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High Treasurer, 1712 .
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HERE appears to be great difficulty in settling, with correctness, the birthplace of Matthew Prior. In most of the biographies he is said to have
been born in London ; but in the register of his college, he is called at his admission, Matthew of Prior, Winburn, in Middlesex : on the next day, after his admission, he himself signs his name, Matthew Prior, of Dorsetshire, in which county, as Dr. Johnson observes, and not in Middlesex, Winburn is found. When he stood candidate for a fellowship, five years afterwards, he was registered by himself, as of Middlesex. The last
Perhaps there is a slight mistake in reading the register, and it should stand-of Winburn AND Middlesex: at least, that would lessen the difference wbich now exists. Either the word Winburn is in toto a mistake, or the word and should be used for in : or the whole account must remain in its present contradictory state. If Prior's father was a joiner in London, it is not probable that he should belong to Winburn.
ought to be preferred, because it was made upon oath. He was born 21st July, 1664; in the college register he is styled Filius Georgii Prior generosi, a term that scarcely applies to the account of the Biographia Britannica, which describes his father as a citizen and joiner, being in good repute. Dr. Johnson thinks that he was willing to leave his birth unsettled: but it is to be observed, that the account which describes him of Winburn, and Parentis generosi, is written by the president of the college, and that one great mistake at the least, regarding the county in which his native place is found, exists in it. Yet the family appear to have had some land or property at Winburn, and to have parted with it; and so the term "generosus' might apply to his father as a proprietor: it is, however, impossible to extricate the subject from difficulties that have too long closed round it to be removed.
At his father's death, which happened when he was young, he was affectionately received? into the house of his uncle, a butcher of respectability near Charing Cross, and by him placed under Dr. Busby at Westminster. There he remained sufficiently long to receive many of the advantages of a scholastic education, and he is said to have distinguished himself by his talents and acquirements. His uncle, however, removed him, after
See Biographia Britannica, p. 3438. 2 Dr. Johnson says—He is supposed to have fallen into his uncle's hands,-a term not warranted by the earlier account of the Biographia. See also Prior's Life by Humphreys, prefixed to the 3rd vol. of his Poems, p. 1. 3rd ed.