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SAPPHO TO PHAON,
ELOISA TO ABELARD,
ESSAY ON MAN, &c. &c.
Come then, my Friend ! my Genius! come along;
Elay on Man.
THE LIFE OF
THIS illuftrious poet was born at London in 1688,
and was descended from a good family of that name in Oxfordshire, the head of which was the earl of Downe, whose fole heiress married the earl of Lindsey, His father, a man of primitive simplicity and integrity of manners, was a merchant of London, who, upon the Revolution, quitted trade, and converted his effects into money, amounting to near 10,000l. with which he retired into the country; and died in 1717, at the
age of seventy-five. Our poet's mother, who lived to a very advanced age, being ninety-three years old when the died in 1733, was the daughter of William Turner, Esq. of York. She had three brothers, one of whom was killed ; another died in the service of king Charles; and the eldest, following his fortunes, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left her what estate remained after sequestration and forfeitures of her family. To these circumstances our Poet alludes in his Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, in which he mentions his parents,
Of gentle blood (part thed in Honour's cause,
The education of our great Author was attended with circumstances very singular, and some of them extremely unfavourable; but the amazing force of his genius fully compensated the want of any advantage in his earliest instruction. He owed the knowledge of his letters to an aunt; and having learned very early to read, took great delight in it, and taught himself to write by copying after printed books, the characters of which he would imitate to great perfection. He began to compose verses farther back than he could well remember; and at eight years of age, when he was put under one Taverner, a priest, who taught him the rudiments of the Latin and Greek tongues at the same time, he met with Ogilby's Homer, which gave him great delight; and this was increased by Sandy's Ovid. The raptures which these authors, even in the disguise of such translations, then yielded him were so strong, that he spoke of them with pleasure ever after.
From Mr. Taverner's tuition he was sent to a private school at Twiford, near Winchester, where he continued about a year, and was then removed to another near Hyde Park Corner; but was so unfortunate as to lose under his two last masters what he had acquired under the first.
While he remained at this school, being permitted to go to the playhouse with some of his schoolfellows of a more advanced age, he was so charmed with dramatic representations, that he formed the translation of the Iliad into a play, from several of the speeches in Ogilby's translation connected with verses of his own ; and the several parts were performed by the upper boys of the school, except that of Ajax by the master's gardener. At the age of twelve our young Poet went with his father to reside at his house at Binfield, in Windsor Forest, where he was, for a few months, under the tuition of another priest, with as little fuccess as before; so that he resolved now to become his