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Page:Alexander Pope (Leslie).djvu/15

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I.] EABLY YEABS. 8 / sickly, solitary, and precocious infant of elderly parents, we may guess that he was not a little spoilt, if only in the technical sense. The religion of the family made their seclusion from the world the more rigid, and by consequence must have strengthened their (mutii^ adhesiveness. Catholics were then harassed by a legislation which would be condemned by any modern standard as intolerably tyrannical. What- ever apology may be urged for the legislators on the score of contemporary prejudices or special circumstances, their best excuse is that their laws were rather intended to satisfy constituents, and to supply a potential means of defence, than to be carried into actual execution. It docs not appear that the Popes had to fear any active molesta- tion in the quiet observance of their religious duties. Yet a Catholic was not only a member of a hated minority, legarded by the rest of his countrymen as representing the evil principle in politics and religion, but was rigor- ously excluded from a public career, and from every position of honour or authority. In times of excitement the severer laws might be put in force. The public exercise of the Catholic religion was forbidden, and to be a Catholic was to be predisposed to the various Jacobite intrigues vhich still had many chances in their favour. When the pretender was expected in 1744, a proclamation, to which Pope thought it decent to pay obedience, forbade the appearance of Catholics within ten miles of London; and in 1730 we find him making interest on behalf of a nephew, who had been prevented from becoming an attorney because the judges were rigidly enforcing the oaths of supremacy and allegiance. Catholics had to pay double taxes and were prohibited from acquiring real property. The elder Pope, according B 2