46 HISTORY OF EAST GRINSTEAD.
Matthew Prior rose from the ranks to become a famous poet and diplomatist. He was born at Wimborne Minster, in Dorset, on July 21st, 1664, and was the son of a joiner. On the death of his father an uncle got him up to London and sent him for a time to Westminster School, but soon took him from there and set him to work in a tavern which he owned near Charing Cross. The Earl of Dorset was there one day with some friends when a dispute arose concerning the meaning of a particular passage in Horace. Young Prior was called in and soon satisfactorily solved the difficulty. Finding he was a studious youth the Earl of Dorset took him under his protection and on April 2nd, 1683, sent him to St. John's College, Cambridge. Here he remained for five years and was then appointed Secretary to the English delegates at the Hague Congress. He became Gentleman of His Majesty's Bedchamber to William of Orange and was made Secretary for the English negotiations in settling the Treaty of Ryswick. In the same year he became Principal Secretary of State in Ireland, and the next he was made Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris. On being elected for East Grinstead he was made one of the Lords of Trade, and subsequently Chief Commissioner of Customs. In settling affairs with France, after the termination of the war, he took a leading part and in course of time became our Ambassador in Paris. The Earl of Stair succeeded him and when Mr. Prior arrived in England on March 25th, 1715, he was immediately arrested and a month later was ordered into close custody and no person admitted to see him without leave of the Speaker. He was imprisoned, without trial, in his own house for two years, the complaint against him being his supposed share in the treaty of Utrecht. On his release he^ published, by subscription, an edition of his poems, which brought him the handsome sum of 4,000 guineas, doubled by the generous gift of his friend, Lord Harley, son of the Earl of Oxford, at whose house, at Wimpole, in Cambridgeshire, Prior died on September 18th, 1721. He was buried in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey,