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In his perusal of the English poets he soon distinguished the 13 versification of Dryden 1, which he considered as the model to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his instructer that he persuaded some friends to take him to the coffee-house which Dryden frequented, and pleased himself with having seen him 2.
Dryden died May 1, 17013, some days before Pope was 14 twelve: so early must he therefore have felt the power of harmony, and the zeal of genius. 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 Pope's productions is his Ode on Solitude*, 15 written before he was twelve, in which there is nothing more than other forward boys have attained, and which is not equal to Cowley's performances at the same age 3.
that Pope's mother said, 'Rhymes was my husband's word for verses.' So Milton uses the word in Lycidas— 'Build the lofty rhyme.'
'He got first acquainted with the writings of Waller, Spenser and Dryden; in the order I have named them. On the first sight of Dryden he found he had what he wanted. His poems were never out of his hands; they became his model, and from them alone he learnt the whole magic of his versification.' Warburton, iv. 19. See also Spence's Anec. P. 8.
Not long before his death he said to Spence (ib. p. 296) :-'I read The Faerie Queene when I was about twelve with infinite delight; and I think it gave me as much when I read it over about a year or two ago.' See also ante, DRYDEN, 222; post, POPE, 348, 374.
Virgilium tantum vidi,' he wrote to Wycherley on Dec. 26, 1704. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 15. Warburton says in a note :'When a very young boy, he prevailed with a friend to carry him to a coffeehouse which Dryden frequented.' Warburton, vii. 2. I remember his face well,' he told Spence, 'for I looked upon him even then with the greatest veneration, and observed him very particularly.' Spence's Anec.
p. 332. For the coffee-house see ante, DRYDEN, 190.
'Virgilium vidi tantum.' OVID, Tristia, iv. 10. 51.
Dryden had seen Milton. 'Milton,' he wrote, 'has acknowledged to me that Spenser was his original.' Dryden's Works, xi. 210. Johnson never saw Pope, though he came to London seven years before his death. John. Misc. i. 373 n. 5. Reynolds, when a youth, had touched his hand in a great crowd. Boswell's Johnson, i. 377 n. For the chain that stretches from Milton, through Dryden, Pope, Reynolds and Northcote, to Ruskin see ib. i. 377 n.
3 Dryden died on May 1, 1700. Ante, DRYDEN, 152 n. 2.
Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iv. 407.
5 In July, 1709, when he was twentyone, he says he found this Ode. I find by the date it was written when I was not twelve years old.' How much he revised it cannot be known. In the version of 1735 'it was once more retouched.' Ib. vi. 82.
'Pope in the Ode to Solitude and in his Essay on Criticism has furnished proofs that at one period of his life he felt the charm of a sober and subdued style.' WORDSWORTH, Memoirs, 1851, ii. 221.
For Cowley see ante, COWLEY, 6.
His time was now spent wholly in reading and writing'. As he read the Classicks he amused himself with translating them; and at fourteen made a version of the first book of the Thebais, which, with some revision, he afterwards published 2. He must have been at this time, if he had no help, a considerable proficient in the Latin tongue.
17 By Dryden's Fables, which had then been not long published3, and were much in the hands of poetical readers, he was tempted to try his own skill in giving Chaucer a more fashionable appearance, and put Fanuary and May, and the Prologue of the Wife of Bath, into modern English. He translated likewise the Epistle of Sappho to Phaon from Ovid 5, to complete the version, which was before imperfect, and wrote some other small pieces, which he afterwards printed.
He sometimes imitated the English poets, and professed to have written at fourteen his poem upon Silence', after Rochester's Nothing. He had now formed his versification, and in the smoothness of his numbers surpassed his original; but this is a small part of his praise: he discovers such acquaintance both with human life and public affairs as is not easily conceived to have been attainable by a boy of fourteen in Windsor Forest.
19 Next year he was desirous of opening to himself new sources of knowledge, by making himself acquainted with modern languages, and removed for a time to London that he might study French and Italian, which, as he desired nothing more than to read them, were by diligent application soon
For the injury to his health by overstudy see post, POPE, 255.
2 Mr. Elwin points out that all Pope's unrevised poems were suppressed. From those revised we learn nothing of his skill at fourteen.
