It was not until the second half of the seventeenth century that women began to be considered competent to undertake literature as a profession. In the crowded galaxy of Elizabethan and Jacobean poets there is no female star even of the seventh magnitude. But with the Restoration, the wives and daughters, who had learned during the years of exile to act in political and diplomatic intrigue with independence and skill, took upon themselves to write independently too, and the last forty years of the century are crowded with the names of "celebrated scribbling women." Among all these the Matchless Orinda takes the foremost place — not exactly by merit, for Aphra Behn surpassed her in genius, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, in versatility, and Catherine Trotter in professional zeal; but by the moral eminence which she attained through her elevated public career, and which she sealed by her tragical death. When the seventeenth century thought of a poetess, it naturally thought of Orinda; her figure overtopped those of her literary sisters; she was more dignified, more regal in her attitude to the public, than they were; and, in fine, she presents us with the best type we possess of the woman of letters in the seventeenth century.
Yet modern criticism has entirely neglected her. I cannot find that any writer of authority has mentioned her name with interest since Keats, in 1817, when he was writing Endymion, came across her poems at Oxford, and in writing to Reynolds remarked that he found "a most delicate fancy of the Fletcher kind" in her poems, and quoted one piece of ten stanzas to prove it. In Mr. Ward's English Poets, where so many names owe their introduction to one or two happy compositions which have survived the body of their works, I find no page dedicated to Orinda; and I suppose she may fairly be considered as dead to the British public. If I venture to revive her here, it is not that I greatly admire her verses, or consider her in the true sense to have been a poet, for even the praise just quoted from Keats seems to me exaggerated; but it is because of the personal charm of her character, the interest of her career, and its importance as a chapter in the literary history of the Restoration. Nor was she, like so many of her contemporaries, an absurd, or preposterous, or unclean writer: her muse was uniformly pure and reasonable; her influence, which was very great, was exercised wholly in favour of what was beautiful and good; and if she failed, it is rather by the same accident by which so many poets of less intelligence have unexpectedly succeeded.
Katherine Fowler was born on New-Year's Day, 1631, in a respectable cockney family of Bucklersbury. Of her father, who was a Presbyterian, nothing else is known save that he was a prosperous merchant. She was baptized at the font of St. Mary Woolchurch on January 11, 1631. John Aubrey, the antiquary, who was her exact contemporary and one of her numerous friends, has preserved various traditions of her childhood. Like Cowley, another cockney child of the period, she was very eager and precocious in the pursuit of letters. The imaginative bias of her mind first took a religious form. She had read the Bible right through before she was five years old; she would pray aloud — rather ostentatiously, one fears — by the hour together, and had a potent memory for the actual text of the florid sermons that she heard on Sundays. At school she was a prodigy of application; she would commonly say, by heart, many chapters and passages of Scripture, and began at a very early age to write verses. As she grew old enough to form convictions of her own, she threw off the Presbyterian and Parliamentary traditions of her home, and announced herself an admirer of the Church and the King just as those stars were setting on the political horizon. Through the darkest period of the Commonwealth she remained staunchly Royalist; and we may fancy that she was well content to leave a home no longer sympathetic to her, when, in her seventeenth year, she married a Royalist gentleman of Wales, Mr. James Philips, of Cardigan Priory.
The early part of her life as Mrs. Philips is dark to us. None of her letters, and but few of her poems, from this period have been preserved. The earliest of her verses form an address to her neighbour Henry Vaughan, the Silurist, on the publication of his Olor Iscanus in 1651. These lines are interesting to the student of versification as showing that Katherine Philips, from the very first, had made up her mind to look forwards and not backwards. There is no particular merit in these verses, but they belong to the school of Waller and Denham, and prove that the authoress had learned very exactly the meaning of the new prosody. To the end of her career she never swerved from this path, to which her constant study of French poetry further encouraged her.
