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WILLIAM BROOME was born in Cheshire, as is said, of very mean parents. Of the place of his birth or the first part of his life, I have not been able to gain any intelligence. He was educated upon the foundation at Eton, and was captain of the school a whole year, without any vacancy by which he might have obtained a scholarship at King's College being by this delay, such as is said to have happened very rarely, superannuated, he was sent to St. John's College by the contributions of his friends, where he obtained a small exhibition.
At this college he lived for some time in the same chamber with the well-known Ford, by whom I have formerly heard him described as a contracted scholar and a mere versifier, unacquainted with life and unskilful in conversation. His addiction to metre was then such, that his companions familiarly called him Poet. When he had opportunities of mingling with mankind, he cleared himself, as Ford likewise owned, from the great part of his scholastic rust.
He appeared early in the world as a translator of the 'Iliads' into prose, in conjunction with Ozell and Oldisworth. How the several parts were distributed is not known. This is the translation of which Ozell boasted as superior, in Toland's opinion, to that of Pope: it has long since vanished, and is now in no danger from the critics.
He was introduced to Mr. Pope, who was then visiting Sir John Cotton at Madingley near Cambridge, and gained so much of his esteem, that he was employed, I believe, to make extracts from Eustathius for the notes to the translation of the Iliad ;' and in the volumes of poetry published by Lintot, commonly called Pope's Miscellanies,' many of his early pieces were inserted.
Pope and Broome were to be yet more closely connected. When the success of the Iliad' gave encouragement to a version of the Odyssey,' Pope, weary of the toil, called Fenton and Broome to his assistance; and, taking only half the work upon himself, divided the other half between his partners, giving four books to Fenton and eight to Broome. Fenton's books I have enumerated in his life: to the lot of Broome fell the second, sixth, eighth, eleventh,
twelfth, sixteenth, eighteenth, and twenty-third, together with the burthen of writing all the notes.
As this translation is a very important event in poetical history, the reader has a right to know upon what grounds I establish my narration. That the version was not wholly Pope's was always known; he had mentioned the assistance of two friends in his proposals, and at the end of the work some account is given by Broome of their different parts, which however mentions only five books as written by the coadjutors; the fourth and twentieth by Fenton; the sixth, the eleventh, and the eighteenth, by himself; though Pope, in an advertisement prefixed afterward to a new volume of his works, claimed only twelve. A natural curiosity after the real conduct of so great an undertaking incited me once to inquire of Dr. Warburton, who told me, in his warm language, that he thought the relation given in the note 'a lie;' but that he was not able to ascertain the several shares. The intelligence which Dr. Warburton could not afford me I obtained from Mr. Langton, to whom Mr. Spence had imparted it.
The price at which Pope purchased this assistance was three hundred pounds paid to Fenton, and five hundred to Broome, with as many copies as he wanted for his friends, which amounted to one hundred more. The payment made to Fenton I know not but by hearsay; Broome's is very distinctly told by Pope, in the notes to the Dunciad.'
It is evident, that, according to Pope's own estimate, Broome was unkindly treated. If four books could merit three hundred pounds, eight and all the notes, equivalent at least to four, had certainly a right to more than six.
Broome probably considered himself as injured, and there was for some time more than coldness between him and his employer. He always spoke of Pope as too much a lover of money; and Pope pursued him with avowed hostility; for he not only named him disrespectfully in the 'Dunciad,' but quoted him more than once in the 'Bathos,' as a proficient in the Art of Sinking;' and in his enumeration of the different kinds of poets distinguished for the profound, he reckons Broome among the parrots who repeat another's words in such a hoarse odd tone as makes them seem their own.' I have been told that they were afterward reconciled; but I am afraid their peace was without friendship.
He afterward published a Miscellany of Poems, which is inserted, with corrections, in the late compilation.
He never rose to a very high dignity in the church. He was some time rector of Sturston in Suffolk, where he married a wealthy widow; and afterward, when the king visited Cambridge (1728), became doctor of laws. He was (in August 1728) presented by the crown to the rectory of Pulham in Norfolk, which he held with Oakley Magna in Suffolk, given him by the Lord Cornwallis, to whom he was chaplain, who added the vicarage of Eye in Suffolk; he then resigned Pulham, and retained the other two.
Towards the close of his life he grew again poetical, and amused himself with translating Odes of Anacreon, which he published in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' under the name of Chester.
