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Stephen Phillips Biography

(1864–1915), Eremus, Christ in Hades, Poems, The New Inferno, Panama, Paolo and Francesca, Herod, Ulysses, Nero

British poet and verse-dramatist, born at Somerton, near Oxford, educated at Peterborough Grammar School. He became an actor with a Shakespearian company run by his cousin Frank R. Benson and played leading roles in numerous tragedies. His earlier collections of poetry include Eremus (1894) and Christ in Hades (1896); Poems (1898) gained him a considerable reputation and was reprinted fourteen times by 1904. Phillips's shorter poems tend towards the morbidly sensual lyricism of the Decadents. His longer narrative works frequently display the melodramatic fatalism typified by his ‘The Woman with the Dead Soul’. Among his later collections were The New Inferno (1911) and Panama (1915). Paolo and Francesca (1898) was the first of his numerous verse-dramas; its considerable success led to increasingly spectacular and highly successful productions of his subsequent plays, which include Herod (1901), Ulysses (1902), and Nero (1906). His adaptation of Goethe's Faust (1908, with J. C. Carr) was, however, considered excessively extravagant in production and his fortunes entered a decline. He resumed his activities as a poet and took over the editorship of Poetry Review from Harold Monro in 1913, dying in greatly reduced circumstances in 1915.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)