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to a certainly inaccurate story, had a conscientious objection to investing his money in the funds of a Protestant government, and, therefore, having converted his capital into coin, put it in a strong-box, and took it out as he wanted it. The old merchant was not quite so helpless, for we know that he had investments in the French rentes, besides other sources of income ; but the story probably reflects the fact that his religious disqualifications hampered even his financial position.

Pope's character was affected in many ways by the fact of his belonging to a sect thus harassed and restrained. Persecution, like bodily infirmity, has an ambiguous influence. If it sometimes generates in its victims a heroic hatred of oppression, it sometimes predisposes them to the use of the weapons of intrigue and falsehood, by which the weak evade the tyranny of the strong. If under that discipline Pope learnt to love toleration, he was not untouched by the more demoralizing influences of a life passed in an atmosphere of incessant plotting and evasion. A more direct consequence was his exclusion from the ordinary schools. The spirit of the rickety lad might have been broken by the rough training of Eton or Westminster in those days; as, on the other hand, he might have profited by acquiring a livelier perception of the meaning of that virtue of fairplay, the appreciation of which is held to be a set-off against the brutalizing influences of our system of public education. As it was, Pope was condemned to a desultory education. He picked up some rudiments of learning from the family priest; he was sent to a school at Twyford, where he is said to have got into trouble for writing a lampoon upon his master; he went for a short time to another in London, where he gave a more creditable if less characteristic proof of his poetical pre. cocity. Like other lads of genius, he put together a kind of play—a combination, it seems, of the speeches in Ogilby's Iliad—and got it acted by his schoolfellows. These brief snatches of schooling, however, counted for little. Pope settled at home at the early age of twelve, and plunged into the delights of miscellaneous reading with the ardour of precocious talent. He read so eagerly that his feeble constitution threatened to break down, and when about seventeen, he despaired of recovery, and wrote a farewell to his friends. One of them, an Abbé Southcote, applied for advice to the celebrated Dr. Radcliffe, who judiciously prescribed idleness and exercise. Pope soon recovered, and, it is pleasant to add, showed his gratitude long afterwards by obtaining for Southcote, through Sir Robert Walpole, a desirable piece of French preferment. Self-guided studies have their advantages, as Pope himself observed, but they do not lead a youth through the dry places of literature, or stimulate him to severe intellectual training. Pope seems to have made some hasty raids into philosophy and theology; he dipped into Locke, and found him “insipid ;” he went through a collection of the controversial literature of the reign of James II., which seems to have constituted the paternal library, and was alternately Protestant and Catholic, according to the last book which he had read. But it was upon poetry and pure

literature that he flung himself with a genuine appetite. He learnt languages to get at the story, unless a translation offered an easier path, and followed wherever fancy led “ like a boy gathering flowers in the fields and woods.”

It is needless to say that he never became a scholar in the strict sense of the term. Voltaire declared that he


could hardly read or speak a word of French ; and his knowledge of Greek would have satisfied Bentley as little as his French satisfied Voltaire. Yet he must have been fairly conversant with the best known French literature of the time, and he could probably stumble through Homer with the help of a crib and a guess at the general meaning. He says himself that at this early period, he went through all the best critics; all the French, English and Latin poems of any name ;

"Homer and some of the greater Greek poets in the original," and Tasso and Ariosto in translations.

Pope at any rate acquired a wide knowledge of English poetry.

Waller, Spenser, and Dryden were, he says, his great favourites in the order named, till he was twelve. Like so many other poets, he took, infinite delight in the Faery Queen ; but Dryden, the great poetical luminary of his own day, naturally exercised a predominant influence upon his mind. He declared that he had learnt versification wholly from Dryden's works, and always mentioned his name with reverence. Many scattered remarks reported by Spence, and the still more conclusive evidence of frequent appropriation, show him to have been familiar with the poetry of the preceding century, and with much that had gone out of fashion in his time, to a degree in which he was probably excelled by none of his successors, with the exception of Gray. Like Gray he contemplated at one time the history of English poetry which was in some sense executed by Warton. It is characteristic, too, that he early showed a critical spirit. From a boy, he says, he could distinguish between sweetness and softness of numbers, Dryden exemplifying softness and Waller sweetness ; and the remark, whatever its value, shows that he had been analysing his impressions and reflecting upon the technical secrets of his art.

Such study naturally suggests the trembling aspiration, “I, too, am a poet." Pope adopts with apparent sincerity the Ovidian phrase,

As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame

I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came. His father corrected his early performances and when not satisfied, sent him back with the phrase, “ These are not good rhymes." He translated any passages that struck him in his reading, excited by the examples of Ogilby's Homer and Sandys' Ovid. His boyish ambition prompted him before he was fifteen to attempt an epic poem; the subject was Alcander, Prince of Rhodes, driven from his home hy Deucalion, father of Minos; and the work was modestly intended to emulate in different passages the beauties of Milton, Cowley, Spenser, Statius, Homer, Virgil, Ovid, and Claudian. Four books of this poem survived for a long time, for Pope had a more than parental fondness for all the children of his brain, and always had an eye to possible reproduction. Scraps from this early epic were worked into the Essay on Criticism and the Dunciad. This couplet, for example, from the last work comes straight, we are told, from Alcander,-

As man's Mæanders to the vital spring

Roll all their tides, then back their circles bring. Another couplet, preserved by Spence, will give a sufficient taste of its quality :

Shields, helms, and swords all jangle as they hang,

And sound formidinous with angry clang. After this we shall hardly censure Atterbury for approving (perhaps suggesting) its destruction in later years. Pope long meditated another epic, relating the foundation of the English government by Brutus of Troy, with a superabundant display of didactic morality and religion. Happily this dreary conception, though it occupied much thought, never came to the birth.

The time soon came when these tentative flights were to be superseded by more serious efforts. Pope's ambi tion was directed into the same channel by his innate propensities and by the accidents of his position. No man ever displayed a more exclusive devotion to literature, or was more tremblingly sensitive to the charm of literary glory. His zeal was never distracted by any rival emotion. Almost from his cradle to his



eye was fixed unremittingly upon the sole purpose of his life. The whole energies of his mind were absorbed in the struggle to place his name as high as possible in that temple of fame, which he painted after Chaucer in one of his early poems.

External conditions pointed to letters as the sole path to eminence, but it was precisely the path for which he had admirable qualifications. The sickly son of the Popish tradesman was cut off from the bar, the senate, and the church. Physically contemptible, politically ostracized, and in a humble social position, he could yet win this dazzling prize and force his way with his pen to the highest pinnacle of contemporary fame. Without adventitious favour and in spite of many bitter antipathies, he was to become the acknowledged head of English literature, and the welcome companion of all the most eminent men of his time. Though he could not foresee his career from the start, he worked as vigorously as if the goal had already been in sight; and each successive victory in the field of letters was realized the more keenly from his sense of the disadvantages in face of which it had been won. In tracing his rapid ascent,


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