He died at Bath, November 16, 1745, and was buried in the Abbey church.
Of Broome, though it cannot be said that he was a great poet, it would be unjust to deny that he was an excellent versifier; his lines are smooth and sonorous, and his dic tion is select and elegant. His rhymes are sometimes unsuitable; in his Melancholy,' he makes breath rhyme to birth in one place, and to earth in another. Those faults occur but seldom; and he had such power of words and numbers as fitted him for translation; but in his original works, recollection seems to have been his business more than invention. His imitations are so apparent, that it is a part of the reader's employment to recall the verses of some former poet. Sometimes he copies the most popular writers, for he seems scarcely to endeavour at concealment; and sometimes he picks up fragments in obscure corners. His lines to Fenton,
Serene, the sting of pain thy thoughts beguile,
brought to my mind some lines on the death of Queen Mary, written by Barnes, of whom I should not have expected to find an imitator:
But thou, O Muse! whose sweet nepenthean tongue
To detect his imitations were tedious and useless. What he takes he seldom makes worse; and he cannot be justly
thought a mean man whom Pope choose for an associate, and whose co-operation was considered by Pope's enemies as so important, that he was attacked by Henley with this ludicrous distich:
Pope came off clean with Homer; but they say
ALEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 22, 1688, of parents whose rank or station was never ascertained: we are informed that they were of gentle blood;' that his father was of a family of which the Earl of Downe was the head; and that his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esquire, of York, who had likewise three sons, one of whom had the honour of being killed, and the other of dying, in the service of Charles the First; the third was made a general officer in Spain, from whom the sister inherited what sequestrations and forfeitures had left in the family.
This, and this only, is told by Pope, who is more willing, as I have heard observed, to shew what his father was not, than what he was. It is allowed that he grew rich by trade; but whether in a shop or on the exchange, was never discovered till Mr. Tyers told, on the authority of Mrs. Racket, that he was a linen-draper in the Strand. Both parents were papists.
Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender and delicate; but is said to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of disposition. The weakness of his body continued through his life ;+ but the mildness of his mind perhaps ended with his childhood. His voice, when he was young, was so pleasing, that he was called in fondness'the little Nightingale.'
Being not sent early to school, he was taught to read by an aunt; and when he was seven or eight years old became a lover of books. He first learned to write by imitating
In Lombard-street, according to Dr. Warton.-C. This weakness was so great, that he constantly wore stays, as I have been assured by a waterman at Twickenham, who, in lifting him into his boat, had often felt them. His method of taking the air on the water was to have a sedan chair in the boat, in which he sat with the glasses down.-H.
printed books; a species of penmanship in which he retained great excellence through his whole life, though his ordinary hand was not elegant.
When he was about eight, he was placed in Hampshire, under Taverner, a Romish priest, who, by a method very rarely practised, taught him the Greek and Latin rudiments together. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by the perusal of Ogilby's Homer' and 'Sandys' Ovid.' Ogilby's assistance he never repaid with any praise; but of Sandys, he declared in his notes to the Iliad,' that English poetry owed much of its beauty to his translations. Sandys very rarely attempted original composition.
From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was considerable, he was removed to a school at Twyford, near Winchester, and again to another school about Hydepark Corner; from which he used sometimes to stroll to the playhouse, and was so delighted with theatrical exhibitions, that he formed a kind of play from Ogilby's Iliad,' with some verses of his own intermixed, which he persuaded his schoolfellows to act, with the addition of his master's gardener, who personated Ajax.
At the two last schools he used to represent himself as having lost part of what Taverner had taught him: and on his master at Twyford he had already exercised his poetry, in a lampoon. Yet under those masters he translated more than a fourth part of the Metamorphoses.' If he kept the same proportion in his other exercises, it cannot be thought that his loss was great.
He tells of himself, in his poem, that he lisped in numbers' and used to say that he could not remember the time when he began to make verses. In the style of fiction it might have been said of him as of Pindar, that, when he lay in his cradle, 'the bees swarmed about his mouth.'
About the time of the Revolution, his father, who was undoubtedly disappointed by the sudden blast of popish prosperity, quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in Windsor Forest, with about twenty thousand pounds; for which, being conscientiously determined not to entrust it to govern. ment, he found no better use than that of locking it up in a chest, and taking from it what his expenses required: and his life was long enough to consume a great part of it before his son came to the inheritance.