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F the birth or early part of the life of AMBROSE PHILIPS
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 2.
From this time how he was employed, or in what station he passed his life, is not yet discovered 3. He must have published his Pastorals before the year 1708, because they are evidently prior to those of Pope 5.
3 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
In Cibber's Lives, v. 122, no account is given of Philips's early life.
The entry of his admission as subsizar at St. John's College on June 15, 1693, shows that he was eighteen, born in Shropshire, 'filius pannicularii' [son of a draper]. Admissions to St. John's Coll. 1893, Pt. ii. p. 131. He was admitted Fellow on March 28, 1699. Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 259.
I would have had,' said Johnson, 'at every coronation and every death of a King, every Gaudium and every Luctus, University verses in as many languages as can be acquired.' Boswell's Johnson, ii. 371.
For Addison's verses on Queen Mary see ante, ADDISON, 14, and for Prior's, see ante, PRIOR, 8. Johnson was shown Bentham's Luctus on the death of George II. Bentham's Works, x. 41. Philips's verses are not included in his collected poems, 1748, or in Eng. Poets. They are quoted in The Art of Sinking as an example of the 'Alamode Style,'
which is as durable and extensive as the poem itself.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), x. 391.
3 In 1700 was published his abridgement of Hacket's Life of Williams, post, PHILIPS, 5; and in 1703 he wrote a poem From Holland to a Friend in England, Eng. Poets, lvii. 43.
Eng. Poets,lvii. 5. They appeared with those of Pope in vol. vi (1709) of Tonson's Misc. Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 259. Some of them were very possibly in circulation earlier. For Addison's reference to them see, post, PHILIPS, II N. 5 Ante, POPE, 33.
6 It is entitled To the Earl of Dorset, and is dated 'Copenhagen, March 9, 1709. Eng. Poets, lvii. 45. The Earl was created Duke in 1720. Collins's Peerage, i. 785. Johnson calls Dorset's father the universal patron.' Ante, HALIFAX, 5. In two other places he calls him
Duke of Dorset. Ante, DRYDEN, 27; PRIOR, 18. He probably confused the two men. Addison wrote
mentioned with high praise, as the production of a man 'who could write very nobly1.'
Philips was a zealous Whig, and therefore easily found access 4 to Addison and Steele2; but his ardour seems not to have procured him any thing more than kind words 3, since he was reduced to translate The Persian Tales for Tonson, for which he was afterwards reproached, with this addition of contempt, that he worked for half-a-crown 5. The book is divided into many
to Philips: I think you should find out some moral topic, or reflection, or compliment to Lord Dorset for your conclusion.' Addison's Works, v. 376. The advice was not taken, and his Lordship is only mentioned in the line
'What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring?'
Swift, who mentions the verses on March 22, 1708-9 (Works, xv. 322), must have seen them in manuscript. They appeared in The Tatler of May 7, 1709, No. xii.
• Pope wrote on Oct. 28, 1710:'In the whole I agree with The Tatler [No. x] that we have no better eclogues in our language [than Philips's]. This gentleman, if I am not much mistaken in his talent, is capable of writing very nobly, as I guess by a small copy of his on the Danish Winter.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 106. On Dec. 21, 1712, Pope wrote:- Mr. Philips has two lines which seem to me what the French call very picturesque"All hid in snow in bright confusion lie,
And with one dazzling waste fatigue the eye." Ib. p. 178. 'The opening of this poem is incomparably fine. The latter part is tedious and trifling.' GOLDSMITH, Works, iii. 436.
Ante, ADDISON, 115; SWIFT,
When simple Macer, now of high
First sought a poet's fortune in the town,
'Twas all th' ambition his high soul could feel,
To wear red stockings, and to dine with Steele.'
Warton thought that 'Macer' was
James Moore Smyth (alias James Moore, ante, POPE, 361). Warton's Pope, ii. 319. Philips was almost certainly meant.
In Pope's Barbarous Revenge on Mr. Curll, among the 'Instructions to a porter how to find Mr. Curll's authors' is the following:-'At a blacksmith's shop in the Friars, a Pindaric writer in red stockings.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), x. 471.
Steele wrote to Swift on Oct. 8, 1709:- Mr. Philips is still a shepherd, and walks very lonely through this unthinking crowd in London.' Swift's Works, xv. 332. On Dec. 15, 1710, when the Tories were in power, Swift wrote to Stella :-'Addison is soliciting me to make another of his friends Queen's Secretary at Geneva ; and I will do it if I can; it is poor Pastoral Philips.' Ib. ii. III. On June 30, 1711, he wrote:-' I will do nothing for Philips; I find he is more a puppy than ever. Ib. p. 291. See also ib. iii. 80. For an anecdote of Philips and the bailiff see ante, SAVAGE, 35 n.
The Thousand and one Days. Persian Tales. Translated from the French of La Croix, 1709. Lady M. W. Montagu wrote to Pope from Belgrade in 1717:-I pass for a great scholar with him [a learned Turk], by relating to him some of the Persian tales, which I find are genuine. At first he believed I understood Persian.' Montagu's Letters, 1837, i. 349.
