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NOTE. The photogravure frontispiece is from a portrait painted by Richardson at Twicken-
ALEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 21, 1688. We cannot be sure of any thing better than respectability in his ancestry, though late in life he himself claimed kinship with the Earls of Downe. His paternal grandfather is supposed to have been a clergyman of the Church of England. His mother, Edith Turner, came of a family of small gentry and landowners in Yorkshire. Alexander Pope, senior, was a successful linen merchant in London; so successful that he found it possible to retire early from business, and to buy a small estate at Binfield, on the edge of Windsor forest. To this estate, in Pope's twelfth year, the family removed from Kensington, and here they lived for sixteen years. In 1716 they removed to Chiswick, where a year later the father died. Soon afterwards Pope, then a man of note, leased the estate at Twickenham, on which he was to live till his death, in 1744.
The circumstances of Pope's early life were in many ways peculiar. One of the main reasons for the choice of Binfield was that a number of Roman Catholic families lived in that neighborhood. They formed a little set sufficiently agreeable for social purposes, though not offering much intellectual stimulus to such a mind as Pope's very early showed itself to be. But if to be a Roman Catholic in England then meant to move in a narrow social circle, it carried with it also more serious limitations. It debarred from public school and university; so that beyond the inferior instruction afforded by the small Catholic schools which he attended till his twelfth year, Pope had no formal education. Two or three facts recorded of this school experience are worthy of mention: that he was taught the rudiments of Latin and Greek together, according to the Jesuit method; that he left one school in consequence of a flogging which he had earned by satirizing the head master; and that at about the age of ten he built a tragedy on the basis of Ogilvy's translation of Homer. At twelve he had at least learned the rudiments of Greek, and could read Latin fluently, if not correctly. So far as his failings in scholarship are concerned, Pope's lack of formal education has probably been made too much of. He had no bent for accurate scholarship, nor was breadth and accuracy of scholarship an accomplishment of that age. Addison, whose literary career was preceded by a long period of university residence, knew very little of Greek literature, and had a by no means wide acquaintance with the literature of Rome. Yet scholarship in those days meant classical learning.
Pope might no doubt have profited by the discipline of a regular academic career. He needed, as Mr. Courthope says, 'training in thought rather than in taste, which he had by nature.' But such a mind as his is not likely to submit itself readily to rigid processes of thought. It is impossible not to see, at least, that the boy Pope knew how to read, if not how to study; and that what Latin and Greek he read was approached as literature, - a method more common then than now, it is probable. When I had done with my priests,' he wrote to Spence, 'I took to reading by myself, for which I had a very great eagerness and enthusiasm, especially for poetry; and in a very few years I had dipped into a great number of English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek poets. This I did without any design but that of pleasing myself, and got the language by hunting