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A. PHILIPS.

OF

F 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 firft folicited the notice of the world by fome 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 paffed his life, is not yet discovered. He must have published his Paftorals before the year 1708, because they are evidently prior to thofe of Pope.

He afterwards (1709) addressed to the universal patron, the duke of Dorset, a poetical Letter from Copenhagen, which was publifhed 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 eafily found access to Addison and Steele; but his ardour feems not to have procured him any thing more than 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 Archbishop Williams. The original book is written with fuch depravity of genius, fuch mixture of the fop and pedant, as

has

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 Diftreft 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 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 most 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,

Spence.

though

though a copy from the French, it yet keeps its place, the Epilogue is ftill expected, and is still spoken.

The propriety of epilogues in general, and confequently of this, was queftioned by a correfpondent of the Spectator, whofe Letter was undoubtedly admitted for the fake of the Anfwer, which foon followed, written with much zeal and acrimony. The attack and the defence equally contributed to stimulate curiofity and continue attention. It may be discovered in the defence, that Prior's Epilogue to Phadra had a little excited jealoufy; and fomething of Prior's plan may be difcovered in the performance of his rival.

Of this distinguished Epilogue the reputed author was the wretched Budgel, whom Addifon 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

* Spence.

himself

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 copics 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 pleafing amusement, had they not been unhappily too much commended.

The ruftic Poems of Theocritus were fo highly valued by the Greeks and Romans, : VOL. IV.

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that

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