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ILLIAM BROOME was born in Cheshire, as is
said, of very mean parents. Of the place of his birth, or the first part of his life, I have not been able to gain any intelligence. He was educated upon the foundation at Eaton, and was captain of the school a whole year, without any vacancy, by which he might have obtained a scholarship at King's College. Being by this delay, such as is said to have happened very rarely, superannuated, he was sent to St. John's College' by the contributions of his friends, where he obtained a small exhibition.
At his College he lived for some time in the same chamber with the well-known Ford, by whom I have formerly heard him described as a contracted scholar and a mere versifyer, unacquainted with life, and unskilful in conversation. His addiction to metre was then such, that his companions familiarly called him Poet. When he had opportunities of mingling with mankind, he cleared himself, as Ford ʼ likewise owned, from great part of his scholastick rust.
He appeared early in the world as a translator of the “Iliads” into prose, in conjunction with Ozell and Oldisworth. How their several parts were distributed is not known. This is the translation of which Ozell boasted as
Broome matriculated 10 July, 1708, as a sizar of St. John's College, took his B.A. 1711-12, M.A. 1716, LL.D. 1728.
2 Cornelius Parson Ford, vid. supr. vol. ii. Life of Fenton, and Boswell's Johnson, vol. i. pp. 9, 10.
superior, in Toland's opinion, to that of Pope : it has long since vanished, and is now in no danger from the criticks.
He was introduced to Mr. Pope, who was then visiting Sir John Cotton at Madingley near Cambridge, and gained so much of his esteem, that he was employed, I believe, to make extracts from Eustathius for the notes to the translation of the “Iliad;" and in the volumes of poetry published by Lintot, commonly called “Pope's Miscellanies,” many of his early pieces were inserted.
Pope and Broome were to be yet more closely connected. When the success of the “Iliad” gave encouragement to a version of the “Odyssey,” Pope, weary of the toil, called Fenton and Broome to his assistance; and, taking only half the work upon himself, divided the other half between his partners, giving four books to Fenton, and eight to Broome. Fenton's books I have enumerated in his Life ; to the lot of Broome fell the second, sixth, eighth, eleventh, twelfth, sixteenth, eighteenth, and twenty-third, together with the burthen of writing all the notes."
As this translation is a very important event in poetical history, the reader has a right to know upon what grounds I establish my narration. That the version was not wholly Pope's was always known: he had mentioned the assistance of two friends in his proposals, and at the end of the work some account is given by Broome of their different parts, which however mentions only five books as written by the coadjutors; the fourth and twentieth by Fenton; the sixth, the eleventh, and the eighteenth by himself;
? Before Broome's Poems, 8vo, 1739, is the following advertisement : “ The author has not inserted into this collection any part of his translation of the eight works of the Odyssey, published by Mr. Pope; he thought it an imposition on the public to swell his volume with verses taken from a work that is in the hands of almost every reader.” And in the Preface to the same volume, he describes himself, p. xii., as “ the Annotator, in part upon the Iliad, and entirely upon the Odyssey.”P. CUNNINGHAM.
though Pope, in an advertisement prefixed afterwards to a new volume of his works, claimed only twelve. A natural curiosity, after the real conduct of so great an undertaking, incited me once to enquire of Dr. Warburton, who told me, in his warm language, that he thought the relation given in the note a lie; but that he was not able to ascertain the several shares. The intelligence which Dr. Warburton could not afford me, I obtained from Mr. Langton, to whom Mr. Spence had imparted it.
The price at which Pope purchased this assistance was three hundred pounds paid to Fenton, and five hundred to Broome, with as many copies as he wanted for his friends, which amounted to one hundred more. The payment made to Fenton I know but by hearsay; Broome's is very distinctly told by Pope, in the notes to the “Dunciad.”
It is evident, that, according to Pope's own estimate Broome was unkindly treated. If four books could merit three hundred pounds, eight and all the notes, equivalent at least to four, had certainly a right to more than six.
Broome probably considered himself as injured, and there was for some time more than coldness between him and his employer. He always spoke of Pope as too much a lover of money, and Pope pursued him with avowed hostility; for he not only named him disrespectfully in the “Dunciad,” ? but quoted him more than once in the "Bathos," as a proficient in the Art of Sinking; and in his enumeration of the different kinds of poets distinguished for the profound, he reckons Broome among the Parrots who repeat another's words in such a hoarse odd tone as makes them seem their own. I have been told that they were afterwards reconciled; but I am afraid their peace was without friendship.
1 Dunciad, bk. i. 1. 146, and in early editions bk. iii. I. 332, but see also Pope's notes to the same.