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fixed his residence in the neighbourhood of Binfield. Pope, not yet fixteen, was introduced to the statesman of fixty, and so distinguished himself, that their interviews ended in friendship and correspondence. Pope was, through his whole life, ambitious of splendid acquaintance, and he seems to have wanted neither diligence nor success in attracting the notice of the great; for from his first entrance into the world, and his entrance was very early, he was. adinitted to familiarity with those whose rank or station made them most conspicuous.
From the age of sixteen the life of Pope, as an au . thor, may be properly computed. He now wrote his pastorals, which were shewn to the Poets and Criticks of that time; as they well deserved, they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree; they were, however, not published till five years afterwards.
Cowley, Milton, and Pope, are distinguished among the English Poets by the early exertion of their powers; but the works of Cowley alone were published in his childhood, and therefore of him only can it be certain that his puerile performances received no improvement from his maturer ftudies.
At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man who seems to have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation, to have been esteemed without virtue, and caressed without good-humour. Pope was proud of his notice ; Wycherley wrote verses in his praise, which he was charged by Dennis with writing to himself, and they agreed for a while to flatser one another. It is pleasant to remark how foon B 4
Pope learned the cant of an author, and began to treat criticks with contempt, though he had yet suffered nothing from them.
But the fondness of Wycherley was too violent to laft. His esteem of Pope was such, that he submitted some poems to his revision; and when Pope, perhaps proud of such confidence, was sufficiently bold in his criticisms, and liberal in his alterations, the old scribbler was angry to see his pages defaced, and felt more pain from the detection than content from the amendment of his faults. They parted; but Pope always considered him with kindness, and visited him a little time before he died.
Another of his early correspondents was Mr. Cromwell, of whom I have learned nothing particular but that he used to ride a hunting in a tye-wig. He was fond, and perhaps vain, of amusing himself with poetry and criticism ; and sometimes sent his performances to Pope, who did not forbear such remarks as were now-and-then unwelcome. Pope, in his turn, put the juvenile version of Statius into his hands for correction.
Their correspondence afforded the publick its first knowledge of Pope's Epistolary Powers; for his Letters were given by Cromwell to one Mrs. Thomas, and she many years afterwards sold them to Curll, who in serted them in a volume of his Miscellanies.
Walsh, a name yet preserved among the minor po. ets, was one of his first encouragers. His regard was gained by the Pastorals, and from him Pope received the council by which he seems to have regulated his ftudies. Walsh advised him to correctness, which, as he told him, the English poets had hitherto neglected,
and which therefore was left to him as a basis of fame; and, being delighted with rural poems, recommended to him to write a pastoral comedy, like those which are read so eagerly in Italy ; a design which Pope probably did not approve, as he did not follow it.
Pope had now declared himself a poet ; and thinking himself entitled to poetical conversation, began at seventeen, to frequent Will's, a coffee-house on the north fide of Russel-street, in Covent-garden, where the wits of that time used to assemble, and where Dryden had, when he lived, been accustomed to preside.
During this period of his life he was indefatigably diligent, and insatiably curious; wanting health for violent, and money for expensive pleasures, and have ing certainly excited in himself very strong desires of intellectual eminence, he spent much of his time over his books; but he read only to store his mind with facts and images, seizing all that his authors presented with undistinguishing voracity, and with an appetite for knowledge too eager to be nice. In a mind like his, however, all the faculties were at once involuntarily improving. Judgement is forced upon us by experience. He that reads many books must compare one opinion or one style with another; and when he coinpares, '
must necessarily diftinguish, reject, and prefer. But the account given by himself of his studies was, that from fourteen to twenty he read only for amusement, from twenty to twenty-seven for improvement and instruction; that in the first part of this time he desired only to know, and in the second he endeavoured to judge.
The Pastorals, which had been for some time handed about among poets and criticks, were at last printed (1709) in Touson's Miscellany, in a volume which began with the Pastorals of Philips, and ended with those of Pope.
The same year was written the Esay on Criticism; a work which displays such extent of comprehenfion, fuch nicety of distinction, such acquaintance with mankind, and fuch knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are not often attained by the maturest age and longest experience. It was published about two years afterwards ; and being praised by Addifon in the Spectator with fufficient liberality, met with so much favour as enraged Dennis, “ who,” he says, « found himself attacked, without any manner of pro"vocation on his fide, and attacked in his person, « instead of his writings, by one who was wholly a “ ftranger to him, at a time when all the world knew « he was persecuted by fortune; and not only faw " that this was attempted in a clandestine manner, " with the urmoft falsehood and calumny, but found “ that all this was done by a little affected hypocrite, “ who had nothing in his mouth at the same time but “ truth, candour, friendship, good-nature, humanity, « and magnanimity.”
How the attack was clandestine is not easily perceived, nor how his person is depreciated ; but he seems to have known fomething of Pope's character, in whom may be discovered an appetite to talk too frequently of his own virtues.
The pamphler is such as rage might be expected to dictate. He supposes himself to be asked two quesa,
tions ; whether the Effay will succeed, and who or what is the author.
Its success he admits to be fecured by the false opinions then prevalent ; the author he concludes to be young and raw.
“ First, because he discovers a sufficiency beyond “his little ability, and hath rashly undertaken a task “ infinitely above his force. Secondly, while this lit" the author struts, and affects the dictatorian air, he.
plainly shews, that at the same time he is under the
rod; and while he prerends to give law to others, “ is a pedantick flave to authority and opinion. “ Thirdly, he hath, like school-boys, borrowed both “ from living and dead. Fourthly, he knows not his “ own mind, and frequently contradicts himself. “ Fifthly, he is almost perpetually in the wrong.”
All țhese positions he attempts to prove by quotations and remarks; but his desire to do mischief is greater than his power. He has, however, juftly criticised some passages, in these lines :
There are whom heaven has bless'd with store of wit,
For wit and judgement ever are at strifeit is apparent that wit has two meanings, and that what is wanted, though called wit, is truly judgement. So far Dennis is undoubtedly right; but, not content with argument, he will have a little mirth, and triumphs over the first couplet in terms too elegant to be forgotten. By the way, what rare numbers are here ! “ Would not one swear that this youngster had espoused “ fome antiquated Muse, who had sued out a divorce “ on account of impotence from some superannuated “ finner ; and, having been p-xed by her former