Matthew Prior

1664-1721

 

Matthew Prior is buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. (At the feet of Edmund Spenser, as he requested.) There is also a monument to him featuring a bust by Antoine Coysevox. (see map ref. no 32)
 

Grave Marker of Matthew Prior
Photo by Kieran Smith

As a boy Prior was spotted reading Horace in one of his uncle's pubs by Lord Dorset who subsequently paid for him to be educated at Westminster School. After Westminster Prior went on to St John's College Cambridge.

In 1690 he was appointed Secretary to Lord Dursley at The Hague - which was the start of his career as a diplomat. His poem The Secretary (1696) draws upon this experience. In 1711 he was sent to Paris and played a key role in the negotiations which led in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).

Following the death of Queen Anne in 1714, he was recalled to England and was imprisoned for over a year.

Portrait of Matthew Prior
by Simon Belle

In 1718 Tonson published a folio edition of his Poems on Several Occasions . This collection attracted many subscriptions and Prior made in excess of £4,000. This secured his financial position and enabled him to  co-purchase the estate of Down Hall in Essex. Sadly he died unexpectedly a few months later, before taking up his new role as Tory squire.

Prior is chiefly remembered for his brilliant pieces of light verse such as:  Jinny the Just, My noble, lovely, little Peggy and Answer to Chloe Jealous.

However, he also wrote some longer more serious poems e.g. Carmen Seculare (1700) and Solomon on the Vanity of the World (1718).

Prior once said that his career as a diplomat had relegated poetry to being the "amusement" of his life rather than the "business" of it.

See also vers de sociétié.

Be to her virtues very kind;
Be to her faults a little blind;
Let all her ways be unconfin'd
And clap your padlock - on her mind.
From An English Padlock

Click here to buy poetry by Matthew Prior

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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