Katherine Philips was the first Englishwoman to enjoy widespread public acclaim as a poet during her lifetime. Born in London, she was daughter of John Fowler, a Presbyterian, and a merchant of Bucklersbury, London. Philips is said to have read the Bible through before she was five years old. Additionally, she acquired remarkable fluency in several languages. She broke with Presbyterian traditions in both religion and politics, and became an ardent admirer of the king and his church policy. In 1647, when she was sixteen, she married a Welsh Parliamentarian named James Philips who was thought to be fifty-four years old. However, it has been proven, by the marriage certificate, that James was actually twenty-four years old.
She attended boarding school from 1640 to 1645 where she began to write verse within a circle of friends and to appreciate French romances and Cavalier plays from which she would later choose many of the pet names she gave members of her Society of Friendship.
The Society of Friendship had its origins in the cult of Neoplatonic love imported from the continent in the 1630s by Charles I’s French wife, Henrietta Maria. Members adopted pseudonyms drawn from French pastoral romances of Cavalier dramas. With wit, elegance, and clarity, Philips dramatized in her Society of Friendship the ideals, as well as the realities and tribulations, of Platonic love. Thus the Society helped establish a literary standard for her generation and Orinda herself as a model for the female writers who followed her. Her home at the Priory, Cardigan, Wales became the centre of the Society of Friendship, the members of which were known to one another by pastoral names: Philips was "Orinda", her husband "Antenor", and Sir Charles Cotterel "Poliarchus". "The Matchless Orinda", as her admirers called her, was regarded as the apostle of female friendship, and inspired great respect. She was widely considered an exemplar of the ideal woman writer: virtuous, proper, and chaste. She was frequently contrasted to the more daring Aphra Behn, to the latter's detriment. Her poems, frequently occasional, typically celebrate the refined pleasures of platonic love. Jeremy Taylor in 1659 dedicated to her his Discourse on the Nature, Offices and Measures of Friendship, and Cowley, Henry Vaughan the Silurist, the Earl of Roscommon and the Earl of Cork and Orrery all celebrated her talent.
In 1662 she went to Dublin to pursue her husband's claim to certain Irish estates; there she completed a translation of Pierre Corneille's Pompe, produced with great success in 1663 in the Smock Alley Theatre, and printed in the same year both in Dublin and London. Although other women had translated or written dramas, her translation of Pompey broke new ground as the first rhymed version of a French tragedy in English and the first English play written by a woman to be performed on the professional stage. She went to London in March 1664 with a nearly completed translation of Corneille's Horace, but died of smallpox. The literary atmosphere of her circle is preserved in the excellent Letters of Orinda to Poliarchus, published by Bernard Lintot in 1705 and 1709. Poliarchus (Sir Charles Cotterel) was master of the ceremonies at the court of the Restoration, and afterwards translated the romances of La Calprende. Philips had two children, one of whom, Katharine, became the wife of a "Lewis Wogan" of Boulston, Pembrokeshire. According to Gosse, Philips may have been the author of a volume of Female Poems ... written by Ephelia, which are in the style of Orinda, though other scholars have not embraced this attribution.
She inspired the figure of Orinda, elderly widow, hypersensitive to matters of love, and she herself a victim of love, albeit platonic, for a woman, in the Italian tragedy of 1671 Il Cromuele (Cromwell) written by Girolamo Graziani, set in England during the Civil War.
Burial: St Benet Sherehog Church (Defunct), London, Greater London, England. Plot: unmarked, site of church marked by plaque at rear of No.1 Poultry, City of London
Queering the Pitch by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood & Gary C Thomas
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (September 2, 2006)
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When the first edition of Queering the Pitch was published in early 1994, it was immediately hailed as a landmark and defining work in the new field of Gay Musicology. In light of the explosion of Gay Musicology since 1994, a new edition of Queering the Pitch is timely and needed. In this new work, the editors are including a landmark essay by Philip Brett on Gay Musicology, its history and scope. The essay itself has become a cause celebre, and this will be its first full appearance in print. Along with this new historical essay, the editors are contributing a new introduction that outlines the changes that have occurred over the last decade as Gay Musicology has grown.
Women's Roles in the Renaissance (Women's Roles through History) by Meg L. Brown & Kari McBride
Hardcover: 376 pages
Publisher: Greenwood (July 30, 2005)
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For the first time, a content-rich survey on Renaissance women for students and the general public is available. The story of the Renaissance has usually been told from the elite male perspective. Here, the lives of women and girls from a wide range of classes, religions, and countries in Europe take center stage. Women had a significant impact on the economy, social structures, and the culture of the Renaissance, despite the constraints on their exercise of power, lack of opportunities, enforced dependence, and exclusion from politics, government, science, law, banking, and more. Women's Roles in the Renaissance examines the attitudes and practices that shaped the varied roles of women then, but also the important ways women shaped the world in which they lived. The focus is on both the ideas that circulated about women and on the difference between representations of them and their everyday life experiences.
The narrative draws from a wide variety of sources on every aspect of women's lives. Narrative topical chapters cover women and education, the law, work, politics, religion, literature, the arts, and pleasures. Numerous women are profiled, and a plethora of quotations and examples of their work provides a sense of their spirit. Many period illustrations are included that highlight the text. This will prove to be a most valuable one-volume resource on a high-interest topic.
Sappho in Early Modern England: Female Same-Sex Literary Erotics, 1550-1714 (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society) by Harriette Andreadis
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2001)
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In Sappho in Early Modern England, Harriette Andreadis examines public and private expressions of female same-sex sexuality in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Before the language of modern sexual identities developed, a variety of discourses in both literary and extraliterary texts began to form a lexicon of female intimacy. Looking at accounts of non-normative female sexualities in travel narratives, anatomies, and even marital advice books, Andreadis outlines the vernacular through which a female same-sex erotics first entered verbal consciousness. She finds that "respectable" women of the middle classes and aristocracy who did not wish to identify themselves as sexually transgressive developed new vocabularies to describe their desires; women that we might call bisexual or lesbian, referred to in their day as tribades, fricatrices, or "rubsters," emerged in erotic discourses that allowed them to acknowledge their sexuality and still evade disapproval.
The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England (Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture) by Valerie Traub
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 8, 2002)
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Valerie Traub analyzes the representation of female-female love, desire, and eroticism in a range of early modern discourses, including poetry, drama, visual arts, pornography, and medicine. Contrary to the silence ascribed to lesbianism in the Renaissance, Traub argues that the early modern period witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of representations of such desire. As a contribution to the history of sexuality and to feminist and queer theory, the book addresses current theoretical preoccupations through the lens of historical inquiry.
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