Page images


[ocr errors]

1 LEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 22, 1688?,

of parents whose rank or station was never ascertained : we are informed that they were of 'gentle blood ?'; that his father was of a family of which the Earl of Downe was the head“, and that, his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esquire, of York, who had likewise three sons, one of whom had the honour of being killed, and the other of dying, in the service of Charles the First ; the third was made a general officer in Spain”,


· The Life of Pope was the last written of the Lives. On Sept. 18, 1780, Johnson recorded :- I have Swift and Pope yet to write, Swift is just begun.' John. Misc. i. 94. On April 13, 1781, he recorded:- Sometime in March I finished the Lives of the Poets.' 1b. i. 96. See also ib. ii. 193. 'Mr. Nichols,' he wrote, “is entreated to save the proof sheets of Pope, because they are promised to a lady who desires to have them.' John. Letters, ii. 197. The lady was Miss Burney. They are in the possession of Mr. R. B. Adam of Buffalo, who has allowed me to examine them.

On April 14, 1781, Horace Walpole wrote:-—' Dr. Johnson's Life of Pope is a most trumpery performance, and stuffed with all his crabbed phrases and vulgarisms, and much trash as anecdotes.' Letters, viii. 26.

Johnson's Life of Pope is a very important piece of criticism. Since Sam. Johnson we have been knocked about by critics of more brilliancy than authority, and I feel the want of an authority.' W. CORY, Letters, &c., p. 547.

Spence records, on Pope's authority, that he was born in Lombard Street on May 21, 1688. Spence's Anec. pp. 203, 259. According to

Curll he was born on June 8. Pope, in reproducing this statement, does not correct it. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 440. 3. Of gentle blood (part shed in

honour's cause
While yet in Britain honour had

Each parent sprung.'

Prol. Sat. 1. 388. Pope states this in a note on these lines. See also T. Birch's Heads of Illustrious Persons, 1747, ii. 55. One of his relations, ‘a great genealogist, who was always talking of her family, never mentioned this descent.' WARTON, Essay on Pope, ii. 326. Mr. Courthope thinks it fabulous. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 4.

5 Johnson here also follows Pope's note. In the notice of the death of his mother in Gent. Mag. 1733, p. 326, probably written by him, it is stated that two of the sons died in the King's service in the Civil War

• The Turners were small landowners in Yorkshire. William Turner married Thomasine Newton, a member of a good family at Thorpe, in Yorkshire. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 5. One of their daughters married Samuel Cooper, the painter. Ante, BUTLER, 5.


from whom the sister inherited what sequestrations and forfeitures had left in the family.

This, and this only, is told by Pope ; who is more willing, as 2 I have heard observed, to shew what his father was not, than what he was. It is allowed that he grew rich by trade; but whether in a shop or on the Exchange was never discovered, till Mr. Tyers told, on the authority of Mrs. Racket, that he was a linen-draper in the Strand'. Both parents were papists 2.

Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender and delicate ; 3 but is said to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of disposition ? The weakness of his body continued through his life, but the mildness of his mind perhaps ended with his childhood. His voice, when he was young, was so pleasing that he was called in fondness the 'little Nightingale 5.'

Being not sent early to school o he was taught to read by an 4 aunt, and when he was seven or eight years old became a lover

[ocr errors]





i In the first edition the sentence by a waterman at Twickenham, who, ends at 'discovered.' Pope, in his in lifting him into his boat, had often will, described Mrs. Magdalen Racket felt them. He had a sedan-chair in

'my sister-in-law.' Warton's the boat, in which he sat with the Pope's Works, ed. 1822, ix. 417. She glasses down.' HAWKINS, Johnson's was his father's daughter by his first Works, 1787, iv. 2; post, POPE, wife. In the register of St. Benet Fink is the following:- 1679. 12 Aug. His voice was so musical that Buried Magdalen, the wife of Allix- I remember honest Tom Southerne ander Pope. He was then living in used always to call him “the little Broad Street. N. & Q. 2 S. iii. 461, nightingale.”' ORRERY, Remarks, iv. 381, 406. The poet was born in &c., p. 207. Thomson, speaking of Lombard Street. Pope's Works (El- him, calls the nightingale' his sister win and Courthope), v. 6.

of the copses green. Post, POPE, For Thomas Tyers see Boswell's

255 n.

Some called Pope little Johnson, iii. 308; John. Misc. ii.

nightingale-all sound and no sense.' 335.

