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HE brevity with which I am to write the account of 1
ELIJAH FENTON is not the effect of indifference or negligence: I have sought intelligence among his relations in his native country, but have not obtained it.
He was born near Newcastle in Staffordshire of an ancient 2 family', whose estate was very considerable, but he was the youngest of twelve children, and being therefore necessarily destined to some lucrative employment was sent first to school, and afterwards to Cambridge ; but with many other wise and virtuous men, who at that time of discord and debate consulted conscience, whether well or ill informed, more than interest, he doubted the legality of the government, and, refusing to qualify himself for publick employment by the oaths required 3, left the university without a degree + : but I never heard that the enthusiasm of opposition impelled him to separation from the church.
By this perverseness of integrity he was driven out a com- 3 moner of Nature, excluded from the regular modes of profit and prosperity and reduced to pick up a livelihood uncertain and fortuitous; but it must be remembered that he kept his name unsullied, and never suffered himself to be reduced, like too many of the same sect, to mean arts and dishonourable
* His Life is in Biog. Brit. Suppl. of supremacy, by which the Pope's p. 50, by a writer who had 'most of pretended authority' was renounced, the particulars from him. He was and of abjuration, by which any born at Shelton, near Newcastle, the claim of the Pretender was renounced. youngest of twelve.' Shelton is close Blackstone's Comm. 1775, i. 368. to Newcastle-under-Lyme. He was * He graduated B.A. at Jesus Colbornon May 20, 1683. Dict. Nat. Biog. lege in 1704. (He removed to Trinity
* In his epitaph on his father in Hall, whence he took his M.A. in 1726. the churchyard of Stoke-upon-Trent Graduati Cantabrig. 1659-1823.] he describes him as 'Iohannes Fenton 5.ANTONY. I'm now turned wild, de Shelton, antiqua stirpe generosus.' a commoner of nature.' He was an attorney. Johnson's DRYDEN, All for Love, i. 1, Works, Works, viii. 54. See also John. v. 351. Letters, ii. 195.
Burns has 'commoners of air'in 3 The oaths required were those the Epistle to Davie. LIVES OF POETS. 11
shifts Whoever mentioned Fenton, mentioned him with
honour 4 The life that passes in penury must necessarily pass in
obscurity. It is impossible to trace Fenton from year to year, or to discover what means he used for his support. He was a while secretary to Charles earl of Orrery in Flanders, and tutor to his young son, who afterwards mentioned him with great esteem and tenderness . He was at one time assistant in the school of Mr. Bonwickes in Surrey, and at another kept a school for himself at Sevenoaks in Kent, which he brought into reputation; but was persuaded to leave it (1710) by Mr. St. John, with promises
of a more honourable employmentó? 5 His opinions, as he was a Nonjuror, seem not to have been
remarkably rigid. He wrote with great zeal and affection the praises of queen Anne?, and very willingly and liberally extolled
"Perhaps a Nonjuror would have dismissed in 1705.' Orrery was sent been less criminal in taking the oaths to the Tower in 1722 as a Jacobite than refusing them; because refusing plotter. Smollett's Hist. of Eng. ii. them necessarily laid him under 425. See also Swift's Works, xvi. almost an irresistible temptation to 381. be more criminal; for a man must As Charles Boyle he took part in live, and if he precludes himself from the discussion about the Epistles of the support furnished by the estab- Phalaris; as Earl of Orrery his lishment, will probably be reduced name lives in the astronomical apto very wicked shifts to maintain paratus called after him, though not himself.' Boswell's Johnson, ii. 321. his invention.
Swift advised a Jacobite to comply * He wrote of him in 1756:– He with the law. The abjuration is taught me to read English, and understood as the law stands; and attended me through the Latin tongue as the law stands, none has a title to from the age of seven to thirteen.... the Crown but the present possessor.' Tears arise when I think of him, Letters to Chetwode, p. 88.
though he has been dead above For the character of Nonjurors twenty years.' Hughes Corres. ii.39n. see post, WATTS, 13 n., and Macau- John Boyle, the fifth Earl, was born lay's Hist. of Eng. v. 90. For a in 1707. defence of them see Hearne's Col 5 Ambrose Bonwicke was dismissed lections, &c., ed. C. E. Doble, Pre from the head-mastership of Merchant face, p. 5.
