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"Our next observation shall be made upon that remarkably kind Providence which brought the Doctor into Sir Thomas Abney's family, and continued him there till his death, a period of no less than thirty-six years. In the midst of his sacred labours for the glory of God, and good of his generation, he is seized with a most violent and threatening fever, which leaves him oppressed with great weakness, and puts a stop at least to his public services for four years. In this distressing season, doubly so to his active and pious spirit, he is invited to Sir Thomas Abney's family, nor ever removes from it till he had finished his days. Here he enjoyed the uninterrupted demonstrations of the truest friendship. Here, without any care of his own, he had every thing which could contribute to the enjoyment of life, and favour the unwearied pursuits of his studies. Here he dwelt in a family, which for piety, order, harmony, and every virtue, was an house of God. Here he had the privilege of a country recess, the fragrant bower, the spreading lawn, the flowery garden, and other advantages, to soothe his mind and aid his restoration to health; to yield him, whenever he chose them, most grateful intervals from his laborious studies, and enable him to return to them with redoubled vigour and delight. Had it not been for this most happy event, he might, as to outward view, have feebly, it may be painfully, dragged on through many more years of languor, and inability for public service, and even for profitable study, or perhaps might have sunk into his grave under the overwhelming load of infirmities in the midst of his days; and thus the church and world would have been deprived of those many excellent sermons and works which he drew up and published during his long residence in this family. In a few years after his coming hither, Sir Thomas Abney dies; but his amiable consort survives, who shows the Doctor the same respect and friendship as before, and most happily for him and great numbers besides; for, as her riches were great, her generosity and munificence were in full proportion; her thread of life was drawn out to a great age, even beyond that of the Doctor's; and thus this excellent man, through her kindness, and that of her daughter, the present Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, who in a like degree esteemed and honoured him, enjoyed all the benefits and felicities he experienced at his first entrance into this family, till his days were numbered and finished; and, like a shock of corn in its season, he ascended into the regions of perfect and immortal life and joy."
ly, his life was no otherwise diversified than by successive publications. The series of his works I am not able to deduce; their number and their variety show the intenseness of his industry, and the extent of his capacity.
He was one of the first authors that taught the dissenters to court attention by the graces of language. Whatever they had among them before, whether of learning or acuteness, was commonly obscured and blunted by coarseness and inelegance of style. He showed them, that zeal and purity might be expressed and enforced by polished diction.
He continued to the end of his life the teacher of a congregation; and no reader of his works can doubt his fidelity or diligence. In the pulpit, though his low stature, which very little exceeded five feet, graced him with no advantages of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utterance made his discourses very efficacious. I once mentioned the reputation which Mr. Foster had gained by his proper delivery to my friend Dr. Hawkesworth, who told me, that in the art of pronunciation he was far inferior to Dr. Watts.
Such was his flow of thoughts, and such his promptitude of language, that in the latter part of his life he did not precompose his cursory sermons, but having adjusted the heads, and sketched out some particulars, trusted for success to his extemporary powers.
He did not endeavour to assist his eloquence by any gesticulations; for, as no corporeal actions have any correspondence with theological truth, he did not see how they could enforce it.
At the conclusion of weighty sentences he gave time, by a short pause, for the proper impression.
To stated and public instruction he added familiar visits and personal application, and was careful to improve the opportunities which conversation offered of diffusing and increasing the influence of religion.
By his natural temper he was quick of resentment; but by his established and habitual practice he was gentle, modest, and inoffensive. His tenderness appeared in his attention to children, and to the poor. To the poor, while he lived in the family of his friend, he allowed the third part of his annual revenue, though the whole was not a hundred a-year; and for children he condescended to lay aside the scholar, the philosopher, and the wit, to write little poems of devotion, and systems of instruction, adapted to their wants and capacities, from the dawn of reason through its gradations of advance in the mornIf this quotation has appeared long, let it being of life. Every man, acquainted with the considered that it comprises an account of six- common principles of human action, will look and thirty years, and those the years of Dr. with veneration on the writer, who is at one Watts. time combating Locke, and at another making a From the time of his reception into this fami- catechism for children in their fourth year. A
voluntary descent from the dignity of science is perhaps the hardest lesson that humility can teach.
