1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Katherine Philips

Giles Jacob, in Poetical Register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1719) 201-02.



The Matchless ORINDA was born in Brecknockshire in Wales, and she was a Contemporary with, and admir'd by the Great Cowley. Mr. Langbain, to do him Justice, is very good natur'd in his Account of this Lady. He says she was one that equall'd the Lesbian SAPPHO, and the Roman SULPITIA; and as they were prais'd by Horace, Martial, Ausonius, and other ancient Poets; so was this Lady commended by the Earls of Orrery, Roscommon, Cowley, Flatman, and other eminent Poets. She translated two Plays from the French of Corneille.

I. HORACE, a Tragedy, 1678. Sir John Denham added a Fifth Act to this Play; and it was presented at Court by Persons of Quality. The Duke of Monmouth spoke the Prologue, wherein are these Lines:

So soft, that to our Shame we understood,
They could not fall but from a Lady's Hand.
That while a Woman HORACE did Translate,
HORACE did rise about a Roman Fate.

II. POMPEY; a Tragedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1678. This Play is Dedicated to the Countess of Cork, and was acted with very great Applause. My Lord Roscommon writ the Prologue, wherein he thus Compliments the Ladies and the Translator.

—You bright Nymphs, give Caesar leave to Woo,
The greatest Wonder of the World but You,
And hear a Muse, who has thus Hero taught
To speak as gen'rously as e'er he fought.
Whose Eloquence from such a Theme deters
All Tongues but English, and all Pens but Hers.
By the just Fates your Sex is doubly blest,
You conquer'd Caesar, and you Praise him best.

She died of the Small-Pox, Anno 1664, in the 31st Year of her Age. These Plays were publish'd in Mrs. Philips's collection of Poems, in Folio, and are lately reprinted in Octavo. There is likewise extant a Volume of excellent Letters, which pass'd between her and Sir Charles Cotterell, under the feign'd Names of Orinda and Polyarchus.