Taylors' School as a nonjuror. Dict. 2 Post, FENTON, 19 n.
Nat. Biog 3 Johnson wrote to Nichols : Fenton wrote to Broome in 1727: When Lord Orrery (the fourth Earl] _“You know what kind of usage was in an office Lewis was his Secre I long met with in my pursuits, which tary. Lewis lived in my time; I indeed were not so much suits for knew him. Lord Orrery (the fifth favour as for justice, in desiring a Earl] told me that Fenton was his bare equivalent for what I resigned.' tutor; but never thought he was his Pope's Works (Elwin and Courtfather's Secretary.' Gent. Mag. 1785, hope), viii. 140. According to Biog. p. 10; post, SWIFT, 65. Nichols says Brit. Suppl. p. 51, St. John (Bolingin a note :-'Fenton was Secretary broke) did nothing for him. to Lord Orrery when he commanded Eng. Poets, xxxv. 364. a regiment in Flanders, and was He praises the Duke and the
the duke of Marlborough, when he was (1707) at the height of his glory
He expressed still more attention to Marlborough and his family 6 by an elegiack pastoral on the marquis of Blandford', which could be prompted only by respect or kindness; for neither the duke nor dutchess desired the praise, or liked the cost of patronage.
The elegance of his poetry entitled him to the company of the 7 wits of his time, and the amiableness of his manners made him loved wherever he was known. Of his friendship to Southern and Pope* there are lasting monuments. He published in 17075 a collection of poems.
8 By Pope he was once placed in a station that might have been 9 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 6. There was now a prospect of ease and plenty, for Fenton had merit, and Craggs had generosity ; but the small-pox suddenly put an end to the pleasing expectation.
When Pope, after the great success of his Iliad, undertook the 10 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, Queen in An Ode to the Sun. Nay * To Mr. Pope. An Imitation of more, he makes
a Greek Epigram to Homer. 1b. p. *The nymph anew begin to moan, 343. For Pope's epitaph on him see Viewing the much-lamented space post, FENTON, 17 ; POPE, 425. Where late her warlike William
shone.' Eng. Poets, xxxv. 243. 6 Ruffhead's Pope, p. 493; WarSee post, FENTON, 21.
burton's Pope, vii. 235. Pope wrote * Florelio, A Pastoral, ib. p. 250. to Fenton in 1720:-'I am now Post, FENTON, 22. See also ante, commissioned to tell you that Mr. CONGREVE, 36.
Craggs will expect you on the rising 3 Where her husband's honourwas of the parliament, which will be as concerned the Duchess was lavish soon as he can receive you in the with her money.' Pope's Works manner he would receive a man de (Elwin and Courthope), iii. 89. belles lettres, that is, in tranquillity Who now his fame or fortune shall and full leisure.' Pope's Works (Elprolong?
win and Courthope), viii. 46. See In vain his Consort bribes for venal ante, ADDISON, 103; post, POPE, song POPE, Ib. iii. 527.
404. 3 An Epistle to Mr. Southerne, * Post, BROOME, 5, 6; POPE, 133, Eng. Poets, xxxv. 277.
