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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, afterward 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 to Dr. Freind,
His epitaph at Hereford :
Ş Dom. 1708.
Ætat. suæ 32.
Si Tumulum desideras,
Testetus hoc saxuin
His epitaph at Westminster :
Herefordiæ conduntur Ossa,
Immortale suum ingenium,
Miro animi candore,
In illo Musarum Domicilio
Carmina sermone Patrio eomposuit
Primoque pene par.
Et videt, & assecutus est,
Fas sit Huic,
Alterum tibi latus claudere,
Non dedecebit Chorum.
Quoad viveret Fautor,
Huc illi Saxum poni voluit.
Salop. Filius, natus est Bamptonice
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 maladies 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 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 offend. ing, 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 praise to the gross incidents of common life, and even adapt it with more art, which would not be difficult, must yet expect but a 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 it supreme excellence. It is indeed
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 heroick 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; bu 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 Georgics, 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 atten
* 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
O! O! labellis cui Venus insidet.
Quam Gratiarum cura decentiun