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Let other swains attend the rural care,
Summer'.- Page 16.
ALEXANDER POPE was born in Lombard-street, London, on May 22nd, 1688, in the house of his father, who was so eminent a linen-draper, and traded so successfully, that he gained a fortune of twenty thousand pounds. His mother was daughter of William Turner, Esq., of York, two of whose sons died in the service of Charles the First, and the other became a general officer in Spain.
He was placed, at eight years old, under the care of a private tutor, who taught him the rudiments of the Greek and Latin languages at the same time. Having made considerable improvement, he was removed to a celebrated seminary at Twyford, a pleasant village on the banks of the Itchin, near Winchester. Having written a lampoon on his master at Twyford, one of his first efforts in poetry, he was removed from thence to a school kept near HydePark Corner. And having now an opportunity of sometimes frequenting the play-houses, our young bard was so delighted with theatrical performances, that he turned the chief events of the Iliad into a kind of drama, made up of a number of speeches from Ogilby's translation, connected with verses of his own. He persuaded some of the upper boys to act this piece, which, as an uncommon curiosity, one would have been glad to have beheld. The master's gardener represented the character of Ajax; and the actors were dressed after the pictures of his favourite Ogilby; which were indeed designed and engraved by artists of note. At twelve years of age, our young bard retired with his father to Binfield, near Oakingham.
The “Ode to Solitude," written at twelve years of age, is said to be his earliest production, yet Dodsley, who was honoured with his intimacy, had seen several pieces of a still earlier date. At fourteen, he employed himself in translating the first book of the Thebais of Statius, and in modernising the January and May of Chaucer; the prologue of the Wife of Bath; and also in translating the Epistle of Sappho to Phaon, in order to complete the careless version published under the name of Dryden, but very unequally performed. About the same time he gave imitations of many English poets; the best of which was that of Lord Rochester on Silence.
After spending a few months in London, to be instructed in the Italian and French languages, he returned to Binfield, and prosecuted with fresh ardour his poetical studies. He wrote a comedy: a tragedy on the story of St. Ĝenevieve, copied by Dodsley in his “Cleone;" and an Epic poem, called “ Alcander;" all of them attempts that indicated an ardent and eager desire of future fame.
At sixteen he wrote his Pastorals; and as the first step in the literary as well as in the political world is of the utmost consequence, these Pastorals introduced him to the acquaintance, and soon into the friendship, of Sir William Trumbull, who had formerly been much in public life, Ambassador at Constantinople, and Secretary of State; and was then retired into Windsor Forest, near Binfield.
It was Trumbull who circulated his Pastorals among his friends, and first introduced him to Wycherley and Walsh, and the wits of that time. The Pastorals, though written in 1704, were not published till 1709, in Tonson's