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Born at Bampton in Oxfordshire Educated at Winchester and Christ
Church, Oxford Publishes “The Splendid Shilling,' • Blenheim,' and · Cider' Death and Burial in Hereford Cathedral · Monument in Westminster Abbey - Works and Character.
John 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 Christchurch, 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 eininent, and for friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phædra and Hippolitus.' The profession which he intended to follow was that of physic; and he took much delight in naturai 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 ‘Cider,' 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,
1 I find it in ‘A Collection of Poems,’ in 8vo., printed in 1701, for David Brown and Ben. Tooke, where it consists of 141 lines. This was followed in 1705 by a stolen and imperfect impression printed by Ben. Bragge, and the same year by the correct copy, viz., “The Splendid Shilling. An imitation of Milton. Now first correctly published. London: printed for Tho. Bennet, at the Half-Moon, in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1705,' folio, 144 lines.
2 • Bleinheim, a poem, inscribed to the Right Honourable Robert Harley, Esq. London: printed for Tho. Bennet, at the Half-Moon, in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1705,' folio. Bennet was then the Tory bookseller, Tonson the Whig bookseller.
3 Rather 1708. Cyder. A poem. In Two Books. London : printed for Jacob Tonson, within Gray's Inn Gate, next Gray's Inn Lane, 1708,' 8vo. On the 27th November, 1707, Tonson entered into an agreement with Philips to give him for his poem of 'Cyder,' in two books, forty guineas; one hundred copies on large paper, and two dedication copies bound in Turkey leather. For a second edition he was to give him ten guineas. On the 24th January, 1707-8, Philips signed the following receipt:
January 24, 1707. Received then of Jacob Tonson forty guineas in full for the copy of a poem intituled . Cyder,' in two books. I say received by me,
These facts I derive from the original agreement and receipt sold (1854) to Mr. Monckton Milnes among the effects of Mr. Pickering, the well-known publisher. I have one of the large paper copies.