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John PHILIPs was born on the soul of December 1876, at Bampton in Oxfordshire; of which place his father, Dr. Stephen Philips, archdeacon of Salop, was minister. The first part of his education was domestic ; after which he was sent to Winchester, where, as we are told by Dr. Sewel, his biographer, he was soon distinguished by the superiority of his exercises; and, what is less easily to be credited, so much endeared himself to his schoolfellows, by his civility and good nature, that they, without murmur or ill will, saw him indulged by the master with particular immunities. It is related, that when he was at school, he seldom mingled in play with the other boys, but retired to his chamber ; where his sovereign pleasure was to sit, hour after hour, while his hair was combed by somebody, whose service he found means to procure.” At school he became acquainted with the poets, ancient and modern, and fixed his attention particularly on Milton. In 1694 he entered himself at Christ church, a college at that time in the highest reputation, by the transmission of Busby's scholars to the care first of Fell, and afterward of Aldrich. Here he was distinguished as a genius eminent among the eminent, and for friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phaedra and His folytus. The profession which he intended to follow was that of physic; and he took much delight in natural history, of which botany was his favourite part. His reputation was confined to his friends and to the university; till about 1703 he extended it to a wider circle by the Shlendid Shilling, which struck the public attention with a mode of writing new and unexpected. This performance raised him so high, that, when Europe resounded with the victory of Blenheim, he was, probably with an occult opposition to Addison, employed to deliver the acclamation of the tories. It is said that he would willingly have declined the task, but that his friends urged it upon him. It appears that he wrote this poem at the house of Mr. St. John. Blenheim was published in 1705. The next year produced his greatest work, the poem upon Cider, in two books; which was received with loud praises, and continued long to be read, as an imitation of Virgil's Georgic, which needed not shun the presence of the original. He then grew probably more confident of his own abilities, and began to meditate a poem on the Last Days a subject on which no mind can hope to equal expectation. This work he did not live to finish; his diseases, a slow consumption and an asthma, put a stop to his studies; and on Feb. 15, 1708, at the beginning of his thirty third year, put an end to his life. He was buried in the cathedral of Hereford; and sir Simon Harcourt, afterward lord chancellor, gave him a monument in Westminster Abbey. The inscription at Westminster was written, as I have heard, by Dr. Atterbury, though commonly given to Dr. Freind.
* Isaac Vossius relates, that he also delighted in having his hair combed when he could have it done by barbers or other persons skilled in the rules of prosody. Of the passage that contains this ridiculous fancy, the following is a translation ; “Many people take delight in the rubbing of their limbs, and the combing of their hair; but these exercises would delight much more, if the servants at the baths, and of the barbers, were so skilful in this art, that they could express any measures with their fingers. I remember that more than once I have fallen into the hands of men of this sort, who could imitate any measure of songs in combing the hair, so as sometimes to express very intelligibly iambics, trochees, dactyls, &c. from whence there arose to me no small delight.” See his Treatise de Poematum cantu & viribus Rythmi. Oxon, 1673, p. 62. H.
VOL. I. Q7.
Templum adi Westmonasteriense;
Qualis quantusque Vir fuerit,
Dicat elegans illa & praeclara,
Quae cenotaphium ibi decorat,
Inscriptio. Quâm interim erga Cognatos pius & officiosus, Testetur hoc saxum A MARIA PHILIPs Matre ipsius pientissimã, Dilecti Filii Memoriaenon sine Lacrymis dicatum.
HIS EPITAPH AT WESTMINSTER
Herefordiae conduntur Ossa, Hoc in Delubro statuitur Imago, Britanniam omnem pervagatur Fama, JOHANNIS PHILIPS; Qui Viris bonis doctisque juxta charus, Immortale suum Ingenium, Eruditione multiplici excultum, Miro animi candore, Eximiä morum simplicitate, Honestavit. Litterarum Amoeniorum sitim, Quam Wintoniae Puer sentire coeperat, Inter Ædis Christi Alumnos jugiter explevit, In illo Musarum Domicilio Praeclaris HEmulorum studiis excitatus, Optimis scribendi Magistris semper intentus, Carmina sermone Patrio composuit A Graecis Latinisque fontibus feliciter deducta, Atticis Romanisque auribus omnino digna, Versuum quippe Harmoniam Rythmo didicerat. Antiquo illo, libero, multiformi Adres ipsas apto prorsus, & attemperato, Mon numeris in eundem ferð orbem redeuntibus, Non Clausularum similiter cadentium sono Metiri; Uniin hoc laudis genere Miltono secundus, Primoque poene par. Res seu Tenues, seu Grandes, seu Mediocres Ornandas sumserat, Nusquam, non quod decuit, Et videt, & assecutus est, Egregius, quoeunque Stylum verteret, Fandi author, & Modorum artifex.
Fas sit Huic,
Philips has been always praised, without contradiction, as a man modest, blameless, and pious; who bore narrowness of fortune without discontent, and tedious and painful maladies without impatience; beloved by those that knew him, but not ambitious to be known. He was probably not formed for a wide circle. His conversation is commended for its innocent gaiety, which seems to have flowed only among his intimates; for I have been told, that he was in company silent and barren, and employed only upon the pleasures of his pipe. His addiction to tobacco is mentioned by one of his biographers, who remarks that in all his writings, except Blenheim, he has found an opportunity of celebrating the fragrant fume. In common life he was probably one of those who please by not offending, and whose person was loved because his writings were admired. He died honoured and lamented, before any part of his reputation had withered, and before his patron St. John had disgraced him. His works are few. The “Splendid Shilling” has the uncommon merit of an original design, unless it may be thought precluded by the ancient Centos. To degrade the sounding words and stately construction of Milton, by an application to the lowest and most trivial things, gratifies the mind with a momentary triumph over that grandeur which hitherto held its captives in admiration ; the words and things are presented with a new appearance, and novelty is always grateful where it gives no pain,
But the merit of such performances begins and ends with the first author. He that should again adapt Milton's phrase to the gross incidents of common life, and even adapt it with more art, which would not be difficult, must yet expect but a small part of the Praise which Philips has obtained; he can only hope to be considered as the repeater of a jest. “The parody on Milton,” says Gildon, “is the only tolerable Production of its author.” This is a censure too dogmatical and violent. The poem of “Blenheim” was never denied to be tolerable, even by those who do not allow its supreme excellence. It is indeed the poem of a scholar, all inexhert of war; of a man who writes books from books, and studies the world in a college. He seems to have formed his ideas of the field of Blenheim from the battles of the heroic ages, or the tales of chivalry, with very little comprehension, of the qualities necessary to the composition of a modern hero, which Addison has displayed with so much propriety. He makes Marlborough behold at a distance the slaughter made by Tallard, then haste to encounter and restrain him, and mow his way through ranks made headless by his sword. He imitates Milton's numbers indeed, but imitates them very injudiciously. Deformity is easily copied; and whatever there is in Milton which the reader wishes away, all that is obsolete, peculiar, or licentious, is accumulated with great care by Philips. Milton’s verse was harmonious, in proportion to the general state of our metre in Milton’s age ; and, if he had written after the improvements made by Dryden, it is reasonable to believe that he would have admitted a more pleasing modulation of numbers into his work; but Philips sits down with a resolution to make no more music than he found; to want all that his master wanted, though he is very far from having what his master had. Those asperities, therefore, that are venerable in the Paradise Lost, are contemptible in the Blenheim. There is a Latin ode written to his patron St. John, in return for a present of wine and tobacco, which cannot be passed without notice. It is gay and elegant, and exhibits several artful