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Philips, John

PHILIPS, JOHN (1676-1708), English poet and man of letters, son of Dr Stephen Philips, archdeacon of Shropshire, was born at his father's vicarage at Bampton, Oxfordshire, on the 30th of December 1676. He was educated at Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford. He was a careful reader of Virgil and of Milton. In 1701 his poem, The Splendid Shilling, was published without his consent, and a second unauthorized version in 1705 induced him to print a correct edition in that year. The Splendid Shilling, which Addison in The Taller called " the finest burlesque poem in the British language," recites in Miltonic blank verse the miseries consequent on the want of that piece of money. Its success introduced Philips to the notice of Robert Harley and Henry St John, who commissioned him to write a Tory counterblast to Joseph Addison's Campaign. Philips was happier in burlesquing his favourite author than in genuine imitation of a heroic theme. His Marlborough is modelled on the warriors of Homer and Virgil; he rides precipitate over heaps of fallen horses, changing the fortune of the battle by his own right arm. Cyder (1708) is modelled on the Georgics of Virgil. Cerealia, an Imitation of Milton (1706), although printed without his name, may safely be ascribed to him. In all his poems except Blenheim he found an opportunity to insert a eulogy of tobacco. Philips died at Hereford on the i5th of February 1708/9. There is an inscription to his memory in Westminster Abbey.

See The Whole Works of ... John Philips . . . To which is prefixed his life, by Mr [G.J Sewell (3rd ed., 1720); Johnson, Lives of the Poets ; and Biographia Britannica.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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