Born in Shelton (now Stoke-on-Trent), and educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, for a time he acted as secretary to the Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery in Flanders, and was then Master of Sevenoaks Grammar School.
In 1707, Fenton published a book of poems. He later became tutor to Sir William Trumbull's son at Easthampstead Park in Berkshire and is now best known as the assistant of his neighbour, Alexander Pope, in his translation of the Odyssey, of which he 'Englished' the first, fourth, nineteenth, and twentieth books, catching the manner of his master so completely that it is hardly possible to distinguish between their work; while thus engaged he published (1723) a successful tragedy, Marianne. His later contributions to literature were a Life of Milton, and as an editor of Waller's Poems (1729).
There is a memorial to him on the wall of the church, with an epitaph by Alexander Pope. This reads:-
To the memory of Elijah Fenton of Shelton in Staffordshire, who dyed at Easthampstead Anno 1730, aged forty seven years. In honour of his great integrity & Learning. William Trumbell Esq erected this monument.
This modest stone what few vain marbles can
May truly say, here lies an honest man
A poet blest beyond the poets fate
Whom heav'n left sacred from the proud and great
Foe to loud praise and friend to learned ease
Content with science in the vale of peace
Calmly he look'd on either life & here
Saw nothing to regret, or there to fear
From natur's temp'rate feast rose satisfy'd
Thank'd heav'n that he had liv'd and that he dy'd.
This article incorporates public domain text from : Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & Sons; New York, E. P. Dutton.
ELIJAH FENTON (1683-1730), English poet, was born at Shelton near Newcastle-under-Lyme, of an old Staffordshire family, on the 25th of May 1683. He graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1704, but was prevented by religious scruples from taking orders. He accompanied the earl of Orrery to Flanders as private secretary, and on returning to England became assistant in a school at Headley, Surrey, being soon afterwards appointed master of the free grammar school at Sevenoaks in Kent. In 1710 he resigned his appointment in the expectation of a place from Lord Bolingbroke, but was disappointed. He then became tutor to Lord Broghill, son of his patron Orrery. Fenton is remembered as the coadjutor of Alexander Pope in his translation of the Odyssey. He was responsible for the first, fourth, nineteenth and twentieth hooks, for which he received boo. He died at East Hampstead, Berkshire, on the 16th of July 1730. He was buried in the parish church, and his epitaph was written by Pope.
Fenton also published Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany Poems (1707); Miscellaneous Poems (1717); Mariamne, a tragedy (1723); an edition (1725) of Milton's poems, and one of Waller (1729) with elaborate notes. See W. W. Lloyd, Elijah Fenton, his Poetry and Friends (1894).