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mended 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 his 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 reputation 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 thought precluded by the ancient Centos. To degrade the sounding 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 common life, and even adapt it with more art, which would not be difficult, must yet expect but å small part of the praise which Philips has obtained; he can only hope to be considered as the repeater of a jest.
“ The parody on Milton,” says Gildon, “is the only tolerable production of its author.” This is a censure too dogmatical and violent. The
poem of Blenheim was never denied to be tolerable, even by those who do not allow its supreme excellence. It is indeed the poem of a scholar, all inexpert of war; of a man who writes books from books, and studies the world in a college. He seems to have formed his ideas of the field of Blenheim from the battles of the heroic ages, or the tales of chivalry, with
very little comprehension of the qualities necessary to the composition of a modern hero, which Addison has displayed with so much propriety. He makes Marlborough behold at a distance the slaughter made by Tallard, then haste to encounter and restrain him, and mow his way through ranks made headless by his sword.
He imitates Milton's numbers indeed, but imitates them very injudiciously. Deformity is easily copied; and whatever there is in Milton which the reader wishes away, all that is obsolete, peculiar, or licentious, is accumulated with great care by Philips. Milton's verse was harmonious, in proportion to the general state of our metre in Milton's age; and, if he had written after the improvements made by Dryden, it is reasonable to believe that he would have admitted a more pleasing modulation of numbers into his work; but Philips sits down with a resolution to make no more musick than he found; to want all that his master wanted, though he is
very far from having what his master had. Those asperities, therefore, that are venerable in
the Paradise Lost, are contemptible in the Blenheim.
There is a Latin ode written to his patron St. John, in return for a present of wine and tobacco, which cannot be passed without notice. It is gay and elegant, and exhibits several artful accommodations of classick expressions to new purposes. It seems better turned than the ode of Hannes *.
To the poem on Cider, written in imitation of the Georgicks, may be given this peculiar praise, that it is grounded in truth; that the precepts which it contains are exact and just; and that it is therefore, at once, a book of entertainment and of science. This I was told by Miller, the great gardener and botanist, whose expression was, that there were many books written on the same subject in prose, which do not contain so much truth as that poem.
In the disposition of his matter, so as to intersperse precepts relating to the culture of trees with sentiments more generally alluring, and in easy and graceful transitions from one subject to another, he has very diligently imitated his master; but he unhappily pleased himself with blank-verse, and supposed that the numbers of Milton, which impress the mind with veneration, combined as they are with subjects of inconceivable grandeur, could be sustained by images which at most can rise only to elegance. Contending angels may shake the regions of Heaven in blank-verse; but the flow of equal measures, and the embellishment of rhyme, must recommend to our attention the art of engrafting, and decide the merit of the redstreak and pearmain.
* This ode I am willing to mention, because there seems to be an error in all the printed copies, which is, I find, retained in the last. They all read ;
Quam Gratiarum cura decentium
The author probably wrote,
Quam Gratiarum cura decentium
What study could confer, Philips had obtained; but natural deficience cannot be supplied. He seems not born to greatness and elevation. He is never lofty, nor does he often surprise with unexpected excellence; but perhaps to his last poem may be applied what Tully said of the work of Lucretius, that it is written with much art, though with few blazes of genius.
The following fragment, written by Edmund Smith,
upon the works of Philips, has been transcribed
from the Bodleian manuscripts. “ A Prefatory Discourse to the poem on Mr. Phi
lips, with a character of his writings. “ It is altogether as equitable some account should be given of those who have distinguished themselves by their writings, as of those who are renowned for great actions. It is but reasonable they, who contribute so much to the immortality of others, should have some share in it themselves; and since their genius is only discovered by their
works, it is just that their virtues should be 'recorded by their friends." For no modest men (as the
person I write of was in perfection) will write their own panegyricks; and it is very hard that they should go without reputation, only because they the more deserve it. The end of writing Lives is for the imitation of the readers. It will be in the power of very few to imitate the Duke of Marlborough; we must be content with admiring his great qualities and actions, without hopes of fol. lowing them. The private and social virtues are more easily transcribed. The Life of Cowley is more instructive, as well as more fine, than any we have in our language. And it is to be wished, since Mr. Philips had so many of the good qualities of that poet, that I had some of the abilities of his historian.
“ The Grecian philosophers have had their lives written, their morals cominended, and their sayings recorded. Mr. Philips had all the virtues to which most of them only pretended, and all their integrity without any of their affectation.
“ The French are very just to eminent men in this point; not a learned man nor a poet can die, but all Europe must be acquainted with his accomplishments. They give praise and expect it in their
they commend their Patrus and Molieres as well as their Condés and Turennes; their Pellisons and Racines have their elogies, as well as the prince whom they celebrate; and their
their mercuries, and orations, nay their very gazettes, are filled with the praises of the learned.
“I am satisfied, had they a Philips among them,