I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why, I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

nursery rhyme

The story behind this rhyme is one of the funniest in British literary history. Circa 1680, future satirist Thomas Brown (1663-1704) was a student at Oxford when he got into some trouble and was brought before the dean, Dr. John Fell (1625-1686). Fell decided to waive Brown's pending expulsion if Brown could translate an epigram by Martial from Latin into English on the spot.

Brown chose this one, substituting Dr. Fell for the person disliked my Martial:

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;
Hoc tantum posso dicere, non amo te.


The resulting rhyme immortalized them both and overshadows their literary and academic accomplishments. Brown was not expelled, but eventually left Oxford without graduating.

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