LADY M. W. MONTAGU, Letters, 2 Mrs. Pope described her husband Preface, p. 41.

an honest merchant, who dealt • Johnson's authorities for Pope's in Hollands wholesale.' Spence's school-days are Birch's Heads, &c., ii. Anec. p. 8. According to a note in 55, Warburton's Pope's Works, ed. Warton, iv. 51, Pope's grandfather 1757, iv. 205, and Spence's Anec. a clergyman in Hampshire.

pp. 192, 206, 259, 276, 283, who He placed his son with a merchant

do not always agree.

Warburton at Lisbon, where he became a con- (Preface, p. 7) said that he intended vert to Popery.' This clergyman was to write Pope's Life. Not much has 'not improbably Alexander Pope, been lost by his neglect. In the Rector of Thruxton, in Hampshire, note in which he gives his account who died in 1645.'' Pope's Works of Pope's education he writes :(Elwin and Courthope), v. 5.

'Though much more would be too 3 Ruffhead's Life of Pope, p. 10; trifling to enter into a just volume Spence's Anec. p. 26.

of his life, it may do no dishonour * This weakness was so great that to one of these cursory notes.' he wore stays, as I have been assured

[ocr errors]


6 was


[ocr errors]

of books. He first learned to write by imitating printed books ; a species of penmanship in which he retained great excellence'

through his whole life, though his ordinary hand was not elegant. 5

When he was about eight he was placed in Hampshire under Taverner, a Romish priest, who, by a method very rarely practised, taught him the Greek and Latin rudiments together ?. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by the perusal of Ogylby's Homer, and Sandys's Ovid : Ogylby'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 present beauty to his translations. Sandys very rarely attempted

original composition. 6

From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was considerable, he was removed to a school at Twyford near Winchester, and again to another school about Hyde-park Corner; from which he used sometimes to stroll to the playhouse, and was so delighted with theatrical exhibitions that he formed a kind of play from Ogylby's Iliad, with some verses of his own intermixed, which he persuaded his schoolfellows to act, with the addition of his master's gardener, who personated Ajax.

* The title-page to Acis and Gala- much of its improvement to his tea, translated by Pope when fourteen, translations. The Iliad, xxii. 196 n. ‘is so like print that it requires a Sandys's Ovid,' he said, 'I liked good eye to distinguish it.' Spence's extremely! Spence's Anec. p. 276. Anec. p. 283.

For the influence Sandys had on his 2. 'It is customary in the schools versification see Pope's Works (Elwin of the Jesuits. Mr. Pope seemed to and Courthope), v. 18-20. 'Dryden think it a good way.' Spence's Anec, called Sandys the best versifier of the p. 259. His teacher, according to last age.' Ante, DRYDEN, 223. See Spence, was one ‘Banister, their also DRYDEN, 107. In his epitaph [the Popes') family priest.' Birch he is 'poetarum Anglorum sui saeculi and Warburton are the authorities facile princeps. Athenae Oxon. iii. for Taverner. For a most improb- 100. As he was born in 1577 and able tradition that Pope was once at died in 1644 he had Shakespeare and Abingdon School see Macleane's Milton for inferiors. Pembroke College, p. 200.

s Dr. Warton, Head Master of 3 'He spoke of the pleasure Ogilby's Winchester College, says that 'this Homer then gave him with a sort of used frequently to be mentioned by rapture, only in reflecting on it. “I the scholars of the College in their was then about eight years old."' youthful compositions.' Warton's Spence's Anec. p. 276. See also Pope's Works, Preface, p. 2. Birch, ii. 55; Warburton, iv. 18. For a third school, which Pope He twice mentions Ogilby in The was said to have attended in DevonDunciad, i. 141, 328. See also ante, shire Street, see Pope's Works DRYDEN, 307 ; post, POPE, 85. (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 440.

“The English versification owes Warburton, iv. 18. Warburton



[ocr errors]

At the two last schools he used to represent himself as having 7 lost part of what Taverner had taught him', and on his master at Twyford he had already exercised his poetry in a lampoon?. Yet under those masters he translated more than a fourth part of the Metamorphoses 3. If he kept the same proportion in his other exercises it cannot be thought that his loss was great.

He tells of himself in his poems that ‘he lisp'd in numbers ^,' 8 and used to say that he could not remember the time when he began to make verses. In the style of fiction it might have

5 been said of him as of Pindar, that when he lay in his cradle, the bees swarmed about his mouth.'

About the time of the Revolution his father, who was un- 9 doubtedly disappointed by the sudden blast of popish prosperity, quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in Windsor Forest, with about twenty thousand pounds, for which, being conscientiously determined not to entrust it to the government, he found no better use than that of locking it up in a chest, and taking from it what his expences required ; and his life was long enough to consume a great part of it, before his son came to the inheritance.


