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1683-1730.

ASSISTS POPE IN THE ODYSSEY.'

275

the wits of his time, and the amiableness of his manners made him loved wherever he was known. Of his friendship to Southerne and Pope there are lasting monuments.

8

He published in 17179 a collection of poems.

By Pope he was once placed in a station that might have been of great advantage. Craggs, when he was advanced to be Secretary of State (about 1720), feeling his own want of literature, desired Pope to procure him an instructor, by whose help he might supply the deficiencies of his education. Pope recommended Fenton, in whom Craggs found all that he was seeking. There was now a prospect of ease and plenty, for Fenton had merit, and Craggs had generosity but the smallpox suddenly put an end to the pleasing expectation. 10

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When Pope, after the great success of his Iliad, undertook the Odyssey, being, as it seems, weary of translating, he determined to engage auxiliaries. Twelve books he took to himself, and twelve he distributed between Broome and Fenton: the books allotted to Fenton were the first, the fourth, the nineteenth, and the twentieth." It is observable that he did not take the eleventh, which he had before translated into blank verse; neither did Pope claim it, but committed it to Broome. How the two associates performed their parts is well known to the readers of poetry, who have never been able to distinguish their books from those of Pope.12

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8 In 1711, in 8vo., appeared An Epistle to Mr. Southerne, from Mr. El. Fenton. From Kent, Jan. 28, 1710-11. London: printed for Benj. Tooke, &c. and Bernard Lintot.'

9 In every edition of the 'Lives,' it has been stated that the collection appeared in 1707. The volume in question appeared in 8vo., 1717, with this title, Poems on several occasions,' printed for B. Lintot, with a dedication to Charles Earl of Orrery, signed "E. Fenton." Lintot's Account Book, under 14 Oct. 1716, contains two payments to Fenton for his Miscellanies' of 217. 10s. and 13/. 4s. 3d.

10 This is stated on the authority of a note in Ruffhead's 'Life of Pope,' 8vo. 1769, p. 493. I may observe here that the Dedicatory Epistle to the 'Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany Poems,' 8vo. n. d. (London: Lintot), is signed "E. Fenton." It must have appeared before 13th June, 1720, when Lionel Earl of Dorset, to whom it is dedicated, was created a Duke. 11 Warton's Essay on Pope,' i. 305.

12 He had 3007. for his share in the 'Odyssey.' (See 'Life of Broome;' but compare Spence by Singer, p. 326.) Of Fenton's four books, the MSS. of three

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In 1723 was performed his tragedy of Mariamne;' to which Southerne, at whose house it was written, is said to have contributed such hints as his theatrical experience supplied. When it was shown to Cibber it was rejected by him, with the additional insolence of advising Fenton to engage himself in some employment of honest labour by which he might obtain that support which he could never hope from his poetry. The play was acted at the other theatre,13 and the brutal petulance of Cibber was confuted, though perhaps not shamed, by general applause. Fenton's profits are said to have amounted to near a thousand pounds,14 with which he discharged a debt contracted by his attendance at court.

Fenton seems to have had some peculiar system of versification. Mariamne' is written in lines of ten syllables, with few of those redundant terminations which the drama not only admits but requires, as more nearly approaching to real dialogue. The tenor of his verse is so uniform that it cannot be thought casual; and yet upon what principle he so constructed it is difficult to discover.

The mention of his play brings to my mind a very trifling occurrence. Fenton was one day in the company of Broome his associate, and Ford, a clergyman,15 at that time too well known, whose abilities, instead of furnishing convivial merriment to the voluptuous and dissolute, might have enabled him to excel among the virtuous and the wise. They determined all to see the Merry Wives of Windsor,' which was acted that night; and Fenton, as a dramatic poet, took them to the stagedoor, where the doorkeeper inquiring who they were, was told that they were three very necessary men, Ford, Broome, and

(1, 4, 20) are preserved in the British Museum. The 1st and 4th are crowded with Pope's alterations; the 20th scarcely at all. Some of the alterations may be seen in the supplemental volume to Roscoe's 'Pope,' pp. 70-4.

13 Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. The first night was the 22nd Feb. 1722-3. 14 Dr. Young, in a letter to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, says that "Mariamne'" brought its author above 15001."-Letter in Dallaway's Life of Lady Mary.

15 "The well-known Ford," Johnson's own cousin. (See Mr. Croker's note in 'Boswell,' ed. 1847, p. 9, and Johnson's 'Life of Broome.')

1683-1730.

DEATH AND CHARACTER.

277

Fenton. The name in the play, which Pope restored to Brook, was then Broome.

It was perhaps after this play that he undertook to revise the punctuation of Milton's Poems, which, as the author neither wrote the original copy nor corrected the press, was supposed capable of amendment. To this edition he prefixed a short and elegant account of Milton's life, written at once with tenderness and integrity.16

He published likewise (1729) a very splendid edition of Waller, with notes often useful, often entertaining, but too much extended by long quotations from Clarendon. Illustrations drawn from a book so easily consulted should be made by reference rather than transcription.

The latter part of his life was calm and pleasant. The relict of Sir William Trumbull invited him, by Pope's recommendation, to educate her son, whom he first instructed at home and then attended to Cambridge. The lady afterwards detained him with her as the auditor of her accounts. He often wan

dered to London and amused himself with the conversation of his friends.