As his mind was capacious, his curiosity excursive, and his industry continual, his writings are very numerous, and his subjects various. With his theological works I am only enough acquainted to admire his meekness of opposition and his mildness of censure. It was not only in his book, but in his mind, that orthodoxy was united with charity.
Of his philosophical pieces, his "Logic" has been received into the universities, and therefore wants no private recommendation; if he owes part of it to Le Clerc, it must be considered that no man, who undertakes merely to methodize or illustrate a system, pretends to be its author. In his metaphysical disquisitions, it was observed by the late learned Mr. Dyer, that he confounded the idea of space with that of empty space, and did not consider that though space might be without matter, yet matter being extended could not be without space.
Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure than his "Improvement of the Mind," of which the radical principles may indeed be found in Locke's" Conduct of the Understanding;" but they are so expanded and ramified by Watts, as to confer upon him the merit of a work in the highest degree useful and pleasing. Whoever has the care of instructing others may be charged with deficience in his duty if this book is not recommended.
I have mentioned his treatises of theology as distinct from his other productions; but the truth is, that whatever he took in hand was, by his incessant solicitude for souls, converted to theology. As piety predominated in his mind, it is diffused over his works; under his direction it may be truly said, theologiæ philosophia ancillatur, philosophy is subservient to evangelical instruction; it is difficult to read a page without learning, or at least wishing, to be better.. The attention is caught by indirect instruction, and he that sat down only to reason is on a sudden compelled to pray.
It was therefore with great propriety that, in 1728, he received from Edinburgh and Aberdeen ⚫ an unsolicited diploma, by which he became a doctor of divinity. Academical honours would have more value, if they were always bestowed with equal judgment.
He continued many years to study and to preach, and to do good by his instruction and example; till at last the infirmities of age disabled him from the more laborious part of his ministerial functions, and, being no longer capable of public duty, he offered to remit the salary
appendant to it; but his congregation would not accept the resignation.
By degrees his weakness increased, and at last confined him to his chamber and his bed; where he was worn gradually away without pain, till he expired, Nov. 25, 1743, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.
Few men have left behind such purity of character, or such monuments of laborious piety. He has provided instruction for all ages, from those who are lisping their first lessons, to the enlightened readers of Malbranche and Locke; he has left neither corporeal nor spiritual nature unexamined; he has taught the art of reasoning, and the science of the stars.
His character, therefore, must be formed from the multiplicity and diversity of his attainments, rather than from any single performance; for it would not be safe to claim for him the highest rank in any single denomination of literary dignity; yet perhaps there was nothing in which he would not have excelled, if he had not divided his powers to different pursuits.
As a poet, had he been only a poet, he would probably have stood high among the authors with whom he is now associated. For his judgment was exact, and he noted beauties and faults with very nice discernment; his imagination, as the "Dacian Battle" proves, was vigorous and active, and the stores of knowledge were large by which his fancy was to be supplied. His ear was well tuned, and his diction was elegant and copious, but his devotional poetry is, like that of others, unsatisfactory. The paucity of its topics enforces perpetual repetition, and the sanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative diction. It is sufficient for Watts to have done better than others what no man has done well.
His poems on other subjects seldom rise higher than might be expected from the amusements of a man of letters, and have different degrees of value as they are more or less laboured, or as the occasion was more or less favourable to invention.
He writes too often without regular measures, and too often in blank verse; the rhymes are not always sufficiently correspondent. He is particularly unhappy in coining names expressive of characters. His lines are commonly smooth and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater measure of sprightliness and vigour ! He is at least one of the few poets with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased; and happy will be that reader whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to imitate him in all but his nonconformity, to copy his benevolence to man, and his reverence to God.
