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I Do Not Like Thee Doctor Fell

Who Is Dr. Fell?

The Doctor Fell (1625-1686) that is referred to in the rhyme was the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. The author of the rhyme is the satirist Thomas Brown, who was a student of Doctor Fell at Oxford. Fell threatened to expel Brown from Oxford unless he translated the lines of Martial:

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

A translation of this epigram is:

I do not love thee, Sabidi, nor can I say why;
This only I can say, I do not love thee.

Brown’s translation is said to be the verse:

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

One can tell from the translation that Thomas Brown did not particularly like Doctor Fell, and after hearing the history of the verse it is obvious why not.

The only difference between this version and the version that is known in the Mother Goose books today is the word “love.” The version commonly known uses the word “like” instead.

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

“I Do Not Like Thee Doctor Fell” does not seem to have appeared in Mother Goose books until 1926, when Robert Graves included it in Less Familiar Nursery Rhymes.

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