Katherine Philips

Location: Saint John, Canada

I am a third year student who enjoys cooking, reading and watching t.v.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Katherine Philips and her critics

Katherine Philips started writing soon after her marriage and during her lifetime she saw only two of her books in print. The first book was a translation of Corneille's play La mort de Pompee. The second book was an unauthorized book of poems called Poems by the Incomparable Mrs. K.P. in 1664. This book was withdrawn from publication only a few days after it had started on the request of Katherine. She was "discovered" by the poet Henry Vaughan, who not praised her in his work but also wrote a memorial poem about her.

During the time period, Katherine Philips was seen as a respectable woman who was the opposite of the scandal created by Aphra Behn. Because of her refined writing style, Katheine was seen as one of the best-known female poets of the time. Her writing was seen as clean but full of very strong feelings but within the conventions of the time. Katherine was a "safe" female poet for both women and men to read and praise. The modern critics question her female friendships.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Important Sites about Katherine Philips:


Some of the poems written by Katherine Philips and my Analysis on them

Epitaph: On Hector Philips. At St. Sith's Church
What on earth deserves our trust ?Youth and beauty both are dust.Long we gathering are with pain,What one moment calls again.Seven years childless, marriage past,A son, a son is born at last;So exactly limbed and fair,Full of good spirits, mien, and air,As a long life promised;Yet, in less than six weeks, dead.Too promising, too great a mindIn so small room to be confined:Therefore, fit in Heaven to dwell,Quickly broke the prison shell.So the subtle alchemist,Can't with Hermes' seal resistThe powerful spirit's subtler flight,But 'twill bid him long good night.So the sun, if it ariseHalf so glorious as his eyes,Like this Infant, takes a shroud,Buried in a morning cloud.

This poem was wrote for her firstborn, who lived for only six weeks after his birth. I believe that she used her powers as a writer to memorialize her young son and his early death. I also think she used her writings as a way to heal from the tremendous loss of her child. I think she wanted him to be able to live forever which was a common reason to write poetry and she wanted others to remember her son even though he lived such a short life. This is a lovely piece framed in emotions, love, and the bond between mother and child.

To One persuading a Lady to Marriage
FORBEAR, bold youth ; all’s heaven here, And what you do aver To others courtship may appear, ’Tis sacrilege to her. She is a public deity ; And were’t not very odd She should dispose herself to be A petty household god ? First make the sun in private shine And bid the world adieu, That so he may his beams confine In compliment to you : But if of that you do despair, Think how you did amiss To strive to fix her beams which are More bright and large than his.

Katherine uses the image of a sun to help indicate the that a sun (is similar to a woman who gives life to the next generation) who restores life, energy and light; which is the day. She openly criticized marriage and what marriage may reduce women to. I think she believes women are strong beings on their own and don't really need to be married to be strong. "She is a public deity ; And were’t not very odd She should dispose herself to be A petty household god ? " I think it is obvious from this quote that she believes women can have a place in the public world and they do not need to demote themselves to only playing a role in the private household role.

To my Excellent Lucasia, on our Friendship
I did not live until this time Crowned my felicity, When I could say without a crime, I am not thine, but thee. This carcase breathed and walked and slept, So that the world believed There was a soul the motions kept, But they were all deceived. For as a watch by art is wound To motion, such was mine; But never had Orinda found A soul till she found thine; Which now inspires, cures, and supplies, And guides my darkened breast; For thou art all that I can prize, My joy, my life, my rest. No bridegroom's nor crown-conqueror's mirth To mine compared can be; They have but pieces of this earth, I've all the world in thee. Then let our flames still light and shine, And no false fear control, As innocent as our design, Immortal as our soul.

Katherine expresses the love between her and Lucasia as being pure because it is not complicated with sex. This poem is about platonic love, not a sexual love. She compares their love to a soul; and that it is a meeting or connection of two souls. She also uses language depicting a body too; "my darkened breast" and "carcase breathed and walked and slept" which are human actions. In this poem, Orinda's soul is not only given life by Lucasia, but Lucasia's soul actually becomes the enlivened influence of her lover's body: "never had Orinda found / A soul till she found thine" (11-12). The lovers become united in one immortal soul which extends into a even cosmic connection. Katherine believes that one's union with their soul mate is a religious experience that one can participate in heaven with.

Friendship's mystery. To my dearest Lucasia
Come, my Lucasia, since we see That miracles men's faith do move, By wonder and by prodigy To the dull angry world let's prove There's a religion in our love. For though we were designed t' agree, That fate no liberty destroys, But our election is as free As angels', who with greedy choice Are yet determined to their joys. 10 Our hearts are doubled by the loss, Here mixture is addition grown ; We both diffuse and both engross, And we whose minds are so much one, Never, yet ever, are alone. We court our own captivity, Than thrones more great and innocent ; `Twere banishment to be set free, Since we wear fetters whose intent Not bondage is, but ornament. 20 Divided joys are tedious found, And griefs united easier grow ; We are ourselves but by rebound, And all our titles shuffled so, Both princes, and both subjects too. Our hearts are mutual victims laid, While they, such power in friendship lies, Are altars, priests, and off'rings made ; And each heart which thus kindly dies Grows deathless by the sacrifice. 30

Katherine elevates the friendly love between women to a cult of love rather than the ordinary friendships between men. She uses religious words; such as altars, sacrifice, religion, angels, miracles, faith, and priests in order to lift up and sanctify their relationship. She tries to make it holy and right in the eyes of God, even though lesbian love is a sin. It makes me wonder if there really was a sexual relationship between these two women or if it was purely a romantic friendship.

To my Lady M. Cavendish, chosing the name of Policrite.
That Nature in your frame has taken care, As well your Birth as Beauty do declare, Since we at once discover in your Face, The lustre of your Eyes and of your Race: And that your shape and fashion does attest, So bright a form has yet a brighter guest, To future times authentick fame shall bring, Historians shall relate, and Poets sing. But since your boundless mind upon my head, Some rays of splendour is content to shed; And least I suffer by the great surprize, 10 Since you submit to meet me in disguise, Can lay aside what dazles vulgar sight, And to Orinda can be Policrite. You must endure my vows and find the way To entertain such Rites as I can pay: For so the pow'r divine new praise acquires, By scorning nothing that it once inspires: I have no merits that your smile can win, Nor offering to appease you when I sin; 20 Nor can my useless homage hope to raise, when what I cannot serve, I strive to praise: But I can love, and love at such a pitch, As I dare boast it will ev'n you enrich; For kindness is a Mine, when great and true, Of nobler Ore than ever Indians knew, 'Tis all that mortals can on Heav'n bestow, And all that Heav'n can value here below.

This is actually one of the last poems Philips's ever wrote. She is in the middle of a very intimate conversation with a female friend. The name Policrite is the pseudonym that Katherine uses for her friend Lady M. Cavendish. I think Katherine really admires this woman and shows this admiration by describing her beauty in such a suitable and loving way. It reminds me of a patrician love poetry in which the writer describes and compares the woman or the beloved to things in nature, "The lustre of your Eyes and of your Race". I believe that this poem is the highest form of praise for this woman, who Katherine obviously cares and loves deeply.

Some of the other Poems mentioned on our reading list include:
On the Death of my First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips
, born the 23rd of April, and died the 2nd of May 1655. Set by Mr. Lawes
Twice forty months in wedlock I did stay, Then had my vows crowned with a lovely boy. And yet in forty days he dropped away; O swift vicissitude of human joy! I did but see him, and he disappeared, I did but touch the rosebud, and it fell; A sorrow unforeseen and scarcely feared, So ill can mortals their afflictions spell. And now (sweet babe) what can my trembling heart Suggest to right my doleful fate or thee? Tears are my muse, and sorrow all my art, So piercing groans must be thy elegy. Thus whilst no eye is witness of my moan, I grieve thy loss (ah, boy too dear to live!) And let the unconcerned world alone, Who neither will, nor can refreshment give. An offering too for thy sad tomb I have, Too just a tribute to thy early hearse; Receive these gasping numbers to thy grave, The last of thy unhappy mother's verse.

Katherine writes another poem to help herself accept and move on from the death of her infant son. This poem is not in the form of an epitaph as was the poem we earlier looked at concerning her son Hector. I believe she cared deeply for her son and loved him with all of her love that a mother has for her child. She feels that her son was taken from her to soon and that he didn't get to live a full life.

Dialogue of Absence 'twixt Lucasia and Orinda. Set by Mr. Hen. Lawes.
By wayes more noble and more free Can meet, and hold intelligence. Orin. And yet those Souls, when first they met, Lookt out at windows through the Eyes. 10 Luc. But soon did such acquaintance get, Not Fate nor Time can them surprize. Orin. Absence will rob us of that bliss To which this Friendship title brings: Love's fruits and joyes are made by this Useless as Crowns to captiv'd Kings. Luc. Friendship's a Science, and we know There Contemplation's most employ'd. Orin. Religion's so, but practick too, And both by niceties destroy'd. 20 Luc. But who ne're parts can never meet, And so that happiness were lost. Orin. Thus Pain and Death are sadly sweet, Since Health and Heav'n such price must cost.
Chorus. But we shall come where no rude hand shall sever, And there wee'l meet and part no more for ever.

Katherine or Orinda is talking to Lucasia in this poem and the two characters are having a conversation among themselves. Philips wants them to be able to meet and "hold intelligence", which I believe she is referring to the meetings of the Society. I think Katherine is sad because they have been apart and believes that you must be near to reap the rewards of a friendship. I think the woman feel safe being together in the meetings and that no one will tear them apart for their relationship as long as they are in this building. Their meetings are covered by the meetings of the group, therefore giving them a sense of security and safety.

The Society of Friendship 1651-1661

Katherine Philips founded the Society of Friendship in 1651 until 1661 was a semi-literary correspondence circle made up of mostly women, though men were also involved. The membership of this group, however, is somewhat questionable, because the authors took on pseudonyms from Classical literature (for example Katherine took on the name Orinda, in which the other members added on the accolade "Matchless.") It is as "Matchless Orinda" that Katherine is most often known, as this was her usual signature for her writing. It is in this group that the women began writing poems of love and friendship to one another.

Henry Vaughan, a poet, (1622-1695) was probably a member of the group, and was most likely a personal friend to Philips. Her first published work was as a preface to his poems, in 1651. The only other publication of Katherine's work in her lifetime was an unauthorized edition in 1664.

More important are the female members of the circle, especially Anne Owen, who is known in Philips's poems as Lucasia. Half of Katherine's poetry is dedicated to this woman. Anne and Katherine seem to have been lovers in an emotional, if not in a physical, sense for about ten years. Also significant as correspondents and lovers were Mary Awbrey (Rosania) and Elizabeth Boyle (Celimena). Elizabeth's relationship with Katherine, however, was cut short by Philips' death in 1664. These loves are used prominently in her poetry. Because she used the language of courtly love to describe her relationships, their extent and nature are not entirely certain, but the love between these women was most likely platonic. Katherine remarked at times that the love between these women was pure and uncorrupted by the sexual. The poetry does not overtly suggest physical relationships. In fact, Philips' contemporaries often praised her modest, properly feminine subject matter.

Katherine's Works

Katherine's works included a hundred and sixteen poems, five completed verse translations, and she translated two plays by Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) from French to English. The earlier play she translated, a depiction of Pompey, was produced in 1663; which was the first play by a woman to be preformed on the stage in London. It was also preformed, that year, with enormous approval, in Dublin. The later translation, Horace, was not finished in her lifetime. Her work was completed by Sir John Denham (1615-1669) and the play was produced in 1668.

It is in her work that she uses images of tears, sighs and breath to imply friendship. Katherine suggests a connection between the souls and the minds of two friends, and that such a connection is not easily broken.

While most of her poetry was written about her women lovers and were sensual in nature, the poems were viewed as expressions of platonic love, rather than sexual love. Because women did not possess the body parts to complete a heterosexual sex act, their love was seen as pure--something which Katherine remarks upon herself in her poem "To My Excellent Lucasia, On Our Friendship."

Over half of the poems she wrote are written celebrating the relationship with Anne Owen or Lucasia. Her love and female connection with Anne is so strong on many deep levels.

Katherine Philips, literary reputation is obvious by the use of the name Orinda "Matchless" in which other important English writers referred to her as.

My Pages about Katherine Philips

My website is more complex, full and more comprehensive then most of the other sites concerning Katherine Philips and the world of 17th century Britain. I tried to give as complete look at her work as possible while still being brief. I am hoping to inform the people in our class about this amazing female author. Most of the sites I found concerning Katherine were choppy with little to no information about 17th century Britain; therefore giving an incomplete view with no real context or background information.

17th Century Britain

Timeline of some of the major events and incidents in the 17th century in Britain: (around Katherine Philips lifetime.) The turmoil that Britain found itself in over the centuries would of impacted not only the writing by Philips but the roles of women in her society.

James VI (king of Scotland) becomes James I (king of England as well) after the death of Elizabeth I; which unites both countries under one crown. -- March 24 1603

Accession (taking the crown) of Charles I -- March 27 1625

A riot erupts in Scotland -- July 23 1637

The English Civil War begins on August 22 1642

The trial and execution of Charles I -- January 20-30 1649

Abolition of the monarchy --March 17 1649

Charles II is crowned -- Jan. 1 1651

Cromwell becomes Lord Protector -- Dec. 16 1653-1658 during the interregnum

Population of 1603: England: 5 million. Wales, Scotland, and Ireland: around 2 million .

Religion: The official religion is Protestant Anglican (Church of England) but their were Roman Catholics, Quakers, Baptists, Jews, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians.

Money: Currency is comprised of pounds, shillings and pence. The price of food takes up about four/fifths of an ordinary families budget. The diet was quite basic in nature.

Social Hierarchy:
For example, in 1685, there were an estimated 5 million people in England. Of these, 7,000 were lords and bishops; 8,000 knights; 50,000 clergymen; 70,000 lawyers; 250,000 shopkeepers; 750,000 farmers; about 2,500,000 laborers, servants and poor – and 30,000 vagrants.

Gays and Lesbians:
Sodomy is a capital crime and – if convicted – men would be hung. But although men were regularly executed, lesbians – because they would attract less notice – remained hidden from view and were given more leniency and didn't get executed often.

Women's Place in Society:
Women were socially and legally inferior: they were unable to vote, not educated for the most part, barely allowed to trade, and had to be widows before they could control their own property.

Bibliography of Sources for WebSite:

Butler, John. "The Life of Katherine Philips." Luminarium. 30 September 2005. <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/philips/philipsbio.htm>.

Cooley, Ron. Katherine Philips Biographical Introduction. 29 September 2005 <http://www.usask.ca/english/phoenix/philipsbio.htm>.

Gunnar Bengtsson, Poetry Connection. <http://www.poetryconnection.net/poets/Katherine_Philips>.

Jokinen, Anniina. Katherine Philips 1631-1664. 29 September 2005 <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/philips/> .

Literary Encyclopedia The. Philips, Katherine 30 September 2005 http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=3551.

Moody, Ellen. "Orinda, Rosania, Lucasia et aliae: Towards a New Edition of the Works of Katherine Philips," Philological Quarterly, 66 (1987), pp. 325-54. 29 September 2005 <http://www.jimandellen.org/orinda.ordering.poems.html>.

North, Alix. Isle of Lesbos. 29 September 2005. <http://www.sappho.com/poetry/k_philip.html>.

Old Poetry Katherine Philips
Poem Hunter.<http://www.poemhunter.com/katherine-philips/poet-33177/>.

Representative Poetry On-line<http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poet258.html>.
Rozny , Noel and Margaret Vincent. Literature of Eighteenth Century Britain.. 30 September2005 http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/female_friendship/philips.html.

Stiebel, Arlene M. Katherine Philips. 30 September 2005 <http://www.glbtq.com/literature/philips_k.html>.

Wikipeia Encyclopedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Philips>.

Bibliography of contemporary books and articles:

Andreadis, Harriette . "The Sapphic-Platonics of Katherine Philips, 1632-1664," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 15:11 (1989), 34-60.

Barash,Carol. English Women's Poetry, 1649-1714: Politics Community, and Linguistic Authority. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Brashear, Lucy. "The Forgotten Legacy of the 'Matchless Orinda,'" Anglo-Welch Review, 65 (1979), pp. 68-76.

Ezell, Margaret J. M. Writing Women's Literary History. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Grundy, Isobel, and Susan Wiseman, edd., Women, Writing, and History, 1640-1720. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

Moody, Ellen. "Orinda, Rosania, Lucasia et aliae: Towards a New Edition of the Works of Katherine Philips," Philological Quarterly, 66 (1987), pp. 325-54.

Swaim, Kathleen M. "Matching the 'Matchless Orinda' to Her Times" 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era. Vol. 3, edited by Kevin L. Cope, New York: AMS Press, 1997pp. 77-108.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Katherine Philips was born Katherine Fowler on New Year's day, 1631 in London England. John Fowler, her father, was a Presbyterian merchant. She was educated at one of the Hackney boarding-schools, where she became fluent in several languages. These institutions were a school where the beauty of their students were more important then their academic achievement.

After the death of John Fowler, Katherine's mother married a Welshman, Hector Philips, and, in 1647, at the age of sixteen, Katherine was married to James Philips, age fifty-four. James was Hector's son by his first wife.

Although the extreme difference in ages, there appears to have been little conflict between Katherine and James. The only true division there was, was political in nature because she was a Royalist, while he supported Oliver Cromwell. The difference in their political views was noted in her poetry. However, James continued to live on the coast ofWales, while Katherine spent much of her time in London.

He encouraged her literary activities and he left her largely to her own devices. Her time was not idly spent. She bore two children ( a son, Hector, who lived for only forty days, and a daughter, Katherine, who lived into adulthood). She also formed The Society of Friendship, wrote numerous poems, completed translations of verse and translated two poems from French to English.

Katherine Philips died of the epidemic smallpox June 22, 1664 at the age of 33, in London. Her death was mourned in verse by the metaphysical poet Abraham Cowley. The first authorized collection of her verse was not published until 1667, around 3 years after her death. More then a century later, she is admired in a letter to a friend from the author John Keats.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Katherine Philips

I plan on using this blog to help develop my ideas for this amazing woman of the 17th century in Britian