Page images

was to sit hour after hour, while his hair was put a stop to his studies, and on Feb. 15, 1706, combed by somebody, whose services he found at the beginning of his thirty-third year, put an means to procure. *

end to his life. At school he became acquainted with the He was buried in the cathedral of Hereford ; poets, ancient and modern, and fixed his atten- and Sir Simon Harcourt, afterwards lord-chantion particularly on Milton.

cellor, gave him a monument in Westminster In 1694, he entered himself at Christ-church, Abbey. The inscription at Westminster was a college at that time in the highest reputation, written, as I have heard, by Dr. Atterbury, by the transmission of Busby's scholars to the though commonly given to Dr. Freind. care first of Fell, and afterwards of Aldrich. Here he was distinguished as a genius eminent

HIS EPITAPH AT HEREFORD: among the eminent, and for friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of

JOHANNES PHILIPS “ Phædra and Hippolytus.” The profession

Dom. 1708. which he intended to follow was that of physic; Obiit 15 die Feb. Anno. {

Ætat. suæ 32. and he took much delight in natural history, of which botany was his favourite part.

Cujus His reputation was confined to his friends Ossa si requiras, hanc Urnam inspice : and to the University ; till about 1703, he ex

Si Ingenium nescias, ipsius Opera consule :

Si Tumulum desideras, tended it to a wider circle by the “ Splendid

Templum adi Westmonasteriense: Shilling,” which struck the public attention

Qualis quantusque Vir fuecit, with a mode of writing new and unexpected.

Dicat elegans illa & præclara, This performance raised him so high, that,

Quæ cenotaphium ibi decorat, when Europe resounded with the victory of

Inscriptio. Blenheim, he was, probably with an occult op

Quâm interim erga Cognatos pius & officiosus,

Testetur hoc saxum position to Addison, employed to deliver the ac

A MARIA Philips Matre ipsius pientissima, clamation of the Tories. It is said that he

Dilecti Filii Memoriæ non sipe Lacrymis dicatum, would willingly have declined the task, but that his friends urged it upon him. It appears

HIS EPITAPH AT WESTMINSTER. that he wrote this poem at the house of Mr. St. John. “ Blenheim” was published in 1705. The next

Herefordiæ conduntur Ossa,

Hoc in Delubro statuitur Imago, year produced his great work, the poein upon

Britanniam omnem pervagatur Fama, Cider," in two books; which was received

JOHANNIS PHILIPS: with loud praises, and continued long to be Qui Viris honis doctisque juxta charus, read, as an imitation of Virgil's “ Georgic,”

Immortale suum Ingenium, which needed not shun the presence of the

Eruditione multiplici excultum,

Miro animi candore, original.

Eximià morum simplicitate, He then grew probably more confident of his

Honestavit. own abilities, and began to meditate a poem on

Litterarum Amoniorum sitim, the “ Last Day;" a subject on which no mind Quam Wintoniæ Puer sentire coeperat, can hope to equal expectation.

Inter Ædis Christi Alumnos jugiter explevit, This work he did not live to finish; his

In illo Musarum Domicilio diseases, a slow consumption and an asthma,

Præclaris Æmulorum studiis excitatus, Optimia scribendi Magistris semper intentus,

Carmina sermone Patrio composuit

A Græcis Latinisque fontibus feliciter deducta, • Isaac Vossius relates, that he also delighted in Atticis Romanisque auribus omnino digna, having his hair combed when he could have it done

Versuum quippe Harmoniam by barbers, or other persons skilled in the rules of

Rythmo didicerat. prosody. Of the passage that contains this ridicu.

Autiquo illo, libero, multiformi lous fancy, the following is a translation :-“Many Ad res ipsas apto prorsus, et attempérato, people take delight in the rubbing of their limbs, and Non numeris in eundem ferè orbem redeuntibus, the combing of their hair; but these exercises would Non Clausularum similiter cadentium sono delight much more, if the servants at the baths, and

Metiri : of the barbers, were so skilful in this art, that they Uni in hoc laudis genere Miliono secundus, could express any measures with their fingers. I

Primoque poene par. remember that more than once I have fallen into Res seu Tenues, seu Grandes, seu Mediocres the hands of men of this sort, who could imitate any

Ornandas sumserat, measure of songs in combing the hair, so as some

Nusqnam, non quod decuit, times to express very intelligibly iambics, trochees,

Et videt, & assecutus est, dactyls, &c. from whence there arose to me no small Egregius, quocunque Stylum verteret, delight.” See his “ Treatise de Poematum cantu et

Fandi author, & Modorum artifex. Viribus Rythmi.” Oxon. 1673. p. 62.-H.

