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In his perusal of the English poets he soon distinguished the 13 versification of Dryden', which he considered as the model to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his instructer that he persuaded some friends to take him to the coffee-house which Dryden frequented, and pleased himself with having seen him.
Dryden died May 1, 1701, some days before Pope was 14 twelve: so early must he therefore have felt the power of harmony, and the zeal of genius. Who does not wish that Dryden could have known the value of the homage that was paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer ?
The earliest of Pope's productions is his Ode on Solitude", 15 written before he was twelve, in which there is nothing more than other forward boys have attained, and which is not equal to Cowley's performances at the same ages.
that Pope's mother said, 'Rhymes p. 332. For the coffee-house see ante, was my husband's word for verses.'
DRYDEN, 190. So Milton uses the word in Lycidas- • Virgilium vidi tantum. OVID, • Build the lofty rhyme.'
Tristia, iv. 10. 51. : 'He got first acquainted with the Dryden had seen Milton. "Milton,' writings of Waller, Spenser and he wrote, “has acknowledged to me Dryden; in the order I have named that Spenser was his original.' Drythem. On the first sight of Dryden den's Works, xi. 210. Johnson never he found he had what he wanted. saw Pope, though he came to London His poems were never out of his
before his death. John. hands; they became his model, and Misc. i. 373 n. 5. Reynolds, when a from them alone he learnt the whole youth, had touched his hand in a magic of his versification. Warbur. great crowd. Boswell's Johnson, i. ton, iv. 19. See also Spence's Anec.
For the chain that stretches
from Milton, through Dryden, Pope, Not long before his death he said Reynolds and Northcote, to Ruskin to Spence (ib. p. 296) :-'I read The see ib. i. 377 n. Faerie Queene when I was about 3 Dryden died on May 1, 1700. twelve with infinite delight; and I Ante, DRYDEN, 152 n. 2. think it gave me as much when I Pope's Works (Elwin and Courtread it over about a year or two ago,' hope), iv. 407. See also ante, DRYDEN, 222 ; post, In July, 1709, when he was twentyPOPE, 348, 374.
one, he says he found this Ode. 'I 3 'Virgilium tantum vidi,' he wrote find by the date it was written when to Wycherley on Dec. 26, 1704. I was not twelve years old.' How Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), much he revised it cannot be known. vi. 15. Warburton says in a note : In the version of 1735 “it was once •When a very young boy, he prevailed more retouched.' 16. vi. 82. with a friend to carry him to a coffee- 'Pope in the Ode to Solitude and in house which Dryden frequented.' his Essay on Criticism has furnished Warburton, vii. 2. I remember his proofs that at one period of his life face well,' he told Spence, 'for I he felt the charm of a sober and sublooked upon him even then with the dued style.' WORDSWORTH, Megreatest veneration, and observed moirs, 1851, ii. 221. him very particularly. Spence's Anec. For Cowley see ante, COWLEY, 6.
His time was now spent wholly in reading and writing? As he read the Classicks he amused himself with translating them; and at fourteen made a version of the first book of the Thebais, which, with some revision, he afterwards published ? He must have been at this time, if he had no help, a considerable pro
ficient in the Latin tongue. 17 By Dryden's Fables, which had then been not long published},
and were much in the hands of poetical readers, he was tempted to try his own skill in giving Chaucer a more fashionable appearance, and put January and May, and the Prologue of the Wife of Bath, into modern English“. He translated likewise the Epistle of Sappho to Phaon from Ovid", to complete the version, which was before imperfecto, and wrote some other small pieces, which
he afterwards printed. 18 He sometimes imitated the English poets, and professed to
have written at fourteen his poem upon Silence', after Rochester's Nothing. He had now formed his versification, and in the smoothness of his numbers surpassed his original; but this is a small part of his praise: he discovers such acquaintance both with human life and public affairs as is not easily conceived to have been attainable by a boy of fourteen in Windsor
Forest. 19 Next year he was desirous of opening to himself new
sources of knowledge, by making himself acquainted with modern languages, and removed for a time to London that he might study French and Italian, which, as he desired nothing more than to read them, were by diligent application soon
* For the injury to his health by Works (E. & C.), i. 39. The Fables
. overstudy see post, POPE, 255. were published early in March, 1699
* Mr. "Elwin points out that all 1700. Ante, DRYDEN, 149. Pope's unrevised poems were sup- January and May was published pressed. From those revised we learn in 1709, and The Wife of Bath in nothing of his skill at fourteen. 1714. Tb. i. 120, 158.