The first translation he printed was Sarpedon. It and the Pastorals appeared in 1709, when he was twentyone. In 1712 he published the first book of the Thebais. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), i. 45, 46.
3 Pope, in the Advertisement to his translations 'prefixed to vol. iii of his Works, 8vo, 1736,' writes:-' Mr. Dryden's Fables... occasioned the translations from Chaucer.' Pope's
despatched. Of Italian learning he does not appear to have ever made much use in his subsequent studies 2.
He then returned to Binfield, and delighted himself with his 20 own poetry. He tried all styles, and many subjects. He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an epick poem, with panegyricks on all the princes of Europe; and, as he confesses, 'thought himself the greatest genius that ever was 3. Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings; he, indeed, who forms his opinion of himself in solitude, without knowing the powers of other men, is very liable to errour: but it was the felicity of Pope to rate himself at his real value.
Most of his puerile productions were by his maturer judge- 21 ment afterwards destroyed; Alcander, the epick poem, was burnt by the persuasion of Atterbury 5. The tragedy was founded on the legend of St. Genevieve'. Of the comedy there is no account 7.
Concerning his studies it is related that he translated Tully On 22 old Age3; and that, besides his books of poetry and criticism, he
Warburton, iv. 206. His cousin, Mannick, said of this removal :-'We in the family looked upon it as a wildish sort of resolution.' Spence adds in a footnote:-'What his sister, Mrs. Racket, said—“For you know, to speak plain with you, my brother has a maddish way with him." Little people mistook the excess of his genius for madness. "I gad, that young fellow will either be a madman or make a very great poet." Rag Smith after being in Mr. Pope's company when when about fourteen.' Spence's Anec. p. 25. See also ib. p. 193. For 'Rag Smith' see ante, SMITH, 43.
2 Like Addison in this. Boswell's Johnson, v. 310.
3 Warburton, Preface, p. 19. "For 'the high opinion of their own powers' held by Milton and Dryden see ante, MILTON, 47; DRYDEN, 162, and for Addison's very high opinion of his own merit' see ante, ADDISON, 109.
5My epic was about two years in hand, from thirteen to fifteen.... I wrote four books towards it of about a thousand verses each; and had the copy by me till I burnt it by the
advice of the Bishop of Rochester, a little before he went abroad.' Spence's Anec. pp. 276, 279. See also ib. pp. 24, 197-8. The Bishop went abroad in June, 1723. He wrote to Pope more than six years earlier:-'I am not sorry your Alcander is burnt.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), ix. 8.
Warton, in a note on a quotation in The Art of Sinking, says:-' Mr. Spence informed me that this passage, and many other ridiculous ones in this treatise, were quoted from our poet's own early pieces, particularly Alcander. Warton's Pope, vi. 207. See Spence's Anec. p. 277.
Spence's Anec. p. 197; where Pope said that, though he was 'solicited to write for the stage,' yet he would not, as he saw 'how much everybody that did write for it was obliged to subject themselves to the players and the town.' See ante, SAVAGE, 38 n.
7 Warburton, iv. 19.
8 There is a copy of it,' said Pope, ' in Lord Oxford's library.' Spence's Anec. p. 278. For Denham's imitation of Cicero's book see ante, DENHAM, 33.
read Temple's Essays and Locke On human Understanding1. His reading, though his favourite authors are not known, appears to have been sufficiently extensive and multifarious; for his early pieces shew, with sufficient evidence, his knowledge of books. 23 He that is pleased with himself easily imagines that he shall please others. Sir William Trumbal, who had been ambassador at Constantinople, and secretary of state, when he retired from business fixed his residence in the neighbourhood of Binfield. Pope, not yet sixteen, was introduced to the statesman of sixty, and so distinguished himself that their interviews ended in friendship and correspondence 3. Pope was through his whole life ambitious of splendid acquaintance, and he seems to have wanted neither diligence nor success in attracting the notice of the great ; for from his first entrance into the world, and his entrance was very early, he was admitted to familiarity with those whose rank or station made them most conspicuous*.
From the age of sixteen the life of Pope as an author may be properly computed 5. He now wrote his Pastorals, which were shewn to the poets and criticks of that time; as they well deserved they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant
'As drives the storm, at any door
And house with Montaigne now,
POPE, Imit. Hor., Epis. i. 1. 25. "I met with Locke," Pope said; "he was quite insipid to me. read Temple's Essays too then; but whenever there was anything political in them, I had no manner of feeling for it." Spence's Anec. p. 199.
