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LIFE OF MATTHEW PRIOR.
The witty and ingenious author of " Alma” and “ Solomon” was born of obscure parents. His father is said to have been a joiner either in London or in Winburn; for if seven cities contended for the honour of bearing Homer, two countiesMiddlesex and Dorsetshire-have put in their claims to Prior. He was born 21st July 1664. In the College register, he is styled Filius Georgii Prior generosi-a term which would intimate that his father was in respectable circumstances. He is supposed to have had some property in Winburn, but perhaps had lost it, and been obliged to subsist by a mechanical profession. He died when Matthew was very young, and the boy was cast on the care of his uncle, Samuel Prior, who kept a respectable tavern near Charing Cross. His uncle treated him with much kindness, and sent him for some time to the famous Dr Busby of Westminster School. He seems to have made there considerable proficiency, but was soon taken back to his uncle's house, who proposed breeding him to his own trade. Genius has sometimes, though seldom, been developed in a tavern atmosphere—an atmosphere which, if coarse, is genial, and favourable to the observation of character in all its varieties. This, besides, was not an ordinary inn. The annual meeting of the nobility and gentry of the parish was sometimes held at “ The Rummer," which was frequented, too, by many of the leading wits and literary patrons of the day. Among these was the Earl of Dorset, who, on one occasion, having started a question about the meaning of a passage in the Odes of Horace, a keen discussion arose in the company. At length, a gentleman remarked,