The first translation he printed was Pope records in his MS. that it Sarpedon. It and the Pastorals ap- " written first 1707."' He pubpeared in 1709, when he was twenty- lished it in 1712, when he was twentyIn 1712 he published the first
four. 16. i. 90. book of the Thebais. Pope's Works Ante, DRYDEN, 107. (Elwin and Courthope), i. 45, 46. 7 'Done at fourteen years old.'
Pope, in the Advertisement to his POPE, Warburton, vii. 79 n. It first translations 'prefixed to vol. iii of his appeared in Lintot's Misc. in 1712. Works, 8vo, 1736,' writes :—Mr. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), Dryden's Fables ... occasioned the iv. 423. See ante, ROCHESTER, 20, translations from Chaucer.' Pope's
despatched! Of Italian learning he does not appear to have
. ever made much use in his subsequent studies?
He then returned to Binfield, and delighted himself with his 20 own poetry. He tried all styles, and many subjects. He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an epick poem, with panegyricks on all the princes of Europe ; and, as he confesses, 'thought himself the greatest genius that ever was 3. Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings * ; he, indeed, who forms his opinion of himself in solitude, without knowing the powers of other men,
is very liable to errour: but it was the felicity of Pope to rate himself at his real value.
Most of his puerile productions were by his maturer judge- 21 ment afterwards destroyed; Alcander, the epick poem, was burnt by the persuasion of Atterburys. The tragedy was founded on the legend of St. Genevieve. Of the comedy there is no account?
Concerning his studies it is related that he translated Tully On 22 old Age 8 ; and that, besides his books of poetry and criticism, he
'Warburton, iv. 206. His cousin, advice of the Bishop of Rochester, a Mannick, said of this removal :- - We little before he went abroad.' Spence's in the family looked upon it as a Anec. pp. 276, 279. See also ib. pp. wildish sort of resolution. Spence 24, 197-8. The Bishop went abroad adds in a footnote:-“What his sister, in June, 1723. He wrote to Pope Mrs. Racket, said—“ For you know, more than six years earlier :-I am to speak plain with you, my brother not sorry your Alcander is burnt.' has a maddish way with him.” Little Pope's Works(Elwin and Courthope), people mistook the excess of his ix. 8. genius for madness. “I gad, that Warton, in a note on a quotation young fellow will either be a madman in The Art of Sinking, says :-'Mr. or make a very great poet.” Rag Spence informed me that this passage, Smith after being in Mr. Pope's and many other ridiculous ones in company when about fourteen.' this treatise, were quoted from our Spence's Anec. p. 25. See also ib. p. poet's own early pieces, particularly 193. For ‘Rag Smith' see ante, Alcander. Warton's Pope, vi. 207. SMITH, 43.
See Spence's Anec. p. 277. Like Addison in this. Boswell's Spence's Anec. p. 197; where Johnson, y. 310.
Pope said that, though he was 'soli3 Warburton, Preface, p. 19.
cited to write for the stage,' yet he * For the high opinion of their own would not, as he saw 'how much powers' held by Milton and Dryden everybody that did write for it was see ante, MILTON, 47 ; DRYDEN, 162, obliged to subject themselves to the and for Addison's ' very high opinion players and the town. See ante, of his own merit' see ante, ADDISON, SAVAGE, 38 n.
? Warburton, iv. 19. 10gMy epic was about two years in
8 “There is a copy of it,' said Pope, hand, from thirteen to fifteen. ... I in Lord Oxford's library.' Spence's wrote four books towards it of about Anec. p. 278. For Denham's imitaa thousand verses each; and had the tion of Cicero's book see ante, DENcopy by me till I burnt it by the HAM, 33.
read Temple's Essays and Locke On human Understanding'. His reading, though his favourite authors are not known, appears to have been sufficiently extensive and multifarious; for his early
pieces shew, with sufficient evidence, his knowledge of books. 23 He that is pleased with himself easily imagines that he shall
please others. Sir William Trumbal’, who had been ambassador at Constantinople, and secretary of state, when he retired from business fixed his residence in the neighbourhood of Binfield. Pope, not yet sixteen, was introduced to the statesman of sixty, and so distinguished himself that their interviews ended in friendship and correspondence? Pope was through his whole life
. ambitious of splendid acquaintance, and he seems to have wanted neither diligence nor success in attracting the notice of the great ; for from his first entrance into the world, and his entrance was very early, he was admitted to familiarity with those whose rank
or station made them most conspicuous*. 24
From the age of sixteen the life of Pope as an author may be properly computed. He now wrote his Pastorals, which were shewn to the poets and criticks of that time; as they well deserved they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant
L'As drives the storm, at any door Such was the life great Scipio once I knock;
admir'd, And house with Montaigne now, Thus Atticus, and Trumbal thus reor now with Locke.'
