**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Alexander Pope
by [?]

“But touch me, and no Minister so sore:
Whoe’er offends, at some unlucky time
Slides into verse and hitches in a rhyme,
Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,
And the sad burthen of some merry song.”

Already, it seems, in childhood he had the same irresistible instinct, victorious over the strongest sense of personal danger. He wrote a bitter satire upon the presiding pedagogue, was brutally punished for this youthful indiscretion, and indignantly removed by his parents from the school. Mr. Roscoe speaks of Pope’s personal experience as necessarily unfavorable to public schools; but in reality he knew nothing of public schools. All the establishments for Papists were narrow, and suited to their political depression; and his parents were too sincerely anxious for their son’s religious principles to risk the contagion of Protestant association by sending him elsewhere.

From the scene [Endnote: 4] of his disgrace and illiberal punishment, he passed, according to the received accounts, under the tuition of several other masters in rapid succession. But it is the less necessary to trouble the reader with their names, as Pope himself assures us, that he learned nothing from any of them. To Banister he had been indebted for such trivial elements of a schoolboy’s learning as he possessed at all, excepting those which he had taught himself. And upon himself it was, and his own admirable faculties, that he was now finally thrown for the rest of his education, at an age so immature that many boys are then first entering their academic career. Pope is supposed to have been scarcely twelve years old when he assumed the office of self-tuition, and bade farewell for ever to schools and tutors.

Such a phenomenon is at any rate striking. It is the more so, under the circumstances which attended the plan, and under the results which justified its execution. It seems, as regards the plan, hardly less strange that prudent parents should have acquiesced in a scheme of so much peril to his intellectual interests, than that the son, as regards the execution, should have justified their confidence by his final success. More especially this confidence surprises us in the father. A doating mother might shut her eyes to all remote evils in the present gratification to her affections; but Pope’s father was a man of sense and principle; he must have weighed the risks besetting a boy left to his own intellectual guidance; and to these risks he would allow the more weight from his own conscious defect of scholarship and inability to guide or even to accompany his son’s studies. He could neither direct the proper choice of studies; nor in any one study taken separately could he suggest the proper choice of books.

The case we apprehend to have been this. Alexander Pope, the elder, was a man of philosophical desires and unambitious character. Quiet and seclusion and innocence of life,–these were what he affected for himself; and that which had been found available for his own happiness, he might reasonably wish for his son. The two hinges upon which his plans may be supposed to have turned, were, first, the political degradation of his sect; and, secondly, the fact that his son was an only child. Had he been a Protestant, or had he, though a Papist, been burthened with a large family of children, he would doubtless have pursued a different course. But to him, and, as he sincerely hoped, to his son, the strife after civil honors was sternly barred. Apostasy only could lay it open. And, as the sentiments of honor and duty in this point fell in with the vices of his temperament, high principle concurring with his constitutional love of ease, we need not wonder that he should early retire from commerce with a very moderate competence, or that he should suppose the same fortune sufficient for one who was to stand in the same position. This son was from his birth deformed. That made it probable that he might not marry. If he should, and happened to have children, a small family would find an adequate provision in the patrimonial funds; and a large one at the worst could only throw him upon the same commercial exertions to which he had been obliged himself. The Roman Catholics, indeed, were just then situated as our modern Quakers are. Law to the one, as conscience to the other, closed all modes of active employment except that of commercial industry. Either his son, therefore, would be a rustic recluse, or, like himself, he would be a merchant.