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1696 to the Electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the Congress at Francfort ; in 1698 a second time to Brandenburgh ; in 1699 to the King of Poland ; in 1701 again to the Emperor; and in 1706 to the States General. In 1697 he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, and not long. He died in 1707; and is buried in Westminster-Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed :
Linguæ, Styli, ac Vitæ Elegantiam,
Plurimas Legationes obiit
Gulielmi & Annæ
Haud raro superaverite
Brevi Temporis Spatio confectum,
On the Left Hand,
Electus in Collegium
Sancti Trinitatis Cantab. 1682.
Cura commilla eft 1697.
Frequentia, huc elatus, 1707. It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made grey authors blush. I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the prefent
age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to publick honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line, may perhaps be found, and now and then à fhort composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit, or the vigour of na
OHN PHILIPS was born on the 30th of De
cember, 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 foon diftinguished by the supericrity of his exercises; and, what is less easily to be credited, so much endeared himself to his schoolfellows, 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 feldom 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 *
* Tsaac Vossius relates that he also delighted in having his hair combed when he could have it done by barbers or other persons
At school he became acquainted with the poets ancient and modern, and fixed his attention particularly on Milton.
In 1694 he entered himself at Christ-church; a college at that time in the highest reputation, by the transinission of Busby'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 friendship particularly intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phædra and Hippolytus. The profeffion which he intended to follow was that of Physick; 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 himi so 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,
filled in the rules of prosody. Of the paffage that contains this ridiculous fancy, the following is a translation : “ Many people “ take delight in the rubbing of their limbs, and the combing of “their hair, but these exercises would delight much more, if the ser6. vants at the baths, and of the barbers, were so skilful in this art, " that they could express any meafures with their fingers. I re" meinber that more than once I have fallen into the hands of men “ of this fort, who could imitate any measure of songs in combing " the hair, fo as sometimes to express very intelligibly lambics, Tro“ chees, Dactyls, &c. from whence there arose to me no small de« light." See his Treatise De Poematum cantu & viribus Rythmi, Oxon, 1673, p. 62.
but that his friends urged it upon him. It appears that he wrote this poem at the house of Mr. 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 Georgic, which needed not fhun 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 whichi no mind can hope to equal expectation.
This work he did not live to finish; his diseases, a Now 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. Asterbury, though commonly given to Dr. Freind.
His Epitaph at Hereford :
Ætat. sua 32.
Si Tumulum defideras,