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Yet peace-new music floats on Æther's wings;
BAYLEY'S ESSAY ON EPIC POETRY, EPISTLE 111.
PRINTED BY MUNDELL AND SON, ROYAL BANK CLOSE,
Tee life and writings of Pope, “ the great Poet of Reason," and " the Prince of Rhyme,” have er. haufted the copiousness of Ruffhead, and received every poflible illustration from the candid and well informed criticism of Spence, the elegant and classical taste of Dr. Warton, and the acute preciĝon of Dr. Johnson.
The faes faced, in the present 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 manuscripts, communicated by Warburton, and Dr. Johnson's intelligence from Spence's MS. collections, communicated by the Duke of Newcaftle.
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 discomfitore of the royalists, going abroad, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left her what semained of the family eftate, 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 Foreft, 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 Pope 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 carly by an aunt, and when he was seven or eight years old, dircovered an eager desire for information and improvement. He firt 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 priel, who taught hina 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 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.
He was sent from Taverner, under whom his proficiency was considerable, to a private school ac 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 Po sensible, that among his earliert pieces, there is a satire on his master at Twyford ; yet, under those mallers, he tranflated 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, that he turned the chief transactions of the “Iliad” into a kind of play, composed of a number of speeches from Ogilby's tranflation, 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 ad 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 allistance of one Deane, another priest, of whom he learned only to construc a little of “ Tully's Offices,” which, after having tranflated “ Ovid," he might certainly do without great advances in learning.
Hitherto, then, he muł have known little more than what he learned during one year under Taverner; and from this time, till ewenty, he became his own preceptor; and gained what other knowledge he had by reading the clallics, especially the poets, to who he applied with great al
His primary and principal purpose was to be a poet, with which his father accidentally concurred, by proposing subjects, and obliging him to correct his performance, by many revisals, after whicts, when he was satisfied, he would say, “ These are good rhymes."
In perusing the English poets he soon diftinguished the versification of Dryden, which he considered as the model to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his inftructor, that he persuaded a friend to conduct him to a coffcc-house which Dryden frequented, and pleased himself with having seen him.
“ 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 his productions is the Ode an Solitude, written when he was twelve, in which there is nothing remarkable.
His time was now wholly spent in reading and writing. He soon learned to read Homer in the original, as he himself records in one of his imitations of Horace.
Bred up at home, full early I begun
To read in Greek the wrath of Peleus' fon. As he read the claffics, he amused himself with translating them; and at fourteen made a version of the first book of the Thebaid of Statius, which, with some revision, he afterwards published. He tranlated likewise the Epiftle of Sappbo to Phaon, and Dryope and Pomona, from Ovid, which he afterwards printed.
He was also témpeed, by “Dryden's Fables," to try his skill in reviving and imitating Chaucer's Fanuary and May, and the Prologue of the Wife of Batb, which he put into modern English.
He sometimes iiitated the English poets, and professed to have written about this time, the poem upon Silence, in imitation of Rochester's “ Nothing." He had now formed his versification, aflisted by the rich melody of Dryden; and the smoothness of his numbers surpassed his original.
When he was fifteen, having made a considerable progress in the learned languages, he went to London to learn the French and Italian, which, by diligent application, he soon acquired.
He then returned to Binfield, and delighted himself with his own poetry. He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, Alconder an epic poem in four books, with panegyrics on all the princes of Europe ; and, as he confesses, “ thought himself the greatest genius that ever was.”.
The subje&t of the comedy is not known, but the tragedy was founded on the legend of St. Ge. nevieve. Most of his puerile productions were afterwards destroyed." The epic poem was burnt by the persuasion of Atterbury. Some of its extravagancies are produced in the Art of Sinking in poetry, figned .Anonymous.
About this time, it is related, that he trandated Tully on Old Age ; and that, besides his books of poetry and criticism, he read “ Temple’s Essays," and “ Locke on Human Understanding."
Books were not the only means through which he acquired information. He early procured the acquaintance of men of talents and literature, and improved himself by conversation.
At fixteen, he acquired the Triendship of Sir William Trumball, a statesman of sixty, who had been in the highest offices at home and abroad.
From that age, the life of Pope, as an author, may be properly computed. He now wrote his Pafion rals, which were for some time handed about among poets, and critics, and at latt printed in Tonson's
Miscellany," 1709, in the same volume with the “Pastorals” of Philips.
He had by this time become acquainted with Garth, Steele, Gay, Addison, Congreve, Granville, Halifax, Somers, Walsh, Wycherly, Croniwell, and other wits. He loft the friendship of Wycherly, by correcting his bad poetry, and of Cromwell, by correding his bad taste.
