Reference > Cambridge History > From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift > Pope > His literary beginnings
  His early Life and Studies Pastorals  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

III. Pope.

§ 3. His literary beginnings.


Of his own countrymen, Waller, Spenser and Dryden were his favourites. While yet a child, he began to “lisp in numbers.” At his first school, he was punished for lampooning his master; at the next, he tacked together speeches from Ogilby’s Iliad to be acted by his companions. Shortly after, as he told Spence, he began an epic, Alcander Prince of Rhodes, and completed four books. This he destroyed in mature life. We hear, also, of a tragedy on St. Geneviève. The satirical lines on the author of Successio (1712) were said by Pope to have been written at fourteen; but the earliest poem that has a place in his works is the Ode on Solitude, sent to Henry Cromwell in a letter of 1709, and there stated to have been composed when the author was not yet twelve; the lines, however, were retouched after transcription and further improved before their publication in 1735. The boy soon recognised the weakness of his own efforts and turned to translation. He was already familiar with attempts by others. In after years, he still spoke with rapture of the pleasure he had received as a boy from Ogilby’s rendering of Homer. His own translation of the first book of Statius’s Thebais was professedly made “almost in his childhood,” but corrected before publication. He also tried his hand on part of the Metamorphoses and began to submit Chaucer to a similar process. His half-sister remarked of these early years, “I believe nobody ever studied so hard as my brother did. He did nothing else but write and read.” But Pope’s literary judgment was not based solely on books. At a susceptible age, he formed a friendship with more than one man of mature years, knowledge of the world and taste for letters. Among the earliest of these was Sir William Trumbull, a retired diplomatist living near Binfield. Others were Wycherley, Henry Cromwell, a literary man about town, and William Walsh, styled by Dryden the best critic of our nation. Pope corresponded with these, sought their advice and submitted his verses.   6

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  His early Life and Studies Pastorals  
 
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