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Alexander Pope
by [?]

Finally, though it is rather for the honor of the Earls of Downe than of Pope to make out the connection, we must observe that Lord Guildford’s testimony, if ever given at all, is simply negative; he had found no proofs of the connection, but he had not found any proofs to destroy it; whilst, on the other hand, it ought to be mentioned, though unaccountably overlooked by all previous biographers, that one of Pope’s anonymous enemies, who hated him personally, but was apparently master of his family history, and too honorable to belie his own convictions, expressly affirms of his own authority, and without reference to any claim put forward by Pope, that he was descended from a junior branch of the Downe family. Which testimony has a double value; first, as corroborating the probability of Pope’s statement viewed in the light of a fact; and, secondly, as corroborating that same statement viewed in the light of a current story, true or false, and not as a disingenuous fiction put forward by Pope to confute Lord Harvey.

It is probable to us, that the Popes, who had been originally transplanted from England to Ireland, had in the person of some cadet been re-transplanted to England; and that having in that way been disconnected from all personal recognition, and all local memorials of the capital house, by this sort of postliminium, the junior branch had ceased to cherish the honor of a descent which was now divided from all direct advantage. At all events, the researches of Pope’s biographers have not been able to trace him farther back in the paternal line than to his grandfather; and he (which is odd enough, considering the popery of his descendants) was a clergyman of the established church in Hampshire. This grandfather had two sons. Of the eldest nothing is recorded beyond the three facts, that he went to Oxford, that he died there, and that he spent the family estate. [Endnote: 2] The younger son, whose name was Alexander, had been sent when young, in some commercial character, to Lisbon; [Endnote: 3] and there it was, in that centre of bigotry, that he became a sincere and most disinterested Catholic. He returned to England; married a Catholic young widow; and became the father of a second Alexander Pope, ultra Sauromatas notus et Antipodes.

By his own account to Spence, Pope learned “very early to read;” and writing he taught himself “by copying, from printed books;” all which seems to argue, that, as an only child, with an indolent father and a most indulgent mother, he was not molested with much schooling in his infancy. Only one adventure is recorded of his childhood, viz., that he was attacked by a cow, thrown down, and wounded in the throat.

Pope escaped this disagreeable kind of vaccination without serious injury, and was not farther tormented by cows or schoolmasters until he was about eight years old, when the family priest, that is, we presume, the confessor of his parents, taught him, agreeably to the Jesuit system, the rudiments of Greek and Latin concurrently. This priest was named Banister; and his name is frequently employed, together with other fictitious names, by way of signature to the notes in the Dunciad, an artifice which was adopted for the sake of giving a characteristic variety to the notes, according to the tone required for the illustration of the text. From his tuition Pope was at length dismissed to a Catholic school at Twyford, near Winchester. The selection of a school in this neighborhood, though certainly the choice of a Catholic family was much limited, points apparently to the old Hampshire connection of his father. Here an incident occurred which most powerfully illustrates the original and constitutional determination to satire of this irritable poet. He knew himself so accurately, that in after times, half by way of boast, half of confession, he says,