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The life and writings of Pope, “ the great Poet of Reason," and“ the Prince of Rhyme,” have erhausted the copiousness of Ruffhead, and received every pofsible illustration from the candid and well informed criticism of Spence, the elegant and classical taste of Br. Warton, and the acute precilion of Dr. Johnson.
The facts stated, in the present account, are chiefly taken from the narratives of Ruff head, and Dr. Johnson, whose copiousness and accuracy leave little to be corrected or supplied.
* Ruffhead's information was collected from original manuscripts, communicated by Warburton, and Dr. Johnson's intelligence from Spence's MS. collections, conimunicated 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, Esq. of York. She had three brothers, one of whom was killed, another died in the service of Charles I. and the eldest, on the discomfiture of the royalists, going abroad, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left her what remained of the family estate, after sequestrations and forfeiture. Both parents were Papists.
About the time of the Revolution, his father quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in Windsor Forest, worth about 20,000 l. which he put into a chest, and spent as he wanted it; for, being a Papift, he could not purchase land, and he made a point of conscience not to lend it to the new government; so that when Popc came to the inheritance, great part of the money was expended. He was, from his birth, of a very delicate constitution, but is said to have shown remarkable
gentleness and sweetness of disposition. His voice, when he was young, was so pleasing, that he was called in fondness “ the little nightingale."
*He was taught to read very early by an aunt, and when he was seven or eight years old, dir. covered an eager desire 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 allistance 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 trandations.
He was sent from Taveruer, under whom his proficiency was considerable, to a private school at Twyford near Winchester, where he continued a year; from this school he was sent to another at Hyde Park Corner, being then about ten years of
age.' In the two laft Schools he considered himself as having made very little progress, of which he was so senûble, that among his earliest pieces, there is a satire on his master at Twyford; yet, under those masters, he translated more than a fourth part of “ Ovid's Metamorphoses."
While he was at the school at Hyde Park Corner, he was frequently carried to the play house, and was so captivated with the drama, thae he turned the chief transactions of the “ liad” into a kind of play, composed of a number of speeches from Ogilby's translation, connected with verses of his own.
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 assistance of one Deane, another prielt, 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 Searning.
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 bis own preceptor; and gained what other knowledge he had by reading the clasics, especially the poets, to whom he applied with great ailon duity and delight