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ALEXANDER, the only child of Alexander Pope, by Editha, daughter of William Turner, Esquire, of York, was born in Lombard-street, London, on the twenty-first of May, 1688. His father, having amassed a fortune of about twenty thousand pounds by his business as a linen-draper, retired to Binfield, in Windsor Forest; and being a Roman Catholic, and therefore, as it is said, unwilling to trust the government with his money, spent the greater part of it before his death.
At the age of eight, Pope was placed under the care of a priest, in Hampshire, and instructed at once in the rudiments of Greek and Latin: from thence he was removed to a school at Twyford, near Winchester; and afterwards to one in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park Corner.
Being a weak and sickly child, he passed most of his time in reading, and in making verses, a propensity in which he was encouraged by his father. Ogilby's "Homer” and Sandys's "Ovid" were amongst his favourite books. Of his earliest attempts at verse, the “Ode on Solitude" only remains. He had the good sense to destroy the rest.
Spence tells us that Waller, Spenser, and Dryden were Pope's great favourites, in the order they are named, in his first reading, and till he was about twelve years old. He
says himself, that he learned versification from Dryden. In his youthful poem of "Alcander," he imitated every poet-Cowley, Milton, Spenser, Statius, Virgil, Homer. In a few years he had dipped into a great number of the English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek poets. "This I did," he says," without any design except to amuse myself; and got the languages by hunting after the stories in the several poets. I read-rather than read the books-to get the languages. I followed everywhere as my fancy led me, and was like a boy gathering flowers in the woods and fields, just as they fell in his way. These five or six years I looked upon as the happiest in my life.”
When near London, he went to the playhouses; and, in imitation of what he saw there, formed a drama out of the "Iliad," to be represented by his schoolfellows. At Will's Coffee-House he had a sight of Dryden, a yet greater curiosity to him than the actors.
At sixteen he wrote his "Pastorals," which were not printed till 1709, when they appeared in a poetical Miscellany. In that year his "Essay on Criticism” was composed; and two years after, the "Rape of the Lock," which was also published in a miscellany, and at first consisted of only three hundred and fifty lines; but being afterwards embellished with the machinery, was extended to more than double the length. The fancy and elegance of this work placed him at the head of all his poetical competitors.
In 1713 he completed "Windsor Forest," which had been begun at the age of sixteen; and, relying on the high reputation he had obtained, put forth proposals for a subscription to an English version of the "Iliad." His imitations of Chaucer, and translations from the Latin poets,
had already prepared him for this task; yet his spirits were so much weighed down at the prospect of it, that he complained of his rest being broken by painful dreams, and wished somebody would hang him. In rather more than five years the formidable work was completed, and met with a success hitherto unexampled in this country, having brought him a profit somewhat exceeding five thousand pounds.
His next engagement was an edition of Shakspere; but he had no skill in verbal criticism, and failed accordingly. The part in which he acquitted himself best was the Preface.
He now undertook a translation of the "Odyssey." For. this he called in the assistance of Broome and Fenton; the former of whom contributed eight, and the latter four books. After finishing it in 1725, and reaping a second harvest of gain from Homer, he resolved thenceforward to desist from the labour of translating. But a habit begun so early, and continued so long, was not entirely to be laid aside. The "Imitations" he published from time to time of the Epistles and Satires of Horace and of Donne, are copies not much less faithful to their originals, than his version of the two great epic poems of antiquity. All his other works, derived from his own invention, were now confined to moral or satirical subjects; the "Essay on Man," the "Satires and Epistles," and the "Dunciad." The last of these, consisting of three books, was published in 1728. About two years before his death he added a fourth, after having remodelled the whole, and injudiciously substituted the lively Cibber for the laborious Theobald as the hero. In 1740 he amused himself by editing a selection of Latin poems. by Italian writers, in two volumes.
The history of Pope's Works is nearly that of his life When he had collected the subscriptions and other profits accruing from his Homer, he prevailed on his father to dispose of his estate at Binfield, and purchase a house at Twickenham, to which he removed with his parents. Here, with the exception of occasional visits to London, Oxford, Bath, and the houses of his friends, he continued to reside for the remainder of his days. Ill health always prevented him from travelling to other countries, for which the desire never left him. Some of his leisure hours at home were diverted by the care of ornamenting his house and gardens, and forming a grotto under the highway that intersected his grounds.
In November, 1717, his father died, at the age of seventyfive.. In 1733 he lost his mother, at the age of ninetythree, whom, in her declining years, he had nursed with the most assiduous tenderness. After her death, his affections centred in Martha Blount, with whom, and her sister Teresa, his acquaintance had commenced in infancy; this friendship continued throughout his life. His attachment to another female, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, terminated most unpleasantly; in rejection and scorn on one side, and in anger and revenge on the other. The part of Pope's character which we contemplate with most pain, is his sensitiveness to injury, either real or imagined; yet it is to this disposition that our language is indebted for the finest models of a keen and polished satire. As he was violent in his animosities, so he was ardent and sincere in his affections. The friends in whose conversation he most delighted, were, Gay, Swift, Parnell, Jervas the painter, Arbuthnot, Atterbury, Harley, and St. John. He was early introduced to the notice of the great, and continued