P: 278.

[ocr errors]

adds that 'he contrived to have all
the actors dressed after the pictures
in his favourite Ogilby.'
· Warburton, iv. 205.

See also
Spence's Anec. p. 192.

? His sister said that he was whipped and ill-used at Twyford for his satire, and taken thence on that account.' Spence's Anec. p. 206.

In the scattered lessons I used to set myself I translated above a quarter of the Metamorphoses.' Ib. "As yet a child, nor yet a fool to

fame, I lisp'd in numbers, for the num

bers came.' Prol, Sat, l. 127. ‘Sponte sua carmen numeros venie

bat ad aptos, Et quod tentabam dicere versus

erat.' OVID, Tristia, iv. 10. 25. • If now and then I curse, my curses

Nor can I pray unless I pray in

CHURCHILL, Poems, 1766, ii. 325.

5 Warburton, iv. 18; Spence's Anec. p. 276.

• Birch puts the fortune of Pope's father at between 15 and 20,000l. Being incapable as a Roman Catholic of purchasing, or putting his money to interest on real security, and his attachment to the abdicated King and his family restraining him from lending it to the new Government, he kept it in his chest and lived upon the principal, till it was near spent when his son came to the succession.' T. Birch, Heads, &c., 1747, ii. 55. See also Warburton, iv. 208; post, POPE, 71, 121.

He must have bought land before the disabling Act of 11 & 12 Will. III, C. 4 was passed, as he owned a freehold at Binfield. Post, POPE, 117.

Martha Blount (post, POPE, 243) told Spence that he was worth £10,000 at the Revolution. The son, she added, "had about £3,000 or £4,000 from his father, as I have heard him say.' Spence's Anec. p. 357

The Papists paid a double landtax. Pope writes of his father :For right hereditary taxed and fined,

10 To Binfield Pope was called by his father when he was about

twelve years old; and there he had for a few months the assistance of one Deane, another priest, of whom he learned only to construe a little of Tully's Offices'. How Mr. Deane could spend, with a boy who had translated so much of Ovid, some months over a small part of Tully's Offices, it is now vain to

enquire. 11 Of a youth so successfully employed, and so conspicuously

improved, a minute account must be naturally desired; but curiosity must be contented with confused, imperfect, and sometimes improbable intelligence. Pope, finding little advantage from external help, resolved thenceforward to direct himself, and at twelve formed a plan of study which he completed with little

other incitement than the desire of excellence ? 12 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 performances by many revisals; after which the old gentleman, when he was satisfied, would say, 'these are good rhymes 3.'

go it,

He stuck to poverty with peace of who, at the Revolution, withdrew mind;

himself privately before break of And me the Muses helped to under- day' from Oxford. Wood, Fasti

Oxon. ii. 348.
Convict a Papist he, and I a Poet.' 2 'I did not follow the grammar,

Imit. Hor., Epis. ii. 2. 64. but rather hunted in the authors for Jeremy Bentham's father, a Pro- a syntax of my own; and then began testant Jacobite, from his aversion to translating any parts that pleased the reigning family and doubts of me particularly in the Greek and the stability of the funds, hoarded Latin poets; and by that means his money. When Jeremy was a formed my taste, which, I think boy, twenty or thirty guineas fell out verily, about sixteen was very near of a place' where he kept his toys. as good as it is now. ...

.. I continued Bentham's Works, X. 2.

See post,

in this close pursuit of pleasure and POPE, 131 n.

languages till nineteen or twenty.... * Birch (ii. 55) and Warburton (iv. These five or six years I still look 205) mention his being under a priest upon as the happiest part of my in the Forest, and so does Spence life.' Spence's Anec. pp. 193, 259, (Anec. p. 193). Deane, according to 270. Spence (ib. p.259), kept 'a seminary,' 3 •When Mr. Pope was yet a child first at Marylebone, and next at Hyde his father, though no poet, would set Park Corner. When,' said Pope, him to make English verses. 'I came from the last of these little was pretty difficult to please, and schools, all the acquisition I had would often send the boy back to made was to be able to construe new turn them. When they were to a little of Tully's Offices.' lb. p. his mind he took great pleasure in 270.

them, and would say, These are Deane had been a Roman Catholic good rhymes."' Warburton, iv. 19. Fellow of University College, Oxford, See also Spence's Anec.p. 8, who adds


« PreviousContinue »