William Philips

1675-1734 [or Phillips]; playwright, soldier, The Revengeful Queen (1698) and St. Stephen’s Green (1700); Hibernia Freed: A Tragedy (1722), Belasar[i]ius (1724); St. Stephen’s Green was revived at the Abbey during the Dublin Millenium Celebrations, 1988; poems included in Mathew Concanen, ed., Poems by several hands (Dublin 1722); his St. Stephen’s Green was revived by the Abbey Th. in 1988). DIW ODNB OCIL


St. Stephen’s Green, or the Generous Lovers, ed. Christopher Murray [Dolmen Texts 6] (Dublin: Dolmen 1980) [infra]; Christopher Wheatley & Kevin Donovan, eds., Irish Drama of the Seventeeth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2 vols. (UK: Ganesha Publishing UK 2003) [incls. Hibernia Freed: A Tragedy (1722)]. See also Wells Microcards Edition.

Bibliographical details
St. Stephen’s Green, or the Generous Lovers
, ed. Christopher Murray [Dolmen Texts 6] (Dublin: Dolmen 1980); Introduction and sections, pp.1-32 [1. William Philips; 2. Irish Theatre in the Late 18th c.; 3. St Stephen’s Green and the Drama of Its Time].


Christopher Wheatley, Beneath Ierne’s Banners: Irish Protestant Drama of the Restoration and Eighteenth century (Notre Dame UP 1999) [q.pp.].

[ top ]

William Smith Clark, The Early Irish Stage (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1955; Connecticut 1973), cites St Stephen’s Green, or the Generous Lovers (1699/70), a social comedy and the first play with Irish characters and setting, ‘writ ... for oure Irish stage’, and the first Irish play with Irish background and characters; Philips was son of George Philips, Governor of Londonderry.

Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre (Tralee: The Kerryman 1946), bio-data on William Philips (d.1734); b. Londonderry; ed. TCD. Army Captain; Wincop’s Cat. (A Compleat List of all English Dramatic Poets) has an independent entry for one Captain Philips who wrote Hibernia Freed, but actually the same. He took a commission after he wrote his first play. Works, The Revengeful Queen (London, Drury Lane 1698); St. Stephen’s Green or The Generous Lovers (Dublin, Th. Royal 1700); Hibernia Freed (London, Lincoln's Inn Fields 13 Feb. 1722); Belisarius (Lincoln's Inn Fields 14 April, 1724). St Stephen’s Green is Irish in title only; chars. incl. Feignyouth, Wormwood, Vanity, and Frickwell; love intrigue. Poor, conventional comedy, attended by modest preface. Hibernia Freed ded. Henry O’Brien, Earl of Thomond. Turgesius, the Danish king, has reduced Ireland; O’Neill comes to the assistance of O’Brien whose dg. Sabina he loves; Sabina rejects advances from Turgesius, who demands her and 14 virgins in revenge; O’Neill and other young men dress as the virgins and kill their ravishers in the Danish Camp; Turgesius is led off, and Hibernia is freed. Kavanagh comments, Philips patriotism was not really sincere [as is revealed when Turgesius is made to say, ‘another nation shall revenge my death’, and an encomium of England by the bard Eugenius follows.

C. G. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), William Phillips [sic], Hibernia Freed, dedicated to the Earl of Thomond, and acted Lincoln’s Inn, Lon., 1722; shows Phillips capable of sustained and vigorous verse; plot includes Turgesius and the three Irish kings O’Connor, O’Neill, and O’Brien. Turgesius has a passion for Sabina, O’Brien’s daughter, and demands fifteen maidens as the victor’s due; the girls ask to where veils to spare their shame, and are revealed as O’Neill and O’Connor. The bard Eugenius’s epilogue - ‘another nation shall indeed succeed/ ... They shall succeed invited to our aid/And mix their blood with ours, one people grow,/Polish our manners and improve our minds.’ Duggan thinks, however, that the authors sympathies were less orthodoxically colonial, ‘When we for Honour, Faith or Justice bleed’ - said O’Neill - Gibbets and chains are honourable made/And martyrs with the heroes vie for fame.’ ALSO, William Phillips, St Stephen’s Green, or The Generous Lovers, dated with reference to the Wool Bill, staged Theatre Royal in 1700, and written at the suggestion of the Earl of Inchiquin to whom it is dedicated; chars. incl. Freelove and Aemilia; Trickwell, his servant; Bellmine, Irish gent.; Sir Francis Feignyouth; Wormwood; Vainly; Lady Volant; Timothy Tellpenny; Aemilia is niece to Sir Francis, and Marina, his daughter. The conversation between the lovers is not brilliant. Similar plays by the score in Post-Restoration drama, and Phillips’ does not rise above the merest mediocrity. Yet it must reflect Dublin of the day, a somewhat shallow, gossiping, philandering world indeed. [116] Trickwell, ‘I have known many of them when they came first to London think there is no way so ready to purchase the title of a wit as to ridicule their own country.’

Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986): William Phillips’, in Hibernia freed (Dublin 1722), treated Gaelic aspirations wholly sympathetically; treats of expulsion of Vikings by Kings O’Brien of Munster and O’Neill of Leinster, the former modelled on Brian Boru; dedicated to Henry O’Brien, earl of Thomond. The preface is a sop to the English feeling, Another Nation shall succeed/But different far in manners from the Dane/ .../And mix their Blood with ours, one People grow,/Polish our Manners, and improve our Minds’ (p.59). [p.378-89]

Paul Hadfield reviewing Leon Rubin’s production of St. Stephen’s Green (Abbey 1988), in Theatre Ireland (Sept.-Nov. 1988), p.43: ‘[...] The plot of St Stephen’s Green is embellished by impossibly strained conventions and a clutch of stage Irishmen whose contribution to the play is inversely proportionate to their political integrity. Freelove, an apparently impecunious English squire appears on the scene with his libidinous comrade, local hero Bellmine. They bump into two masked women, Aemilia and Marina taking the air on the Green. These are daughter and ward respectively of Sir Francis Feignyouth who thereby holds the key to the buckos’ material and physical elevation. However the purity of their intentions are for the time compromised by lady Volant, a penniless madam with designs on Feignyouth. The generous lovers’ aspiration on the estate of Sir Francis are finally and inevitably ensured by the fortuitous appearance of another marital appendage of lady Volant’s who, dogged by ill-luck, is determined that his abandoned wife shan’t either climb out of the mire.’ Reviewer believes the play to suffer from two problems, firstly, the dramatists obsessive belief that Dublin rather than London is the place for the talented actor; secondly, his being a naive playwright, lacking necessary range of dramatic or theatrical skills to have any more than an embryonic sense of self-mockery’, all making it a bad choice for the Millenium.


Dictionary of National Biography, gives details: son of George Philips [supra], St. Stephen’s Green, the scene throughout in Dublin; dedicated to William O’Brien, Earl of Inchiquin; a play, Hibernia Freed, produced Lincoln’s Inns Fields on 13 Feb. 1722 and published that year; The subject is the liberation of Ireland and its king, O’Brien, from Turgesius, the Danish invader; the capture and death of Turgesius to be effected by young men attired as maidens. Turgesius. was acted by Quin; dedicated to Henry O’Brien, Earl of Thomond. Belisarius performed Lincoln’s Inns Field theatre Royal and printed Lon. 1724; another trag., Alcamenes and Menelippa, ascribed to Philips in William Mears’s Catalogue of Plays (1713).

[ top ]