Page images

Not long afterwards Pope made the first display of his powers 18 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 elegant1.

Philips was now favoured by Addison, and by Addison's com- 19 panions, who were very willing to push him into reputation". The Guardian' gave an account of Pastoral, partly critical and partly historical, in which, when the merit of the moderns 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 20 delighted; he therefore drew a comparison of Philips'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 5. The design of aggrandising himself he disguised with such dexterity that, though Addison discovered it, Steele was deceived, and was afraid of displeasing Pope by publishing his paper. Published, however, it was (Guard. 40), and from that time Pope and Philips lived in a perpetual reciprocation of malevolence".

ral poetry see Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 28.

[ocr errors]

Ante, GAY, 4; POPE, 68, 314. Addison in The Spectator, No. 523, praises Philips for having 'given a new life and a more natural beauty to this way of writing.... Virgil and Homer might compliment their heroes by interweaving the actions of deities with their achievements; but for a Christian author to write in the Pagan creed... would be downright puerility, and unpardonable in a poet that is past sixteen.' In this last line a stroke seems aimed at Pope, who gave out that his Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen. Addison praises Philips's Pastorals also in The Guardian, No. 119, and Steele quotes them in The Spectator, No.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]





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 still charges him with detaining in his hands the subscriptions for Homer delivered to him by the Hanover Club 3.

I suppose it was never suspected that he meant to appropriate the money; he only delayed, and with sufficient meanness, the gratification 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

Art of Sinking, ch. vi, places Philips among the Tortoises, who are slow and chill, and, like pastoral writers, delight much in gardens: they have for the most part a fine embroidered shell, and underneath it a heavy lump.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), x. 362. He attacks him also in A Farewell to London; The Dunciad, i. 105, 258, iii. 326; The Three Gentle Shepherds; Macer; Prol. Sat. 11. 100, 179; Imit. Hor., Epis. ii. 1. 417.

'His constant cry was that Mr. P. was an Enemy to the Government.' The Dunciad, iii. 326 n.; Ruffhead's Pope, p. 186.

Pope in a letter (probably spurious, ante, POPE, 106 n. 3) dated June 8, 1714, wrote that Philips 'one evening at Button's, as I was told, said that I was entered into a cabal with Dean Swift and others to write against the Whig interest. . . . Mr. Addison ... assured me of his disbelief of what had been said.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 209. Pope says nothing here of 'Addison's approbation' of Philips's charge.

2 Broome wrote of Pope to Fenton on May 3, 1728:-'I wonder he is

not thrashed; but his littleness is his protection; no man shoots a wren. He should rather be whipped; and it was pleasant enough in Mr. Ambrose Philips to hang up a rod at Button's in terrorem, which scared away the little bard.' Ib. viii. 147.

Pope had this report in mind when, in the letter quoted in the last note, he wrote:-Though I was almost every night in the same room with Mr. Philips he never offered me any indecorum.'

3 Philips, as Pope says, was Secretary to the Club. For a note of excuse of Addison's to Philips, beginning 'Dear Mr. Secretary,' see Addison's Works, v. 428. It was not rascal but scoundrel that Pope called him. He wrote:-'Upon the terms I ought to be with a man whom I think a scoundrel I would not ask him for this money, but commissioned one of the players, his equals, to receive it.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 210. In the reprint of the letter in Warburton's Pope, vii. 203, the passage runs:- Upon the terms I ought to be with such a man,' &c.

friends, who decorated him with honorary garlands which the first breath of contradiction blasted 1.

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 2. He was only made a Commissioner of the Lottery (1717) 3, 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 26 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 (1721) 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 dramatick skill, animated by spirit truly poetical 5.

He had not been idle though he had been silent, for he exhibited 27 another tragedy the same year, on the story of Humphry Duke of Gloucester. This tragedy is only remembered by its title.


Johnson said to Mrs. Thrale :'I know nobody who blasts by praise as you do; for whenever there is exaggerated praise everybody is set against a character.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 81.

He flattered Halifax, Craggs, Carteret, and Walpole. Eng. Poets, lvii. 48, 50, 56, 75.

3 He was made Paymaster of the Lottery in Jan. 1714-15 'with a salary of £500, for the service of himself, clerks and others.' Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 265.

Paul Whitehead relates that when Addison became Secretary of State, Philips applied to him for some preferment, but was coolly answered that it was thought he was already provided for, by being made a Justice for Westminster. To this Philips replied :-" Though poetry was a trade he could not live by, yet he scorned to owe subsistence to another which he ought not to live by." Addison's Works, v. 428 n.

Fielding, who would not, as Justice for Westminster, like his predecessor plunder the poor, writes:-'I had re

[blocks in formation]

duced an income of about £500 a year of the dirtiest money upon earth to little more than £300; a considerable proportion of which remained with my clerk.' Voyage to Lisbon, Introduction.

