1871 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ambrose Philips

Whitwell Elwin, Note in Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 7:55, 57-58, 62n.



He was associated with Dr. Boulter in 1718 in writing a periodical paper called the Free-Thinker, and on the translation of his old friend in 1724 from the see of Bristol to the archbishopric of Armagh, Philips accompanied him to Ireland, and resided in his house. The archbishop was the political agent of the Walpole ministry, he arrived at Dublin in the height of the uproar created by Wood's half-pence, and in the envenomed state of politics, it would have been difficult for his subordinate to keep familiar intercourse with the leader of the rival faction [Swift], even if the previous intimacy had been a fact. It had ceased long before, and, what is fatal to Swift's accusation ["I have not seen Philips, though formerly we were so intimate"], the coolness commenced with himself. "I have had a letter," he wrote June 30, 1711, "from Mr. Philips, the pastoral poet, to get him a certain employment from lord treasurer. I have now had almost all the whig poets my solicitors; but I will do nothing for Philips. I find he is more a puppy than ever; so don't solicit for him." After mentioning in his journal of December 27, 1712, that he had taken a turn with Addison and Philips in the street, and that they "looked terribly dry and cold," he says, "Philips I should certainly have provided for if he had not run party mad, and made me withdraw my recommendation." In the days of his power, Swift held Philips in contempt and refused to befriend him, and now the turn of Philips had come, he could not be expected to displease a genuine patron for the sake of an ill-concealed enemy....

Pope's hostility to Philips originated in jealousy, and if he had been actually preferred for wit his old rival had no reason to sneer at talents which had formerly roused his resentment. But it was because "he had always been hearty in his majesty'd interest, and that of his family," that Archbishop Boulter recommended Philips to the government, and this, says Faulkner, "was a quality for which he could not well have recommended Pope." Philips was of sufficient political importance to be elected secretary to the Hanover club in the reign of Queen Anne, and having fought the battle when the succession was in jeopardy, he had some pretensions to share in the spoils when the victory was won. "He obtained," says Dr. Johnson, "too little notice; he caught few drops of the golden shower. He was only made a commissioner of the lottery, and, what did not much elevate his character, a justice of the peace." He was appointed paymaster of the lottery, not commissioner, in January, 1715, and was made a magistrate for Westminster, not to add to his dignity, but to enable him to pick up an income from fees. They were chiefly extorted from the poor, and Philips is said by Paul Whitehead to have declared, "though poetry was a trade he could not live by, yet he scorned to owe subsistence to another which he ought not to live by."...

It is said in Cibber's Lives of the Poets that the burlesque [of Philips's lines addressed to Miss Carteret] was ascribed to both Swift and Pope, and that each at first took it for the composition of the other. The real author was Henry Carey. He called his parody Namby Pamby, a term which has been incorporated into the English language to designate mawkish sentiment. Namby was the infantine pronunciation of Ambrose, and Pamby was formed by the first letter of Philips's surname, and that reduplication of sound which is natural to lisping children. The laughter Carey had raised against his puerilities did not keep him from publishing a poem, in 1727, on Miss Margaret Pulteney in the Nursery, which commences with the ridiculous line,

Dimply damsel, sweetly smiling.