Pope's Essay on Criticism

By Frederick M. A. Ryland; Alexander Pope | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION.

I. LIFE OF POPE.

Alexander Pope, the most illustrious English writer of the first half of the eighteenth century, was the son of another Alexander Pope, a Roman Catholic tradesman living in the City of London. In after-days the poet talked vaguely about his father being " of a gentleman's family in Oxfordshire, the head of which was the Earl of Downe ", but his biographers have not been disposed to attach much importance to the assertion. His grandfather (also an Alexander Pope) was apparently a clergyman of the Church of England, and rector of a Hampshire parish. His father, the rector's son, had been placed in an English house of business at Lisbon, where he became a Roman Catholic. By his second wife, Edith Turner, this second Alexander Pope, having now turned linen-draper, became the father of the poet, who was born in Lombard Street, May 21, 1688. Of the poet's childhood little is known, although his half-sister, Mrs. Racket, and other relatives preserved a few anecdotes of his early years. We learn on fair authority that he was originally a plump and healthy child, with a singularly sweet air and voice, and that it was the incessant application with which he studied from the age of twelve upwards that brought about a curvature of his spine and ruined his constitution.

About this time, that is, about the year 1700, the poet's father gave up business and retired into the country. He went to live at Binfield, a village about nine miles from Windsor. There is an old story that he carried with him his savings in

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