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October 2015

¶ Boethius — De philosophico consolatu (1501)

Source: ¶ Boethius — De philosophico consolatu (1501)

A most satisfying book: Boethius ,a Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius 1501
Boethius 1501

Boetius de philosophico consolatu, siue, De consolatio[n]e philosophi[a]e

Edward Gibbon  in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire  stated that  A consolation of Philosophy  is  “A golden volume not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully.” And C. S. Lewis, in “The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, 1964, rightly tells us “To acquire a taste for it is almost to become naturalised in the Middle Ages.”. The Consolation of Philosophy was the most copied and circulated secular text in the European middlDSC_0084e ages, the influence of Boethius’s Consolatio Philosophiae should not be under-estimated — some four hundred copies survive in manuscript form, making it one of the most widely disseminated pieces of writing during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Even today, this would serve as a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with the history of philosophy, and wanted to take a first plunge in the
company of a great mind from the past.  The Copy I currently have Was Printed in Straßburg Per Iohannem Grüninger, 1501

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This Wonderful copy is bound in its original full calf covered wooden boards, it was blind stamped and had clasps to hold it safely closed, these are now  long gone but their presence can be  traced by the indentations carved in the boards and the remaining brass brads.

Rear Cover
Rear Cover
Front board
Front board

This Edition is illustrated with woodcuts,many of which were colored at the time of printing, making this a visual treat on every page. The type faces and the layout of the pages themselves are exotic to the modern eye and transport us back to a tradition of textual exegesis whix=ch is all but forgotten.DSC_0096 (1)

 

667G Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus Boethius  a.d.480-525

Boetius de Philosophico consolatu siue de consolatio[n]e philosophi[a]e: cu[m] figur ornatissimis nouit expoli

Straßbourg: J. Gruninger, 8 September 1501.                         $Sold

Small folio 11 ¼ x 7 inches. [ ]6, A4, B-X6,Y8. First illustrated edition. In this copy many of the seventy eight woodcuts  have very nice original color, it is bound in full blind stamped calf over wooden boards. It is also rubicated throughout. There are two library stamps and a release Endorsement ‘Dupl. ” Wiener K.K. Theres. It is a large and lovely copy of an important and beautiful book.DSC_0089 (1)

“Boethius is known as author of the Consolation of Philosophy and of several theological treatises. From them no theory of knowledge emerges clearly, for the concern is not primarily there with knowing, although distinctions and differentiations relevant to it are frequent.  The Consolation of Philosophy is committed (by way of Proclus’ commentary on the Timaeus, it has been suggested) to a platonic doctrine of ideas and of reminiscence: the soul is of divine elements on which its knowledge depends; it is in need only of the quickening power of sense perception to arouse it to a knowledge of ideas at rest within it. The developments of that notion bring echoes, one after the other, of pythagoreanism, neoplatonism, stoicism, and augustinism. Yet, as if these came too near to a dereliction from aristotelian principles, Boethius expounds the Trinity, in the work which shows most clearly the augustinian influence, by applying the ten categories to the persons and their relations. At the bottom of these diversified philosophic affiliations is the conviction, often explicit, that there was a single philosophy of the Greeks, to be grasped best in the reconciliation of Plato and Aristotle. That, however, was a lesson Boethius had learned from pagan roman philosophers; even before the coming of Christianity a change in the attitude toward philosophy had instituted a metaphysical conservatism. The distinctions by which the greeks thought to have divided themselves into opposed schools are needless subtleties when abstract thought is to be invoked (as it is in the very title of four works of Seneca and one work of Boethius) for refuge, or salvation, or relief, or consolation” (quoted from Selections from Medieval Philosophers I, by Richard McKeon, page 68-69).

