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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 Bulby's scholars to the care first of Fell, and afterwards of Aldrich. Here he was distinguished as a genius eminent among the eminent, and for friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phadra and Hippolytus. The profession which he intended to follow was that of Physick; 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 Splendid Shilling, which struck the publick 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 talk, but that his friends urged it upon him. It
“ 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 “ fo skilful in this art, that they could expreis any mcasures with “ their fingers. I remember that more than once I have fallen “ into the hands of men of this fort, who could imitate any mea“ sure of songs in combing the hair, so as sometimes to expreis “ very intelligibly Iainbies, Trochees, Daét;ls, &c. from whence “ there arose to me no finall delight.” See his Treutile de l'oematum cantu & viribus Rythmi. Oxon. 1673. p. 62. H.
appears that he wrote this poem at the house of Mr. St. John.
Blenbeim was published in 1705. The next year produced his great 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 Georgick, 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 Laft Day; 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, afterwards 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 ta Dr. Freinde
His Epitaph at Hereford:
Si Tumulum defideras,
Teftetur hoc faxum
His Epitaph at Westminster:
Herefordiæ conduntur Offa,
Immortale suum Ingenium,
Miro animi candore,
In illo Musarum Domicilio
A Græcis Latinisque fontibus feliciter deducta,
Primnoque pæne par.
Et videt, & assecutus est,
Fas fit Huic,
Alterum tibi latus claudere,
Non dedecebit Chorum.
SIMON HARCOURT, Miles,
Quoad viveret Fautor,
Hoc illi Saxum poni voluit.
Salop. Filius, natus est Bamptoniæ
In agro Oxon. Dec. 30, 1676.
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 inaladies 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 pleasure of bis 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 repu. tation 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 thouglit precluded by the ancient Centos. To degrade the founding 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 coinmon life, and even adapt it with more art, which would not be difficult, must yet expect but a sinall part of the praise which Philips has obtained; he