1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ambrose Philips

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 363.



Ambrose Philips, a Cambridge man and a zealous Whig, became a hack writer in London. His Six Pastorals are rubbish; nevertheless they were dogmatically praised, probably on party grounds, by Steele in the Guardian. This was in the year 1713. Pope, who some years before had published pastorals that were really worth something, but had attracted scarcely any notice, in a later Guardian, No. 40, ironically continued in the same tone, but by instituting a regular comparison between his own pastorals and those of Philips exposed effectually the silliness and emptiness of the latter. Philips, when he had discovered the cheat, was exceedingly angry, and is said to have hung up a rod at Button's (the club frequented by Addison), with which he threatened to chastise Pope. Thereby he but increased his punishment; for Pope not only got Gay to write the burlesque mentioned above, in ridicule of the Six Pastorals, but affixed to his enemy the nickname of "Namby-pamby Philips," which is too just and appropriate ever to be forgotten while Philips himself is remembered. Ambrose also wrote the tragedy of The Distressed Mother, founded on the Andromaque of Racine; this is named with partial praise by Addison in No. 335 of the Spectator; it is the play which Sir Roger de Coverley sees performed on the night of his visit to the theatre.