Their correspondence afforded the public its first knowledge of Pope's epistolary powers; for his letters were given by Cromwell to Mrs. Thomas, and she, many years afterwards, fold them to Curll, who inserted them in a volume of his miscellanies.
Wallh was one of his firlt encouragers. He received an advice froni him, which seems to have segulated his studies. ' Walsh advised him to corredness, hitherto neglected by the English pueta, and therefore an untrodden path to fame.
He had now declared himself a poet, and thinking himself entitled to poetical conversation, began at seventeen to frequene Will's Coffee-house, where the wits of that time used to assemble.
very high character. It was praised by Addison, attacked by Dennis, and commented by War. burtoo, who has discovered in it such order and connection as was not perceived by Addison, nor, as is said, intended by the author. It has been translated into French by Hamilton, by Robotham, and by Reinel. It has also been translated into Latin verfe by several writers ; particularly by Smart, and Dr. Kirkpatrick, the author of a poem called " The Sea-Piece," which, though it is little known, has many very fine passages.
About the same time, he wrote the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, which he undertook at the desire of Siecle.
In the “ Spectator” was published the Melfiab, which he fit le submitted to the per ufal of Steele, and corrected in compliance with his criticilm.
The Elegg to the Memory of an Unfortunat: Lady, was probab!y written about the time when his Ejay en Criticifin was published. Who the lady was, has not been ascertained. According to Ruffhead, she was a woman of high rank and large fortune, the ward of an uncle; she was in love with a young gentleman of an inferior condition. The uncle disapproved of her attachment, and pro. posed another person as a march. Finding she was determined to abide by her own choice, he fene her abroad. Deprived of every opportunity of conversing or coöresponding with her lover, the be. came desperate, and procured a sword, which the directed to her heart.
In the “ Gentleman's Magazine," vol. li. p. 314, it is afferted, that the lady's name was Withira bary; that she was in love with Pope, a:.d would have married him ; tha: her guardian, though fhe was deformed in her person, looked upon such a match as bencath her, and sent her to a convent, where the put an end to her life. How far this account is true, cannot be known. Pope certainly, from the Elegy, and the concluding lines of the Eloisa, appears to have been very deeply affe&ed by her face. Dr. Johnson has censured her conduct with unreasonable severity. Halty and culpable she was undoubtedly; but it ought to be confidered, that no person ever has, or cars be happy against violent inclinations, with constancy to a fotced pårener for life. To those on whom love has niade a deep impression, nothing but its object can give happiness or peace of mind; considerations, indeed, that weigh little with the family pride of parents. It is evident that an in. dulgence of paflion may be attended with happiness, but that the disappointment of it cannot.
In 1712, he produced Tbe Dying Cbriftian to bis Sou!, in imitation of the verfes of Adrian, and the fragment of Sappbo, by the advice of Steele. It strongly resembles an ode of Flatman, of whom be was probably a reader, as he certainly was of Crashaw, Carew, Quarles, and Herbett.
He contributed to the Spectator, Nos. 404, 408, and 409, and some other papers.
In 1712, he published The Rape of the Lock, in its present form. It was occafioned by a frolic of gallantry, in which Lord Perre cut off a lock of Mrs. Arabella Permor's hair. This trifting cause produced a serious quartel between the two families. Mr. Caryll, Secretary to King James's Queen, and author of the comedy of “Sir Solomon Single," and of several translations in “ Dryden's Mifcellanies,” solicited Pope to endeavour a reconciliation, by a ludicrous poem. The first sketch was written in less than a fortnight, and published in 1711, in two cántos, without lis name. I was received fo well, that he enlarged it by the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it into five cantos.
At its first appearance, Addison declared it was “merrn fal," a delicious little thing, and gave him no encouragement to retouch it. This was iniputed to jealoufy in Addison, but contains no proof that he was aduated by any bad paffion. Pope fortunately did not follow Achilon's advice; his attenipt was juftified by fuccefs.
When the Guardian was begun, he contributed the paper concerning the little club, under the name of Dick Dific, a letter figned Gnatho, a description of the Gardens of Alcinous, and a very levere ironical criticism on * Philips's Pastorals;" in which he pretends to praile Philips, but with great att takes the superiority to himself.
About this time, he published Tbe Temple of Fame, written two years before ; which, as Steele ob. Serres, has a thousand beautics.
In 1713, he pallined Windsor Fores, of which part was written at Sixteen, and the latter, was added afecrwards. It is dedicated to Lansdowne, who was then high ini reputation and influence ainong the Tories.
Włen the tragedy of " Ca:o" made its appearance, he introduced it by a folemn and fublime