MATTHEW PRIOR, was the Son of Mr. George Prior, Citizen of London; who Dying while he was very Young, left him to the Care of an Uncle, which proved Paternal, as Mr. PRIOR through the whole course of his LIFE always acknowledged with the greatest Gratitude.
He was bred at Westminster-School, where he endeavoured to obtain, and increase, the Noble Genius peculiar to that Place. He was thence removed to St. JOHN'S-College, in Cambridge; of which Society, soon after He had taken the Degree of Batchelour of ARTS, he was made Fellow; and retained the same Honour to the Day of his Death. He wrote several Copies of Verses when very Young, as appears by the First, in his Printed Poems. In the Reign of King James the Second, jointly with Mr. Mountague, late Earl of Halifax, he wrote Remarks upon Mr. Dryden's Hind and Panther.
Upon the Revolution, He was brought to Court by the late Earl of Dorset, that great Patron of all Polite Learning, by whom from his Infancy he was beloved and encouraged; and as he grew up to Manhood, had a great share in his Intimacy, and Friendship. Under this Noble Lord's Patronage He first entered into Publick Business, and was made Secretary to their Majesties King WILLIAM and Queen MARY, at the Congress at the Hague, in the Year 1690, the late Earl of Berkeley being their Majesties Plenipotentiary there. He was thence appointed Secretary of the Embassy to the present Earl of Pembroke, the late Earl of Jersey, and Sir Joseph Williamson, Ambassadors at the PEACE of Reswick, where many Memorials relating to that Treaty were drawn up by Him: He was likewise Secretary to the Two succeeding Embassies in France; Those, of the late Earls of Portland and Jersey.
He was Secretary of State in the Kingdom of Ireland; then One of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations; and by her late Majesty made One of the Commissioners of the Customs, and her Majesty's Plenipotentiary-Minister in France in the Year 1711. So that going into Publick Business very Young, and having continued therein for Seven and Twenty Years, his Poetry (to use his own Words in his Preface to his Poems) was "only the Product of his leisure Hours, who had commonly Business enough upon his Hands, and was only a Poet by Accident."