Spectator, none indeed of the best, was devoted to its praise; while it yet continued to be acted, another Spectator was written, to tell what impression it made upon Sir Roger; and on the first night a select audience, says Pope,* was called together to applaud it.
Of the birth or early part of the life of AMBROSE PHILIPS I have not been able to find any account. His academical education he received at St. John's College, in Cambridge,* where he first solicited the notice of the world by some English verses, in the collection published by the university on the death of Queen Mary. From this time how he was employed, or inglish theatre. The three first nights it was rewhat station he passed his life, is not yet discovered. He must have published his Pastorals before the year 1708, because they are evidently prior to those of Pope.
He afterwards (1709) addressed to the universal patron, the Duke of Dorset, a "Poetical Letter from Copenhagen," which was published in the "Tatler," and is by Pope in one of his first letters mentioned with high praise, as the production of a man "who could write very nobly."
It was concluded with the most successful epilogue that was ever yet spoken on the Eng
cited twice; and not only continued to be de demanded through the run, as it is termed, of the play, but whenever it is recalled to the stage, where by peculiar fortune, though a copy from the French, it yet keeps its place, the epilogue is still expected, and is still spoken.
The propriety of epilogues in general, and consequently of this, was questioned by a correspondent of "The Spectator," whose letter was undoubtedly admitted for the sake of the answer, which soon followed, written with much zeal and acrimony. The attack and the defence equally contributed to stimulate curiosity and continue attention. It may be discovered in the defence, that Prior's epilogue to "Phædra" had a little excited jealousy; and
Philips was a zealous whig, and therefore easily found access to Addison and Steele; but his ardour seems not to have procured him any thing more than kind words; since he was reduced to translate the "Persian Tales" for Tonson, for which he was afterwards reproach-something of Prior's plan may be discovered in ed, with this addition of contempt, that he the performance of his rival. Of this distinworked for half-a-crown. The book is divided guished epilogue the reputed author was the into many sections, for each of which, if he re-wretched Budgel, whom Addison used to denoceived half-a-crown, his reward, as writers then were paid, was very liberal; but half-acrown had a mean sound.
He was employed in promoting the principles of his party, by epitomising Hacket's "Life of Archbishop Williams." The original book is written with such depravity of genius, such mixture of the fop and pedant, as has not often appeared. The epitome is free enough from affectation, but has little spirit or vigour.†
minate "the man who calls me cousin ;" and when he was asked how such a silly fellow could write so well, replied, "The epilogue was quite another thing when I saw it first.' It was known in Tonson's family, and told to Garrick, that Addison was himself the author of it, and that, when it had been at first printed with his name, he came early in the morning, before the copies were distributed, and ordered it to be given to Budgel, that it might add weight to the solicitation which he was then
In 1712 he brought upon the stage "The Distrest Mother," almost a translation of Ra-making for a place. cine's "Andromaque." Such a work requires no uncommon powers; but the friends of Philips exerted every art to promote his interest. Before the appearance of the play a whole
Philips was now high in the ranks of literature. His play was applauded: his translations from Sappho had been published in "The Spectator;" he was an important and distinguished associate of clubs, witty and political; and nothing was wanting to his happiness, but that he should be sure of its continuance.
The work which had procured him the first | seasonable; there had never, from the time of notice from the public was his six pastorals, Spenser, wanted writers to talk occasionally of which, flattering the imagination with Arcadi- Arcadia and Strephon; and half the book, in an scenes, probably found many readers, and which he first tried his powers, consists of diamight have long passed as a pleasing amuse-logues on Queen Mary's death, between Tityrus ment, had they not been unhappily too much and Corydon, or Mopsus and Menalcas. A commended. series or book of pastorals, however I know not The rustic poems of Theocritus were so high-that any one had then lately published. ly valued by the Greeks and Romans, that they attracted the imitation of Virgil, whose Eclogues seem to have been considered as precluding all attempts of the same kind; for no shepherds were taught to sing by any succeeding poet, till Nemesian and Calphurnius ventured their feeble efforts in the lower age of Latin literature.