'Locke's reasoning,' writes Mr. Courthope, 'may indeed be said to pervade every part of the Essay on Criticism.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 52.
2 'James II in 1587  sent him ambassador to Constantinople, to which city, Mr. Ruffhead informs us, he went through the continent on foot. He died in Dec. 1716.' Malone's Dryden, iii. 560. Pope dedicated to him his first Pastoral, and celebrated him in a ridiculous couplet in Windsor Forest, 1. 257:
'Such was the life great Scipio once admir'd,
Thus Atticus, and Trumbal thus retir'd.'
He wrote also his epitaph. Post, POPE, 395.
For the slippery trick' which Pope, as he complained, served him, see Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), i. 324. See also Spence's Anec. p. 194; Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 26; and ante, FENTON, 16. For Dryden's flattery of him see Dryden's Works, xv. 190. 3 Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. I.
Post, POPE, 270.
5His existence in the Forest,' writes Mr. Courthope, 'was undisturbed by the quarrels and vexations of his later years, and the character of all his early poetry is pastoral, pathetic, ardent and fanciful.' 16. iii. 27.
For his list of these 'poets and criticks' see ib. i. 239.
and learned in a high degree: they were, however, not published till five years afterwards'.
Cowley, Milton, and Pope are distinguished among the English 25 Poets by the early exertion of their powers; but the works of Cowley alone were published in his childhood, and therefore of him only can it be certain that his puerile performances received no improvement from his maturer studies".
At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man 26 who seems to have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation 3, to have been esteemed without virtue, and caressed without good-humour. Pope was proud of his notice; Wycherley wrote verses in his praise, which he was charged by Dennis with writing to himself, and they agreed for a while to flatter one another. It is pleasant to remark how soon Pope learned the cant of an author 5, and began to treat criticks with contempt, though he had yet suffered nothing from them.
1 The Pastorals were published in 1709, in Tonson's Miscellany. Post, POPE, 33, 314. The 'Preface,' entitled A Discourse on Pastoral Poetry, first appeared in his collected works in 1717. Post, POPE, 120.
'It was,' writes Mr. Elwin,' avowedly compiled from two or three recent essayists [Fontenelle, Rapin, and Heinsius], and demanded nothing from the poet to which the term learning could be properly applied.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), i. 241. See also ib. v.
27; Ante, Cowley, 6; MILTON, 8, 153Mr. Wycherley, when we read
Esther together, was of my opinion in this, or rather I of his; for it becomes me so to speak of so excellent a poet and so great a judge.' DRYDEN, Works, xvii. 323.
See Warburton, vii. 26. the verses see ib. Preface, p. 22.
'In the fifth edition of Lintot's Misc., 1727, the poem of Wycherley, who was then dead, is prefixed to Pope's pieces, and bears the title, "To Mr. Pope at sixteen years old, on account of his Pastorals." This was untrue. The lines were not addressed to him till he was twenty. The mannerism of both authors can
be clearly traced in them. They have the stamp of Wycherley improved by Pope.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), i. 22.
Johnson refers to Pope's first published letter to Wycherley, dated Dec. 26, 1704. Ib. vi. 15. Elwin suspects that 'Wycherley's premature compliment and Pope's premature cant both belonged to a subsequent period, or perhaps were fabricated for the press.' Ib. Preface, p. 130. In 1708 Pope undoubtedly wrote of critics with contempt. Post, POPE, 383. In 1737, recommending Walter Harte as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, he wrote:-'I think it a condescension in one who practises the art of poetry so well to stoop to be a critic.' lb. x. 226.
For 'cant' see Boswell's Johnson, iv. 221 n. Johnson himself in The Rambler, No. 3, attacked critics as men who stand as sentinels in the avenues of fame, and value themselves upon giving ignorance and envy the first notice of a prey.'
Gray wrote of them:-I own it is an impertinence in these gentry to talk of one at all either in good or in bad.' Gray's Letters, ed. Tovey, i. 302.
'I have never affected,' wrote Gibbon, ‘indeed I have never under