The”Consolation of Philosophie” was written while Boethius was in prison and deprived of the use of his library, on false charges of treason against Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, then ruler of Rome. “Within a year he was a solitary prisoner at Pavia, stripped of honours, wealth, and friends, with death hanging over him, and a terror worse than death, in the fear lest those dearest to him should be involved in the worst results of his downfall. It is in this situation that the opening of the ‘Consolation of Philosophy’ brings Boethius before us. He represents himself as seated in his prison distraught with grief, indignant at the injustice of his misfortunes, and seeking relief for his melancholy in writing verses descriptive of his condition. Suddenly there appears to him the Divine figure of Philosophy, in the guise of a woman of superhuman dignity and beauty, who by a succession of discourses convinces him of the vanity of regret for the lost gifts of fortune, raises his mind once more to the contemplation of the true good, and makes clear to him the mystery of the world’s moral government.”(H.R. JAMES, M.A.,

  1. CH. OXFORD 1897.)

 

In this prosimetrical apocalyptic dialogue, Boethius our narrator encounters Lady-Philosophy , who appears in his time of need, the muse of poetry has in short failed him.  Philosophy  dresses  among great protest Boethius’ bad interpretations and misunderstandings of fate and free will…. One thousand five hundred years later It is still fair to ask, the same questions which Boethius asks..DSC_0100

 

 

And  Philosophy answers:“The judgment of most people is based not on the merits of a case but on the fortune of its outcome; they think that only things which turn out happily are good.”

“You have merely discovered the two-faced nature of this blind goddess [Fortune] … For now she has deserted you, and no man can ever be secure until he has been deserted by Fortune.”

“I [Fortune] spin my wheel and find pleasure in raising the low to a high place and lowering those who were on top. Go up, if you like, but only on condition that you will not feel abused when my sport requires your fall.”DSC_0092 (1)

 

Proctor 9886; Schmidt vol. I, 57; Chrisman C1.1.4,2; Adams B-2283; VD16 B6404; Hind, History of the Woodcut II,339-340; Redgrave Bibliographica II, 53; Not in OCLC. See also Chadwick: ‘Boethius’ 1981 Oxford, and Pelikan, The Reformation of the Bible 1996, p 88, I.8.

 

How Blest Is He

How blest is he who could discern

The bright source of the good,

How blest, for he could slip the chains

Of earth, which weigh men down!

 

— Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (3:12)

 

It is not that often that a book of medieval philosophy has so much direct connection to contemporary situations, yet remains so strange, alas there is a golden chain of being (scala naturae) to be found in this most satisfying book.

 

Acedia, or the last but not least of deadly sins!

septem_peccatis_mortalibus-1500-grayAs is usually the way, when I have more than enough work to already do a book makes it mo my desk and lures me away with a subject or concept new to me and captivates me into letting the undone to stay son (and pile up).  Today This book :

                     TRACTAT[US] UTILIS DE SEPTEM PECCATIS MORTALIBUS. 

[Paris]: Denis Roce, 1500. [ca. 1499-1509]  Lead me into something simply interesting on the surface into a truly interesting  topic certainly worthy of more investigation!.. This book is a Rare (I could locate only two copies of this  book, one in an Library and another for sale) treatise on the seven deadly sins, attributed by some to Johannes Nider (ca. 1380-1438),

Ok so The “Seven Deadly Sins” I expected there would be the usual territory here, and this little book looks like a handy guide to them, to carry with you in your pocket, you know ..just incase..

as I recall from Chaucer:

“Now is it bihovely thyng to telle whiche been the sevene deedly synnes, this is to seyn, chiefaynes of synnes. Alle they renne in o lees, but in diverse manneres. Now been they cleped chieftaynes, for as muche as they been chief and spryng of alle othere synnes.
-Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

Here is what I was expecting : Envy, Gluttony,Lust,Anger,Greed, lastly Sloth  [The avoidance of physical or spiritual work.]

In Nider’s recention we have “gula” (gluttony), “luxuria” (lust), “avaritia” (avarice), “superbia” (pride), “invidia” (envy), “ira” (wrath), and “accidia” (i.e. acedia). The order has changed since I had to memorize them, but “ACCIDIA”…is not sloth, not so simple is it?  This is what hooked me,but before I dig into what acedia is i wanted to know who came up with the seven anyway?

