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THE life and writings of Pore," the great Poet of Reafon," and " the Prince of Rhyme," have exhaufted the copiousness of Ruffhead, and received every poffible illuftration from the candid and well informed criticism of Spence, the elegant and claffical tafte of Br. Warton, and the acute precifion of Dr. Johnson.
The facts stated, in the prefent account, are chiefly taken from the narratives of Ruffhead, and Dr. Johnson, whose copiousness and accuracy leave little to be corrected or supplied. "Ruffhead's information was collected from original manufcripts, communicated by Warburton, and Dr. Johnson's intelligence from Spence's MS. collections, communicated by the Duke of Newcastle.
Alexander Pope was born in London, May 22, 1688. His father, Alexander Pope, was a linendraper in the Strand, of a good family in Oxfordshire, and a distant relation of the Earl of Downe. His mother, Editha Turner, was the daughter of William Turner, Efq. of York. She had three brothers, one of whom was killed, another died in the fervice of Charles I. and the eldeft, on the discomfiture of the royalifts, going abroad, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left her what remained of the family estate, after fequeftrations and forfeiture. Both parents were Papists.
About the time of the Revolution, his father quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in Windfor Foreft, worth about 20,000l. which he put into a chest, and spent as he wanted it; for, being a Papist, he could not purchase land, and he made a point of confcience not to lend it to the new government; fo that when Pope came to the inheritance, great part of the money was expended.
He was, from his birth, of a very delicate conftitution, but is faid to have shown remarkable gentleness and sweetness of difpofition. His voice, when he was young, was so pleasing, that he was called in fondnefs "the little nightingale."
*He was taught to read very early by an aunt, and when he was feven or eight years old, difcovered an eager defire for information and improvement. He first learned to write by copying printed books, which he executed with great neatness and accuracy; though his ordinary hand was not elegant.
At eight years old he was placed in Hampshire, under Taverner, a Romish priest, who taught him the Greek and Latin rudiments together. He met with " Ogilby's Homer," and "Sandys's Ovid," which he read with a delight that showed the bent of his genius. Ogilby'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 beauty to his translations.
He was fent from Taveruer, under whom his proficiency was confiderable, to a private school at Twyford near Winchester, where he continued a year; from this fchool he was fent to another at Hyde Park Corner, being then about ten years of age.
In the two laft schools he confidered himself as having made very little progress, of which he was fo fenfible, that among his earliest pieces, there is a fatire on his master at Twyford; yet, under those mafters, he tranflated more than a fourth part of “Ovid's Metamorphofes."
While he was at the school at Hyde Park Corner, he was frequently carried to the play house, and was fo captivated with the drama, that he turned the chief tranfactions of the "Iliad" into a kind of play, composed of a number of speeches from Ogilby's tranflation, connected with verses of
He prevailed upon his school-fellows to take part in this play, and upon his master's gardener, to at the part of Ajax.
At twelve years old, he was called by his father to Binfield, and there he had for a few months the affiftance of one Deane, another priest, of whom he learned only to conftrue a little of " Tully's Offices," which, after having translated " Ovid," he might certainly do without great advances in Learning.
Hitherto, then, he must have known little more than what he learned during one year under Taverner; and from this time, till twenty, he became his own preceptor; and gained what other knowledge he had by reading the claffics, efpecially the poets, to whom he applied with great aff Guity and delight. a ij