Not long afterwards Pope made the first display of his powers in four pastorals, written in a very different form. Philips had taken Spenser and Pope took Virgil for his pattern. Philips endeavoured to be natural, Pope laboured to be elegant.
Philips was now favoured by Addison, and by Addison's companions, who were very willing to push him into reputation. The "Guardian” gave an account of pastoral, partly criti̟cal, and partly historical; in which, when the merit of the modern is compared, Tasso and Guarini are censured for remote thoughts and unnatural refinements; and, upon the whole, the Italians and French are all excluded from rural poetry; and the pipe of the pastoral muse is transmitted by lawful inheritance from Theocritus to Virgil, from Virgil to Spenser, and from Spenser to Philips.
With this inauguration of Philips, his rival Pope was not much delighted; he therefore drew a comparison of Philip's performance with his own, in which, with an unexampled and unequalled artifice of irony, though he has himself always the advantage, he gives the preference to Philips. The design of aggrandizing himself he disguised with such dexterity, that, though Addison discovered it, Steele was deceived, and was afraid of displeasing Pope by
Petrarch entertained the learned men of his age with the novelty of modern pastorals in Latin. Being not ignorant of Greek, and finding nothing in the word eclogue of rural meaning, he supposed to be corrupted by the copiers, and therefore called his own productions æclogues, by which he meant to express the talk of goatherds, though it will mean only the talk of goats. This new name was adopted by subsequent writers, and amongst others by our Spenser. More than a century afterwards (1498) Man-publishing his paper. Published however it tuan published his Bucolics with such success, that they were soon dignified by Badius with a comment, and, as Scaliger complained, received into schools, and taught as classical; his complaint was vain, and the practice, however injudicious, spread far, and continued long. Mantuan was read, at least in some of the inferior schools of this kingdom, to the beginning of the present century. The speakers of Mantuan carried their disquisitions beyond the country, to censure the corruptions of the church; and from him Spenser learned to employ his swains on topics of controversy.
The Italians soon transferred pastoral poetry into their own language; Sanazzaro wrote "Arcadia," in prose and verse; Tasso and Guarini wrote "Favole Boschareccie," or sylvan dramas; and all the nations of Europe filled volumes with Thyrsis and Damon, and Thestylis and Phylis.
Philips thinks it "somewhat strange to conceive how, in an age so addicted to the Muses, pastoral poetry never comes to be so much as thought upon." His wonder seems very un
was (Guard. 40.); and from that time Pope and Philips lived in a perpetual reciprocation of malevolence.
In poetical powers, of either praise or satire, there was no proportion between the combatants; but Philips, though he could not prevail by wit, hoped to hurt Pope with another weapon, and charged him, as Pope thought, with Addison's approbation, as disaffected to the government.
Even with this he was not satisfied; for, indeed, there is no appearance that any regard was paid to his clamours. He proceeded to grosser insults, and hung up a rod at Button's, with which he threatened to chastise Pope, who appears to have been extremely exasperated; for in the first edition of his Letters he calls Philips "rascal," and in the last charges him with detaining in his hands the subscriptions for Homer delivered to him by the Hanover Club.
I suppose it was never suspected that he meant to appropriate the money; he only delayed, and with sufficient meanness, the gratifi. cation of him by whose prosperity he was pained
Men sometimes suffer by injudicious kindness; Philips became ridiculous, without his own fault, by the absurd admiration of his friends, who decorated him with honorary garlands, which the first breath of contradiction blasted.
When upon the succession of the house of Hanover every whig expected to be happy, Philips seems to have obtained too little notice; he caught few drops of the golden shower, though he did not omit what flattery could perform. He was only made a commissioner of the lottery (1717), and, what did not much elevate his character, a justice of the peace.