She seems to have adopted the melodious pseudonym by which she had become known to posterity in 1651. It would appear that among her friends and associates in and near Cardigan she instituted a Society of Friendship, to which male and female members were admitted, and in which poetry, religion, and the human heart were to form the subjects of discussion. This society, chiefly, no doubt, owing to the activity of Mrs. Philips, became widely known, and was an object of interest to contemporaries. Jeremy Taylor recognised it from afar, and Cowley paid it elaborate compliments. In the eyes of Orinda it took an exaggerated importance:—
Nations will own us now to be
A temple of divinity;
And pilgrims shall ten ages hence
Approach our tombs with reverence,
a prophecy which still waits to be fulfilled. On December 28, 1651, Miss Anne Owen, a young lady of Landshipping, entered the Society under the name of Lucasia, it being absolutely necessary that each member should be known by a fancy name. The husband of the poetess, for instance, is never mentioned in her poems or her correspondence except as Antenor. Lucasia was the chief ornament of the Society, and the affection of Orinda was laid at her feet for nearly thirteen years, in a style of the most unbounded and vivacious eulogy. It is very delightful to contemplate the little fat, ruddy, cockney lady, full of business and animation, now bustling the whole parish by the ears, now rousing her rather sluggish husband to ambition, now languishing in platonic sentiment at the feet of the young Welsh beauty who accepted all her raptures so calmly and smilingly. In Miss Owen, Mrs. Philips saw all that can be seen in the rarest altitudes of human character.
Nor can morality itself reclaim
The apostate world like my Lucasia's name: . . .
Lucasia, whose harmonious state
The Spheres and Muses only imitate....
So to acknowledge such vast eminence,
Imperfect wonder is our eloquence,
No pen Lucasia's glories can relate.
Nor is Lucasia the only member of her little provincial quorum of whom she predicates such brave things. There is Ardelia, whose real name neglectful posterity has forgotten to preserve; there is Miss Mary Aubrey, who becomes Mrs. Montague as time goes on, and whose poetical name is Rosania; there is Regina, "that Queen of Inconstancy," Mrs. John Collier; later on, Lady Anne Boyle begins to figure as "adored Valeria," and Lady Mary Cavendish as "dazzling Polycrite." The gentlemen have very appropriate names also, though propriety prevents Orinda, in their cases, from celebrating friendship in terms of so florid an eloquence. The "excellent Palaemon" was Francis Finch originally, but the name was transferred, as the "noble Palaemon," to Jeremy Taylor; the "noble Silvander," Sir Edward Dering, was more fortunate in preserving his name of honour; and last, but not least, the elegant Sir Charles Cotterel achieved a sort of immortality as Orinda's greatest friend, under the name of Poliarchus.
There are few collections of seventeenth century verse so personal as the poems of Orinda. Her aspirations and sentimentalities, her perplexities and quarrels, her little journeys and her business troubles, all are reflected in her verse as a mirror. She goes from Tenby to Bristol by sea in September 1652, and she gives Lucasia an account of the uneventful voyage in verse:
But what most pleased my mind upon the way,
Was the ships' posture that in harbour lay;
Which to a rocky grove so close were fixed
That the trees' branches with the tackling mixed,—
One would have thought it was, as then it stood,
A growing navy or a floating wood.
These are verses for which we have lost all taste, but they were quite as good as those by which Waller was then making himself famous, and in the same modern manner. These and others were handed about from one friend to another till they reached London, and gained the enthusiastic poetess literary and artistic friends. Among these latter were Henry Lawes, the great musician, and Samuel Cooper, the finest miniature painter of the day, to both of whom she has inscribed flowing copies of verses, informed by her familiar stately wit.
