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No Courts he saw, no Suits would ever try,
It would certainly have been an Honour to any University in Europe, to have had the Cultivation of so excellent a Genius as that of Mr. Pope; but he having a very weakly Conftitution, and Parents of uncommon Tenderness, they would not by any Means consent to his going far from home; so that he received his Education in a private Manner, under Management of Tutors who were esteemed learned Men, chiefly Mr. Deane, who was depriv'd of his Fellowship of University-College in Oxford, soon after the Revolution; he having declared himself a Papist in the Reign of King James, of which Religion Mr. Pope's Family was, and had been many Centuries.
It was under this Gentleman he first began to relifh the English and Latin Poets: It was not only an early Love and Understanding he fhewed of them, but himself to be of their Number.
The first Poem of his which ever was made publick, is an Ode, wrote in the Year 1700, which well expresses the Bent of the Youth's Inclination; for he always affected Privacy and Retirement. At the writing of this Ode, he wanted a few Days of twelve Years of Age. Happy the Man, whose Wish and Care,
A few paternal Acres bound,
In his own Ground.
Whose Herds with Milk, whose Fields with Bread,
Whose Flocks fupply him with Attire, Whose Trees in Summer yield him Shade,
In Winter, Fire.
Blest, who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, Days, and Years, flide soft away, In Health of Body, Peace of Mind,
Quiet by Day.
Sound Sleep by Night; Study and Ease,
Together mixt; sweet Recreation, And Innocence, which moft does please,
Thus, let me live, unseen, unknown,
Thus, unlamented let me die,
Tell where I lie.
So far from being fond of childish Sports, that he would not engage in any that were noisy; and the Weakness and Badness of his Constitution, would not permit him to use much Exercise; fo that, except a little Drawing, he was almost continually ftudying or converfing, and by the Time he was fixteen Years old, had a very good Acquaintance among People of Fashion, who were esteemed to have, and had great Judgment of Men and Manners; and whose Conversation greatly help'd to enlarge his Mind, keep it in Action, and raise a noble Desire of resembling, in Time, or excelling, those great Examples
His Father, a Man of an exceeding good moral Character, who lov'd Silence and Solitude, resolving to withdraw from the Town, (being thereto the more strongly induc'd by the ill Health of his Son) bought an Estate at Bingfield, near Oakingham, and near the Seat of Sir William (*) Trumbull, who had been Secretary to King William, and resign'd.
From this Gentleman's Acquaintance we may date Mr. Pope's first Entrance into the polite World, though whilft he was under Tuition, and almost two Years before he wrote his Pastorals, he tranflated the first Book of the Thebaid of Statius, of which the following is an Extract.
Oedipus, King of Thebes, having by Mistake sain his Father Lajus, and married Jocasta his Mother, put out his own Eyes, and resign’d the Kingdom to his Sons. Being neglected by them, he makes a Prayer to the Fury Tisiphone, to sow Debate betwixt the Brothers.
Ye Gods, that o'er the gloomy Regions reign, Where guilty Spirits feel eternal Pain ; Thou, fable Styx ! whose livid Streams are roll'd Thro' dreary Coasts, which I, tho' blind, behold :
(*) Sir William Trumbull was born at Easthamfied in Berkshire: He was Fellow of All Souls College in Oxford, follow'd the Study of the Civil-Law, and was sent by King Charles the Second Judge-Advocate to Tangier, thence Envoy to Florence, Turin, &c. and in his Way back Envoy Extraordinary to France; from thence sent by King James the Second Ambassador to the Ottoman Port. Afterwards he was made Lord of the Treasury, then Secretary of State with the Duke of Shrewsbury, which Office he resignd in 1697: He retir’d to Eaft. bamsted in Windsor Forest, and died in the Place of his Nativity in December 1716, aged 77 Years. Our Author celebrated that Retirement in his Poem on the Fo. rest, and address’d to him his first Pastoral at 16 Years of Age.
Tifiphone, that oft' hast heard my Pray'r,
Soon shalt thou find, if thou but arm their Hands, Their ready Guilt preventing thy Commands : Could'st thou some great, proportion'd Mischief frame, They'd prove the Father from whose Loins they came.
This was look'd on as a Promise and Earnest of what follow'd soon after, and as long as the Poet liv'd.
From hence we must look on him altogether finishing his Studies at Home, and among Men; converfant with Sir William Trumbull, (who had given him Leave to call him Patron) with Dr. Garth, Mr. Wycherly, Mr. Walsh, Mr. Gay, the Lords Hallifax and Lansdown ; and soon to Sir Richard Steele, Mr. Addison, and Mr. Congreve.
After having been handed to most of the best Poets and Criticks, to be over-look'd, his Pastorals appear'd in publick: They were very much admir'd, set in Competition with the best Writings of that Kind in our Language, and Mr. Philips, the ingenious Author of the Distresi’d Mother, thought no way superior in his Attempt in that beautiful and difficult Part of Poetry. On this there grew a mutual Dinike in both Mr. Philips and Mr. Pope, which was never either made up or forgot. The Performances are very different, but Sir Richard Steele has pretended to compare them. The Poems are both Pastoral, though he seems to deny Mr. Pope's that Name: Mr. Pope's, indeed, is elevated Pastoral, and (as he promises in his Discourse on Pastoral Poetry) layours most of the Golden Age : Mr. Philips has imitated Spencer more in some places, and in others seems to raise his Style higher than Mr. Pope. The Guardians speak thus.