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LIFE OF BROOME,
BY DR. JOHNSON.
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 conversation. His addiction to metre was then such, that his companions familiarly called him Poet. When lie had opportunities of mingling with mankind, he cleared himself, as Ford likewise owned, from great part of his scholastic rust.
He appeared early in the world as a translator of the Iliads into prose, in con. junction with Ozell and Oldisworth. How their 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 riore 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 10 Fenton, and eight to Broome. Fenton's books I have enumerated in his life; io 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 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 estiinate, Broome was unkindly treated. If four books could merit three hundred pounds, eiglit, 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 afterwards reconciled; but I am afraid their peace was without friendship.
He afterwards published a Miscellany of Poems, which is inserted, with correc. tions, 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 afterwards, when the king visited Cambridge (1728) became doctor of laws. He was in August, 1721) presented by the crown 10 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 poctical, 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 ano. ther. Those faults occur but seldom ; and he had such power of words and pum. bers 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 his reader's employment to recal 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 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
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
LORD VISCOUNT TOWNSHEND;
LATE ONE OF HIS MAJESTY'S PRINCIPAL SECRETARIES OF STATE, AND KNIGHT OF
THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER, &c.
I beg leave to publish the following poems under your patronage : a present, I confess, unworthy of it, and of little value, excepting what gratitude gives it : but, I fear, it may be esteemed a boast rather than an acknowledgment, or at best, an ostentatious kind of gratitude, to tell the world that I have received the highest obligations from the ford Townshend: it is an honour to be regarded by a person of so distinguished a character: I am proud of it, and, not being of a nature to be content with a silent gratitude, am not deterred from owning it, though it be liable to be miscalled vanity.
You have, my lord, the happiness to enjoy what that great statesman Walsingham, who held the same office which you fill with so much honour, frequently wished, but never obtained ; a retirement from business in the declension of life, to enjoy age in peace and tranquillity : this last action speaks you truly great; for that person, who, by a voluntary retreat, could industriously renounce all the grandeur of the world, must evidently have a soul above it. , Tully in his Tusculum was never more happy, than the lord Townshend in his Raipham,
- Where majestically plain