Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), American clergyman and author, was born in Boston, Mass., on the 13th of December 1835. Through his father, William Gray Brooks, he was descended from the Rev. John Cotton; through his mother, Mary Ann Phillips, a woman of rare force of character and religious faith, he was a great-grandson of the founder of Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. Of the six sons, four - Phillips, Frederic, Arthur and John Cotton - entered the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Phillips Brooks prepared for college at the Boston Latin school and graduated at Harvard in 1855. After a short and unsuccessful experience as a teacher in the Boston Latin school, he began in 1856 to study for the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the theological seminary at Alexandria, Virginia. In 1859 he graduated, was ordained deacon by Bishop William Meade of Virginia, and became rector of the church of the Advent, Philadelphia. In 1860 he was ordained priest, and in 1862 became rector of the church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, where he remained seven years, gaining an increasing name as preacher and patriot.
Endowed by inheritance with a rich religious character, evangelical traditions, ethical temper and strong intellect, he developed, by wide reading in ancient and modern literature, a personality and attitude of mind which appealed to the characteristic thought and life of the period. With Tennyson, Coleridge, Frederic D. Maurice and F. W. Robertson he was in strong sympathy. During the Civil War he upheld with power the cause of the North and the negro, and his sermon on the death of President Lincoln was an eloquent expression of the character of both men. In 1869 he became rector of Trinity church, Boston. In 1877 the present church was finished, the architect being his friend H. H. Richardson. Here Phillips Brooks preached Sunday after Sunday to great congregations, until he was consecrated bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. In 1886 he declined an election as assistant bishop of Pennsylvania. He was for many years an overseer and preacher of Harvard University, his influence upon the religious life of the university being deep and wide. In 1881 he declined an invitation to be the sole preacher to the university and professor of Christian ethics.
On the 30th of April 1891 he was elected sixth bishop of Massachusetts, and on the 14th of October was consecrated to that office in Trinity church, Boston. After a brief but great episcopate of fifteen months, he died, unmarried, on the 23rd of January 1893. Phillips Brooks was a tall, well-proportioned man of fine physique, his height being six feet four inches. In character he was pure, simple, endowed with excellent judgment and a keen sense of humour, and quick to respond to any call for sympathy. When kindled by his subject it seemed to take possession of him and pour itself out with overwhelming speed of utterance, with heat and power. His sympathy with men of other ways and thought, and with the truth in other ecclesiastical systems gained for him the confidence and affection of men of varied habits of mind and religious traditions, and was thus a great factor in gaining increasing support for the Episcopal Church. As years went by his influence as a religious leader became unique. The degree of S.T.D. had been conferred upon him by the universities of Harvard (1877), and of Columbia (1887), and the degree of D.D. by the university of Oxford, England (1885). In 1877 he published a course of lectures upon preaching, which he had delivered at the theological school of Yale University, and which are an expression of his own experience.
In 1879 appeared the Bohlen Lectures on "The Influence of Jesus." In 1878 he published his first volume of sermons, and from time to time issued other volumes, including Sermons Preached in English Churches (1883).
In 1901, at New York, was published, in two volumes, Phillips Brooks, Life and Letters, by the Rev. A.V.G. Allen, D.D., professor of ecclesiastical history, Episcopal Theological school, Cambridge, Mass., who in 1907 published at New York, in a single volume, Phillips Brooks, an abbreviation and revision of the earlier biography.