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into the hands of the priests, and from his first clerical master, who came to him when he was eight years old, he went to a school at Twyford, and another school at Hyde Park, at which places he unlearned all that he had got from his first instructor. At twelve years old, he went with his father into Windsor Forest, and there learned for a few months under a fourth priest. “And this was all the teaching I ever had,” he said, " and God knows it extended a very little way.”
When he had done with his priests he took to reading by himself, for which he had a very great eagerness and enthusiasm, especially for poetry. He learned versification from Dryden, he said. In his youthful poem of “ Alcander,” he imitated every poet, Cowley, Milton, Spenser, Statius, Homer, Virgil. In a few years he had dipped into a great number of the English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek poets. “This I did,” he says,
“This I did," he says, “without any design, except to amuse myself; and got the languages by hunting after the stories in the several poets I read, rather than read the books to get the languages. I followed everywhere as my fancy led me, and was like a boy gathering flowers in the fields and woods, just as they fell in his way. These five or six years I looked upon as the happiest in my life.” Is not here a beautiful holiday picture? The forest and the fairy story-book--the boy spelling Ariosto or Virgil under the trees, battling with the Cid for the love of Chimène, or dreaming of Armida's garden-peace and sunshine round about-the kindest love and tenderness waiting for him at his quiet home yonder-and Genius throbbing in his young heart, and whispering to him, “ You shall be great; you shall be famous; you too shall love and sing; you will sing her so nobly that some kind heart shall forget you are weak and ill-formed.
Every poet had a love. Fate must give one to you too,”—and day by day he walks the forest, very ill state of health and the resolution he said he had taken. He thought there might yet be hope, and went immediately to Dr. Radcliffe, with whom he was well acquainted, told him Mr. Pope's case, got full directions from him, and carried them down to Pope in Windsor Forest. The chief thing the Doctor ordered him was to apply less, and to ride every day. The following his advice soon restored him to his health.”—POPE. Spence.
very likely looking out for that charmer. “They were the happiest days of his life,” he says, when he was only dreaming of his fame : when he had gained that mistress she was no consoler.
That charmer made her appearance, it would seem, about the year 1705, when Pope was seventeen. Letters of his are extant, addressed to a certain Lady M-, whom the youth courted, and to whom he expressed his ardour in language, to say no worse of it, that is entirely pert, odious, and affected. He imitated love-compositions as he had been imitating love-poems just before—it was a sham mistress he courted, and a sham passion, expressed as became it. These unlucky letters found their way into print years afterwards, and were sold to the congenial Mr. Curll. If any of my hearers, as I hope they may, should take a fancy to look at Pope's correspondence, let them pass over that first part of it; over, perhaps, almost all Pope's letters to women; in which there is a tone of not pleasant gallantry, and, amidst a profusion of compliments and politenesses, a something which makes one distrust the little pert, prurient bard. There is very little indeed to say about his loves, and that little not edifying. He wrote flames and raptures and elaborate verse and prose for Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; but that passion probably came to a climax in an impertinence and was extinguished by a box on the ear, or some such rebuff, and he began on a sudden to hate her with a fervour much more genuine than that of his love had been. It was a feeble, puny grimace of love, and paltering with passion. After Mr. Pope had sent off one of his fine compositions to Lady Mary, he made a second draft from the rough copy, and favoured some other friend with it. He was so charmed with the letter of Gay's that I have just quoted, that he had copied that and amended it, and sent it to Lady Mary as his own. A gentleman who writes letters à deux fins, and after having poured out his heart to the beloved, serves up the same dish rechauffé to a friend, is not very much in earnest about his loves, however much he may be in his piques and vanities when his impertinence gets its due.
But, save that unlucky part of the “ Pope Correspondence," I do
not know, in the range of our literature, volumes more delightful.* You live in them in the finest company in the world. A little stately, perhaps; a little apprêté and conscious that they are speaking to whole generations who are listening ; but in the tone of their voices
“MR. POPE TO THE REv. MR. BROOM, PULHAM, NORFOLK. "DEAR SIR,
Aug. 29th, 1730. “I INTENDED to write to you on this melancholy subject, the death of Mr. Fenton, before yours came, but stayed to have informed myself and you of the circumstances of it. All I hear is, that he felt a gradual decay, though so early in life, and was declining for five or six months. It was not, as I apprehended, the gout in his stomach, but, I believe, rather a complication first of gross humours, as he was naturally corpulent, not discharging themselves, as he used no sort of exercise. No man better bore the approaches of his dissolution (as I am told), or with less ostentation yielded up his being. The great modesty which you know was natural to him, and the great contempt he had for all sorts of vanity and parade, never appeared more than in his last moments : he had a conscious satisfaction (no doubt) in acting right, in feeling himself honest, true, and unpretending to more than his own. So he died as he lived, with that secret, yet sufficient contentment.
“As to any papers left behind him, I dare say they can be but few ; for this reason, he never wrote out of vanity, or thought much of the applause of men. I know an instance when he did his utmost to conceal his own merit that way; and if we join to this his natural love of ease, I fancy we must expect little of this sort : at least, I have heard of none, except some few further remarks on Waller (which his cautious integrity made him leave an order to be given to Mr. Tonson), and perhaps, though it is many years since I saw it, a translation of the first book of Oppian.' He had begun a tragedy of 'Dion,' but made small progress in it.
“As to his other affairs, he died poor but honest, leaving no debts or legacies, except of a few pounds to Mr. Trumbull and my lady, in token of respect, gratefulness, and mutual esteem.
“I shall with pleasure take upon me to draw this amiable, quiet, deserving, unpretending, Christian, and philosophical character in his epitaph. There truth may be spoken in a few words; as for flourish, and oratory, and poetry, I leave them to younger and more lively writers, such as love writing for writing's sake, and would rather show their own fine parts than report the valuable ones of any other man. So the elegy I renounce.
“I condole with you from my heart on the loss of so worthy a man, and a friend to us both. ....
“Adieu ; let us love his memory and profit by his example. sincerely, dear sir,
Your affectionate and real servant.”
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