Fas sit Huic,

[ocr errors]

Auso licèt à tua Metrorum Lege discedere, la college. He seems to have formed his ideas of O Poesis Anglicanæ Pater, atque Conditor, Chaucere, the field of Blenheim from the battles of the heAlterum tibi latus claudere,

roic ages, or the tales of chivalry, with very litVatum certe Cineres, tuos undique stipantium

tle comprehension of the qualities necessary to Non dedecebit Chorum. Simon HARCOURT, Miles,

the composition of a modern hero, which AddiViri benè de so, de Litteris meriti

son bas displayed with so much propriety. He Quoad viveret Fautor,

makes Marlborough behold at a distance the Post Obitum piè memor,

slaughter made by Tallard, then haste to enHoc illi Saxum poni voluit.

counter and restrain him, and mow his way J. Philips, STEPHANI, S. T. P. Archidiaconi

through ranks made headless by his sword. Salop. Filius, natus est Bamptoniæ

He imitates Milton's numbers indeed, but In agro Oxon, Dec. 30, 1676.

imitates them very injudiciously. Deformity is Obiit Herefordiæ Feb. 15, 1708.

easily copied; and whatever there is in Milton Philips has been always praised, without con

which the reader wishes away, all that is obsotradiction, as a man modest, blameless, and lete, peculiar, or licentious, is accumulated with pious ; who bore narrowness of fortune without great care by Philips. Milton's verse was hardiscontent, and tedious and painful maladies monious, in proportion to the general state of without impatience ; beloved by those that knew our metre in Milton's age; and, if he had writhim, but not ambitious to be known. He was

ten after the improvements made by Dryden, it probably not formed for a wide circle. His con

is reasonable to believe that he would have adversation is commended for its innocent gayety, mitted a more pleasing modulation of numbers which seems to have flowed only among his in- into his work; but Philips sits down with a re. timates ; for I have been told, that he was in solution to make no more music than he found; company silent and barren, and employed only to want all that his master wanted, though he is upon the pleasure of his pipe. His addiction to very far from having what his master had. tobacco is mentioned by one of his biographers, Those asperities, therefore, that are venerable in who remarks, that in all his writings, except the “ Paradise Lost,” are contemptible in the “ Blenheim," he has found an opportunity of

" Blenheim.” celebrating the fragrant fume. In common life

There is a Latin ode written to his patron, he was probably one of those who please by not St. John, in return for a present of wine and tooffending, and whose person was loved because bacco, which cannot be passed without notice. his writings were admired. He died honoured It is gay and elegant, and exhibits several artful and lamented, before any part of his reputation accommodations of classic expressions to new had withered, and before his patron St. John purposes. It seems better turned than the ode had disgraced him.

of Hannes. * His works are few. The “ Splendid Shilling”

To the poem on “ Cider," written in imitation has the uncommon merit of an original design, of the “ Georgics,” may be given this peculiar unless it may be thought precluded by the an- praise, that it is grounded in truth; that the cient Centos. To degrade the sounding words precepts which it contains are exact and just; and stately construction of Milton, by an appli- and that it is therefore, at once, a book of entercation to the lowest and most trivial things, gra- tainment and of science. This I was told by tifies the mind with a momentary triumph over Miller, the great gardener and botanist, whose that grandeur which hitherto held its captives expression was, that “there were many books in admiration ; the words and things are pre-written on the same subject in prose, which do sented with a new appearance, and novelty is

not contain so much truth as that poem.” always grateful where it gives no pain,

In the disposition of his matter, so as to interBut the merit of such performances begins sperse precepts relating to the culture of trees and ends with the first author. He that should with sentiments more generally alluring, and in again adapt Milton's phrase to the gross incidents of common life, and even adapt it with

* This ode I am willing to mention, because there more art, which would not be difficult, must

seems to be an error in all the printed copies, which yet expect but a small part of the praise which is, I find, retained in the last. They all read: Philips has obtained; he can only hope to be considered as the repeater of a jest.

