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· One of them had made the greatest progress in the study of the law of nature and nations of any one I know. He had perfectly mastered, and even improved, the notions of Grotius, and the more refinedones of Puffendorff. He could refute Hobbes, with as much solidity as some of greater name, and expose him with as much wit as Echard. That noble study, which requires the greatest reach of reason and nicety of distinction, was not at all difficult to him. 'Twas a national loss to be deprived of one who understood a science so necessary, and yet so unknown in England. I shall add only, he had the same honesty and sincerity as the person I write of, but more heat: the former was more inclined to argue, the latter to divert: one employed his reason more ; the other his imagination: the former had been well qualified for those posts, which the modesty of the latter made him refuse. His other dead brother would have been an ornament to the college of which he was a member. He had a genius either for poetry or oratory; and, though very young, composed several very agreeable pieces. In all probability he would have wrote as finely, as his brother did nobly. He might have been the Waller, as the other was the Milton of his time. The one might celebrate Marlborough, the other his beautiful offspring. This had not been so fit to describe the actions of heroes as the virtues of private men. In a word, he had been fitter for my place, and while his brother was writing upon the greatest men that any age ever produced, in a style equal to them, he might have served as a panegyrist on him.
This is all I think necessary to say of his family. I shall proceed to himself and his writings; which I shall first treat of, because I know they are censured by some out of envy, and more out of ignorance.
The Splendid Shilling, which is far the least considerable, has the more general reputation, and perhaps hinders the character of the rest. The style agreed so well with the burlesque, that the ignorant thought it could become nothing else. Every body is pleased with that work. But to judge rightly of the other, requires a perfect mastery of poetry and criticism, a just contempt of the little turns and witticisms now in vogue, and, above all, a perfect understanding of poetical diction and description.
All that have any taste of poetry will agree, that the great burlesque is much to be preferred to the low. It is much easier to make a great thing appear little, than a little one great: Cotton and others of a very low genius have done the former : but Philips, Garth, and Boileau, only the latter. .
A picture in miniature is every painter's talent ; but a piece for a cupola, where all the figures are enlarged, yet proportioned to the eye, requires a master's hand. es
It must still be more acceptable than the low burlesque, because the images of the latter are mean and filthy, and the language itself entirely unknown to all men of good breeding. The style of Billingsgate would not make a very
... agreeable. agreeable figure at St. James's. A gentleman would take but little pleasure in language, which he would think it hard to be accosted in, or in reading words which he could not pronounce without blushing. The lofty burlesque is the more to be admired, because, to write it, the author must be master of two of the most different talents in nature. A talent to find out and expose what is ridiculous, is very different from that which is to raise and elevatc. We must read Virgil and Milton for the one, and Horace and Hudibras for the other. We know that the authors of excellent comedies have often failed in the grave style, and the tragedian as often in coinedy. Admiration and Laughter are of such opposite natures, that they are seldom created by the same person. The man of mirth is always observing the follies and weaknesses; the serious writer, the virtues or crimes of mankind; one is pleased with contemplating a beau, the other a hero : Even from the same object they would draw different ideas; Achilles would appear in very different lights to Thersites and Alexander. The one would admire the courage and greatness of his soul; the other, would ridicule the vanity and rashness of his teinper. As the saty.rist says to Hanibal:
I curre per Alpes
The contrariety of style to the subject pleases the more strongly, because it is more surprising; the expectation of the reader is pleasantly deceived, who expects an humble style from the subject, or a great subject from the style. It pleases the more universally, because it is agreeable to the taste both of the grave and the merry; but more particularly so to those who have a relish of the best writers, and the noblest sort of poetry. I shall produce only one passage out of this poet, which is the misfortune of his Galligaskins :
My Galligaskins, which have long withstood
This is admirably pathetical, and shew's very well the vicissitudes of sublunary things. The rest goes on to a prodigious height; and a man in Greenland could hardly have made a more pathetick and terrible complaint. Is it not surprising that the subject should be so mean, and the verse so pompous; that the least things in his poetry, as in a microscope, should grow great and formidable to the eye; especially considering that, not understanding French, he had no model for bis style? that he should have no writer to imitate, and'himself be inimitable? that he should do all this before he was twenty ? at an age which is usually pleased with a glare of false thoughts, little turns, and unnatural fustian? at an age, at which Cowley, Dryden, and I had almost said Virgil, were inconsiderable? so soon was his imagination at its full strength, his judgment ripe, and his humour complete.
This poem was written for his own diversion without any design of publication. It was communicated but to me: but soon spread, and fell into the hands of pirates. It was put out, vilely mangled, by Ben Bragge ; and impudeutly said to be corrected by the author. This grievance is now grown more epidemical; and no man now has a right to his own thoughts; or a title to his own writings. Xenophon answered the Persian, who demanded his arms, “ We “ bave nothing now left but our arms and our valour; if we surrender the “ one, how shall we make use of the other ?” Poets have nothing but their wits and their writings ; and if they are plundered of the latter, I don't see what good the former can do them. To pirate, and publickly own it, to prefix their names to the works they steal, to own and avow the theft, I believe, was never yet heard of but in England. It will sound oddly to posterity, that, in a polite nation, in an enlightened age, under the direction of rhe most wise, most learned, and most generous encouragers of knowledge in the world, the property of a mechanick should be better secured than that of a scholar; that the poorest manual operations should be more valued than the noblest products of the brain; that it should be felony to rob a cobler of a pair of shoes, and no crime to deprive the best author of his whole subsistence; that nothing should make a man a sure title to his own writings but the stupidity of them ; that the works of Dryden should meet with less encouragement than those of his own, Flecknoe, or Blackmore; that Tillotson and St. George, Tom Thumb and Temple, should be set on an equal foot. This is the reason why this very Paper has been so long delayed ; and while the most impudent and scandalous libels are publicly vended by the pirates, this innocent work is forced to steal abroad as if it were a libel.