The success of his first play must naturally dispose him to turn his hopes towards the stage; he did not however soon commit himself to the mercy of an audience, but contented himself with the fame already acquired, till after nine years he produced (1722) « The Briton," a tragedy, which, whatever was its reception, is now neglected; though one of the scenes, between Vanoc, the British prince, and Valens, the Roman general, is confessed to be written with great dramatic skill, animated by spirit truly poetical.
He had not been idle, though he had been silent; for he exhibited another tragedy the same year, on the story of "Humphrey Duke of Gloucester." This tragedy is only remembered by its title.
His happiest undertaking was of a paper called "The Freethinker," in conjunction with associates, of whom one was Dr. Boulter, who, then only minister of a parish in Southwark, was of so much consequence to the government, that he was made first, bishop of Bristol, and afterwards primate of Ireland, where his piety and his charity will be long honoured.
It may easily be imagined that what was printed under the direction of Boulter would have nothing in it indecent or licentious; its title is to be understood as implying only freedom from unreasonable prejudice. It has been reprinted in volumes, but is little read; nor can impartial criticism recommend it as worthy of revival.
Boulter was not well qualified to write diurnal essays; but he knew how to practise the liberality of greatness and the fidelity of friendship. When he was advanced to the height of ecclesiastical dignity, he did not forget the companion of his labours. Knowing Philips to be slenderly supported, he took him to Ireland, as partaker of his fortune; and, making him his secretary,* added such preferments as enabled him to represent the county of Armagh in the Irish parliament.
The Archbishop's "Letters," published in 1769 (the originals of which are now in Christ Church ibrary, Oxford) were collected by Mr. Philips.-C.
In December, 1726, he was made secretary to the Lord Chancellor; and in August, 1733, became judge of the Prerogative Court.
After the death of his patron he continued some years in Ireland; but at last longing, as it seems, for his native country, he returned (1748) to London, having doubtless survived most of his friends and enemies, and among them his dreaded antagonist, Pope. He found however the Duke of Newcastle still living, and to him he dedicated his poems collected into a volume.
Having purchased an annuity of four hundred pounds, he now certainly hoped to pass some years of life in plenty and tranquillity; but his hope deceived him: he was struck with a palsy, and died* June 18, 1749, in his seventyeighth year.
Of his personal character all that I have heard is, that he was eminent for bravery and skill in the sword, and that in conversation he was solemn and pompous. He had great sensibility of censure, if judgment may be made by a single story which I heard long ago from Mr. Ing, a gentleman of great eminence in Staffordshire. "Philips," said he, "was once at table, when I asked him, How came thy king of Epirus to drive oxen, and to say, 'I'm goaded on by love?' After which question he never spoke again."
Of "The Distrest Mother" not much is pretended to be his own, and therefore it is no subject of criticism; his other two tragedies, I believe, are not below mediocrity, nor above it. Among the Poems comprised in the late Collection, the Letter from Denmark may be justly praised; the Pastorals, which by the writer of the "Guardian" were ranked as one of the four genuine productions of the rustic muse, cannot surely be despicable. That they exhibit a mode of life which did not exist, nor ever existed, is not to be objected: the supposition of such a state is allowed to pastoral. In his other poems he cannot be denied the praise of lines sometimes elegant; but he has seldom much force or much comprehension. The pieces that please best are those which, from Pope and Pope's adherents, procured him the name of Namby Pamby, the poems of short lines, by which he paid his court to all ages and characters, from Walpole, the "steerer of the realm," to Miss Pulteney in the nursery. numbers are smooth and sprightly, and the diction is seldom faulty. They are not loaded with much thought, yet, if they had been written by Addison, they would have had admirers: little things are not valued but when they are done by those who can do greater.
In his translations from Pindar he found the
* At his house in Hanover-street, and was buriea in Audley Chapel.-C.