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PRIOR. 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 Í know not what parents; others say, that he was the son of a joiner of London; he was perhaps willing enough to leave his birth unsettled, * in hope, like Don Quixote, that the historian his actions might find him some illustrious alliance.
He is supposed to have fallen, by his father's death, into the hands of his uncle, a vintner, near Charing Cross, who sent him for some time 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 patronage of genius, found him by chance, as Burnet relates, 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 sup
* 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 Middlosox; by himself, next day, Matthew Prior, of Dorsetshire, in which county, not in Middlesex, Winborn, or Winborne, as it stands in the Villare, found. When he stood candidate for his fellowship, five years afterwards, he was registered again by himself as of Middlesex. The last record ought to be preferred, because it was mado upon oath.
It is obscrvable, that, as a native of Winborno, he is stylod Filius Georgii Prior, generosi; not consistently with the common acorunt of the meanness of his birth. Johnson's Lives. II.