Quam Gratiarum cura deceptium “ The parody on Milton,” says Gildon, “ is

0!0! labellis cui Venus insidet. the only tolerable production of its Author.” The Author probably wrote, This is a censure too dogmatical and violent. The poem of " Blenheim" was never denied to

Quam Gratiarum cura decentium be tolerable, even by those who do not allow it

Ornat; labellis cui Verus insidet.-Dr. J. supreme excellence. It is indeed the poem of a

Hannes was professor of chemistry at Oxford, scholar, “ all inexpert of war ;” of a man who and wrote one or two poems iv the “ Musæ Angliwrites books from books, and studies the world in canæ."--J. B

easy and graceful transitions from one subject to in this point; not a learned man nor a poet can another, he has very diligently imitated his mas- die, but all Europe must be acquainted with his ter ; but he unhappily pleased himself with accomplishments. They give praise and expect blank verse, and supposed that the numbers of it in their turns; they commend their Patrus Milton, which impress the mind with venera- and Molieres as well as their Condés and Tution, combined as they are with subjects of in- rennes; their Pellisons and Racines have their conceivable grandeur, could be sustained by im- eulogies, as well as the Prince whom they celeages which, at most, can rise only to elegance. brate; and their poems, their mercuries, and Contending angels may shake the regions of orations, nay, their very gazettes, are filled with heaven in blank verse; but the flow of equal the praises of the learned. measures, and the embellishment of rhyme, “ I am satisfied, had they a Philips among must recommend to our attention the art of en- them, and known how to value him; had they grafting, and decide the merit of the redstreak one of his learning, his temper, but above all of and pearmain.

that particular turn of humour, that altogether What study could confer, Philips had obtain- new genius, he had been an example to their ed : but natural deficience cannot be supplied. poets, and a subject of their panegyrics, and He seems not born to greatness and elevation. perhaps set in competition with the ancients, to lle is never lofty, nor does he often surprise whom only he ought to submit. with unexpected excellence; but, perhaps, to his " I shall therefore endeavour to do justice to last poem may be applied what Tully said of the his memory, since nobody else undertakes it. work of Lucretius, that it is written with much And indeed I can assign no cause why so many art, though with few blazes of genius.

of his acquaintance (that are as willing and

more able than myself to give an account of The following fragment, written by Edmund him) should forbear to celebrate the memory of

Smith, upon the works of Philips, has been one so dear to them, but only that they look uptranscribed from the Bodleian manuscripts. on it as a work entirely belonging to me.

“ I shall content myself with giving only a " A Prefatory Discourse to the poem on Mr. character of the person and his writings, withPhilips, with a character of his writings. out meddling with the transactions of his life,

which was altogether private : I shall only “ It is altogether as equitable some account

make this known observation of his family, should be given of those who have distinguished that there was scarcely so many extraordinary themselves by their writings, as of those who

men in any one. I have been acquainted with are renowned for great actions. It is but rea

five of his brothers (of which three are still sonable they, who contribute so much to the immortality of others, should have some share living,) all men of fine parts, yet all of a very

unlike temper and genius. So that their fruitin it themselves; and since their genius only is discovered by their works, it is just that their ful mother, like the mother of the gods, seems

to have produced a numerous offspring, all of virtues should be recorded by their friends. For no modest men (as the person I write of different though uncommon faculties. Of the was in perfection) will write their own pane- the present age, permits me to speak : of the

living, neither their modesty, nor the humour of gyrics; and it is very hard that they should go without reputation, only because they the more

dead, I may say something.

One of them had made the greatest progress deserve it. The end of writing lives is for the imitation of the readers. It will be in the power in the study of the law of nature and nations of very few to imitate the Duke of Marlbo- of any one I know. He had perfectly mastered, rough; we must be content with admiring his

and even improved, the notions of Grotius, and great qualities and actions, without hopes of fol

the more refined ones of Puffendorf. He could lowing them. The private and social virtues refute Hobbes with as much solidity as some of are more easily transcribed. The life of Cow- greater name, and expose him with as much ley is more instructive, as well as more fine, wit as Echard. That noble study, which rethan any we have in our language. And it is to quires the greatest reach of reason and nicety of be wished, since Mr. Philips had so many of the distinction, was not at all difficult to him. good qualities of that poet, that I had some of 'Twas a national loss to be deprived of one who the abilities of his historian.

understood a science so necessary, and yet so “ The Grecian philosophers have had their unknown in England. I shall add only, he lives written, their morals commended, and had the same honesty and sincerity as the pertheir sayings recorded. Mr. Philips had all the son I write of, but more heat : the former was virtues to which most of them only pretended, more inclined to argue, the latter to divert: one and all their integrity without any of their af-employed his reason more; the other his imafectation.

