It is not usual to find a printed book which gives us such a vivid depiction of the literary world for 17th century women, this is a great book and I am constantly amazed by it.
Please enjoy reading about it.
Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus
London: printed by W.B. for Bernard Lintott, 1705 $5,500
Octavo,6.75 X 3.75 inches. First edition A-R8 Bound in original calf totally un-restored a very nice original condition copy with only some browning, spotting and damp staining, It is a very good copy.
It is housed in a custom Box.
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 literary culture of the seventh century in Britain. Including insite to Philips writing and reading habits. she often mentions books she is reading and plays which she is working on.
The daughter of a London merchant, Katherine Fowler [her maiden name] was probably the first English woman poet to have her work published and the forst woman author to have one of her plays performed for the public. 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. One of her first publications was a commendatory poem to the 1651 edition of Cartwright’s Poems.
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. According to Beal, “Philips appeared in print at least five times during her life time” (p. 155)
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 Andreadis
Source: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 live (and Loves) in relation to her writing by using excerpts from her poems andThese letters;
“That these poems were not merely clever exercises in courtly convention by a woman seeking reputation and patronage (as were, perhaps, some of her Restoration poems addressed to royalty) is confirmed by the circumstances of Philips’s life and letters. Born Katherine Fowler, the daughter of a prosperous London cloth merchant, in 1648 she married James Philips, whom she was to call Antenor in keeping with her penchant for devising pseudo-classical names for her intimates. She was sixteen; he was fifty-four. Clearly, in this marriage, probably arranged by her mother, she loved and respected her husband as she was socially and morally bound to do. Yet, clearly also, there was much distance between them in addition to their respective ages. He lived on the remote west coast of Wales at Cardigan Priory, while she was attached to the intellectual and social amenities of London and took, or created, every opportunity to return to literary and court circles. Her politics were also different from his: she remained a royalist like her friends and courtly admirers, while he and her family were parliamentarians. This publicly recognized political difference at least once threatened his political career.19
Antenor’s absence never evoked the same metaphysical anguish in Philips as did that of Rosania or Lucasia; she wrote of him most often in terms of her “duty.” A telling contrast is that between the frequently unrestrained emotion in her many poems lamenting the absence of a female friend20 and the relative coolness of her single poem to Antenor upon his absence and of her descriptions of her “duty” to Sir Charles. On her immanent departure from Ireland and Lucasia, she wrote: “I have now no longer any pretence of Business to detain me, and a Storm must not keep me from Antenor and my Duty, lest I raise a greater within. But oh! that there were no Tempests but those of the Sea for me to suffer in parting with my dear Lucasia!” (Letter 19, 631). This passage succinctly points to a contrast that is apparent throughout Philips’s writing; it juxtaposes, on the one hand, her feelings of obligation to her husband and, on the other, her passion for Lucasia. As to the rest of her immediate family, her son is mentioned only twice in her writings, both times in poems, one of them a particularly dull one about his death at the age of forty-one days; her daughter, who survived her, is never mentioned at all, either in her poems or in her letters.21
Having endured, in 1652, Mary Aubrey’s (Rosania’s) defection from their friendship into marriage, Philips wrote at least one poem on her “apostasy,” and quickly replaced her with Anne Owen (Lucasia).22 In 1662, Anne Owen, too, married, and Orinda despised Owen’s new husband, Marcus Trevor, which added to her grief. Nevertheless, she accompanied the newlyweds to Dublin and stayed on for a year, ostensibly to conduct her husband’s business (he was now in some financial and political distress owing to his parliamentarianism) and to finish Pompey and see it played at the Theatre Royal, Smock Alley, Dublin. She had also begun to develop aristocratic connections: the earl of Orrery offered her encouragement, she frequented the duke of Ormonde’s salon, and she was becoming friendly with the countess of Cork.
She described her feelings to Sir Charles, whose suit to Anne Owen she had unsuccessfully encouraged, presumably in an attempt to keep Anne within her immediate social circle and in close geographical proximity: “I am much surpriz’d that she, who is so well-bred, and her Conversation every way so agreeable, can be so happy with him as she seems to be: for indeed she is nothing but Joy, and never so well pleas’d as in his Company; which makes me conclude, that she is either extremely chang’d, or has more of the dissembling Cunning of our Sex than I thought she had” (Letter 13, 603).23 She wrote repeatedly to Sir Charles of her grief and disappointment, not unmixed with bitterness, at the loss of her bond with Anne Owen. Her grief in these letters is as acute as the passion in the earlier poems is intense. From Dublin on July 30, 1662, she wrote:
I now see by Experience that one may love too much, and offend more by a too fond Sincerity, than by a careless Indifferency, provided it be but handsomly varnish’d over with civil Respect. I find too there are few Friendships in the World Marriage-proof. … We may generally conclude the Marriage of a Friend to be the Funeral of a Friendship. … Sometimes I think it is because we are in truth more ill-natur’d than we really take our selves to be; and more forgetful of past Offices of Friendship, when they are superseded by others of a fresher Date, which carrying with them the Plausibility of more Duty and Religion in the Knot that ties them, we persuade our selves will excuse us if the Heat and Zeal of our former Friendships decline and wear off into Lukewarmness and Indifferency: whereas there is indeed a certain secret Meanness in our Souls, which mercenarily inclines our Affections to those with whom we must necessarily be oblig’d for the most part to converse, and from whom we expect the chiefest outward Conveniencies. And thus we are apt to flatter our selves that we are constant and unchang’d in our Friendship, tho’ we insensibly fall into Coldness and Estrangement.
