Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Philipps, Thomas

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PHILIPPS, THOMAS (1774–1841), vocalist and composer, connected with a Monmouthshire family, was born in London in 1774. He became an actor, and his first appearance was on 10 May 1796 at Covent Garden Theatre, when he played Philippo in the ‘Castle of Andalusia.’ His voice was pronounced by critics to be tolerable in point of tone, while his manners were ‘somewhat too gentle for the stage.’ He obtained instruction from Dr. Samuel Arnold [q. v.], and improved rapidly. In 1801 he was engaged at the Crow Street Theatre in Dublin, where, according to the author of the ‘Familiar Epistles,’ he was destined

To bear our opera's whole weight,
The Atlas of our vocal state.

The satirist, while acknowledging Philipps's gift of voice, thought it one better adapted to a room than to a theatre. Kelly, however, proclaimed Philipps in 1826 the best acting singer on the English stage. By that time he had returned to London, where, on 26 June 1809, he appeared at the English Opera House in ‘Up all Night.’ He afterwards took part in the ‘Maniac,’ the ‘Peasant Boy,’ ‘Plots,’ and ‘M.P.’ at the same theatre in 1811. A tour in America is said to have enriched him by 7,000l., but he did not relinquish work, lecturing on vocal art in London and the provinces. Philipps retired early from the stage, taught singing, and composed ballads. He was a professional member of the Catch Club in 1828. He died at the age of sixty-seven on 27 Oct. 1841, from the result of a railway accident.

Philipps published ‘Elementary Principles and Practice of Singing,’ Dublin, 1826; ‘Crows in a Cornfield,’ for three voices, about 1830; the ‘Mentor's Harp: a Collection of Moral Ballads,’ and many songs and ballads.

[True Briton, 12 May 1796; Baptie's Musical Biography, p. 178; Ann. Register, 1841, p. 229; Musical World, 1841, p. 295; Kelly's Reminiscences, ii. 149; Familiar Epistles to F. E. Jones on the Irish Stage, 1806, p. 74; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, vol. viii. passim.]

L. M. M.