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I have attempted in the present edition to give as correct a text as possible of the author. For this purpose, when I have suspected a passage or word to be corrupt, I have consulted the work as originally published by the author himself; and I trust that some errors, common to the subsequent editions, have thus been removed. The quotations in the notes from ancient writers, were, from the first, in many instances incorrect; an imperfection that I have now endeavoured to remove. After all, I cannot flatter myself but that something even in these respects will still remain to be done by future editors; and wherever that is found to be the case, I
must claim the usual indulgence from the reader.
In the way of notes, nothing has been added to those either written by Pope himself, or sanctioned by him. Those on the translation of
Homer alone have been omitted: they were supplied to him by other writers, in great measure for the sake of increasing the size of his book to subscribers ; and it has therefore not been thought advisable to preserve them.
1. F. C.
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.
His chief way of acquiring languages, as he himself said, was by means of translations. Of his earliest attempts at verse, the “Ode on Solitude” only remains. He had the good sense to destroy the rest.
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 composed ; and two years after, the “ Rape of the Lock,” which was also published
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE OF ALEXANDER POPE.
in a Miscellany, and at first consisted of only thr:e 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 le 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 Shakspeare; 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 remodeled 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 subseriptions and other profits accruing from his Homer, he prevailed on his father to dispose of his estate at Binfield, and purchased 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 traveling to other countries, for which the desire never left liim. 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.