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ALEXANDER POP E.
Eight Engravings on Steel.
LONDON : HOULSTON & WRIGHT.
MEMOIR OF POPE.
ALEXANDER POPE was born in London on the 22d May 1688. His paternal grandfather was a clergyman of the Established Church; his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esq., a Yorkshire gentleman and a loyalist; his father was a linen-merchant in Lombard Street. Like many Roman Catholics, not considering life or property safe after the Revolution, he withdrew from business, taking with him in a strong-box, to his rural retreat in Kensington, ten thousand pounds he had amassed as a merchant. The old man lived long enough to exhaust the contents of the strong-box. Pope therefore inherited nothing from his father but his physical deformity, and nothing from his mother except her violent headaches. At the age of eight, the future poet was placed under the tuition of a Jesuit, who taught him Greek and Latin. From the Jesuit, he passed to a public school, kept by a Roman Catholic, near Winchester. A sickly constitution had made him something of a petted child, and, like most petted children, he had contracted certain impertinences of manner which the discipline of the school could not tolerate. He was flogged by the master, and his parents, irritated that the master had not rather spared the rod, removed him from Winchester to a London Academy. Here Pope first became acquainted with Ogilby's Homer, and Sandy's Ovid.
At the age of twelve, he left London and returned home, resolved upon a plan of self-culture. Pope was, however, of too excitable a spirit to pursue such a scheme systematically. But though never a systematic student, he was an omnivorous devourer of light literature. At this period his “Ode to Solitude was produced,-a most remarkable production for a boy of twelve years. Pope's father was fond of poetry, and with a father's pride stimulated the tastes of his son. The retired linen-merchant had a rather fastidious ear, and used frequently to send the boy back to his study, with the remark these are not good rhymes, Alexander.” Spenser
Waller, and Dryden, were the writers Pope loved to copy. He succeeded in imbuing his style with something of the energy of glorious John, and pretty successfully emulated Waller's grace, but he never fully attained the rich and picturesque versification of Spenser. The “Ode to Solitude” was followed by a comedy, of which not so much as even the subject is known. “St Genevieve, a tragedy,” and “Alcandar, an epic poem,” came next in order. Comedy, tragedy, and epic poem, were however, by the advice of Atterbury, committed to the flames. We are therefore without the means of judging of their merits, unless we infer their worth from their fate. At the age of fifteen, the young poet came again to London, to perfect his acquaintance with the modern languages. So keenly had Pope devoted himself to desultory reading, that the seclusion, and want of exercise consequent thereon, began to threaten his life.
Awaking to his perilous position, he prepared to meet fate with the heroism of a stoic. A farewell letter written to his friend “ Abbe Southcote” saved the poet. The Abbe was a man of sense, and on receiving Pope's farewell, repaired to the then celebrated Dr Radcliffe, and received from him a recipe for the boy's malady. The youth was to shut his books, and mount his horse. Under this regimen Pope quickly recovered. While thus, by command of Dr Radcliffe, riding for his health in Windsor Forest, Pope had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a gentleman of distinction, Sir William Trumbull. Trumbull was a Fellow of All Souls', Oxford, and had seen much of public life, having been successively English Envoy at Florence, Turin, Paris, and Constantinople. The statesman and scholar, now retired from life's tumult, treated Pope with the highest consideration. Sir William knew. Wycherley, and introduced his young friend to the aged libertine, already all but forgotten by the world. The old man had some “Fugitive Pieces " which he sent to Pope for correction. Pope speedily cooled the fervour of his friendship by the faithfulness of his criticism. The dramatist wanted praise, not correction. But if Wycherley and Pope found little congenial in each other's society, their friendship, such as it was, introduced the subject of our sketch to a scholar and a gentleman, Mr Walsh, afterwards celebrated in the “ Essay on Criticism as “ Walsh the muse's judge and friend.” It was shortly subsequent to the formation of this acquaintance that Pope's intimacy with the family of the Blounts commenced, an intimacy memorable from the important and commanding influence it exercised over the future of the