Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alsop, Anthony

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ALSOP, ANTHONY (d. 1726), poetical writer, was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his M.A. degree 23 March 1696, and became B.D. 12 Dec 1706. He was a favourite with Aldrich, Dean of Christ Church, became censor of the college, and was tutor to the ‘principal noblemen and gentlemen’ belonging to it. Aldrich entrusted him with the publication of a selection from Æsop, entitled ‘Fabularum Æsopicarum Delectus,’ Oxon. 1698, as one of the series of classical works which the dean printed for new-year presents to his students. It contains 237 fables in Latin verse, with the original Greek of the first 158, the Hebrew of the next 10, the Arabic of the next 8, whilst the other 60 are in Latin only. The previous publication of Boyle's ‘Phalaris’ in the same series had just given the occasion of the famous controversy with Bentley. In the preface to his ‘Æsop’ Alsop refers to Bentley as a man ‘in volvendis lexicis satis diligentem,’ and gives an elegant version of the fable of the dog in the manger, with an intimation, in the phrase ‘singularis humanitas,’ of its applicability to Bentley. (The fable is given in Monk's Bentley, i. 97.) This was followed up by the combined assault of the Christ Church wits upon Bentley, who refers contemptuously to Alsop. Warton, in his essay on Pope (ii. 320), speaks of the sixty fables as ‘exquisitely written.’ Bishop Trelawny afterwards gave Alsop a prebend in Winchester, with the rectory of Brightwell in Berkshire. In 1717 an action was brought against him for breach of promise of marriage, and a verdict for 2,000l. damages was given against him. He had to leave the country in consequence, but returned after a time, and on 16 June 1726 a bank gave way as he was walking in his garden, when he fell into the river and was drowned. He left many Latin odes in manuscript. In 1748 a proposal for publishing them was issued by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Francis Bernard [see Bernard, Sir Francis], who says that he has been ‘not unjustly esteemed inferior only to his master Horace.’ They were published in 1752, with a dedication to the Duke of Newcastle. The classical taste which they display seems to have been combined with the facetious qualities of a college don, not too rigidly decorous, and as fond of smoking as his patron Aldrich, one of the odes being composed, as he intimates, with a pipe in his mouth. He is mentioned in the fourth book of the ‘Dunciad,’ v. 224—

  Let Freind affect to speak as Terence spoke,
  And Alsop never but like Horace joke—

lines which, as Pope told Spence, are intended to have in them more satire than compliment. Some of his poems are in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ vols. v. viii. ix., and in Dodsley's collection.

[Nichols's Anecdotes, ii. 233; Notes and Queries, 1st series, i. 249.]

L. S.