(1812–1876) [q. v.] brought out in 1848 his popular volume on ‘The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith,’ he was accused by Prior of wholesale plagiarism. The charge and defence are set out in the ‘Literary Gazette,’ 3 June, 17 June, and 29 July 1848, and the ‘Athenæum,’ 10 June 1848; and the accusation was further rebutted by Forster in 1854 in the second edition of his work. Washington Irving, in his ‘Life of Goldsmith’ (1849), admitted his obligations to ‘the indefatigable Prior.’ Nevertheless, Prior's tract of eight pages, entitled ‘Goldsmith's Statue,’ which details his own industry, denounces Washington Irving for having stolen his materials. His other works were:
- ‘The Remonstrance of a Tory to Sir Robert Peel,’ 1827, in which he condemned that statesman's position on the Roman catholic question.
- ‘The Country House and other Poems,’ 1846.
- ‘Invitation to Malvern, a poem with introductory poetical epistle to Charles Phillips,’ 1851.
- ‘Lines on reading Verses of Admiral Smyth,’ 1857.
- ‘Llangothlen,’ a sketch (without place or date); a copy given by Prior to Dyce is in the latter's library at South Kensington.
- ‘Life of Edmond Malone, with Selections from his Manuscript Anecdotes,’ 1860; the second portion is of little value (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ix. 324, 368).
[Men of the Time, 1868 ed.; Allibone's Dict. of Literature; Journ. Brit. Archæol. Assoc. 1870, p. 268; Proceedings Soc. of Antiquaries, 2nd ser. iv. 474; Reg. and Mag. of Biography, ii. 304; Gent. Mag. 1842, pt. i. p. 112.]
PRIOR, MATTHEW (1664–1721), poet and diplomatist, was born on 21 July 1664. As to the place of his birth there has been some hesitation, arising chiefly from the contradictory nature of the records which bear upon his subsequent connection with St. John's College, Cambridge. In two of these he is described as ‘Middlesexiensis,’ in a third as ‘Dorcestriensis;’ but the bulk of tradition is in favour of the latter, the exact place of birth being supposed to have been Wimborne, or Wimborne Minster, in East Dorset, where his father, George Prior, is said to have been a joiner (cf. Mayor, Admission to St. John's College, ii. 92–3). There is, however, no record of his baptism at that locality. This has been accounted for by the supposition that his parents were nonconformists, and to this he himself is thought to refer in his first epistle to his friend, Fleetwood Sheppard—
So at pure Barn of loud Non-Con,
Where with my Granam I have gone.
Another tradition makes him a pupil at the Wimborne free grammar school; and a third, too picturesque to be neglected, affirms the hole that perforates a copy of Raleigh's ‘History of the World,’ which is, or was, to be found in the church library over the old sacristy of St. Cuthberga in Wimborne, to have been caused by the youthful Prior, who fell asleep over it with a lighted candle. Unfortunately, it has been proved conclusively by Mr. G. A. Aitken (Contemporary Review, May 1890) that the books were placed in the library at a much later date than Prior's boyhood. While he was still very young his father moved to Stephen's Alley, Westminster, either to be near the school or to be near his own brother Samuel, a vintner at the Rhenish Wine House in Channel (now Cannon) Row. George Prior sent his son to Westminster School, then under the rule of Dr. Busby. Dying shortly afterwards, his widow was unable to pay the school fees, and young Prior, who had then reached the middle of the third form, was taken into his uncle's house to assist in keeping the accounts, his seat being in the bar. Here, coming one day to ask for his friend, Fleetwood Sheppard [q. v.], Lord Dorset found the boy reading Horace, and, after questioning him a little, set him to turn an ode into English. Prior speedily brought it upstairs to Dorset and his friends, so well rendered in verse that it became the fashion with the users of the house to give him passages out of Horace and Ovid to translate. At last, upon one occasion, when Dr. Sprat, the dean of Westminster, and Mr. Knipe, the second master at the school, were both present, Lord Dorset asked the boy whether he would go back to his studies. Uncle and nephew being nothing loth, Prior returned to Westminster, the earl paying for his books, and his uncle for his clothes, until such time as he could become a king's scholar, which he did in 1681. It was at this date that Prior made the acquaintance of Charles and James Montagu, the sons of the Hon. George Montagu, whose residence, Manchester House, was in Channel Row, opposite the Rhenish Wine House [see Montagu, Charles, earl of Halifax; and Montagu, Sir James, 1666–1723]. With both of the brothers, but chiefly with the younger, James (afterwards lord chief baron of the exchequer), Prior formed a close friendship. In 1682 Charles Montagu, also a king's scholar, was admitted a fellow commoner of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a year later Prior, finding that James Montagu would probably follow his brother's example, and fearing also that he himself would be sent to Christ Church, Oxford, accepted, against Lord Dorset's wish, one of three scholarships