Her letters to Sir Charles during this period are full of disappointed idealism, of highmindedness scorned. The scale of values Philips holds dear in these letters, and in her poetry, places the noble feelings of disinterested friendship far above the frequently compromised and banal motives of marriage and duty. Nevertheless, her notion of disinterested friendship is driven by intensely passionate commitment to the individual woman in question, so that when, in the usual course of things, her friend marries, she responds as a lover scorned. The feelings she expressed in her letters to Sir Charles concerning the defection of Anne Owen reverberate from the poems she had written ten years earlier on the apostasy of Mary Aubrey:
“Lovely apostate! what was my offence?
Or am I punish’d for obedience?”
For our twin-spirits did so long agree,
You must undoe your self to ruine me.
… Glorious Friendship, whence your honour springs,
Ly’s gasping in the croud of common things;
For from my passion your last rigours grew,
And you kill me, because I worshipp’d you.
Thus Philips reveals a covert, innate rebelliousness; she protests with chagrin Mary Aubrey’s and Anne Owen’s replacement of such romantic sentiments with ones more suitable to the exigencies of social and economic life.
Her last known passionate attachment seems to have been to “Berenice,” whom she knew at least since 1658, when she wrote begging her to come to Cardigan and console her for Lucasia’s absence.24Philips evidently continued her correspondence with “Berenice” after returning from Ireland to her home at Cardigan Priory in Wales because the last letter is dated from there a month before her death in London. The tone of the four letters to “Berenice” is a combination of nearly fawning supplication to a social superior and breathless passion, the two inextricably fused:
All that I can tell you of my Desires to see your Ladiship will be repetition, for I had with as much earnestness as I was capable of, Begg’d it then, and yet have so much of the Beggar in me, that I must redouble that importunity now, and tell you, That I Gasp for you with an impatience that is not to be imagin’d by any Soul wound up to a less concern in Friendship then yours is, and therefore I cannot hope to make others sensible of my vast desires to enjoy you, but I can safely appeal to your own Illustrious Heart, where I am sure of a Court of Equity to relieve me in all the Complaints and Suplications my Friendship can put up.
[Letter 51, 773]25
It is impossible to disentangle the elements of Orinda’s passion for “Berenice,” complicated as their relationship was by social inequality and as our understanding of it is by an absence of any information external to the four letters. However, Philips’s tone in these letters seems desperate beyond any conventional courtliness; she yearns to fill the void left by Lucasia’s absence and, later, rejection.
After her success with Pompey on the Dublin stage, Philips found it difficult to remain immured at the Priory and finally was able to solicit an invitation from her friends, and her husband’s permission, to return to London, where she died of smallpox at the age of thirty-one. A major change had taken place in Philips’s life when the loss of her friendship with Lucasia was coincidentally accompanied by the foundering fortunes of her husband, which she attempted to remedy through her well-placed friends. That she had not succeeded in doing so when she died suggests that the double blow she had suffered left her depressed (as the anxiety in her last letters to Sir Charles shows), weakened, and vulnerable to disease.
After the defection of Lucasia, she wrote no more of the poetry that had won her such high praise; instead, she poured her energies into using her court connections to gain patronage for herself and, probably unsuccessfully, preferment for Antenor. She wrote numerous poems to royalty, self-consciously addressing public themes, and increasingly fewer intimate poems to particular friends. Also, she vied with the male wits for recognition of her theatrical translations, which are still considered the best English versions of Corneille.26 Philips’s immersion in Corneille and the adoption of a more neoclassical style may have been politically expedient in the early 1660s, but at this time in Philips’s life, Corneille’s subordination of personal passion to duty and patriotism in the long speeches that she translated also must have appealed to her own need to control her disordered emotions.27
Her royalist sympathies throughout the Interregnum no doubt now enabled her to advance the interests of her parliamentarian husband as well as her own literary ambitions. Souers comments on the notable change in her poems and in her stance toward literary circles: “The Cult of Friendship may be said to have died with the marriage of its inspirer. All that remained was the empty shell, which, in this case, means the names, so that when, later, poems addressed to new friends appear, it must be kept in mind that the old fire is gone.”28 Souers’s judgment is borne out by the poems Philips addressed to the Boyle sisters, daughters of the countess of Cork, a patron during Philips’s stay in Ireland. Though she attempts to continue, or perhaps to revivify, the traditions of her cult of friendship by bestowing pastoral nicknames, Philips reveals in her later poems the conflict and ambivalence with which more intimate approaches to her social superiors are fraught. She confronts this problem of friendship with aristocratic women directly in “To Celimena” (1662-64), addressed to Lady Elizabeth Boyle; the eight-line poem concludes: “Wouldst thou depose thy Saint into thy Friend? / Equality in friendship is requir’d, / Which here were criminal to be desir’d” (no. 107, 472). Her earlier passionate avowals of friendship have become reverential.2
The full essay is here :http://www.oocities.org/hargrange/philipsandreadis.html %5B(essay date 1989)]
For a Great Web Page on 17th Century Writing Please see the Luminarium
THERE is lots of wonderful connections to K.P. here…..
Butler, John. “The Life of Katherine Philips.” Luminarium.15 Apr 2003. <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/philips/>