1735 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ambrose Philips

Anonymous, in The Poet finish'd in Prose, being a Dialogue concerning Mr. Pope and his Writings (1735) 48-50.



A. The next Thing which occurs to my Memory is a Flirt at Mr. Phillips; I suppose he means the Author of the Distress'd Mother. Pray what is his Pique of that Gentleman? Can Pope

"Bear, like the Turk, no Brother near the Throne"?

B. One would wonder where you have have liv'd. Did you never hear that there was a great Fracas between Mr. Pope and Mr. Phillips about their Poetical Abilities?

A. Not I indeed. Could they be silly enough to dispute so trifling a Superiority? Indeed I once knew two Sisters that disagreed so much about their Skill at Push-pin, that in irreconcilable Difference ensu'd: But amongst Men—

B. Give me Leave and I'll tell you the Story then. You must know these two Gentlemen, tho' once very intimate, grew jealous of each other, and quarrel'd about their Claim to Parnassus; at last it was left to Mr. Addison to decide whose Title was best; but he unluckily determin'd it in favour of Phillips, and from that Instant Pope could never endure either of 'em. But it did not end here, the Case was refer'd to Aristotle and Longinus; these two Criticks brought an Award, which was in Substance, that there was more Merit in the Distress'd Mother than all Mr. Pope's Works put together. But to be sure they were brib'd, otherwise they could never have given so iniquitous a Sentence.

A. I suppose then it was upon this Account that he takes the Liberty to abuse Mr. Addison in a former Piece, and again in this, in the very same Words. I don't forget that, nor his insolent Account of it in the Testimonies to the Dunciad; but surely he acquiesced in the Judgment of two such great Men.

B. Acquiesce, Sir, that would have been a pretty Joke indeed. No, Sir, he resented it, and in my Opinion in a very proper Manner.

A. As how pray?

B. Why as for Aristotle and Longinus, he determin'd never to read a Word of their Works again. And for this Reason, when he was reduc'd to a Necessity of quoting 'em in his Notes to Homer, he made his Extracts from Dacier and Boileau, as the Learned may easily perceive if they compare his Quotations with the Greek Originals and French Translations. Now by this Means he puts the utmost contempt upon the Former, by preferring the Latter.

As to Phillips, he found a Way to be even with him. But the Booby was testy, and would not take a Joke, but threaten'd to whip Mr. Pope if he could catch him, and used him very Scurvily. Now you know Phillips is a plaguy fighting Fellow, and ten to one he would have been as good as his Word. For this Reason Mr. Pope had too much Prudence to stir abroad till his Adversary was gone to Ireland.