Our present writers are by these wretches reduced to the same condition Vir, gil was, when the centurion seized:on his estate. But I don't doubt but I can fix upon the Mæcenas of the present age, that will retrieve them from it. But, whatever effect this piracy may have upon us, it contributed very much to the advantage of Mr. Philips; it helped him to a reputation, which he neither desired nor expected, and to the honour of being put upon a work of which he did not think himself capable ; but the event shewed his modesty. And it was reasonable to hope, that he, who could raise mean subjects so high, should still be more elevated on greater themes, that he, that could draw such noble ideas from a shilling, could not fail upon such a subject as the duke of Marlborough, which is capable of heightening even the most low and trifting gea nius. And, indeed, most of the great works which have been produced in the world have been owing less to the poet than the patron. Men of the greatest genius are sometimes lazy, and want a spur; often modest, and dare not venture in publick; they certainly know their faults in the worst things; and even their best things they are not fond of, because the idea of what they ought to be is far above what they are. This induced me to believe that Virgil desired
his his work miglit be burnt, had not the same Augustus, 'that desired him to write them preserved them from destruction. A scribbling beau may imagine a Poet may be induced to write, by the very pleasure he finds in writing ; but that is seldom, when people are necessitated to it. I have know men row, and use very hard labour, for diversion, which if they had been tied to, they would have thought themselves very unhappy..
But to return to Blenheim, that work so much admired by some, and censured by others. I have often wished he had wrote it in Latin, that he might be out of the reach of the empty criticks, who could have as little understood his meaning in that language as they do his beauties in his own.
False criticks have been the plague of all ages ; Milton himself, in a very polite court, has been compared to the rumbling of a wheel-barrow: he had been on the wrong side, and therefore could not be a good poet. And this, perhaps, may be Mr. Philips's case.
But I take generally the ignorance of his readers to be the occasion of their dislike. People, that have formed their taste upon the French writers, can have no relish for Philips, they admire points and turns, and consequently have no judgment of what is great and majestick: he must look little in their eyes, wlien he soars so high as to be almost out of their view. I cannot therefore allow any admirer of the French to be a judge of Blenheim, nor any who takes Bouhours for à compleat critick. He generally judges of the ancients by the moderns, and not the moderns by the ancients; he takes those passages of their own authors to be really sublime which come the ncarest to it; he often calls that a noble and a great thought which is only a pretty and fine one, and has more instances of the sublime out of Ovid de Tristibus, than he has out of all'Virgil.
I shall allow, therefore, only those to be judges of Philips, who make the ancients, and particularly Virgil, their standard.
But, before I enter on this subject, I shall consider what is particular in the style of Philips, and examine what ought to be the style of heroick poetry, and next inquire how far he is come up to that style.
His style is particular, because he lays aside rhyme, and writes in blank verse, and uses old words, and frequently postpones the adjective to the substantive, and the substantive to the verb ; and leaves out little particles, a, and the ; her, and his; and uses frequent oppositions. Now let us examine, whether these alterations of style be conformable to the true sublime.
W ILLIAM WALSH, the son of Joseph Walsh, Esq. of Abberley in
VV Worcestershire, was born in 1663, as appears from the account of Wood: who relates, that at the age of fifteen he became, in 1678, a gentleman commoner of Wadham College.
He left the university without a degree, and pursued his studies at London and at home; that he studied, in whatever place is apparent from the effect; for he became, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, the best critick in the nation. .
He was not, however, merely a critick or a scholar, but a man of fashion, and, as Dennis remarks, ostentatiously splendid in his dress. He was likewise a member of parliament and a courtier, knight of the shire for his native county in several parliaments; in another the representative of Richmond in Yorkshire ; and gentleman of the horse to Queen Anne, under the duke of Somerset.
Some of his verses shew him to have been a zealous friend to the Revolution ; but his political ardour did not abate his reverence or kindness for Dryden, to whom he gave a Dissertation on Virgil's Pastorals, in which, however studied, he discovers some ignorance of the laws of French versification.
In 1705, he began to correspond with Mr. Pope, in whom he discovered very early the power of poetry. Their letters are written upon the pastoral comedy of the Italians, and those pastorals which Pope was then preparing to publish.
The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him in one of his latter pieces among those that had encouraged his juvenile studies.
Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write. In his Essay on Criticism he had given him more splendid praise : and, in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his judgement to his gratitude.
The time of his death I have not learned. It must have happened between 1707, when he wrote to Pope; and 1711, when Pope praised himin his Essay. Vol. I.