Poems by the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs. Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda
McCain Library & Archives / PR3619 .P4 1667x
For those interested in early modern poetry, especially by women, McCain Library’s 1667 edition of Katherine Philip’s works, Poems by the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs. Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda, serves as a fine example. Katherine Philips (1631-1664) became a significant figure in Restoration period literary circles after she translated in 1663 Corneille’s Pompey and the play was performed in Dublin, where Philips lived at the time. This edition, published posthumously after Katherine died suddenly of smallpox at the age of 34, contains her translations of Pompey and Horace.
Katherine moved as a young woman from London to Wales when her mother remarried. She married at sixteen and began writing poems, many of which focused on intense platonic relationships with female friends. Mrs. Philips belonged to a coterie of men and women who formed a “society of friendship” and used romantic names like Lucasia and Rosania when referring to one another. Katherine was Orinda, her husband Antenor. According to Edmund Gosse, Philips was “the first sentimental writer in the English language…” and, because of her preoccupation with the theme of female friendship, she “invented a new species of literature.” Her relationship with Anne Owen (Lucasia), or at least the persona of Orinda’s feelings toward Lucasia, were particularly, if not overwhelmingly, strong. In fact, when Anne married and moved to Dublin, Katherine, who had family business to attend to there, followed the newlyweds and lived for a time in Ireland.
Poems opens with a letter from Katherine to “Poliarchus,” her name for her friend the royal courtier Charles Cotterel. A short paragraph before the letter describes the situation following the first publication in 1664 of Katherine’s poems. When the collection was published without her knowledge by a James Marriott, Mr. Cotterel took quick action and worked to suppress the publication and distribution of the book. The opening letter is Katherine’s response. She claimed to have never “writ any line in my life with an intention to have it printed.” The collection includes 121 poems along with the plays mentioned above. The McCain copy belonged to renowned literary critic Cleanth Brooks.
To take look at this work, visit the McCain Library & Archives and request PR3619 .P4 1667x.
Text for this "Item of the Month" prepared by Peggy Price, Curator of Special Collections.