Open main menu

Page:Alexander Pope (Leslie).djvu/16

This page needs to be proofread.


4 POPE. [chap. to a certainly inaccurate story, had a conscientious ob- jection to investing his money in the funds of a Protestant government, and, therefore, having converted his capital into coin, put it in a strong-box, and took it out as he wanted it. The old merchant was not quite so helpless, for we know that he had investments in the French rentes, besides other sources of income; but the story probably reflects the fact that his religious disqualifications . hampered even his financial position. Pope's character was affected in many ways by the fact of his belonging to a sect thus harassed and restrained. Persecution, like bodily infirmity, has an ambiguous influence. If it sometimes generates in its victims a heroic hatred of oppression, it sometimes predisposes them to the use of the weapons of intrigue and falsehood, by which the weak evade the tyranny of the strong. If under that discipline Pope learnt to love toleration, he was not untouched by the more demoralizing influences of a life passed in an atmosphere of incessant plotting and evasion. A more direct consequence was his ex- clusion from the ordinary schools. The spirit of the rickety lad might have been broken by the rough training of Eton or Westminster in those days; as, on the other hand, .he might have profited by acquiring a livelier perception of the meaning of that virtue of fair- play, the appreciation of which is held to be a set-off against the brutalizing influences of our system of public education. As it was. Pope was condemned to a ■ desultory education. He picked up some mdiments of learning from the family priest ; he was sent to a school at Twyford, where he is said to have got into trouble for writing a lampoon upon his master ; he went for a short time to another in London, where he gave a more