tir'd.' POPE, Imit. Hor., Epis. i. 1. 25. He wrote also his epitaph. Post, “I met with Locke,” Pope said ; POPE, 395. "he was quite insipid to me. I For the slippery trick' which read Temple's Essays too then; Pope, as he complained, served him, but whenever there was anything see Pope's Works (Elwin and Courtpolitical in them, I had no manner hope), i. 324. See also Spence's of feeling for it."'.
Spence's Anec. Anec. p. 194; Pope's Works (Elwin p. 199.
and Courthope), v. 26; and ante, Locke's reasoning,' writes Mr. FENTON, 16. For Dryden's flattery Courthope, 'may indeed be said to of him see Dryden's Works, xv. 190. pervade every part of the Essay on Pope's Works (Elwin and CourtCriticism. Pope's Works (Elwin and hope), vi. I. Courthope), v. 52.
Post, POPE, 270 • James II in 1587 (1687] sent 5. His existence in the Forest,' him ambassador to Constantinople, writes Mr. Courthope, 'was undisto which city, Mr. Ruffhead informs turbed by the quarrels and vexations us, he went through the continent on of his later years, and the character foot. He died in Dec. 1716.' Malone's of all his early poetry is pastoral, Dryden, iii. 560. Pope dedicated to pathetic, ardent and fanciful.' 16. him his first Pastoral, and celebrated him in a ridiculous couplet in Windsor For his list of these 'poets and Forest, I. 257:—
criticks' see ib. i. 239.
and learned in a high degree: they were, however, not published . till five years afterwards!
. Cowley, Milton, and Pope are distinguished among the English 25 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 studies ?.
At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man 26 who seems to have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation ?, to have been esteemed without virtue, and caressed without good-humour. Pope was proud of his notice; Wycherley wrote verses in his praise, 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 soon Pope learned the cant of an author, and began to treat criticks with contempt, though he had yet suffered nothing from them.
· The Pastorals were published in be clearly traced in them. They 1709, in Tonson's Miscellany. Post, have the stamp of Wycherley imPOPE, 33, 314. The ‘Preface,' en- proved by Pope.' Pope's Works titled A Discourse on Pastoral (Elwin and Courthope), i. 22. Poetry, first appeared in his collected Johnson refers to Pope's first works in 1717. Post, POPE, 120. published letter to Wycherley, dated 'It was,' writes Mr. Elwin,'avow- Dec. 26, 1704. 16. vi. 15.
Mr. edly compiled from two or three Elwin suspects that Wycherley's recent essayists [Fontenelle, Rapin, premature compliment and Pope's and Heinsius), and demanded no- premature cant both belonged to a thing from the poet to which the subsequent period, or perhaps were term learning could be properly ap; fabricated for the press.' Ib. Price, plied. Pope's Works (Elwin and p. 130. In 1708 Pope undoubtedly Courthope), i. 241. See also ib. v. wrote of critics with contempt. Post,
POPE, 383. In 1737, recommending 27: Ante, Cowley, 6; Milton, 8,
, , Walter Harte as Professor of Poetry 152.
at Oxford, he wrote:-1 think it 3 Mr. Wycherley, when we read a condescension in one who practises Esther together, was of my opinion the art of poetry so well to stoop to in this, or rather I of his; for it be a critic.' 16. x. 226. becomes me so to speak of so ex- For ‘cant' see Boswell's Johnson, cellent a poet and so great a judge. iv. 221 n. Johnson himseli in The DRYDEN, Works, xvii. 323.
Rambler, No. 3, attacked critics as * See Warburton, vii. 26. For men who stand as sentinels in the the verses see ih. Preface, p. 22. avenues of fame, and value them
• In the t'th euition of Lintot's selves upon giving ignorance and Misi., 1727, the poem of W'ycherley, envy the first notice of a prey.' who was then dead, is prefixed to Gray wrote of them :- I own it is Pope's pieces, and bears the title, an impertinence in these gentry to “To Mr. Pope at sixteen years old, talk of one at all either in good or in on account of his Pastorals." This bad.' Gray's Letters, ed. Tovey, i. was untrue. The lines were not ad.
302. dressed to him till he was twenty. I have never affected,' wrote The mannerism of both authors can Gibbon, indeed I have never under