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PRI O R.
MATTHEW PRIOR is one of those that have burst out from an obscure original to great eminence. He was born July 21, 1664, according to fome at Winburne in Dorfetshire, of I know not what parents; others say that he was the son of a Joiner of London: he was perhaps willing enough to leave his birth unsettled *, in hope, like Don Quixote, that the historian of his actions might find him some illustrious alliance.
He is supposed to have fallen, by his father's. death, into the hands of his uncle, a vintner f near Charing-cross, who sent him for some time to Dr.
* The difficulty of settling Prior's birth-place is great. In the register of his College he is called, at his admillion by the President, Matthezo Prior of Winburn in Middlesex ; by himself next day, Mattheru Prior of Dorsetshire, in which county, not in Middlesex, Winborn, or Winburne, as it stands in the Villare, is found. When he food candidate for his fellowship, tive years afterwards, he was registered again by himself as of Middlesex. The lait record ought. to be preferred, because it was made upon oath. It is observable, that as a native of Winborne, he is stiled Filius Georgii Prior, generosi; not considently with the common account of the meanness of his birth.
+ Samuel Prior kept the Rummer Tavern near Charing-cross in 1685. The annual feast of the nobility and gentry living in the parish of St. Martin in the fields was held at his house, O&t. 14,
N. VOL. III.
Busby, at Westminster; but, not intending to give him any education beyond that of the school, took him, when he was well advanced in literature, to his own house, where the earl of Dorset, celebrated for patronage of genius, found him by chance, as Burnet relates, reading Horace, and was so well pleased with his proficiency, that he undertook the care and cost of his academical education.
He entered his name in St. John's College at Cambridge in 1682, in his eighteenth year; and it may be reasonably supposed that he was diftinguished among his contemporaries. He became a Bachelor, as is usual, in four years*; and two years afterwards wrote the poem on the Deity, which stands first in his volume.
It is the established practice of that College, to send every year to the earl of Exeter some poems upon facted subjects, in acknowledgement of a benefaction enjoyed by them from the bounty of his ancestor. On this occasion were those verses written, which, though nothing is said of their success, feem to have recommended him to fome notice; for his praise of the countess's musick, and his lines on the famous picture of Seneca, afford reason for imagining that he was more or less conversant with that family.
The same year he published the City Mouse and Country Mouse, to ridicule Dryden's Hind and Panther, in conjunction with Mr. Montague. There is a story t of great pain fuffered, and of tears thed, on this occasion, by Dryden, who thought it hard that “ an old man should be so
egree in 1686, and to his
* He was admitted to his Bachelor's Malter's, by mandate, in 1700.