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Born at Shelton in Staffordshire-Educated at Cambridge, but leaves without taking a Degreo
--Becomes a Nonjuror Secretary to the Earl of Orrery and Tutor to his Son-Acquires the friendship of Southerne and Pope-Publishes his Poems-Assists Pope in the OdysseyHis Benevolence of Heart and Indolent Habits_Death and Burial at Easthampstead, Berks -Works and Character.
The brevity with which I am to write the account of ELIJAA 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 family, whose estate was very considerable; but he was the youngest of eleven 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 other 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 public employment by the oaths required, 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 commoner of Nature, excluded from the regular modes of profit and prosperity, and reduced to pick up a livelihood uncertain and fortuitous; but it
He was born May 20, 1683, at Shelton, near Stoke in Stafford, and was the youngest of eleven children of John Fenton, an attorney-at-law, and one of the coroners for the county of Stafford. His father died in 1694; and his grave in the churchyard of Stoke-upon-Trent, bears a Latin inscription from the pen of his son. Old Shelton Hall, in which Fenton was born, was destroyed by fire 22nd May, 1853.
He was entered of Jesus College, and took a Bachelor's degree in 1704. In 1726 he removed to Trinity Hall. Nichols in his 'Select Poems,' vill. 296, says he was admitted a pensioner July 1, 1700.
must be remembered that he kept his vame unsullied, and never suffered himself to be reduced, like too many of the same sect, to mean arts and dishonourable shifts. Whoever mentioned Fenton, mentioned him with honour.
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. Bonwicke, 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 employment.
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 the Duke of Marlborough, when he was (1707) at the height of his glory.
He expressed still more attention to Marlborough and his family by an elegiac Pastoral on the Marquis of Blandford,' which could be prompted only by respect or kindness, for neither the Duke nor Duchess desired the praise or liked the cost of patronage.
The elegance of his poetry entitled him to the company of 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.
3 Died 1731. His edition of the 'Epistles of Phalaris,' published 1695, led to the famous controversy in which Bentley was so greatly distinguished. The wife of the great Earl of Cork, And the mother of the race of Boyles, was a Fenton.
• John, born 1707, died 1762, the biographer of Swift and the friend of Pope. "If Lord Orrery had been rich," said Johnson, "he would have been a very liberal patron."-Bosroell by Croker, p. 845.
Wharton ('Essay on Pope,' l. 806), ed. 1782, says he was only“ an assistant in a school at Sevenoaks."
* To the Queen on Her Majesty's Birthday. By Mr. Fenton. London: printed for Ben jamin Tooke, at the Middle Temple gate, in Fleet Street.' Folio, n. d. 7 Died 20 Feb. 1702-3.
In 1711, in 8vo., appeared 'An Epistle to Mr. Southerne, from Mr. El. Fenton, Froz Kent, Jan 23, 1710-11. Londor, printed for Benj. Tooke, &c., and Bernard Lintot.'
He pnblished in 1717' 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."
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 nineteeth, 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."
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 snpplied. 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 sopport which he could
• 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 · Miscella. nies' of 211. 108, and 131. 48. 80.
10 This is stated on the authority of a note in Rusthead'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 was dedicated, was created a Duke.
11 Warton's 'Essay on Pope,' i. 805.
12 He had 8001. 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 (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 Roscue's 'Pope,' pp. 704,