Page images

lue, if they were always bestowed with equal judge


He continued many years to study and to preach, and to do good by his instruction and example ; till at last the infirmities of age disabled him from the more laborious part of his ministerial functions, and being no longer capable of publick dury, he offered to remit the salary appendant to it; but his congregation would not accept the resignation.

By degrees his weakness increased, and at last confined him to his chamber and his bed; where he was worn gradually away without pain, till he expired Nov. 25, 1748, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.

Few men have left behind such purity of character, or such monuments of laborious piery. He has

provided instruction for all ages, from those who are lisping their first leffons, to the enlightened readers of Malbranche and Locke; he has left neither corporeal nor fpiritual nature unexamined; he has taught the art of reasoning, and the science of the stars.

His character, therefore, must be formed from the multiplicity and diversity of his attainments, rather than from any single performance ; for it would not be safe to claim for him the highest rank in any single denomination of literary dignity ; yet perhaps there was nothing in which he would not have excelled, if he had not divided his powers to different pursuits.

As a poet, had he been only a poet, he would probably have stood high among the authors with whom he is now associated. For his judgement was exact, and he noted beauties and faults with very nice difcernment; his imagination, as the Dacian Battle proves, was vigorous and active, and the stores of knowledge were large by which his fancy was to be fupplied. His ear was well-tuned, and his diction was elegant and copious. But his devotional poetry is, like that of others, unsatisfactory. The paucity of its topicks enforces perpetual repetition, and the fanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative diction. It is fufficient for Watts to have done better than others what no man has done well.

His poems on other subjects seldom rise higher than might be expected from the amusements of a Man of Letters, and have different degrees of value as they are more or less laboured, or as the occasion was more or less favourable to invention.

He writes too ofren without regular measures, and too often in blank verse : the rhymes are not always fufficiently correspondent. He is particularly unhappy in coining names expressive of characters. His lines are commonly smooth and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater measure of spriteliness and vigour? He is at least one of the few poets with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased ; and happy will be that reader whose mind is disposed by his verses, or his prose, to imitate him in all but his non-conformity, to copy his benevolence to man, and his reverence to God.


A. P H I L I P S.

[ocr errors]

F the birth or early part of the life of AMBROSE

Pailips I have not been able to find any account. His academical education he received at St. John's College in Cambridge, where he firft folicited 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 ftation he passed his life, is not vet discovered. He must have published his Pastorals 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 Copenbagen, 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 ithig, 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 found.

He was employed in promoting the principles of his party, by epitomising Hacket’s Life of Archbishop 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 Distrest 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 ap

[ocr errors]

plaud it.

It was concluded with the niost 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 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 Epi. logue is still expected, and is still spoken.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

The propriety of epilogues in general, and consequently of this, was questioned by a correspondent of the Spectator, whose Letter was undoubtedly admitted for the sake of the answer, which foon followed, written with much zeal and acrimony. The attack and the defence equally contributed to stimulate curiosity and continue attention. It may be discovered 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 distinguished Epilogue the reputed author was the wretched Budgel, whom Addison used to denominate * the man who calls me cousin; and when he was asked how such a silly fellow could write so well, replied, The Epilogue was quite another thing when I saw it first. It was known in Tonson's family, and told to Garrick, that Addison was himself the author of it, and that when it had been at first 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 solicitation which he was then making for a place.

Philips was now high in the ranks of literature. His play was applauded ; his translations from Sappho had been published in the Spectator ; 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 publick was his Six Pastorals, which, flattering the i.nagination with Arcadian scenes, probably

* Spence.


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »