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to his own. The works of that great man he therefore studied with minute attention, and learned from them the niceties of versification. When about twelve years of age, he procured a friend to carry him to town, and introduce him at Will's Coffee-house, which Dryden then frequented, that he might have the satisfaction of beholding the author whom he had proposed to himself as a model.1
So young was. Pope when he commenced writing verses, that he informs us,
“I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.” Unlike the Roman bard, from whom the line is imitated, he had not to lament the misfortune of having an anti-poetical father. On the contrary, the elder Pope encouraged him in his favourite pursuit, and frequently suggested themes for the exercise of his talents. “He was pretty difficult in being pleased,” said Mrs. Pope," and used often to send him back to new turn them. These are not good rhymes;' for that was my husband's word for verses.” 2
Though Dodsley had seen several poems of a prior date, the Ode to Solitude, written before he was twelve years of age, is the earliest of
1“ Mr. Harte informed me that Dryden gave Pope a shilling for translating, when a boy, the story of Pyramus and Thisbe."- Warton's Life of Pope, p. xiii.
2 Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 8. 8“Having a vacant space here, I will fill it with a short Ode on Solitude, which I found yesterday by great accident and which I find by the date was written when I was not twelve years old.”—Letter of Pope to Cromwell, July 17th, 1709.
Pope's pieces which we possess. Lines To the Author of a Poem entitled Successio, Si. e. Elkanah Settle, whose temporary reputation had disturbed Dryden's peace of mind, was one of his next productions. About the same time he composed a comedy, the subject of which is not recorded, and a tragedy on a story in the legend of St. Genevieve. He also wrote four books of an epic poem called Alcander, each consisting of about a thousand lines. "My epic," he told Spence, was about two years in hand (from thirteen to fifteen). Alcander was a prince, driven from his throne by Deucalion, father of Minos, and some other princes. It was better planned than Blackmore's Prince Arthur; but as slavish an imitation of the ancients. Alcander showed all the virtue of suffering, like Ulysses; and of courage, like Æneas, or Achilles. Apollo, as the patron of Rhodes, was his great defender; and Cybele, as the patroness of Deucalion and Crete, his great enemy. She raises a storm against him in the first book, as Juno does against Æneas; and he is cast away and swims ashore, just as Ulysses does to the island of Phæacia.” 1 Again, “I wrote things, I'm ashamed to say how soon.
1 These lines, rejected by Pope from the collection of his works, first appeared in Miscellaneous Poems and Translations, By several Hands, published by Lintot, of which, though I have never met with an earlier edition than that of 1712, there is said to have been an impression dated 1711. From this address to Settle, Pope transferred two similes, slightly altered, into the Dunciad: Warburton says it was written at the age of fourteen.
2 According to Ruff head, these two plays were composed between his thirteenth and fifteenth year.-Life of Pope, p. 23.
Part of an epic poem when about twelve. The scene of it lay in Rhodes, and some of the neighbouring islands; and the poem opened under water with a description of the court of Neptune.” 2 A few lines of this juvenile attempt have been preserved :
“Shields, helms, and swords, all jangle as they hang,
Roll all their tides, then back their circles bring." 4 Some of its verses he is said to have used as examples of “the art of sinking in poetry,” in the treatise of Martinus Scriblerus on that subject. By Betterton, the actor, with whom he was well
1 Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 279.
6 “He appears to have regarded Betterton with kindness and esteem; and after his death published, under his name, a version into modern English of Chaucer's Prologues, and one of his Tales, which, as was related by Mr. Harte, were believed to have been the performance of Pope himself by Fenton, who made him a gay offer of five pounds, if he would show them in the hand of Betterton."
Johnson's Life of Pope.
acquainted, he was at one time solicited to turn his epic into a tragedy; but he had determined to write nothing for the stage, having observed how much dramatic authors were obliged to court both the players and the town. The comedy and tragedy abovementioned, as well as Alcander, were committed to the flames: the last piece was destroyed by the advice of Atterbury; not without a feeling of regret on the part of the author, who had preserved the manuscript for many years.
Among the productions of his early youth may be also noticed the translation of The First Book of Statius his Thebais, the rifacimenti of two of Chaucer's pieces, the version of Ovid's Epistle from Sappho to Phaon, Imitation of English Poets, a translation of “above one quarter of the Metamorphoses," : &c. To the same period is to be attributed a version of Cicero's treatise De Senectute.4
When about fifteen he resolved to visit London, in order to acquire a greater knowledge of the French and Italian languages, which he had be
1 Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 197.
4 A copy of this version was in the library of Lord Oxford. I
suppose it was about the same time that he produced another prose piece, mentioned by him to Spence, - "A treatise in Latin, collected from the writers in Grævius, on the Old Buildings in Rome. It is now in Lord Oxford's hands, and has been so these fifteen years."
Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 204,
gun to study. His family, aware that the weakness of his constitution would not admit of his travelling on the continent, considered it as wildish sort of resolution,” and “could not see any reason for it:”1 but Pope was not to be diverted from his purpose.
His Pastorals, though not published till several years after, were composed at the age of sixteen, as well as a portion of his Windsor Forest.
By the unceasing assiduity with which Pope had carried on his literary pursuits, his health was now seriously injured; and after consulting several physicians without deriving benefit from their prescriptions, he made up his mind to strive no longer against his malady, but calmly to wait the approach of death. He accordingly wrote letters to some of his most intimate friends, bidding them a last farewell : one was addressed to the Abbé Southcote, in London. Immediately on receiving the melancholy epistle, the Abbé went to Dr. Ratcliffe; explained to him the case of the poet; and having got from him full directions, carried them down to Windsor Forest.? What the doctor chiefly ordered was, that Pope should relax in his application to study, and that
1 Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 25.
2 In Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 7, it is expressly said that the Abbé carried down the Doctor's directions Mr. Pope in Windsor Forest.” According to Ruff head, Pope was “then a hundred miles from London.” Life, p. 508. Mr. Roscoe says, "he was then at a friend's house, a hundred miles from London.” – Life, p. 26.