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fixed his refidence in the neighbourhood of Binfield. Pope, not yet fixteen, was introduced to the statesman of fixty, and fo diftinguished himself, that their interviews ended in friendship and correfpondence. Pope was, through his whole life, ambitious of fplendid acquaintance, and he feems to have wanted neither diligence nor fuccefs in attracting the notice of the great; for from his first entrance into the world, and his entrance was very early, he was. adinitted to familiarity with those whofe rank or ftation made them moft confpicuous.
From the age of fixteen the life of Pope, as an author, may be properly computed. He now wrote his pastorals, which were fhewn to the Poets and Criticks of that time; as they well deferved, they were readwith admiration, and many praises were beftowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree; they were, however, not published till five years afterwards.
Cowley, Milton, and Pope, are diftinguished among the English 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 ftudies.
At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man who seems to have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation, to have been efteemed without virtue, and careffed without good-humour. Pope was proud of his notice; Wycherley wrote verfes in his praife, 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 foon B 4 Pope
Pope learned the cant of an author, and began to treat criticks with contempt, though he had yet fuffered nothing from them.
But the fondness of Wycherley was too violent to laft. His esteem of Pope was fuch, that he submitted fome poems to his revifion; and when Pope, perhaps proud of such confidence, was fufficiently bold in his criticisms, and liberal in his alterations, the old fcribbler was angry to fee his pages defaced, and felt more pain from the detection than content from the amendment of his faults. They parted; but Pope always confidered him with kindness, and visited him a little time before he died.
Another of his early correfpondents was Mr. Cromwell, of whom I have learned nothing particular but that he used to ride a hunting in a tye-wig. He was fond, and perhaps vain, of amusing himself with poetry and criticism; and fometimes fent his performances to Pope, who did not forbear fuch remarks. as were now-and-then unwelcome. Pope, in his turn, put the juvenile verfion of Statius into his hands for correction.
Their correfpondence afforded the publick its first knowledge of Pope's Epiftolary Powers; for his Letters were given by Cromwell to one Mrs. Thomas, and The many years afterwards fold them to Curll, who inferted them in a volume of his Mifcellanies.
Walsh, a name yet preferved among the minor poets, was one of his firft encouragers. His regard was gained by the Paftorals, and from him Pope received the council by which he feems to have regulated his ftudies. Walth advifed him to correctnefs, which, as he told him, the English poets had hitherto neglected,
and which therefore was left to him as a bafis of fame; and, being delighted with rural poems, recommended to him to write a paftoral comedy, like those which are read fo eagerly in Italy; a design which Pope probably did not approve, as he did not follow it.
Pope had now declared himself a poet; and thinking himself entitled to poetical converfation, began at feventeen, to frequent Will's, a coffee-houfe on the north fide of Ruffel-ftreet, in Covent-garden, where the wits of that time used to affemble, and where Dryden had, when he lived, been accustomed to prefide.
During this period of his life he was indefatigably diligent, and infatiably curious; wanting health for violent, and money for expenfive pleasures, and having certainly excited in himself very strong defires of intellectual eminence, he spent much of his time over his books; but he read only to ftore his mind with facts and images, feizing all that his authors prefented with undistinguishing voracity, and with an appetite for knowledge too eager to be nice. In a mind like his, however, all the faculties were at once involuntarily improving. Judgement is forced upon us by experience. He that reads many books muft compare one opinion or one style with another; and when he compares, muft neceffarily diftinguish, reject, and prefer. But the account given by himself of his ftudies was, that from fourteen to twenty he read only for amusement, from twenty to twenty-feven for improvement and instruction; that in the first part of this time he defired only to know, and in the second he endeavoured to judge.
The Paftorals, which had been for fome time handed about among poets and criticks, were at last printed (1709) in Tonfon's Mifcellany, in a volume which began with the Paftorals of Philips, and ended with thofe of Pope.
The fame year was written the Effay on Criticism; a work which difplays fuch extent of comprehenfion, fuch nicety of distinction, fuch acquaintance with mankind, and fuch knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are not often attained by the matureft age and longest experience. It was published about two years afterwards; and being praised by Addifon in the Spectator with fufficient liberality, met with fo much favour as enraged Dennis, "who," he fays, "found himself attacked, without any manner of pro"vocation on his fide, and attacked in his perfon, "instead of his writings, by one who was wholly a "ftranger to him, at a time when all the world knew "he was perfecuted by fortune; and not only faw "that this was attempted in a clandeftine manner, "with the utmoft falfehood and calumny, but found. "that all this was done by a little affected hypocrite, "who had nothing in his mouth at the fame time but
truth, candour, friendship, good-nature, humanity, "and magnanimity."
How the attack was clandeftine is not easily perceived, nor how his perfon is depreciated; but he feems to have known fomething of Pope's character, in whom may be difcovered an appetite to talk too frequently of his own virtues.
The pamphlet is fuch as rage might be expected to dictate. He fuppofes himself to be asked two quef
tions; whether the Effay will fucceed, and who or what is the author.
Its fuccefs he admits to be fecured by the falfe opinions then prevalent; the author he concludes to be young and raw.
"First, because he difcovers a fufficiency beyond "his little ability, and hath rafhly undertaken a task
infinitely above his force. Secondly, while this lit"tle author ftruts, and affects the dictatorian air, he plainly fhews, that at the fame time he is under the "rod; and while he pretends to give law to others, "is a pedantick flave to authority and opinion. "Thirdly, he hath, like school-boys, borrowed both " from living and dead. Fourthly, he knows not his "own mind, and frequently contradicts himself. "Fifthly, he is almost perpetually in the wrong."
All these pofitions he attempts to prove by quotations and remarks; but his defire to do mifchief is greater than his power. He has, however, juftly criticised fome paffages, in these lines
There are whom heaven has blefs'd with ftore of wit,
For wit and judgement ever are at strife—
it is apparent that wit has two meanings, and that what is wanted, though called wit, is truly judgement. So far Dennis is undoubtedly right; but, not content with argument, he will have a little mirth, and triumphs over the first couplet in terms too elegant to be forgotten. "By the way, what rare numbers are here! "Would not one swear that this youngster had espoused "fome antiquated Mufe, who had fued out a divorce "on account of impotence from fome fuperannuated "finner; and, having been p-xed by her former