« PrejšnjaNaprej »
kind words; fince he was reduced to tranflate the "Perfian Tales" for Tonfon, for which he was afterwards reproached, with this addition of contempt, that he worked for half-a-crown. The book is divided into many fections, for each of which if he received half-a-crown, his reward, as writers then were paid, was very liberal; but half-a-crown had a mean found.
He was employed in promoting the principles of his party, by epitomifing Hacket's "Life of Arch"bishop Williams." The original book is written with fuch depravity of genius, fuch mixture of the fop and pedant, as has not often appeared. The epitome is free enough from affectation, but has little fpirit or vigour.
In 1712 he brought upon the ftage "The Diftreft "Mother," almost a tranflation of Racine's "An
dromaque." Such a work requires no uncommon powers, but the friends of Philips exerted every art to promote his intereft. Before the appearance of the play, a whole "Spectator," none indeed of the beft, was devoted to its praise; while it yet continued to be acted, another "Spectator" was written, to tell what impreffion it made upon Sir Roger; and on the first night a felect audience, fays Pope *, was called together to applaud it.
It was concluded with the moft fuccefsful Epilogue that was ever yet spoken on the English theatre. The three first nights it was recited twice; and not only continued to be demanded through the run, as it is termed, of the play, but whenever it is recalled
to the stage, where by peculiar fortune, though a copy from the French, it yet keeps its place, the Epilogue is fill expected, and is ftill fpoken.
The propriety of Epilogues in general, and confe. quently of this, was queftioned by a correspondent of the Spectator," whofe Letter was undoubtedly admitted for the fake of the answer, which foon followed, written with much zeal and acrimony. The attack and the defence equally contributed to ftimulate curiofity and continue attention. It may be difcovered in the defence, that Prior's Epilogue to "Phædra" had a little excited jealousy; and something of Prior's plan may be discovered in the performance of his rival. Of this diftinguished Epilogue the reputed author was the wretched Budgel, whom Addison used to denominate "the man who calls ❝me coufin;" and when he was afked how fuch a filly fellow could write fo well, replied, "The Epilogue was quite another thing when I faw it first." It was known in Tonfon's family, and told to Garrick, that Addison was himself the author of it, and that, when it had been at firft printed with his name, he came early in the morning, before the copies were distributed, and ordered it to be given to Budgel, that it might add weight to the folicitation which he was then making for a place.
Philips was now high in the ranks of literature. His play was applauded; his tranflations from Sappho had been published in the " Spectator;" he was an important and diftinguished affociate of clubs witty and political; and nothing was wanting to his happinefs, but that he should be fure of its continuance
The work which had procured him the first notice from the publick was his Six Paftorals, which, flattering the imagination with Arcadian scenes, probably found many readers, and might have long paffed as a pleasing amusement, had they not been unhappily too much commended.
The ruftic poems of Theocritus were fo highly valued by the Greeks and Romans, that they attracted the imitation of Virgil, whofe Eclogues feem to have been confidered as precluding all attempts of the fame kind; for no fhepherds were taught to fing by any fucceeding poet, till Nemefian and Calphurnius ventured their feeble efforts in the lower age of Latin literature.
At the revival of learning in Italy, it was foon difcovered that a dialogue of imaginary fwains might be compofed with little difficulty; because the converfation of fhepherds excludes profound or refined fentiment; and, for images and defcriptions, Satyrs and Fauns, and Naiads and Dryads, were always within call; and woods and meadows, and hills and rivers, fupplied variety of matter, which, having a natural power to footh the mind, did not quickly cloy it.
Petrarch entertained the learned men of his age with the novelty of modern Paftorals in Latin. Being not ignorant of Greek, and finding nothing in the word Eclogue of rural meaning, he fuppofed it to be corrupted by the copiers, and therefore called his own productions Eglegues, by which he meant to exprefs the talk of goatherds, though it will mean only the talk of goats. This new name was adopted
by fubfequent writers, and amongst others by our Spenfer.
More than a century afterwards (1498) Mantuan publifhed his Bucolicks with fuch fuccefs, that they were foon dignified by Badius with a comment, and, as Scaliger complained, received into fchools, and taught as claffical; his complaint was vain, and the practice, however injudicious, fpread far, and continued long. Mantuan was read, at least in fome of the inferior schools of this kingdom, to the beginning of the prefent century. The fpeakers of Mantuan carried their difquifitions beyond the country, to cenfure the corruptions of the Church; and from him Spenfer learned to employ his fwains on topicks of controversy.
The Italians foon transferred Paftoral Poetry into their own language: Sannazaro wrote Arcadia," in profe and verfe; Taffo and Guarini wrote "Favole "Boschareccie," or Sylvan Dramas; and all nations of Europe filled volumes with Thryfis and Damon, and Theftylis and Phyllis.
Philips thinks it "fomewhat ftrange to conceive "how, in an age fo addicted to the Mufes, Paftoral "Poetry never comes to be fo much as thought upon." His wonder feems very unfeasonable; there had never, from the time of Spenfer, wanted writers to talk occafionally of Arcadia and Strephon; and half the book, in which he first tried his powers, confifts of dialogues on Queen Mary's death, between Tityrus and Corydon, or Mopfus and Menalcas. A feries or book of Paftorals, however, I know not that any one had then lately published.
Not long afterwards Pope made the first display of powers in four Paftorals, written in a very different form. Philips had taken Spenfer, and Pope took Virgil for his pattern. Philips endeavoured to be natural, Pope laboured to be elegant.
Philips was now favoured by Addifon, and by Addison's companions, who were very willing to push him into reputation. The "Guardian" gave an account of Paftoral, partly critical, and partly hiftorical; in which, when the merit of the modern is compared, Taffo and Guarini are cenfured for remote thoughts and unnatural refinements; and, upon the whole, the Italians and French are all excluded from rural poetry; and the pipe of the paftoral mufe is tranfmitted by lawful inheritance from Theocritus to Virgil, from Virgil to Spenfer, and from Spenfer to Philips.
With this inauguration of Philips, his rival Pope was not much delighted; he therefore drew a comparison of Philips'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 Philips. The defign of aggrandizing himfelf he difguifed with fuch dexterity, that, though Addison difcovered it, Steele was deceived, and was afraid of difpleafing 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 praife or fatire, there was no proportion between the combatants; but Philips, though he could not prevail by wit, hoped