1797 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elijah Fenton

Joseph Warton, Note in Works of Alexander Pope, ed. Warton (1797) 7:327-28n.



Mr. Craggs had had no learned education: he wanted to improve himself in letters, and desired Mr. Pope to chuse him out a polite scholar, by whose conversation and instruction he might profit. Mr. Pope recommended Mr. Fenton; but Mr. Craggs's untimely death prevented the two latter from receiving the mutal benefits of this connextion. W[arburton].

After this severe disappointment, occasioned by the death of Mr. Craggs, he brought out his tragedy of Mariamne, 1723, which was acted with great success at the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre, after Cibber had rejected it at Drury Lane, with equal insolence and ill taste. He consulted his old friend Southerne, on the conduct of this drama; which, with the Siege of Damascus, Mr. Walpole thinks the two last best of modern tragedies. It produced him 1000. He dedicated it to Lord Gower, to whom he addressed one of the finest odes in our language. Akenside was for ever praising this ode. The Mariamne of Voltaire was first played, and miscarried, in 1722. These two pieces had not the least resemblance to each other. The assistance he gave to Pope in translating the Odyssey, published in 1724, is well known. In 1725 he published an edition of Paradise Lost, revising and rectifying the punctuation. To which he prefixed, a short, but very elegant, account of Milton's Life, and spoke of the great poet's political opinions, with a candour and liberality that does him much credit, considering they were so opposite to his own, who was a Nonjuror, and a firm friend to the Stuart family. And, 1729, Fenton gave to the public his last work, a magnificent edition of Waller, in quarto, with many notes and illustrations, of Poems, which, from their nature, being personal, required many. He died 1730, at Easthamstead, in the house of his friend the Lady Trumbul, whose family he had for some time superintended, and who treated him with much tenderness and attention. Mr. Harte, who knew many particulars of his life, once told me he would write an account of it. He had a regard fro Harte, whose father also was a Nonjuror, a man of remarkable piety and integrity. When Judge Jeffries came to Taunton Assizes, 1685, to execute his commission on the rebels that had joined Monmouth; old Mr. Harte, at that time minister of St. Mary's Church at Taunton, waited on him privately, and remonstrated much against the severities which he was going to inflict. The judge listened to him calmly and attentively; and, though he had never seen him before, to his great surprize, advanced him in a few months to a Prebendal Stall in the Cathedral of Bristol. I thought the reader might not dislike to hear this anecdote of Jeffries, the one only action of his life that I believe does him any credit.