I do not like thee, Doctor Fell

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"I do not like thee, Doctor Fell"
Nursery rhyme
Songwriter(s)Tom Brown

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell is an epigram, said to have been written by satirical English poet Tom Brown in 1680.[1][2]

Origin and basis[edit]

The anecdote associated with the origin of the rhyme is that when Brown was a student at the Christ Church, Oxford, he was caught doing mischief. The dean of Christ Church, John Fell (1625–1686), who later went on to become the Bishop of Oxford, expelled Brown but offered to take him back if he passed a test. If Brown could extemporaneously translate the thirty-second epigram of Martial (a well known Roman epigrammatist), his expulsion would be cancelled. The epigram in Latin is as follows:

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare.
Hoc tantum possum dicere: non amo te.[3]

A literal English translation is:

I do not like you, Sabidius, and I can't say why. This much I can say: I do not like you.

Brown made the impromptu English translation which became the verse:

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.[3]

Fell is said to have stayed Brown's dismissal from the college in admiration of this translation. However, the story is of apocryphal provenance, and it is known that Brown left Christ Church without a degree.

Nursery rhyme[edit]

The rhyme 'I do not like thee Dr. Fell' was not included in Mother Goose collections until the 1920s, following its inclusion in 'Less Familiar Nursery Rhymes' (1927) by Robert Graves .[4]


  1. ^ Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham (2001). The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Wordsworth Reference Series. Wordsworth Editions. p. 346. ISBN 978-1-84022-310-1.
  2. ^ Jacox, Francis (1866), "On not liking Dr Fell; and the reason why", The New Monthly Magazine, 137
  3. ^ a b Opie, I. & Opie, P. (1997) [1951]. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-19-860088-7.
  4. ^ Alchin, Linda (Feb 2017). "A Swarm of Bees in May nursery rhyme lyrics, origins and history". www.rhymes.org.uk. Retrieved 2019-08-31.