He died in 1730,17 at Easthampstead, in Berkshire, the seat of Lady Trumbull; and Pope, who had been always his friend, honoured him with an epitaph, of which he borrowed the two first lines from Crashaw.

Fenton was tall and bulky, inclined to corpulence, which he did not lessen by much exercise; for he was very sluggish and sedentary, rose late, and when he had risen sat down to his books or papers. A woman that once waited on him in a lodging told him, as she said, that he would "lie a-bed and be fed with a spoon." This, however, was not the worst that might have been prognosticated; for Pope says, in his Letters, 18 that "he died of indolence;" but his immediate distemper was the gout.

Of his morals and his conversation the account is uniform: he was never named but with praise and fondness, as a man in the highest degree amiable and excellent. Such was the character given him by the Earl of Orrery, his pupil; such is

16 Compare the opening sentence of Johnson's 'Life of Milton,' vol. i. p. 81. 17 13th July, 1730. 18 Pope to Gay, 20th July, 1730.

the testimony of Pope;19 and such were the suffrages of all who could boast of his acquaintance."

20

By a former writer of his Life a story is told which ought not to be forgotten. He used, in the latter part of his time, to pay his relations in the country a yearly visit. At an entertainment made for the family by his elder brother he observed that one of his sisters, who had married unfortunately, was absent; and found, upon inquiry, that distress had made her thought unworthy of invitation. As she was at no great distance, he refused to sit at the table till she was called; and, when she had taken her place, was careful to show her particular attention.

The

His collection of poems is now to be considered. ode to the Sun' 22 is written upon a common plan, without uncommon sentiments; but its greatest fault is its length. No poem should be long, of which the purpose is only to strike the fancy, without enlightening the understanding by precept, ratiocination, or narrative. A blaze first pleases and then tires the sight.

Of Florelio' it is sufficient to say that it is an occasional pastoral, which implies something neither natural nor artificial, neither comic nor serious.

The next ode is irregular, and therefore defective. As the sentiments are pious, they cannot easily be new; for what can be added to topics on which successive ages have been employed?

Of the Paraphrase on Isaiah' nothing very favourable can be said. Sublime and solemn prose gains little by a change to blank verse; and the paraphrast has deserted his original by admitting images not Asiatic, at least not Judaical:

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20 Compare what Johnson says of Fenton in his observations on Pope's Epitaph, at the end of Pope's 'Life.'

21 The writer (1753) of the life of Fenton in Cibber's Lives of the Poets,' iv. 164.

22 Ode to the Sun for the New Year' [1707], published in folio by Tonson, pp. 13. This was Fenton's first publication.

1683-1730.

HIS CHARACTER BY POPE.

279

Of his petty poems some are very trifling, without anything to be praised either in the thought or expression.23 He is unlucky in his competition; he tells the same idle tale with Congreve, and does not tell it so well. He translates from Ovid the same epistle as Pope; but, I am afraid, not with equal happiness.

To examine his performances one by one would be tedious. His translation from Homer into blank verse will find few readers while another can be had in rhyme. The piece addressed to Lambarde is no disagreeable specimen of epistolary poetry;24 and his ode to the Lord Gower was pronounced by Pope the next ode in the English language to Dryden's "Cecilia.' 25 Fenton may be justly styled an excellent versifier and a good poet.

Whatever I have said of Fenton is confirmed by Pope in a letter by which he communicated to Broome an account of his death.

"DR SIR.

"TO THE REVD. MR. BROOME

"At Pulham, near Harlestone

"29 August, 1730.

"I intended to write to you on this melancholy subject, the death of Mr. Fenton, before yrs 26 came; but stay'd to have inform'd myself & you of y circumstances of it. All I hear is, that he felt a Gradual Decay,

23 In 1706 appeared anonymously in folio (printed for Thomas Bennet), 'Cerealia: an imitation of Milton's manner'--on which in my copy is written, in a contemporary hand, " by Mr. Fenton." It is in imitation of Philips's mode of imitating Milton, and is undoubtedly Fenton's, though not included among his poems. The title-page is in imitation of that to 'The Splendid Shilling,' which appeared 1705 from the shop of the same publisher-Bennet.

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24 Pope told Mr. Harte, that Fenton's Epistle to Lambard' was the most Horatian epistle in our language. His own admirable imitations had not yet appeared.-Jos. WARTON on POPE, i. 307, ed. 1782.

25 Dr. Akenside frequently mentioned to me, as one of the best of the regular Pindaric Odes, Fenton's to Lord Gower.-Jos. WARTON: Pope's Works by Warton, i. 144.

He [Fenton] dedicated 'Mariamne' to Lord Gower, to whom he addressed one of the finest odes in our language. Akenside was for ever praising this ode.-Jos. WARTON: Pope's Works by Warton, vii. 327.

26 Dated 17th Aug. 1730. In this letter he says, "By the public news I find we have lost Mr. Fenton, the sincerest of men and friends. Of what a treasure has one moment robbed me! The world is really become of less value to me since he is out of it. He intended to have withdrawn to me and to lay his bones by mine."-Rough Draft of Broome's Letter to Pope.

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