1730 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elijah Fenton

William Broome to Alexander Pope, 17 August 1730; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 8:163.



PULHAM, Aug. 17, 1730.

DEAR MR. POPE, — By the public news I find we have lost Mr. Fenton, the sincerest of men and friends. Of what a treasure has one moment robbed me! The world is really become of less value to me since he is out of it. Of all men living I knew him best, and therefore no man loved him more. How many happy hours have we passed in retirement! How many more did I expect, if Providence had lengthened his days! He intended to have withdrawn to me, and to lay his bones by mine, that, as we had been inviolably united in our lives, death itself might not make an entire separation. But he is gone before me. I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. He has left me to lament him, which I will do most affectionately.

It is said by Pausanias — if it be not too light to mention fables upon this melancholy occasion — that the nightingales near the tomb of Orpheus had sweeter notes than others of the same kind. I will endeavour to catch harmony from my friend's sepulchre; I will labour to write something equal to my affection for him. It is a tribute due to our uninterrupted friendship. Yet why should I lament him? Why should I grieve because he is so soon become an angel? The inoffensive, unambitious, undesigning, and peaceful Fenton is gone to his peace, and despises this world, which indeed is no wonder, for he always despised it.

I dare say you will not be silent upon this occasion. You will build a monument over his ashes, by some elegy or epitaph more durable, as it will be more honourable, than the proudest marble. But after all, if reason, not affection were to speak, might we not rather with Camden, author of Sir P. Sidney's character, say, Providence has recalled him, as more worthy of heaven than earth. Let us not celebrate his memory with tears, but admiration, and, to crown all, his virtues with imitation. Dear sir, adieu. Be pleased to give an account of him in his last hours. Yours affectionately.