5 The Bard whom pilfer'd Pastorals
Who turns a Persian tale for half-a-crown.'
POPE, Prol. Sat. 1. 179. 'Pope accuses him of poverty in a
sections, for each of which if he received half-a-crown his reward, as writers then were paid, was very liberal'; but half-a-crown had a mean sound 2.
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 3.
In 1712 he brought upon the stage The Distrest Mother, almost a translation of Racine's Andromaque. Such a work requires no uncommon powers 5; but the friends of Philips exerted every art to promote his interest. Before the appearance of the play a whole Spectator, none indeed of the best, was devoted to its praise; while it yet continued to be acted another Spectator
couplet wherein a falsehood is told in bad English.' SOUTHEY, Specimens, ii. 112.
The Introduction and the first 'Ten Days' fill seventy pages of a duodecimo in fair type. Johnson, who 'wrote 48 octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a sitting' (ante, SAVAGE, App. FF), could have probably earned his eleven half-crowns for translating these eleven sections. Pope, in 1739, described Johnson as choosing rather to die upon the road [on his way to Dublin] than be starved to death in translating for booksellers.' Boswell's Johnson, i. 133.
In Joseph Andrews, Bk. iii. ch. 3, a gentleman says that he had by translating 'in half a year writ himself almost blind, and half-worked and half-starved himself to death.'
Thus at the bar the booby Bettes-
Though half-a-crown o'er-pays his
SWIFT, Works, xii. 417. Among the satirists it is the sum given to a woman of the town. See ib. ix. 230.
3 See Appendix P.
4 Lady Strafford wrote on March 25, 1712: Here is a new play which has taken extremly, call'd the distrest mothere. I had not seen it tell last night, for I dont much love Traidys [tragedies], but I think it's a very
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 it2.
It was concluded with the most successful Epilogue that was 7 ever yet spoken on the English theatre. The three first nights it was recited twice, and not only continued to be 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 3, the Epilogue is still expected, and is still spoken *.
The propriety of epilogues in general, and consequently of this, 8 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 5. 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 something of Prior's plan may be discovered in the performance of his rival.
Of this distinguished Epilogue the reputed author was the 9 wretched Budgel, whom Addison used to denominate '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.
No. 335, March 25, 1712, by Addison. It was puffed also, more or less directly, in Nos. 334, 338, 341.
'Many days,' writes Cibber (Apology, p. 283), had our house [Drury Lane Theatre] been filled by the influence of Steele's pen.'
2 'An audience was laid for The Distrest Mother? POPE, Spence's Anec. p. 46; ante, ADDISON, 59.
3 'It never fails bringing tears into the eyes of a sensible audience, and will, perhaps, ever continue to be a stock play on the lists of the theatres.' Biog. Dram. ii. 167.
It was in the part of Orestes in this play that Macready, in 1816, first appeared on a London stage. Macready's Reminiscences, i. 125.
In Brit. Mus. Cata. sixteen editions
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 making for a place'.
10 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.
11 The work which had procured him the first notice from the publick was his six Pastorals3, which, flattering the imagination with Arcadian scenes, probably found many readers, and might have long passed as a pleasing amusement had they not been unhappily too much commended.
The rustick Poems of Theocritus were so highly 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 *.
At the revival of learning in Italy it was soon discovered that a dialogue of imaginary swains might be composed with little difficulty, because the conversation of shepherds excludes profound
'Johnson's wife had heard much the same story from 'Draper, Tonson's partner.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 46. Warton had it from Garrick, who had it from some of the Tonsons. Essay on Pope, ii. 303.
Budgell did not get a place till the accession of George I. Dict. Nat. Biog. 2 Nos. 223, 229; Eng. Poets, lvii.108.
1b. p. 5. You have an admirable hand at a sheep-crook,' Addison wrote to him. Works, v. 383 *.
For Blake's 'twenty drawings to illustrate Philips's Pastorals' see Gilchrist's Blake, i. 273.
Gibbon, writing of the year A.D. 282, says :-'The voice of congratulation and flattery was not however silent; and we may still peruse, with
pleasure and contempt, an eclogue which was composed on the accession of the Emperor Carus.' In a note he adds:- See the first eclogue of Calphurnius.' The Decline and Fall, ed. 1897, i. 338.
Of Numerian, the son of Carus, he says that in an age very far from being destitute of poetical merit he contended for the prize with the most celebrated of his contemporaries.... He won all the crowns from Nemesianus, with whom he vied in didactic poetry.' Ib. p. 347.
According to Professor Bury, 'Calpurnius wrote under Nero. Some of the idylls which were ascribed to him were written by Nemesianus.' Ib. p. 311 n.
*This letter is conjecturally dated 'Dublin Castle, August, 1710.' The Pastorals, first printed in Tonson's Misc. 1709, were published independently in 1710.