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images and descriptions, Satyrs and Fauns, and Naiads and Dryads, were always within call; and woods and meadows, and hills and rivers, supplied variety of matter, which having a natural power to sooth the mind, did not quickly cloy it.
Petrarch entertained the learned men of his age with the novelty of modern Pastorals in Latin. Being not ignorant of Greek, and finding nothing in the word Eclogue of rural meaning, he supposed it to be corrupted by the copiers, and therefore called his own productions Æglogues, by which he meant to express the talk of goatherds, though it will mean only the talk of goats. This new name was adopted by subsequent writers, and amongst others by our Spenser.
More than a century afterwards (1498) Mantuan published his Bucolicks with such success, that they were soon dignified by Badius with a comment, and, as Scaliger complained, received into schools, and taught as classical ; his complaint was vain, and the practice, however injudicious, spread far, and continued long. Mantuan was read, at least in some of the inferior schools of this kingdom, to the beginning of the present century. The speakers of Mantuan carried their disquisitions beyond the country, to censure the corruptions of the Church; and from him Spenser learned to employ his swains on topicks of controversy.
The Italians soon transferred Pastoral Poetry into their own language; Sannazaro wrote “ Arcadia" in prose and verse; Tasso and Guarini wrote “ Favole Boschareccie,” or Sylvan Dramas; and all nations of Europe filled volumes with Thrysis and Damon, and Thestilys and Phyllis.
Philips thinks it “ somewhat strange to conceive how, in an age so ad« dicted to the Muses, Pastoral Poetry never comes to be so much as thought “ upon.” His wonder seems very unseasonable; there had never, from the time of Spenser, wanted writers to talk occasionally of Arcadia and Strephon; and half the book, in which he first tried his powers, colisises of dialogues on queen Mary's death, between Tityrus and Corydon, or Mopsus and Menalcas. A series or book of Pastorals, however, I know not that any one had then lately published.
Not long afterwards Pope made the first display of his powers 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 Jaboured to be elegant.
Philips was now favoured by Addison, and by Addison's companions, who were very willing to push him into reputation. The “Guardian" gare an account of Pastoral, partly critical, and partly historical; in which, when the merit of the modern is compared, Tasso and Guarini are censured for remote thoughts and unnatural refinements; and, upon the wholė, 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 delighted; he therefore drew a comparison of Philip'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 Pbilips. The design of aggrandizing himself he disguised with such dexterity, that, tho' 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.
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 disallected 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 willa detaining in his hands the subscriptions for Iloiner delivered to him by the Hanover Club.
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 sutter by injudicious kindness; Philips became ridiculous, without his own fault, by the absurd admiration of his friends, who decorated him with honorary garlands, which the first breath of contradiction blasted.
When upon the succession of the House of Hanover every Whig expected to be happy, Philips seems to have obtained too little notice; be caught few drops of the golden shower, though he did not omit what flattery could perform. He was only made a Commissioner of the Lottery, (1717), 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 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 (1522) “ 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.
He had not been idle though he had been silent; for he exhibited another tragedy the same year, on the story of “ Humphry Duke of Gloucester.'' This tragedy is only remeinbered by its title.
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 charily will be long honoured.
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 prejudice. 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 preserments, as enabled him to represent the county of Armagh in the Irish Parlianient.
In December, 1726, he was made secretary to the Lord Chancellor; and in August, 1733, became judge of the Prerogative Court.
After the death of his patron he continued some years in Ireland; but at last longing, as it seems, for liis 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 living, and to him he dedicated his poems collected into a' volume.
Having purchased an annuity of four hundred pounds, he now certainly hoped to pass some years of life in pienty 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 eminent for bravery and skill in the sword, and that in conversation he was solemn and pompous. He had great sensibility of censure, if judgment 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 say I'm “ goaded on by love?' After which question he never spoke again."
Of the “Distrest Mother” not much is pretended to be his own, and therefore it is no subject of criticism : his other two tragedies, I believe, are not below mediocrity, nor above it. Among the Poems comprised in the present collection, the “ Letter from Denmark" may be justly praised; the Pastorals which by the writer of the “Guardian” were ranked as one of the four genuine productions of the rustick Muse, cannot surely be despicable. That they exhibit a mode of life which did not exist, nor ever existed, is not to be objected: the supposition of such a state is allowed to Pastoral. In his
other poems he cannot be denied the praise of lines sometimes elegant; but he has seldom much force, or much comprehension. The pieces that please best are those which, from Pope and Pope's adherents, procured him the name of Namby Pamby, the poems of short lines, by which he paid his court to all ages and characters, from Waipole the “steerer of the realm," to Miss Pulteney in the nursery. The numbers are smooth and sprightly, and the diction is seldom faulty. They are not loaded with much thought, yet, if they had been written by Addison, they would have had admirers; litile things are not valued but when they are done by those who cannot do greater.
In his translations from Pindar he found the art of reaching all the obscurity of the Theban bard, however he may fall below his sublimity; he will be allowed, if he has less fire, to have more smoke.
He has added nothing to English poetry, yet at least half his book deserves to be read: perhaps he valued most himself that part which the critic would reject.
W E S
E S T.
I to give a sufficient account; the intelligence which my enquiries have obtained is general and scanty.
He was the son of the reverend Dr. West; perhaps him who published “ Pindar” at Oxford about the beginning of this century. His mother was sister to Sir Richard Temple, afterwards Lord Cobham. His father, purposing to educate him for the Church, sent him first to Eton, and afterwards to Oxford; but he was seduced to a more airy mode of life, by a commission in a troop of horse procured him by his uncle,
He continued some time in the army; though it is reasonable to suppose that he never sunk into a mere soldier, nor ever lost the love or much neglected the pursuit of learning; and afterwards, finding himself more inclined to civil employment, he laid down his commission, and engaged in business under the lord Townshend, then secretary of state, with whom he attended the king to Hanover.
His adherence to lord Townshend ended in nothing but a nomination May 1729) to be clerk-extraordinary of the Privy Council, which produced no immediate profit; for it only,placed him in a state of expectation and right of succession, and it was very long before a vacancy admitted him to profit.
Soon afterwards he married, and settled himself in a very pleasant house at Wickham in Kent, where he devoted himself to learning, and to piety. Of his learning the present Collection exhibits evidence, which would have been yet fuller, if the dissertations which accompany his version of Pindar had not been in properly omitted. Of his piety the influence has, I hope, been extended far by his “ Observations on the Resurrection,” published in 1747, for which the University of Oxford created him a Doctor of laws by diploma (March 30, 1748), and would doubtless have reached yet further had he lived to complete what he had for some time meditated, the Evidence