This lively, facetious writer was of St. John's, where he was entered in 1692; he took his Bachelor's and Master's degree at the regular time, and distinguished himself probably in the University; so at least may be concluded from one of his poems, as well as from his succeeding to a fellowship, and from the ready, approved manner, in which he fulfilled an important public station, on his leaving college. It is singular, that Dr. Johnson should have omitted to mention the circumstance of Prior's having obtained a fellowship; for he was the first of our more eminent poets who gained that honour.
Prior was the fellow collegian and friend of Thomas Baker, the antiquary. Mr. Robert Robinson, in his Notes on Claude's Essay on the Composition of a Sermon, says, that Dr. Goddard, late master of Clare-hall, who well knew Baker, informed him, that when Baker was ejected from his fellowship, for refusing to take the oath required at the Revolution, Mat. Prior generously gave him the profits of his fellowship: and on Dr. Goddard's authority it is so recorded in the Biographia Britannica. This may or may not be true. Prior was generous, engaged in a public employment, and was affluent, at the time, at least for a poet: Baker, though of an independent spirit, was humble and modest, and possessed but a small annuity. Mr. Masters, in his Life of Baker, seems to think there was no foundation for this report.