gination : the former had been well qualified for The French are very just to eminent men those posts, which the modesty of the latter

envy, and



made him refuse. His other dead brother would failed in the grave style, and the tragedian as have been an ornament to the College of which often in comedy. Admiration and laughter are he was a member. He had a genius either for of such opposite natures, that they are seldom poetry or oratory; and, though very young, created by the same person. The man of mirth composed several very agreeable pieces. In all is always observing the follies and weaknesses, probability he would have written as finely as

the serious writer the virtues or crimes, of his brother did nobly. He might have been the mankind; one is pleased with contemplating a Waller, as the other was the Milton of his time. beau, the other a hero: even from the same The one might celebrate Marlborough, the object they would draw different ideas : Achilles other bis beautiful offspring. This had not been would appear in very different lights to Thersi80 fit to describe the actions of heroes as the vir- tes and Alexander; the one would admire the tues of private men. In a word, he had been courage and greatness of his soul; the other fitter for my place; and while his brother was would ridicule the vanity and rashness of his writing upon the greatest men that any age ever temper. As the satyrist says to Hannibal: produced, in a style equal to them, he might have served as a panegyrist on him.

-I, curre per Alpes, “ This is all I think necessary to say of his

Ut pueris placeas, et declamatio fias. family. I shall proceed to himself and his writings; which I shall first treat of, because I know pleases the more strongly, because it is more

The contrariety of style to the subject they are censured by some out of

surprising ; more out of ignorance.

the expectation of the reader is “ The • Splendid Shilling,' which is far the style from the subject, or a great subject from

pleasantly deceived, who expects an humble least considerable, has the more general repu- the style. It pleases the more universally, betation, and perhaps binders the character of the The style agreed so well with the bur

cause it is agreeable to the taste both of the lesque, that the ignorant thought it could be

grave and the merry; but more particularly so come nothing else. Every body is pleased with and the noblest sort of poetry. I shall produce

to those who have a relish of the best writers, that work. But to judge rightly of the other requires a perfect mastery of poetry and criti- only one passage out of this Poet, which is the

misfortune of his galligaskins : cism, a just contempt of the little turns and witticisms now in vogue, and, above all, a per

My galligaskips, which have long withstood fect understanding of poetical diction and de- The winter's fury and encroaching frosts, scription.

By time subdu'd (what will not time subdue !) « All that have any taste for poetry will agree, that the great burlesque is much to be This is admirably pathetical, and shows very preferred to the low. It is much easier to make well the vicissitudes of sublunary things. a great thing appear little, than a little one The rest goes on to a prodigious beight; and a great: Cotton and others of a very low genius man in Greenland could hardly have made a have done the former: but Philips, Garth, and more pathetic and terrible complaint. Is it not Boileau, only the latter.

surprising that the subject should be so mean, “ A picture in miniature is every painter's and the verse so pompous, that the least things talent; but a piece for a cupola, where all the in his poetry, as in a miscroscope, should grow figures are enlarged, yet proportioned to the great and formidable to the eye; especially coneye, requires a master's hand.

sidering that, not understanding French, he " It must still be more acceptable than the had no model for his style? that he should have low burlesque, because the images of the latter no writer to imitate, and himself be inimitable? are mean and filthy, and the language itself that he should do all this before he was twenty; entirely unknown to all men of good breeding. at an age which is usually pleased with a glare The style of Billingsgate would not make a of false thoughts, little turns, and unnatural very agreeable figure at St. James's. A gentle- fustian ? at an age, at which Cowley, Dryden, man would take but little pleasure in language and I, had almost said Virgil, were inconsiderawhich he would think it hard to be accosted in, ble; so soon was his imagination at its full or in reading words which he could not pro- strength, his judgment ripe, and his humour nounce without blushing. The lofty burlesque complete. is the more to be admired, because, to write it, “ This poem was written for his owu diverthe author must be master of two of the most sion, without any design of publication. It different talents in nature. A talent to find out was communicated but to me; but soon spread, and expose what is ridiculous, is very different and fell into the hands of pirates.

