The forgotten poet
Nearly forgotten now, Elijah Fenton, (1683 – 1730) was once a renowned poet. Born in Stoke-on-Trent, and educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, Elijah published a book of poems in 1707. He assisted, 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. In 1723 he published a successful tragedy, Marianne. His later contributions to literature were a Life of Milton, and as an editor of Waller's Poems (1729).
When his father, John Fenton died in 1694, Elijah wrote the Latin Epitaph which now adorns John's box tomb in the churchyard at Stoke Minster. The tomb was restored in 1888, but sadly, the inscription is now much faded because of weathering, however, with care, it is still possible to make out most of the words. There is also a memorial to Elijah's parents inside the Minster, high up on the right hand side of the chancel wall. Its position make it hard to see, so binoculars are recommended! John Fenton was an Attorney-at Law and a considerable land owner, and his wife Catherine was a renown beauty. A loose translation of Elijah's Latin inscription on their tomb reads:
Here lies sepulchred John Fenton, of Shelton,
— a gentleman descended from an ancient Family —
near the Reliques of his Wife, Catharine,
in form, manners, and piety worthy of this most excellent man,
who shone forth in the Church with unshaken faith and unsullied virtues ;
and, also, by the elegance of his polished nature in the refined arts,
and by his benevolent disposition towards all men,
lived happily with those around him.
Having survived his beloved wife 10 years,
he left behind him the great esteem of all good men.
He died in the Year of Grace 1694, and, of his age, 56.
Thus fittingly, and with such rare grace of style,
has the poet commemorated the conspicuous virtues of his parents ;
and has perpetuated the firm faith, elegant accomplishments,
polished manners, mental benevolence, and jocund disposition of his father,
and the triple excellences of beauty, manners, and piety of his mother, Catherine Mare.