The Catholic Enclyopedia led me to Evagrius of Pontu, Εὐάγριος ὁ Ποντικός also called Evagrius the Solitary (345-399 AD), was a Christian monk and ascetic. One of most influential theologians in the late fourth-century church, he was well known as a thinker, polished speaker, and gifted writerHe has ‘first dibs on it , but they numbered eight.  gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Pope Gregory the Great combined vain glory and pride, winnowing it down,he also re ordered them in relation to their severity of offense to Love. Saint Thomas Aquinas reordered them from Gregory … the order seems to be in constant flux.

but here we have a modern List

DOPEY. SNEEZY. BASHFUL. GRUMPY. HAPPY. SLEEPY. DOC.

wait that is something else.

Now back to Acedia,from the Greek  ἀκηδία “akedia,” or “not to care”

The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church defines acedia (or accidie) as “a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray”. Some see it as the precursor to sloth—one of the seven deadly sins. In his sustained analysis of the vice Aquinas in Q. 35 of the Second Part220px-Hieronymus_Wierix_-_Acedia_-_WGA25736 (Secunda Secundae) of his Summa Theologica, Aquinas identifies acedia with “the sorrow of the world” (compare Weltschmerz) that “worketh death” and contrasts it with that sorrow “according to God” described by St. Paul in 2 Cor. 7:10. For Aquinas, acedia is “sorrow about spiritual good in as much as it is a Divine good.” It becomes a mortal sin when reason consents to man’s “flight” (fuga) from the Divine good, “on account of the flesh utterly prevailing over the spirit.” Acedia is essentially a flight from the world that leads to not caring even that one does not care. The ultimate expression of this is a despair that ends in suicide.

Aquinas’s teaching on acedia in Q. 35 contrasts with his prior teaching on charity’s gifted “spiritual joy,” to which acedia is directly opposed, and which he explores in Q. 28 of the Secunda Secundae. As Aquinas says, “One opposite is known through the other, as darkness through light. Hence also what evil is must be known from the nature of good.”

But before this

Evagrius’ contemporary, the Desert Father John Cassian, [Here is his book on Acedia http://www.pathsoflove.com/acedia/cassian-acedia.html ]depicted the apathetic restlessness of acedia, “the noonday demon”, in the coenobitic monk:

“He looks about anxiously this way and that, and sighs that none of the brethren come to see him, and often goes in and out of his cell, and frequently gazes up at the sun, as if it was too slow in setting, and so a kind of unreasonable confusion of mind takes possession of him like some foul darkness”

. (quoted in Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: how the world became modern, 2011:26.)

But Wait, Kathleen Noris worte for CNN , yes CNN a piece about “bad Thought”

Here it is http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/personal/04/06/got.acedia.spiritual.morphine/index.html?hpt=Sbin

She writes

“On a recent trip across America, what surprised me most was the number of people — over 200 in one city, 80 to 150 elsewhere — who wanted to discuss this odd word, “acedia.”
It’s an ancient term signifying profound indifference and inability to care about things that matter, even to the extent that you no longer care that you can’t care.
I liken it to spiritual morphine: You know the pain is there but can’t rouse yourself to give a damn.”

DOC, what I find interesting here is that it is a sin.

from Noris, “I wrote my book because I suspected that although the word “acedia” is unfamiliar to most of us, its effects are widely known. When I compared the classic descriptions of acedia with the plagues of contemporary society — a toxic, nearly unbearable mix of boredom and restlessness, frantic escapism (including that of workaholism), commitment-phobia and enervating despair — I found the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress.”

her Book: Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life]; is now on my reading list.

So this 20 page book has brought me to ponder what has changed to bring a state to be a sin, then modified into a social weakness sloth then finally to a medical problem, but much more..

Some Five hundred years ago, Nider’s treatise on Sveven Deadly Sins has allowd me to lear alittle more..

