WILLIAM BROOME, one of the coadjutors of Pope in the translation of Homer, was born in Cheshire, and educated on the foundation of Eton college, where he had the misfortune to become superannuated, and was sent to St. John's college, Cambridge, by the bounty of some friends.
Having taken orders, he became rector of Sturton in Suffolk, where he married a widow lady of considerable fortune. He was afterwards presented to the livings of Oakley Magna, and Eye, both in Suffolk, which, on the resignation of his former preferment, he continued to hold for life.
The situation of a country clergyman, however useful and exemplary, produces few materials for the biographer. His life passes in the silent anxiousness of duty; and if he has a taste for literature, it is marked only by the successive appearance of his works.
In 1727, Broome published his Poems on several Occasions, with a dedication to Lord Townsend. Towards the latter end of his life, he amused himself with translating some of the Odes of Anacreon, which he published in the Gentleman's Magazine, under the signature of CHESTER.
He died at Bath, in 1745, and was buried in the Abbey church, leaving an only son, Charles, who fell a martyr to the small-pox two years after, when a student at Cambridge.
The occasional poems of Broome have been several times reprinted. The share he took in the Odyssey is well known, and on this his future fame will probably depend, although some of the former are tender, interesting, and unaffected.
"Of Broome," says Johnson, "though it cannot be said 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. He had such powers of words and numbers, as fitted him for translations; but in his original works, recollection seems to have been his business rather than invention. What he takes he seldom makes worse, and he cannot be thought a mean man whom Pope chose for an associate." Henley says,
Pope came clean off with Homer; but they say
Broome went before, and kindly swept the way.
His translations, observes Anderson, are smooth, classical, and spirited; and most of his original pieces have something to be praised, either in thought or expression. Dr. Warton thinks the books he translated for Pope on the Odyssey are inferior to Fenton's; but it is no small honour to him, that the readers of poetry have never been able to distinguish his books from those of Fenton and Pope. The general testimony borne to him as a man, is thus confirmed to his credit by the last quoted biographer. "The character of Broome, though he never rose to a very high dignity in the church, seems to have been amiable and respectable. At college he was universally beloved, and in a more advanced life he was distinguished by his exemplary observance of the social and domestic duties, and his piety and diligence in the exercise of his pastoral function. He is mentioned by 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 for him."