« AnteriorContinua »
In 1684, having buried his first wife, of the family of Bagot, who left him no child, he married a daughter of the Earl of Northampton, celebrated both for beauty and understanding.
He received some favourable notice from King James; but soon found it necessary to oppose the violence of his innovations, and with some other lords appeared in Westminster Hall to countenance the bishops at their trial. As enormities grew every day less supportable, he found it necessary to concur in the Revolution. He was one of those lords who sat every day in council to preserve the public peace, after the king's departure; and, what is not the most illustrious action of his life, was employed to conduct the Princess Anne to Nottingham with a guard, such as might alarm the populace, as they passed, with false apprehensions of her danger. Whatever end may be designed, there is always something despicable in a trick.
He became, as may be easily supposed, a favourite of King William, who, the day after his accession, made him lord chamberlain of the household, and gave him afterwards the garter. He happened to be among those that were tossed with the king in an open boat sixteen hours, in very rough and cold weather, on the coast of Holland. His health afterwards declined; and on January 19, 1705-6, he died at Bath.
He was a man whose elegance and judgment were universally confessed, and whose bounty to the learned and witty was generally known. To the indulgent affection of the public, Lord Rochester bore ample testimony in this remark: I know not how it is, but Lord Buckhurst may do what he will, yet is never in the wrong.
If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot wonder that his works were praised. Dryden, whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his beneficence, and who lavished his blandishments on those who are not known to have so well deserved them, undertaking to produce authors of our own country superior to those of antiquity, says, I would instance your lordship in satire, and Shakspeare in tragedy. Would it be imagined that, of this rival to antiquity, all the satires were little personal invectives, and that his longest composition was a song of eleven stanzas?
The blame, however, of this exaggerated praise falls on the encomiast, not upon the author; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the effusions of a man of wit; gay, vigorous, and airy. His verses to Howard show great fertility of mind; and his Dorinda has been imitated by Pope.
EORGE STEPNEY, descended from the Stepneys of Prendergast, in Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster in 1663. Or his father's condition or fortune we have no account. Having reIceived the first part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the college, he went at nineteen to Cambridge, where he continued a friendship begun at school with Mr. Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax. They came to London together, and are said to have been invited into public life by the Earl of Dorset.
His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that his time seems to have been spent in negotiations. In 1692 he was sent envoy to the Elector of Brandenburgh; in 1693, to the imperial court; in 1694, to the Elector of Saxony; in 1696, to the Electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the Congress at Frankfort; in 1698, a second time to Branden
*He was entered of Trinity College, and took his master's degree in 1689.
burgh; in 1699, to the King of Poland; in 1701 again to the emperor; and in 1706 to the States General. In 1697 he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, and not long. He died in 1707; and is buried in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed oll
It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made grey authors blush. I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to public honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may perhaps be found, and now and then a short composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit, or the vigour of nature.
OHN PHILIPS was born on the 30th of December, 1676, at Bampton, in Oxfordshire; of which place his father, Dr. Stephen Philips, Archdeacon of Salop, was minister. The first part of his education was domestic; after which, he was sent to Winchester, where, as we are told by Dr. Sewel, his biographer, he was soon distinguished by the superiority of his exercises; and, what is less easily to be credited, so much endeared himself to his schoolfellows by his civility and good-nature, that they, without murmur or ill-will, saw him indulged by the master with particular immunities. It is related, that, when he was at school, he seldom mingled in play with the other boys, but retired to his chamber; where his sovereign pleasure was to sit, hour after hour, while his hair was combed by somebody, whose service he found means to procure. 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 Busby'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 Phædra and Hippolytus. The profession which he intended to follow was that of physic; 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 public 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 task, but that his friends urged it upon him. It appears that he wrote this poem at the house of Mr. St. John.
Blenheim was published in 1705. The next year produced his greatest work, the poem upon Ĉider, in two books; which was received with loud praises, and continued long to be read, as an imitation of Virgil's Georgic, 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 Last Day; a subject on which no mind can hope to equal expectation.gun
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.
* Isaac Vossius relates, that he also delighted in having his hair combed when he could have it done by barbers or other persons skilled in the rules of prosody. Of the passage that contains this ridiculous fancy, the following is a translation: "Many 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 so skilful in this art, that they could express any measures with their fingers. I remember that more than once I have fallen into the hands of men of this sort, who could imitate any measure of songs in combing the hair, so as sometimes to express very intelligibly iambics, trochees, dactyls, &c. from whence there arose to me no small delight." See his Treatise de Poematum cantu et viribus Rythmi. Oxon. 1673, p. 62.
The inscription at Westminster was written, as I have heard, by Dr. Atter. bury, though commonly given to Dr. Freind.
Litterarum Amoniorum sitim,
Præclaris Emulorum studiis excitatus,
A Græcis Latinisque fontibus feliciter deducta,
Atticis Romanisque auribus omnino digna,of bastatur orgijas
Antiquo illo, libero multiformi
Ad res ipsas apto prorsus, et attemperato,
Non numeris in eundem ferè orbem redeuntibus,
unmambo Non Clausularum similiter cadentium sono bilo
Uni in hoc laudis genere Miltono secundus,
Primoque pone Par.
Questell nomid Res seu Tenues, seu Grandes, seu Mediocres
Nusquam, non quod decuit,
Et videt, et assecutus est,
gregius, quocunque Stylum verteret,
06 adu bus Fas sit Huic, soldier wife mi
Bob he won O Poesis Anglicano Pater, atque Conditor, Chaucere,ple or share alf Moment to shaoil with t Alterum tibi latus claudere,
Vatum certe Cineres, tuos undique stipantium
Non dedecebit Chorum.godine Moze Indy! esobiv to mSIMON HARCOURT Miles,
Viri benè de se, de Litteris meriti
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 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 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 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 litttle 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 music 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.