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MATTHEW PRIOR is one of those that has burst out from an obscure original to great eminence. He was born July 21, 1664, according to some, at Winburn, in Dorsetshire, of I know not what parents; others say, that he was the son of a joiner of London: he was perhaps willing enougb to leave his birth unsettled, in hope, like Don Quixote. that the historian of his actions might find him some illus trious alliance.
He is supposed to have fallen, by his father's death, into the hands of his uncle, a vintoer,+ near Charing Cross, who sent him for some time to Dr, Busby, at Westminster; but, not intending to give him any education beyond that of the school, took him, when he was well advanced in literature, to his own house, where the Earl of Dorset, celebrated for patr e of genius, found him by chance, as Burnet reats, reading Horace, and was so well pleased with his proficiency, that he undertook the care and cost of his academical education.
He entered his name in St. John's College, at Cambridge, in 1682, in his eighteenth year; and it may be reasonably supposed that he was distinguished among his contempora
The difficulty of settling Prior's birth-place is great. In the register of his College he is called, at his admission by the President, Matthew Prior, of Winburn, in Middlesex; by himself, next day, Matthew Prior, of Dorsetshire, in which county, not in Middlesex, Winborn, or Winborne, as it stands in the Villare, is found. When he stood candidate for his fellowship, five years afterward, he was registered again by himself as of Middlesex. The last record ought to be preferred, because it was made upon oath. It is observable that, as a native of Winborne, he is styled Filius Georgii Prior, generosi; not consistently with the comnon account of the meanness of his birth.-Dr. J.
+ Samuel Prior kept the Rummer Tavern, near Charing Cross, 1685. The annual feast of the nobility and gentry living in the arish of St. Martin in the Fields was held at his house, October , that year.-N.