Whitehead's anecdote is perhaps not true. In 1710 Addison told Philips he had recommended him to Somers; he ended his letter:- Farewell, dear Philips, and believe me to be, more than I am able to express, Your most affectionate ... servant.' Addison's Works, v. 384.

Swift ridiculed Philips in Sandys's Ghost (Works, xiii. 295) :'If Justice Philips' costive head

Some frigid rhymes disburses; They shall like Persian tales be read, And glad both babes and nurses.' 5 Act iii. sc. 8. There is not a quotable line in it.

"It was produced on Feb. 15, 1722-3, and ran nine nights. Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 266. 'It met with great applause.' Biog. Dram. ii. 314. A third edition appeared in 1725. [The Briton had been produced the previous year.]





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 2.

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 prejudice3. 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 5.

In December, 1726, he was made secretary to the Lord Chancellor, and in August, 1733, became judge of the Prerogative Court 6.

It came out twice a week from March 24, 1718, to Sept. 30, 1720. See Cibber's Lives, v. 132.

2 Ante, SWIFT, 81. He was made Bishop in 1719 and Archbishop in 1724.

3 It is so explained in the first number. This use of freethinker is not noticed either in Johnson's Dict. or in the New Eng. Dict.

'Does not one table Bavius still

Still to one bishop Philips seem a

wit?' POPE, Prol. Sat. 1. 99. 5 Cibber's Lives, v. 133. Swift wrote to Pope on Sept. 29, 1725:— 'I have not seen Philips, though formerly we were so intimate [ante, PHILIPS, 4 n. 3].' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 55. On Nov. 26 he wrote: Mr. Philips is fort chancelant whether he shall turn parson or no. But all employments here are engaged or in reversion.

Cast wits and cast beaux have a proper sanctuary in the Church. Yet we think it a severe judgment that a fine gentleman, and so much the finer for hating ecclesiastics, should be a domestic humble retainer to an Irish prelate. He is neither secretary nor gentleman-usher, yet serves in both capacities.' Ib. p. 62.

On July 8, 1726, Swift wrote to Sheridan: There is not so despised a creature here as your friend with the soft verses on children. I heartily pity him.' Swift's Works, xvii. 38. Nevertheless in Apollo's Edict he


'Simplicity alone can grace
The manners of the rural race.
Theocritus and Philips be
Your guides to true simplicity.'
Ib. xiv. 129.

In Gent. Mag. Sept. 1734, p. 512, is his appointment as Register (not Judge) of the Prerogative Court at

After the death of his patron' he continued some years in 32 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 living3, and to him he dedicated his poems collected into a volume.

Having purchased an annuity of four hundred pounds, he now 33 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 seventy-eighth year.

Of his personal character all that I have heard is that he was 34 eminent for bravery and skill in the sword, and that in conversation he was solemn and pompous'. He had great sensibility of censure, if judgement 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


Dublin. Macaulay, repeating Johnson's mistake, adds to it by making Philips's appointment one of the splendid rewards of literary merit which ceased with Walpole's administration. Johnson,' he says, 'came up to London' in 'a dark night between two sunny days.' Essays, i. 394. Walpole had been first minister thirteen years when the appointment was made, and Philips had held office but three years when Johnson came up to London.

Boulter died on Sept. 28, 1742. Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 499. For his character see ib. p. 547.

In the notice of his death the following year he is described as 'the last survivor of the excellent authors of the Spectators. Tatlers, and Guardians. Gent. Mag. 1749, p. 284.

3 The Duke lived twenty years longer. For the Dedication see Eng. Poets, lvii. 3.

• Cibber's Lives, v. 142.

5 Hawkins (Life of Johnson, p. 429) mentions finding in the Life of the Lord Keeper Guilford (ed. 1742, p. 226) 'the case of the Duke of Buckinghamshire and Ambrose Philips,

who had purchased of the duke an estate as for Mr. Heneage Finch, but in truth for himself, at £2,000 less. than he would have sold it for to anybody but Mr. Finch.'

Gent. Mag. 1749, p. 284. He was seventy-four. Ante, PHILIPS, I N. 'Dr. Young reported how 'in a conversation Philips asked what sort of person they supposed Julius Caesar was. He was answered that from medals, &c., it appeared that he was a small man, and thin-faced. "Now for my part," said Ambrose, "I should take him to have been of a lean make, pale complexion, extremely neat in his dress, and five feet seven inches high"-an exact description of Philips himself.' Spence's Anec. P. 375.

Pope calls him 'lean Philips,' and describes him under the character of Macer. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iv. 467, 482; Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 269. He and Prior (ante, PRIOR, 45 n.) were perhaps the only lean men among the 'wits' of the age.

8 There is a bare mention of him in John. Letters, ii. 325.

« PreviousContinue »