« PreviousContinue »
ties which recommend such compositions, easiness and gaiety. They are, for the most part, what their authour intended. The diction is correct, the numbers are smooth, and the rhymes exact. There seldom occurs a hardlaboured expression, or a redundant epithet; all his verses exemplify his own definition of a good style, they consist of" proper words in proper places."
To divide this collection into classes, and shew how some pieces are gross, and some are trifling, would be to tell the reader what he knows already, and to find faults of which the authour could not be ignorant, who certainly wrote often not to his judgment, but to his humour.
It was said, in a preface to one of the Irish editions, that Swift had never been known to take a single thought from any writer, ancient or modern. This is not literally true; but perhaps no writer can easily be found that has borrowed so little, or that in all his excellencies and all his defects, has so well maintained his claim to be considered as original.
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 his 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 conversa
tion. 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 great part of his scholastick rust.
He appeared early in the world as a translator of the "Iliads" into prose, in conjunction with Ozell and Oldisworth. How their several parts were distributed is not known. This is the translation of which Ozell boasted as superiour, in Toland's opinion, to that of Pope: it has long since vanished, and is now in no danger from the criticks.
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 burden 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 afterwards 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 tune as makes them seem their own." I have been told that they were afterwards reconciled; but I am afraid their peace was without friendship.
He afterwards published a Miscellany of Poems, which is inserted, with corrections, in the late compilation.
He never rose to very high dignity in the church. He was some time rector of Sturston in Suffolk, where he married a wealthy widow; and afterwards, 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, and 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 diction 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 part of his 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
Make pains and tortures objects of a smile.
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 chose 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 linendraper 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 • Henley's joke was borrowed. In a copy of verses, entitled "The Time Poets," + preserved in a Miscellany called "Choice Drollery," 1656, are these lines:
Sent by Ben Jonson, as some authours say,
Broom went before, and kindly swept the way. J. B.
+ 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.