Johannes Nider (1380-1438)       TRACTAT[US] UTILIS DE SEPTEM PECCATIS MORTALIBUS.

 

[Paris]: Denis Roce, 1500. [ca. 1499-1509]                                         $SOLD

Small octavo. [12] ff. ([a]8-b1) including illustrated title page. This copy is bound in antique-style full calf, stamped in blind, gilt spine title. Mild dampstain in lower gutter, faint dampstain in outer margins of first few leaves.

This is a are treatise on the seven deadly sins, attributed by some to Johannes Nider (ca. 1380-1438), Dominican priest and author of FORMICARIUS (1435- 37), one of the most influential and earliest printed books discussing witchcraft.

The brief, pocket-sized work, likely to be have been kept on one’s person as a “useful” guide, enumerates and contemplates the seven deadly sins – here, “gula” (gluttony), “luxuria” (lust), “avaritia” (avarice), “superbia” (pride), “invidia” (envy), “ira” (wrath), and “accidia” (i.e. acedia).

Acedia, a spiritual listlessness associated with distraction, apathy, and resentment, was the famous “noonday Demon” of St. John Cassian and a topic discussed by many fellow Desert Fathers; it concludes and occupies the largest portion of the work. The term acedia was used first used in Christianity by monks and other ascetics who lived solitary lives, and were tempted to become listless and inert, or begin longing to be elsewhere or to do something other than what they were doing. Evagrius numbers acedia as of the eight bad thoughts, and St. Thomas Aquinas (following Gregory the Great) numbers it as one of the seven capital vices (so-called because they are the source of many kinds of sin). Though related to depression, acedia is not considered entirely the same in the monastic and Christian tradition. It is usually seen as naming a fault, which is subject to one’s will, rather than simply a psychological state. Acedia is to spiritual health something like what depression is to mental health.

The title page bears the pictorial metalcut publisher’s device of French printer and bookseller Denis Roce with the motto, “ALAVENTURE TOUT VIENT APONIT [sic] QUI PEUT ATENDRE.” The mark (Polain 162, Renouard 1005, Silvestre 451) was in use during the 1490s and first decade of the 1500s; Polain notes that the plate remained intact until about 1509.

Not in Goff or Adams or BM STC Fr.

Katherin Philips! more still!

Today, I have seven books by  Katherine Philips, A first pirated edition of the Poems, A first Authorized edition of the Poems, a fourth edition of the Poems and three copies of the first edition of the Letters!  One of her first publications, a commendatory poem to the 1651 edition of Cartwright’s Poems.
 DSC_0077 (1)

DSC_0079

DSC_0409The Unauthorized First Edition

DSC_0077717 G Philips, Katherine (1631-1664)

Poems. By the incomparable, Mrs. K.P.

London: Printed by J[ohn]. G[rismond]. for Rich. Marriott, at his shop under S. Dunstans Church in Fleet-street, 1664                                                                   $SOLD 

Octavo: 17 x 11 cm. [14] (of 16), 236, [4], 237-238 (of 242) pp. A-P8, Q8, R4. This copy lacks leaf A1 (imprimatur,) leaf Q7, blank leaf Q8, and the final three leaves (R2-4) which comprise the final leaf of poems, the errata leaf, and the final blank.

THE RARE UNAUTHORIZED FIRST EDITION. This was the only edition published in Philips’ lifetime. Philips’ died of smallpox in June 1664, five months after the appearance of this publication. The first authorized edition did not appear until 1667. Bound in contemporary sheepskin, re-cased. Fine internally.

