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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, Efquire, of York, who had likewife three fons, one of whom had the honour of being killed, and the other of dying, in the service of Charles the Firft; the third was made a general officer in Spain, from whom the fifter inherited what fequeftrations and forfeitures had left in the family. B 2
This, and this only, is told by Pope; who is more willing, as I have heard obferved, to fhew 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 has never been discovered. Both Both parents were papists.
Pope was from his birth of a conftitution tender and delicate; but is faid to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of difpofition. 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 fo pleafing, that he was called in fondness the little Nightingale.
Being not fent early to school, he was taught to read by an aunt; and when he was feven or eight years old became a lover of books. He first learned to write by imitating printed books; a fpecies of penmanship in which he retained great excellence through his whole life, though his ordinary hand was not elegant.
When he was about eight, he was placed Hampshire under Taverner, a Romifh 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 perufal of Ogylby's Homer, and Sandys's Ovid: Ogylby's affiftance he never repaid with any praife; but of Sandys he declared, in his notes to the Iliad, that English poetry owed much of its prefent beauty to his tranflations. Sandys very rarely attempted original compofition.
From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was confiderable, he was removed to a school at Twyford near Winchefter, and again to another school about Hydepark Corner; from which he used sometimes to stroll to the playhouse, and was fo delighted with theatrical exhibitions, that he formed a kind of play from Ogylby's Iliad, with fome verfes of his own intermixed, which he perfuaded his school-fellows to act, with the addition of his mafter's gardener, who perfonated Ajax.
At the two laft fchools he used to reprefent himself as having loft part of what Taverner had taught him, and on his master at Twyford he had already exercised his poetry in a lampoon. Yet under thofe masters he translated more than a fourth part of the Metamorphofes. If he kept the fame proportion in his other exercifes, it cannot be thought that his lofs was great.
He tells of himself, in his poems, that he lifp'd in numbers; and used to say that he could not remember the time when he began to make verses. In the ftyle of fiction it might have been faid of him as of Pindar, that when he lay in his cradle, the bees fwarm
ed about his mouth.
About the time of the Revolution his father, who was undoubtedly disappointed by the fudden blast of popish profperity, quitted his trade, whatever it was, and retired to Binfield in Windfor Foreft, with about twenty thousand pounds; for which, being conscientiously determined not to intrust it to the government, he found no better use than that of locking it up in a cheft, and taking