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John Philips was bom 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 domestick, 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 school-fellows, 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 antient and modern, and fixed his attention particularly on Milton.
In 1694, he entered himself at Christchurch j a college at that time in the highest reputation, by the transmission of Busby's I i scholars scholars to the care first of Fell, and afterwards of Aldrich. Here he was distinguished as a genius eminent among the eminent, and for a friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phædra and Hippolytus. The profession which he intended to follow was that of physick; 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 j till about 1703, he extended it to a wider circle by the Splendid Shitling, which struck the publick 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 Addifbn, 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 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 Georgick, 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. *. This work he did not live to finish : his diseases, a slow consumption and an asthma, put ». a stop a stop to his studies j 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 j and Sir Simon Harcourt, afterwards 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:
Obiit 15 die Feb. Anno J^om- 1708.
3 |Ætat. luæ 32.
Ossa si requiras, hanc Urnam inspice,
Si Ingenium nescias, ipsius Opera consule;
Si Tumulum desideras,
Templum adi Wejlmonafteriense:
Qaalis quantusque Vir fuerit,
Dicat elegans ilia & præclara,
Quæ cenotaphium ibi decorat
Quam interim erga Cognatos pius & officiosus,'
Testetur hoc saxum A Maria Phi Lips Matre ipsius pientiffima,! Dilccti Filii Memorise non fine Lacrymis dicatum.
I i a His
His Epitaph at Westminster
Herefordiæ conduntur Ossa,
Hoc in Delubro statuitur Imago,
Britanniam omhem pervagatur Fama
JOH ANNIS PHILIPS;
Qui Virisbonis doctisque juxta charus, Immortale suum Ingenium, Eruditione multiplici excultum, Miro animi candore, Eximia morum simplicitate, Honestavit. Litterarum Amœniorum sitim, Quam Wintoniæ Puer sentire cœperat Inter Ædis Christi Alumnosjugiterexplevit, In illo Musarum Domicilio Præclaris Æmulorum studiis excitatus, Optimis scribendi Magistris semper intentus,
Carmina sermone Patrio composuit
A Græcis Latinisque fontibus feliciter deducta,
Atticis Romanisque auribus omnino digna,
Versuum quippe Harmoniam
Antiquoillo, libero, multiformi
Ad res ipsas apto prorsus, & attemperato,
Non Clausularum similiter cadentium sono
Metiri: Uni in hoc laudis genere Miltono secundus,
Primoque pœne Par.
Res feu Tenues, seu Grandes, feu Mediocres