But the subject that chiefly inspired her was the excellence of her female friends, and in treating this theme she really invented a new species of literature. She is the first sentimental writer in the English language, and she possesses to the full those qualities which came into fashion a century and a half later in the person of such authors as Letitia Landon. Orinda communes with the stars and the mountains, and is deeply exercised about her own soul. She is all smiles, tears, and sensibility. She asks herself if her affection has been slighted, she swears eternal troth, she yearns for confidences, she fancies that she is "dying for a little love." With Antenor, her husband, she keeps up all the time a prosaic, humdrum happiness, looking after his affairs, anxious about his health, rather patronisingly affectionate and wifely; but her poetical heart is elsewhere, and her leisure moments are given up to romantic vows with Rosania and Lucasia, and correspondence about the human heart with the noble Silvander. The whole society, one cannot help feeling, was entirely created and kept alive by the sensibility of Orinda, and nothing but her unremitting efforts could have sustained its component parts at the proper heights of sympathy. Mrs. Philips, in fact, had come to the conclusion that, as she put it, "Men exclude women from friendship's vast capacity," and she was determined, in spite of the difficulties in her path, to produce some shining specimens of female friendship. The seventeenth century was quite astonished, and looked on with respectful admiration, while the good Orinda laboured away, undeterred by the irritating circumstances that her "societaires" would get married at the very moment when they seemed approaching perfection, and that after marriage they were much more difficult for her to manage than before.
Her first great disappointment was the "apostasy of Rosania, on which occasion she lifted up her voice to the "great soul of Friendship," and was rewarded by unusual response from Lucasia, on whom it is possible that the absence of Rosania had acted in an exhilarating manner. But it is time to quote some of those addresses to her friends by which she distinguishes herself so clearly from all the writers of her generation, and by which she must be known in future, if she be known at all. After receiving one of those compliments from the great men of her age, which began to flow in upon her retirement at Cardigan, Orinda thus expressed her satisfaction to Lucasia, and stirred her up to fresh efforts of sentiment:—
Come, my Lucasia, since we see
That miracles man's faith do move,
By wonder and by prodigy
To the dull angry world let's prove
There's a religion in our love.
We court our own captivity,—
Than thrones more great and innocent;
'Twere banishment to he set free,
Since we wear fetters whose intent
Not bondage is, but ornament.
Divided joys are tedious found,
And griefs united easier flow;
We are ourselves but by rebound,
And all our titles shuffled so,—
Both princes, and both subjects too.
Our hearts are mutual victims laid,
While they, — such power in friendship lies,—
Are altars, priests and offerings made,
And each heart which thus kindly dies,
Grows deathless by the sacrifice.
It cannot be denied that these are vigorous lines, full of ingenious fancy, nor were there many men then living in England who could surpass them. We are dealing with a school whose talent has evaporated, and we must not forget to judge such verse by the standards of its time. Of Milton nobody was thinking; Dryden was still silent; Herrick and Wither had ceased to write; and it may safely be said that there was nothing in the lines just quoted which Cowley, or Waller, or Denham would have disdained to sign. Lucasia was also the theme of some verses which close, at all events, in a very delicate harmony:—
I did not live until this time
Crowned my felicity,
When I could say, without a crime,
I am not Thine, but Thee.
For as a watch by art is wound
To motion, such was mine;
But never had Orinda found
A soul till she found thine.
Then let our flame still light and shine,
And no false fear control,
As innocent as our design,
Immortal as our soul."
The piece which Keats admired so much that he took the trouble of copying it in full, was inspired by Miss Mary Aubrey, and may be given here as a final example of the manner of Orinda:—
I have examined and do find
Of all that favour me,
There's none I grieve to leave behind,
But only, only thee:
To part with thee I needs must die,
Could parting separate thee and I.
But neither chance nor compliment
Did element our love;
'Twas sacred sympathy was lent
Us from the Quire above.
That friendship Fortune did create
Still fears a wound from Time or Fate.
Our changed and mingled souls are grown
To such acquaintance now,
That, if each would resume her own,
Alas! we know not how;
We have each other so engrost,
That each is in the union lost.
And thus we can no absence know,
Nor shall we be confined;
Our active souls will daily go
To learn each other's mind.
Nay, should we never meet to sense
Our souls would hold intelligence.
Inspired with a flame divine,
I scorn to court a stay;
For from that noble soul of thine
I ne'er can be away.
But I shall weep when thou dost grieve,
Nor can I die whilst thou dost live.