It was put from that which is to raise and elevate. We out, vilely mangled by Ben Bragge; and immust read Virgil and Milton for the one, and pudently said to be corrected by the author. This Horace and Hudibras for the other. We know grievance is now grown more epidemical ; and that the authors of excellent comedies have often 110 man now has a right to bis own thoughts, or


a title to his own writings. Xenophon answer- | This induced me to believe that Virgil desired his ed the Persian who demanded his arms, “ We works might be burnt, had not the same Augushave nothing now left but our arms and our tus, that desired him to write them, preserved valour : if we surrender the one, how shall we them from destruction. A scribbling beau may make use of the other ?” Poets have nothing imagine a poet may be induced to write, by the but their wits and their writings; and if they very pleasure he finds in writing ; but that is are plundered of the latter, I don't see what seldom, when people are necessitated to it. I good the former can do them. To pirate, and have known men row, and use very hard labour publicly own it, to prefix their names to the for diversion which, if they had been tied to, works they steal, to own and avow the theft, they would have thought themselves very unI believe, was never yet heard of but in Eng- happy. land. It will sound oddly to posterity, that, in “ But to return to Blenheim,' that work so a polite nation, in an enlightened age, under much admired by some, and censured by others. the direction of the most wise, most learned, I have often wished he had wrote it in Latin, and most generous encouragers of knowledge in that he might be out of the reach of the empty the world, the property of a mechanic should critic, who could have as little understood bis be better secured than that of a scholar! that meaning in that language as they do his beauties the poorest manual operations should be more

in his own. valued than the noblest products of the brain ! “ False Critics have been the plague of all ages : that it should be felony to rob a cobbler of a pair Milton bimself, in a very polite court, has been of shoes, and no crime to deprive the best author compared to the rumbling of a wheelbarrow : he of his whole subsistence; that nothing should had been on the wrong side, and therefore could make a man a sure title to his own writings but not be a good poet. And this, perhaps, may be the stupidity of them ! that the works of Dryden | Mr. Philips's case. should meet with less encouragement than those “ But I take generally the ignorance of his of his own Flecknoe, or Blackmore! that readers to be the occasion of their dislike. People Tillotson and St. George, Tom Thumb and that have formed their taste upon the French Temple, should be set on an equal footing ! This writers can have no relish for Philips ; they adis the reason why this very paper has been so mire points and turns, and consequently have long delayed; and, while the most impudent no judgment of what is great and majestic ; he and scandalous libels are publicly vended by the must look little in their eyes, when he soars pirates, this innocent work is forced to steal

so high as to be almost out of their view. I abroad as if it were a libel.

cannot therefore allow any admirer of the Our present writers are by these wretches French to be a judge of · Blenheim,' nor any reduced to the same condition Virgil was, when who takes Bouhours for a complete critic. He the centurion seized on his estate. But I don't generally judges of the ancients by the moderns, doubt but I can fix upon the Mæcenas of the and not the moderns by the ancients ; he takes present age, that will retrieve them from it.

those passages of their own authors to be really But, whatever effects this piracy may have upon sublime which come the nearest to it; he often us, it contributed very much to the advantage of calls that a noble and a great thought which is Mr. Philips ; it helped him to a reputation only a pretty and a fine one ; and has more inwhich he neither desired nor expected, and to stances of the sublime out of · Ovid de Tristithe honour of being put upon a work of which bus,' than he has out of all Virg he did not think himself capable ; but the event “ I shall allow, therefore, only those to be showed his modesty. And it was reasonable to judges of Philips, who make the ancients, and hope, that he, who could raise mean subjects so particularly Virgil, their standard. high, should still be more elevated on greater “ But before I enter on this subject, I shall themes ; that he, that could draw such noble consider what is particular in the style of Philips, ideas from a shilling, could not fail upon such a and examine what ought to be the style of heroic subject as the Duke of Marlborough, which is poetry ; and next inquire how far he has come capable of heightening even the most low and up to that style. trilling genius. And, indeed, most of the great “ His style is particular, because he lays aside works which have been produced in the world rhyme, and writes in blank verse, and uses old have been owing less to the poet than the patron. words, and frequently postpones the adjective to Men of the greatest genius are sometimes lazy, the substantive, and the substantive to the verb; and want a spur; often modest, and dare not and leaves out little particles, a and the ; her, venture in public, they certainly know their and his ; and uses frequent appositions. Now faults in the worst things ; and even their best let us examine whether these alterations of style things they are not fond of, because the idea of be conformable to the true sublime.” what they ought to be is far above what they are.

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »