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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.


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