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JOHN PHILIPS was born on the zoth 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 fit, 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; a college at that time in the highest reputation, by the transmission of Bulby'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 a friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phedra and Hippolytus. The profession which he intended to follow was that of phyfick; 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 publick attention with a mode of writing new and unexpected.
This performance raised him fo 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 St. John.
Blenbeim 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 difeafes, 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. The inscription at Westminster was written, as I have heard, by Dr. Atterbury, though commonly given to Dr. Freind.
His Epitaph at Hereford :
Ohrdie Fah Anno Dom. 1708.
Si Tumulum desideras,
A Maria Philips Matre ipfius pientissima,
Testetur hoc faxums & officiofus,
His Epitaph at Westminfter :
Herefordiæ conduntur Offa,
Immortale suum Ingenium,
Miro animi candore,
In illo Musarum Domicilio Præclaris Æmulorum studiis excitatus, Optimis scribendi Magistris semper intentus,
Carmina sermone Patrio composuit A Græcis Latinifaue fontibus feliciter deducta. Atticis Romanisque auribus omnino digna, Versuum quippe Harmoniam
Rythmo didicerat. Antiquo illo, libero, multiformi Ad res ipsas apto prorsus, & attemperato, NonNumeris in eundem ferè orbem redeuntibus, Non Clausularum fimiliter cadentium sono
Metiri : Uni in hoc laudis generė Miltono fecundus,
Primoque pene Par. Res seu Tenues, seu Grandes, feu Mediocres Ornandas sumserat,
Nusquam, non quod decuit,
Et videt, & assecutus est,
Fas sit Huic,
Alterum tibi latus claudere, Vatum certe Cineres, tuos undique stipantium
Non dedecebit Chorum.
61MON HARCOURT Miles,
Quoad viveret, Fautor,
Hoc illi Saxum poni voluit.
Salop, Filius, natus est Bamptoniæ
in agro Oxon. Dec. 30, 1676, Obiit Herefordiæ, Feb. 15, 1708.
Philips has been always praised, without contradiction, as a man' modest, blameless, and pious; who bore a narrow 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