Matthew Prior, an English poet, born at Wimborne-Minster, Dorsetshire, July 21, 1664, died at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, a seat of Lord Oxford, Sept. 18, 1721. He graduated at Cambridge in 1686. Here he formed an intimacy with Charles Montague, afterward earl of Halifax, with whom he wrote "The City Mouse and Country Mouse" (1687), in ridicule of Dryden's "Hind and Panther." He was appointed in 1690 secretary of the embassy at the Hague, and became one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to William III. In 1695 he wrote an ode on the death of Queen Mary. In 1697 he was appointed secretary of the commissioners who concluded the treaty of Rys-wick, and in 1698 secretary of the embassy at the court of France. In 1699 he was made under secretary of state, but losing his place shortly after, received in 1700 the appointment of commissioner of trade. The same year he published his Carmen Seculare, a panegyric on King William. In 1701 he was elected a member of parliament from East Grin-stead, and soon after he changed his politics, becoming a violent tory. In 1711 he was sent on a private mission to Paris with proposals of peace. Bolingbroke went to Paris as ambassador to hasten the negotiations; and Prior, who was in company with him, after Bolingbroke's return became the ambassador.
When, in August, 1,714, the whigs had regained office, Prior was recalled, and was at once arrested on a charge of treason. While a prisoner in his own house for two years he wrote "Alma, or the Progress of the Mind." After his release he published his poems by subscription, through which he realized 4,000 guineas. Lord Harley, son of the earl of Oxford, added an equal sum for the purchase of Down hall in Essex, which was settled upon Prior for his life. He was buried in Westminster abbey, and a monument was erected to his memory, for which he left £500 in his will. The best of the old editions of his poems is that of 1791 (2 vols, 8vo). An edition with a life by Mit-ford (2 vols. 12mo) was published in 1835.