“In 1664 an unauthorized edition of Philips’s Poems was published; the bookseller Richard Marriott had entered the volume in the Stationers’ register in November 1663 and advertised it for sale in January. Philips, claiming she ‘never writ any line in my life with an intention to have it printed’, expressed her indignation in a number of letters, defending herself against any ‘malicious’ suggestion that she ‘conniv’d at this ugly accident’: ‘I am so Innocent of this pitifull design of a Knave to get a Groat, yt I was never more vex’d at any thing, & yt I utterly disclaim whatever he hath so unhandsomly expos’d’ (Letters, 128, 142). Some twentieth-century critics are sceptical of these conventional disclaimers: the 1664 edition is based on manuscripts that Philips herself circulated among friends (not at all ‘abominably transcrib’d’ and inauthentic, as she claims), and the text of the seventy-five poems it contains differs only slightly from that in the later, authorized edition of 1667. Yet her distress at seeing poems she considered private, circulated within a literary community of intimate friends, exposed to public gaze, goes beyond the conventional:‘Tis only I … that cannot so much as think in private, that must have my imaginations rifled and exposed to play the Mountebanks, and dance upon the Ropes to entertain all the rabble’ (Ibid. 129–30).”(Warren Chernaik, ODNB)717G Philips

This is perhaps the most famous English collection of poems by a woman prior to 1700. P.W. Souers, in his critical biography of Katherine Philips, asserts for her the right to be historically the first English poetess—“In her, for the first time in the history of English letters, a woman was received into the select company of poets.” Jeremy Taylor dedicated to her his “Discourse on the Nature, Offices, and Measures of Friendship;” Abraham Cowley, Henry Vaughan the Silurist, Thomas Flatman, the Earl of Roscommon, and the Earl of Cork and Orrery all celebrated her talent, and Dryden could pay no higher compliment to Anne Killigrew than to compare her to Orinda.

Wing (CD-Rom, 1996), P2032

 The First Authorized EditionDSC_0078

718G Katherine Philips

Poems By the most deservedly Admired Mrs. Katherine Philips The Matchless Orinda. To which is added Monsieur Corneille’s Pompey & Horace,} Tragedies. With several other Translations out of French.

London: Printed by J. M. for H. Herringman, 1667                                       SOLD

Folio 7 X 11 1/4 inches π2, A2, a-f2, B-Z2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Zzz2, Aaaa-Mmmm2. (Final leaf blank and original).

First sanctioned edition, enlarged, preceded by a pirated and suppressed edition of 1664 ( see Above). This copy is bound in contemporary boards, which have been recently rebacked with a gilt spine . On the center of both boards are the arms of Sir Robert Vyner (1631-1688)Lord mayor of London.    In 1674 Viner was elected lord mayor; the pageant on that occasion, which was witnessed by the king and queen, appears to have been more than usually magnificent. Elkanah Settle, the city poet, composed the verses, and the whole was produced at the cost of the Goldsmiths’ Company DSC_0080 It is Interesting that he owned this book before he was Lord Mayor.

Philips was “the daughter of a London merchant, Katherine Fowler [her maiden name] was probably the first English woman poet to have her work published. She married a gentleman of substance from Cardigan, James Philips, and seems to have moved effortlessly into the literary circle adorned by Vaughan, Cowley, and Jeremy Taylor. She was best known by her pseudonym ‘Orinda’ and the name appears on the collection of her Letters, which give a useful picture of the early seventeenth-century literary world. Her translation of Corneille’s ‘Pompee’ was performed in Dublin in 1663 and a collection of her verses was published posthumously in 1664.” (Stapleton)Mrs. Philips’ poems were circulated in manuscript, and secured for her a DSC_0078 (1)considerable reputation. The surreptitious quarto edition produced in 1664 caused her much annoyance, and …Some trouble was taken, it would appear, to destroy the copies, which would account for its rarity.

In the preface of this 1667 edition, reference is made to the ‘false edition,’ and a long letter from the author in relation to it is quoted..

Wing P-2033; Hayward 116; Grolier 669; CBEL II, 480; Sweeney 3460.

A large copy of the Fourth Edition

719G
719G

719G Katherine Philips 1631-1664

Poems By the most deservedly Admired Mrs. Katherine Philips, The Matchless Orinda. To which is added Monsieur Corneilles Pompey & Horace,} Tragedies. With several other Translations out of French.