5 In 1717.
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
In 1723 was performed his tragedy of Mariamne, to which Southern}, at whose house it was written, is said to have contributed such hints as his theatrical experience supplied. When it was shewn 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 theatres; and the brutal petulance of Cibber was confuted, though perhaps not shamed, by general applause 6. Fenton's profits are said to have amounted to near a thousand pounds, with which he discharged a debt contracted by his
attendance at Court?. 12 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 tenour of his verse is so uniform that it cannot be thought casual, and
Broome had translated it pre new comedy of Southerne's Fenton viously. He wrote to Fenton in wrote to Broome in 1726:- Because 1722 :— It was happy for me that I could not counterfeit a transport, I had translated the eleventh and he has looked a little cold upon me twelfth books some years ago for my ever since.' Pope's Works (Elwin diversion.' Pope's Works (Elwin and and Courthope), viii. 112. Courthope), viii. 54. For Fenton's * 'Mr. Wilcox, the bookseller, on translation into blank verse see Eng. being informed by Johnson that his Poets, xxxv. 291.
intention was to get his livelihood as Fenton helped Pope in his edition an author, eyed his robust frame of Shakespeare._Pope's Works (E. attentively, and with a significant & C.), viii. 82. For this he was paid look, said, “You had better buy a £30 145. Gent. Mag. 1787, p. 76. porter's knot.” He however added,
Pope wrote to Broome in 1722: "Wilcox was one of my best friends." “There is nothing I will not do to Boswell's Johnson, i. 102 n. make the whole as finished and spi 5 In Lincoln's Inn Fields on Feb. rited as I am able, by giving the last 22, 1722–3: Cunningham's Lives of touches.' Pope's Works (Elwin and the Poets, ii. 276. Courthope), viii. 49.
6 For Cibber's 'impenetrable im"Wakefield, who examined the pudence' see post, POPE, 238. translations with critical accuracy, | Biog. Brit. Suppl. p. 52. thought that Broome least of the *Mariamne,' wrote Dr. Young, three "endeavoured to raise” his brought its author above £1,500. author.' Ib. viii. 1oon.
Letters of Lady M. W. Montagu, 3 Ante, DRYDEN, 87, 90. Of a Preface, p. 53.
yet upon what principle he so constructed it is difficult to discover.
The mention of his play brings to my mind a very trifling 13 occurrence. Fenton was one day in the company of Broome his associate, and Ford a clergyman, 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 dramatick poet, took them to the stage-door, where the door-keeper enquiring who they were was told that they were three very necessary men, Ford, Broome, and Fenton. The name in the play, which Pope restored to Brook, was then Broome?
It was perhaps after his play that he undertook to revise the 14 punctuation of Milton's Poems, which, as the author neither wrote the original copy nor corrected the press, was supposed capable of amendment 3. To this edition he prefixed a short and elegant account of Milton's life, written at once with tenderness and integrity.
He published likewise (1729) a very splendid edition of Waller, 15 with notes often useful, often entertaining, but too much extended by long quotations from Clarendon. Illustrations
* For Johnson's cousin, Cornelius * And temperate vapours bland from Ford-'Parson Ford,'as he was gener. fuming rills, ally known-see Boswell's Johnson, Which th' only sound of leaves i. 49, iii. 348; John. Misc. i. 154, (Aurora's fan) 359; post, BROOME, 2.
Lightly dispers'd.' • It was Theobald who restored it: Monk believes that Fenton's edition "The players,' he says, “in their edi- indirectly led to Bentley's. Life of tions, altered the name to Broom.' Bentley, ii. 309. Johnson's Shakespeare, ii. 482.
4 Ante, MILTON, 1. He wrote on 3 His edition appeared in 1725. Jan. 13, 1725-6:-—'I am now revising He did more than revise the punctua Milton's Life, which is prefixed to tion. He anticipated Bentley in rash the last edition (1725), which I wrote tampering with the text. Some in in a hurry the last summer.' Pope's stances of his 'ignorance, want of Works (Élwin and Courthope), viii. taste and silly officiousness' are given I12. in The Gent. Mag. 1731, p. 55. Thus Ante, ROSCOMMON, 2; WALLER, the lines
In. 'Even this degree of praise,' * And temperate vapours bland, which writes Mr. Elwin,'conveys too favourth' only sound
able an idea of the scanty literature, Of leaves and fuming rills, Aurora's thought, and knowledge which Fenfan,
ton put into his compilation.' Pope's Lightly dispers'd' (Para. Lost, v. 5) Works (Elwin and Courthope), viii. he changed into