1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Broome

John Nichols, in Select Collection of Poems with Notes Biographical and Historical (1780-82) 4:283-86.



As Dr. Johnson is writing the Life of this elegant poet, I will not anticipate the entertainment my readers have such ample reason to expect, any father than to lay before them a few plain facts; for which I am indebted to authorities which it would be presumptuous to mention on so slight an occasion. William Broome, sprung from mean parents in Cheshire, was elected upon the foundation at Eaton, and had the (almost unheard-of) misfortune of being Captain of that school for one whole year, 1707, without any vacancy's happening at King's College, by which means he was superannuated. I repeat the expression almost unheard-of, as it has happened but four times in 160 years; viz. in 1619, 1653, 1707, 1756. Being an excellent Greek scholar, and universally beloved, his friends sent him to St. John's College, Cambridge, where by their assistance, and a small exhibition, he was maintained till he entered into orders. Soon after which, accidentally becoming acquainted with Mr. Pope (who was upon a visit to Sir John Cotton) an intimacy ensued; and he translated eight books of the Odyssey (as appears by a note of his own), and had the merit of being "Annotator in part upon the Iliad, and entirely upon the Odyssey." That he furnished "the greater part of the Remarks from Eustathius, together with several excellent observations," is acknowledged by Mr. Pope; who, it has been said, promised him a handsome gratuity for his trouble, and when the work was finished, quarreled with him, and disappointed him of the promised reward. It is certain that Broome thus represented the story to his friends. Yet, in a Letter to Lord Hervey, from Mr. Pope, who had been charged with "selling Broome's works printed with Pope's name," he tells his lordship, he printed not his name before a line of the person's his lordship mentions — "Besides, my lord, when you said I sold another man's works, you ought in justice to have added that I bought them, which very much alters the case; what I gave was five hundred pounds; his receipt can be produced to your lordship." Broome and Fenton, we learn from Ruffhead, had formed a design of translating the Odyssey, while Pope was employed upon the Iliad; and went through several books of the Odyssey, which they desired him to peruse; he complied with their request: and, having made a considerable progress in the work itself, adopted what he found was ready, for the speedier advancement of his work; and indeed it is some confirmation of what is thus related, that, among the poems in Broome's first edition, there is one To a Gentleman who corrected some of my Verses, the title of which he afterwards changed: To Mr. A. Pope, who corrected my Verses. In the Life of Pope, p. 205, it is asserted that Broome received from him 600, and Fenton 300. Probably the coadjutors, finding that Pope got more than they or he expected, were desirous of coming in for a share; but, if they received what they agreed for, there seems no just ground of complaint; and though Pope was not generous on this occasion, if he had a receipt for 500 to shew, there is little more to be said on the subject. — Dr. Broome was for some time Rector of Sturton in Suffolk, whence he dates the dedication to Lord Townsend (then one of the principal Secretaries of State) Jan. 16, 1726; and was at that time chaplain to Charles lord (afterwards Earl) Cornwallis. At Sturton he married a lady who had a good fortune, which enabled him to take the degree of L.L.D. when the king went to Cambridge, April 25, 1728. Upon his resignation of the living of Sturton, he was presented by the crown to the rectory of Pulham in Norfolk, in August, 1733; and held it united to the rectory of Oakley Magna in Suffolk, to which he was presented by Lord Cornwallis, who afterwards gave him the vicarage of Eye in Suffolk. The two last preferments he enjoyed till his death, which happened at Bath, Nov. 16, 1745. He was buried in the abbey church there, by Dr. Gooch, bishop of Norwich. That he was favoured by the Muses, appears by his Poems on Several Occasions, first printed in the year 1727; again in 1739; a third time in 1750; and lately in the collection of the English Poets. One of his poems is intituled, Melancholy, and Ode occasioned by the Death of a beloved Daughter, 1723; but it is not quite certain that it was written on a daughter of his own. His Verses on the Death of a Friend, which were printed in 1727, were afterwards very happily enlarged, and applied to Mr. Fenton, who died in 1730. In The Sacred and Profane History of the World connected, vol. III. p. 60, Dr. Broome is mentioned by Mr. Shuckford, under the title of "the ingenious Annotator on the English Homer, whose real worth, as well as learning, makes it a pleasure to me to say that I have a friendship with him." He left an only son, Charles Broome, who died of the small-pox, in 1747, being then an under-graduate at St. John's College, Cambridge.