain from the detection, than content srom the amendment of his faults. They parted; but Pope always considered him with kindness, and visited him a little time before he died. Another of his early correspondents was Mr. Cromwell. of whom I have learned nothing par

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ticular but that he used to ride a hunting in a tye-
wig. He was fond, and perhaps vain, of amusing
himself with poetry and criticism: and sometimes
sent his performances to Pope, who did not forbear
such remarks as were now and then unwelcome.
Pope, in his turn, put the juvenile version of ‘Sta-
tius' into his hands for correction.
Their correspondence afforded the public its first
knowledge of Pope’s epistolary powers; for his
Letters were given by Cromwell to one Mrs.
Thomas; and she many years afterwards sold them
to Curll, who inserted them in a volume of his
Walsh, a name yet preserved among the minor
poets, was one of his first encouragers. His regard
was gained by the “Pastorals,” and from him Pope
received the counsel from which he seems to have
regulated his studies. Walsh advised him to cor-
rectness, which, as he told him, the English poets
had hitherto neglected, and which therefore was
left to him as a basis of fame; and being delighted
with rural poems, recommended to him to write a
pastoral comedy, like those which are read so
eagerly in Italy; a design which Pope probably did
not approve, as he did not follow it.
Pope had now declared himself a poet; and
thinking himself entitled to poetical conversation,
began at seventeen to frequent Will's, a coffee-
house on the north side of Russel-street, in Covent-
garden, where the wits of that time used to assem-
ble, and where Dryden had, when he lived, been
accustomed to preside.
During this period of his life he was indefatiga-
bly diligent, and insatiably curious: wanting health
for violent, and money for expensive pleasures, and
having excited in himself very strong desires of
intellectual eminence, he spent much of his time
over his books; but he read only to store his mind
with facts and images, seizing all that his authors
presented with undistinguishing voracity, and with
an appetite for knowledge too eager to be nice. In
a mind like his, however, all the faculties were at
once involuntarily improving. Judgment is forced
upon us by experience. He that reads many books
must compare one opinion or one style with ano-
ther; and when he compares, must necessarily dis-
tinguish, reject, and prefer. But the account given
by himself of his studies was, that from fourteen to
twenty he read only for amusement, from twenty to
twenty-seven for improvement and instruction; that
in the first part of this time he desired only to
know, and in the second he endeavoured to judge.
The “Pastorals,” which had been for some time
handed about among poets and critics, were at last
printed (1709) in Tonson’s ‘Miscellany,’ in a
volume which began with the Pastorals of Phillips,
and ended with those of Pope.
The same year was written the “Essay on Criti-
cism;’ a work which displays such extent of com-
prehension, such nicety of distinction, such ac-
quaintance with mankind, and such knowledge both
of ancient and modern learning, as are not often at-
tained by the maturest age and longest experience.
It was published about two years afterwards; and,
being praised by Addison in the “Spectator' with
sufficient liberality, met with so much favour as
enraged Dennis, “who,” he says, “found himself
attacked, without any manner of provocation on his
side, and attacked in his person, instead of his

writings, by one who was wholly a stranger to him,
at a time when all the world knew he was perse
cuted by fortune; and not only saw that this was
attempted in a clandestine manner, with the utmost
falsehood and calumny, but found that all this was
done by a little affected hypocrite, who had nothing
in his mouth at the same time but truth, candour,
friendship, good-nature, humanity, and magnani- or
How the attack was clandestine is not easily per-
ceived, nor how his person is depreciated; but he
seems to have known something of Pope's charac-
ter, in whom may be discovered an appetite to talk
too frequently of his own virtues.
The pamphlet is such as rage might be expected
to dictate. He supposes himself to be asked two
questions; whether the Essay will succeed? and
who or what is the author?
Its success he admits to be secured by the false
opinions then prevalent; the author he concludes to
be “young and raw.”
“First, because he discovers a sufficiency be-
yond his last ability, and hath rashly undertaken a
task infinitely above his force. Secondly, while this
little author struts, and affects the dictatorian air,
he plainly shows, that at the same time he is un-
der the rod; and, while he pretends to give laws to
others, is a pedantic slave to authority and opinion.
Thirdly, he hath, like school-boys, borrowed both
from living and dead. Fourthly, he knows not his
own mind, and frequently contradicts himself.
Fifthly, he is almost perpetually in the wrong.”
All these positions he attempts to prove by quo-
tations and remarks; but his desire to do mischief
is greater than his power. He has, however,
justly criticised some passages in these lines:
There are whom Heaven has bless'd with store of wit,
Yet wants as much again to manage it;
For Wit and Judgment ever are at strife-

It is apparent that wit has two meanings, and that
what is wanted, though called wit, is truly judg-
ment. So far Dennis is undoubtedly right; but not
content with argument, he will have a little mirth;
and triumphs over the first couplet in terms too
elegant to be forgotten. “By the way, what rare
numbers are here! Would not one swear that this
youngster had espoused some antiquated Muse, who
had sued out a divorce on account of impotence
from some superannuated sinner; and, having been
p—xed by her former spouse, has got the gout in
her decrepit age, which makes her hobble so
damnably?” This was the man who would reform
a nation sinking into barbarity. -
In another place Pope himself allowed that Den-
nis had detected one of those blunders which are
called “bulls.” The first edition had this line,
What is this wit—
Where wanted scorn'd : and envied where acquired?
“How,” says the critic, “can wit be scorned
where it is not? Is not this a figure frequently
employed in Hibernian land? The person that
wants this wit may indeed be scorned, but the
scorn shows the honour which the contemner has
for wit.” Of this remark Pope made the prope
use, by correcting the passage. -
I have preserved, I think, all that is reasonable
in Denis's criticism; it remains that justice be don"

to his delicacy “For his acquaintance,”

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