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he was an important and distinguished associate of clubs witty and political; and nothing was wanting to his happiness, but that he should be sure of its continuance.
The work which had procured him the first notice from the public was his Six Pastorals, which, flattering the imagination with Arcadian scenes, probably found many readers, and might have long passed as a pleasing amusement, had they not been unhappily too much commended.
The rustic poems of Theocritus were so highly valued by the Greeks and Romans, that they attracted the imitation of Virgil, whose Eclogues seem to have been considered as precluding all attempts of the same kind; for no shepherds were taught to sing by any succeeding poet, till Nemesian and Calphurnius ventured their feeble efforts in the lower age of Latin literature.
At the revival of learning in Italy, it was soon discovered that a dialogue of imaginary swains might be composed with little difficulty ; because the conversation of shepherds excludes profound or refined sentiment; and, for 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 copies, and therefore call
OF the birth or early part of the life of AMBROSE PHILIPS I have not been able to find
any account. His academical education he received at St. John's College in Cambridge, where he first solicited the notice of the world by some English verses, in the collection published by the University on the death of Queen Mary.
From this time how he was employed, or in what station he passed his life, is not yet discovered. He must have published his Pastoral before the year 1708, because they are evidently prior to those of Pope.
He afterwards (1709) addressed to the universal patron, the Duke of Dorset, a poetical Letter “ from Copenhagen,” which was published in the “ Tatler,” and is by Pope in one of his first letters mentioned with high praise, as the production of a man “ who could write very nobly."
Philips was a zealous Whig, and therefore easily found access to Addison and Steele ; but his ardour seems not to have procured him any thing more than
kind words; since he was reduced to translate the “ Persian Tales” for Tonson, for which he was afterwards reproached, with this addition of contempt, that he worked for half-a-crown. The book is divided into many sections, 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 sound.
He was employed in promoting the principles of his party, by epitomising Hacket’s “ Life of Arch
bishop Williams.” The original book is written with such depravity of genius, such mixture of the fop and pedant, as has not often appeared. The epitome is free enough from affectation, but has little spirit or vigour. In 1712 he brought upon the stage “ The Dis
trest “Mother," almost a translation of Racine's “ Andromaque.” Such a work requires no uncommon powers; but the friends of Philips exerted every art to promote his interest. Before the appearance of the play, a whole “Spectator," none indeed of the best, was devoted to its praise; while it yet continued to be acted, another “ Spectator" was written, to tell what impression it made upon Sir Roger; and on the first night, a select audience, says Pope,* was called together to applaud it.
It was concluded with the most successful 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
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 disaffected 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 with detaining in his hands the subscriptions for Homer 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 suffer 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 he 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 famé already acquired, till after nine
produced (1722) “ 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 dramatic 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 remembered 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 charity 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