London: Printed by T.N. for Henry Herringman , 1678                                        SOLD

Folio 6 3/4  11 inches  Fourth edition. [ ]2, A4, a-Z4, Aa-Tt4, Uu2.

This copy is in good condition internally. It is bound in full seventeenth century English calfskin, It has a blind stamped panel with stylized tulip ornaments in the corners , this too was signed ( the initials “IoW” are incorporated in the design)DSC_0077 (2)
This copy also has ownership declarations and a book plate from the Prujean family. It was a gift from Mrs.Francis Prujean (Her book plate is here) to Ann Prujean 1682.

DSC_0078 (2)

DSC_0079 Wing P-2035.

Two Copies of Katherine Philips Letters.

767G & 103G
767G & 103G

103G Katherine Philips

Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus

London: printed by W.B. for Bernard Lintott, 1705                                $5500

Octavo  6 3/4 X 3 3/4 inches    A-R8    First edition.   This copy is bound in original full calf stored in a custom morocco case.

This is a collection of 48 ( XLVIII) actual letters written by Philips to her patron Sir Charles Cotterell published several decades after her death, there is quit a bit of discussion of the

103G
103G

literary culture of the seventh century in Britain. Including incite to Philips writing and reading habits. she often mentions books she is reading and plays which she is working on.Philips was interested in the epistolary form, she 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 interesting to see the relations between 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.In “The Sapphic-Platonics of Katherine Philips, 1632-1664” Harriette AndreadisSource:Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 15, no. 1 (autumn 1989): 34-60.Ms Andreadis, in this essay nicely gives a view of Orinda’s life (and Loves) in relation to her writing by using excerpts from her poems and These letters;

Another copy of the above, with a rebacked binding, same collation.

767G  Katherine Philips

767G
767G

Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus

London: printed by W.B. for Bernard Lintott, 1705                          $3,500

One of Philips’ early  publications, a commendatory poem to the 1651 edition of Cartwright’s Poems.
117F
117F

117F William Cartwright 1611-1643

Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, With other Poems by Mr. William Cartwright late Student of Christ–Church in Oxford and Proctor of the University. The Ayres and Songs set by Mr. Henry Lawes Servant to His late Majesty in His Publick and Private Musick. —nec Ignes, Nec potuit Ferrum,—

London: Printed for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at his Shop, at the sign of the Prince’s Arms in St Pauls Church–yard, 1651                                                                  $3,750

Octavo 4 1/4 X 6.1/2  inches. [Portrait]1, [a]-b8, *14 , *8, ¶4, **8, ***14, *10, a-e8, f4, g-k8, A-T8, U3, U8, X2, with leaf *11 in cancelled state as usual and showing the original stub. Leaves **7 and U1-3 appear to be in uncancelled state with no evidence of stubs, otherwise this collation matches that described by Evans. First edition.

This copy is bound in modern butterscotch calf with a gilt spine, in period style.It is quite a nice copy.  “Cartwright enjoyed a considerable success among his contemporaries but posterity has been less kind and his work is only known to students of seventeenth century literature. He was educated at Westminster School and went up to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1628; he spent the rest of his short life there. He wrote four plays, intended for academic performance: The Ordinary or The City Cozener (1634) shows clearly the influence of Ben Jonson; The Lady Errant, The Royall Slave, and The Siege or Love’s Convert were published in 1651. The Royall Slave, with designs by Inigo Jones and music by Henry Lawes, was acted for King Charles I and Henrietta Maria at Oxford in 1636 and proved a great success. Cartwright took holy orders in 1638 and wrote no more plays but he became a celebrated preacher; in 1642 he became reader in metaphysics to the university. A Royalist, Cartwright preached at Oxford before the king after the Battle of Edgehill. The edition of his works published in 1651 contained 51 commendatory verses by writers of the day, including Izaak Walton and Henry Vaughan. The Plays and Poems of William Cartwright were collected and edited by G. Blakemore Evans and published in 1951. (Stapleton) This work also includes the first poem by Katherine Phillips to be printed (DNB). Cartwright was well liked, and many of his wide circle of friends contributed to the verses occupying the first 100 pages or so; Dr. John Fell, Jasper Mayne, Henry Vaughan the Silurist, Alexander Brome, Izaak Walton, Francis Vaughan, Thomas Vaughan, Henry Lawes, Sir John Birkenhead, James Howell and many others. Wing C-709; see also The Plays and Poems of William Cartwright by G. Blakemore Evans, pages 62-72; Hayward English Poetry Catalogue, 104; Greg page 1027.