By my own temper I shall guess
At thy felicity,
And only like thy happiness,
Because it pleaseth thee.
Or hearts at any time will tell
If thou or I be sick or well.
All honour sure I must pretend,
All that is good or great;
She that would be Rosania's friend
Must be at least complete
If I have any bravery,
'Tis cause I have so much of thee.
Thy leiger soul in me shall lie,
And all thy thoughts reveal,
Then back again with mine shall fly,
And thence to me shall steal;
Thus still to one another tend:
Such is the sacred name of Friend.
Thus our twin souls in one shall grow,
And teach the world new love,
Redeem the age and sex, and show
A flame Fate dares not move:
And, courting Death to be our friend,
Our lives too shall together end.
A dew shall dwell upon our tomb
Of such a quality,
That fighting armies thither come
Shall reconciled be.
We'll ask no epitaph, but say,
ORINDA and ROSANIA.
For ten years Katherine Philips continued to live at Cardigan in the midst of this enthusiastic circle of friends, and in a social quiet that was broken only by her own agitations of spirit. In 1654, in the seventh year of her marriage, she bore her first child, a son who was named Hector, and who lived only forty days. She bewails his loss in many verses, which are not the less affecting because they are stiff in form. She was ultimately consoled for her boy's death by the birth of a girl, who survived her, and eventually married a Mr. Wogan, of Pembrokeshire. It is unfortunate that we cannot trace the course of Orinda's intimacy with Jeremy Taylor, although it is most probable that he visited her Society at Cardigan during the years that he lived near to her in Carmarthenshire. At all events, when, in 1659, he dedicated his Discourse on the Nature, Offices, and Measures of Friendship to "the most ingenious and excellent Mrs. Katherine Philips," he paid her the most delicate and affectionate compliments, and showed himself well acquainted with the tenor of her mind. His treatise was, indeed, a public testimony, from a man of the highest authority, to the success with which she had proved women to be capable of the serene and exalted virtue of friendship.
This tribute from the famous Bishop of Down and Connor inaugurated that brief period during which Orinda ceased to be a provincial notoriety, and became for the small remainder of her life a prominent figure in contemporary society. At the Restoration she sang out loud and clear, in strains that were proved to be sincere by her long and unflinching resistance to the Commonwealth. As Arion she goes forth to meet his Majesty upon a dolphin:—
Whom does this stately navy bring?
O, 'tis Great Britain's glorious King!
Convey him then, ye Winds and Seas,
Swift as desire and calm as peace.
Charles and his mighty hopes you bear;
A greater now than Caesar's here,
Whose veins a richer purple boast
Than ever hero's yet engrossed,
Sprung from a father so august
He triumphs in his very dust.
She hails the fine weather for the coronation as a "bright parenthesis" placed by Heaven itself between two storms of rain, and she indites separate copies of verses to all the ladies of the royal family. Soon the Duchess of York becomes aware of this ardent poetess in the West, and commands her to send some specimens of her poems; and in a little time we find Orinda, unable to stay at Cardigan when the world of London had suddenly become so distractingly interesting, on a visit to town. We find her the guest of Cowley at Barn Elms, and invited to inscribe her name on one of his ancient trees. And at the close of this visit to London in 1661 she suddenly becomes vividly present to us for the rest of her life.
We have already mentioned her friendship for Sir Charles Cotterel, whom she named Poliarchus. He was a Royalist courtier of great elegance and erudition, who had long been steward to the Queen of Bohemia, and was now master of the ceremonies at the Court of Charles II. He dabbled gracefully in literature, was a very accomplished linguist, and long after the death of Orinda achieved an ephemeral reputation as the translator of the novels of La Calprenede. He survived Katherine Philips nearly a quarter of a century, dying in 1687, and what then became of his collection of her letters does not appear. In 1705, however, forty years after her death, Bernard Lintott published, without any bibliographical. information, forty-eight Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus, which are not only extremely well written and vivacious, but full of autobiographical matter, and amply furnished with dates. By means of these letters we can follow Orinda closely through the last and most interesting months of her life.
