John Philips, author of “The Splendid Shilling”, a poem about a debtor who didn’t have a shilling, was born on December 30th, 1676. His life was short. Philips died in 1709, at the age of 32.
Any individual who has a monument in his name in Westminster Abbey has made an impact on people, however short his or her life. Philips’s phrase ’splendid shilling’ is found in a letter from the late 1700’s, which was included in “Ballantyne’s Novelist’s Library”, a work which Walter Scott wrote biographical sketches for, and saw through production after his friend John Ballantyne died. The letter was written by Henry Cheslyn, addressed to his brother John. From that letter:
‘…Tom [Sutton, a friend], as thou knowest, with little more than a splendid shilling in his purse, has as kind propensities to his fellow creatures, as would canonize a bishop, if bishops were canonized for benevolence…’
"The Splendid Shilling" begins:
‘HAPPY the Man, who void of Cares and Strife,
In Silken, or in Leathern Purse retains
A Splendid Shilling: He nor hears with Pain
New Oysters cry'd, nor sighs for chearful Ale;