117F
117F

Philological Quarterly
“That Private Shade, Wherein My Muse Was Bred”: Katherine Philips and the Poetic Spaces of Welsh Retirement
By Prescott, Sarah

Article excerpt

Katherine Philips’s literary career provides the scholar with the most extensive surviving example of women’s manuscript circulation and coterie poetic practice in the seventeenth century. (1) Both in her own lifetime and posthumously, Philips was lauded in terms of her virtuous image as “the matchless Orinda” and then increasingly noted in terms of her pivotal role in the poetic “Society of Friendship,” a Royalist coterie she created in the 1650s. Modern critical attention likewise focused on her poetry of female friendship and her place as a role model for later women writers. (2) More recently, however, Philips has been seen as a political poet whose work should be read in the context of her Royalist sympathies. As a result, what was previously considered to be Philips’s gendered retreat into a “private” poetic world of like-minded literary friends is instead recognized as a characteristic articulation of encoded Royalist allegiance. (3) As Hero Chalmers phrases it, in Philips’s work “depictions of feminine withdrawal reflect the Interregnum royalist need to represent the space of retirement or interiority as the actual centre of power” (4) What is rarely taken into account is not only that Katherine Philips wrote most of her poetry in Wales, but that she is the only known Anglophone woman poet writing from Wales in the entire seventeenth century. In addition, a fair proportion of her work is not addressed to the members of her “Society of Friendship” but to an audience of readers and acquaintances within Wales itself. (5) This body of occasional and elegiac poetry is rarely mentioned in studies of Philips’s writing.(6) In contrast, this essay makes Katherine Philips’s relation to Wales the center of its investigation. To reframe Chalmers’s insight above, I will ask in what ways an attention to the geographical spaces of retirement Philips inhabited as a writer shift our understanding of her work and her significance in literary history, specifically Welsh literary history. On a more detailed textual level, I will ask how these “material” spaces inform the “discursive” spaces of her poetry. Although Philips’s experience of Wales was expressed in a number of different ways in her poetry and letters, here I focus on a selection of her poems which explore the theme of retirement in relation to her Welsh context: “That private shade, wherein my Muse was bred.” (7)

My approach builds on recent developments in the study of women’s writing which look beyond England and consider women’s writing in Britain across the early modern archipelago. (8) Despite the rise of “archipelagic” literary studies of Britain more generally, the perceived need to be inclusively British in our approach to literary history has taken longer to establish itself as a key component in the history of women’s writing. (9) One way forward is to put more emphasis on the different places from which women produced literary texts and to pay more attention to the way in which different locations and sites of literary production shaped the content of these texts. Kate Chedgzoy has argued that “when we study early modern English women’s writing, we need to pay more attention to texts in the English language produced in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, British North America and the Caribbean as well as England. And we need to do so in the context of new geographies of that changing world that enable us to grasp the full complexity of the locations the writing comes from, and how and why that locatedness matters.” (10) Furthermore, as Chedgzoy suggests, we also need to make “an effort to learn more about the ways in which women perceived themselves as Irish, Scots, Welsh, English and/or British.” (11)

From this perspective, Philips, a writer whose career was based in Wales and latterly Ireland, can be read not as the archetypal English coterie writer but rather as representatively archipelagic. As Chedgzoy has noted further, “a properly internationalist, Atlantic and comparative approach to early modern British women’s writing” might include, for example, “Katherine Philips’s translations of French plays, made in Wales and performed in Ireland. …

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