1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Phillips

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 24:451-53.



EDWARD PHILLIPS, one of the nephews of Milton, was the son of Edward Phillips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose to be secondary in the Crown-office, by Anne, sister of the celebrated poet, and was born in the Strand, near Charing-cross, in August 1630, and received his earliest education under his uncle. In 1648 he became a student of Magdalen-hall, Oxford, where he continued till 1651. The time of his death is not ascertained. He published two small works, entitled Tractatulus de carmine Dramatico Poetarum, praesertim in choris Tragicis, et veteris Comediae, and Compendiosa enumeratio Poetarum (saltem quorum fama maxime enituit) qui atempore Dantis Aligerii usque ad hanc aetatem claruerunt; nempe Italorum, Germanorum, Anglorum, &c. These were added to the seventeenth edition of Joh. Buchlerus's book, entitled Sacrarum profanarumque phrasium poeticarum Thesaurus, &c. Lond. 1669, 8vo. But he is better known by his Theatrum Poetarum, or a compleat collection of the Poets, especially the most eminent of all ages, the Ancients distinguish't from the Moderns in their several alphabets. With some observations and reflections upon many of them, particularly those of our own nation. Together with a prefatory discourse of the Poets and Poetry in general, Lond. 1675. Into this work there is, says Warton, good reason to suppose that Milton threw many additions and corrections. It contains criticisms far above the taste of that period, and such as were not common after the national taste had been just corrupted by the false and capricious refinements of the court of Charles II. The preface, however, discovers more manifest traces of Milton's hand than the book itself.

In 1800 sir E. Brydges published a new edition of the Theatrum as far as respects the English poets, and has subjoined very valuable additions to every article. The arrangement in this edition is greatly improved by being made chronological; and industrious research has gathered much curious information from obscure or neglected sources. Few more acceptable presents could have been given to the public, unless indeed the learned and accomplished editor would perform his promise to add a second volume.

To Edward Phillips, Wood attributes the following works, most of which render it probable that he was an author by profession: 1. A new World of English Words, or General Dictionary, &c. Lond. 1657, folio. In this he had made so much use of Blount's Glossographia, without acknowledgment, that the latter complained of the injury in a letter to Wood, and speaks of Phillips, as a "beggarly half-witted scholar, hired for the purpose by some of the law-booksellers," to transcribe that in four or five months, which cost him (Blount) twice as many years in compiling. At last he was provoked to expose Phillips in a pamphlet entitled A world of Errors discovered in the New World of Words, 1673, folio. Phillips had a yet more formidable antagonist in Skinner, who in his Etymologicon takes many opportunities to expose his ignorance. 2. A supplement to Speed's Theatre, 1676, folio. 3. A continuation of Baker's Chronicle. 4. Tractatulus de modo et ratione formandi voces derive tivas Latina: Lingua, 1684, 4to. 5. Enchiridion Linguae Latinae, or a compendious Latin Dictionary, &c. 1684, 8vo. 6. Speculum Linguae Latinae, 1684, 4to. These two last are chiefly taken from Milton's MS Latin Thesaurus. 7. Poem on the coronation of his most sacred majesty James II. and his royal consort our gracious queen Mary, 1685, folio. He also published an edition of Drummond of Hawthornden's poems, in 1656; and translated Pausanias into Latin; and, into English, two novels from J. Perez de Montalvan; and The Minority of St. Lewis, with the politic conduct of affairs by his mother queen Blanch of Spain, during her regency, 1685, 12mo. But next to his Theatrum, we are mostly indebted to him for his life of his illustrious uncle.