The first letter is dated from Acton, Dec. 1, 1661. She has come up to London to prosecute some business for her husband, and is staying with his brother, to the members of whose family she had at various occasions indited poems. Sir Charles Cotterel has paid her a visit, in the course of which he has confided to her his hopeless passion for a lady named Calanthe, and she is full of concern for his peace of mind. Mr. Matthew Arnold has pointed out how suddenly the prose of the Restoration threw off its traditional involutions and false ornament, and became in a great measure the prose that we wish to use to-day. The Letters of Orinda form a singular instance of the truth of this criticism, and compare very favourably with such letters as those of Howel in point of simplicity of style. Thus, for instance, she refers to Sir Charles Cotterel's agitation of mind:—
"The great disturbance you were in when you went hence, and the high and just concern I have for you, have made me take the resolution to trouble you with my most humble and earnest request to resist the attempts your present passion is like to make on your quiet, before it grows too imperious to be checked by the powers of either reason or friendship. There is nothing more easy than to captivate one's self to love or grief, and no more evident mark of a great soul than to avoid those bondages. I hope, therefore, you will not think it altogether unbecoming the friendship you have given me leave to profess for you, to entreat you to overcome those passions, and not give way to melancholy, which will unhinge your excellent temper, and bring so great a cloud on the happiness of your friends. Consider for how many important interests you are responsible, and exert all the powers of reason with which your excellent judgment abounds, to shake off your sorrows, and live cheerfully and long the delight of all who have the honour of your acquaintance."
Calanthe had been in correspondence with Orinda, and that faithless confidante had shown her letters to Poliarchus, hence many entreaties that her weakness may not be divulged to the injured fair. It is plain that Orinda greatly enjoyed her position as go-between in this interesting love affair, which, however, very shortly languished, and left upon the ensuing correspondence only this trace, that Sir Charles Cotterel having written such passages in his letters to Orinda as were not to be read by Calanthe in Italian, Orinda was obliged to learn that language, to which, indeed, she forthwith gave herself very assiduously. Her visit to London came to an end in March 1662, and she wrote to Poliarchus a sprightly letter from Gloucester on her return journey. A very interesting letter, dated Cardigan Priory, March 18th, announced her return. She found Wales exceedingly dull at first, after the pleasures of courtly and literary society in London. She complained that she could not find any satisfaction in "my beloved rocks and rivers, formerly my best entertainment," and she longed to be able once more to enjoy Sir Charles Cotterel's conversation, which was to her "above all the flights of panegyrick." Her one consolation was that the faithful Lucasia was still at Cardigan, though threatening every day to be gone to her own home. Descending to mundane things, poor Orinda confessed that she had been much disappointed in the condition of her husband. He is dull, apathetic, and depressed, was roused to no interest by her account of the conduct of his affairs in London, and terrifies her by his absolute indifference to business. From the sluggishness of Antenor she turns again to the pleasures of literature, and by an amusing affectation characteristic of the school she belonged to, she tells Poliarchus that she is reading English books with patience and French ones with pleasure.
She spent the month of April with her beloved friend at Landshipping, but, alas! the hour of the apostasy of Lucasia was approaching. While Orinda was amusing herself with the idea that Poliarchus was showing her poems at Court, and while she was signing herself to him "more than all the world besides your faithful Valentine," Miss Anne Owen was herself accepting a valentine in a less platonic sense. It seems to have all happened at Landshipping under the very nose of Orinda, without attracting the attention of that active creature. When at last she found it out, she was beside herself with chagrin and indignation. The bridegroom was a son of Sir Thomas Hanmer, and the match was one thoroughly approved of by both families. Orinda, as she says herself, "alone of all the company was out of humour; nay, I was vexed to that degree that I could not disguise my concern, which many of them were surprised to see, and spoke to me of it; but my grief was too deeply rooted to be cured with words." Her position, indeed, was a very trying one; nor ought we to smile at the disappointment of this worthy little lady, who had worshipped a divinity so long only to find her suddenly composed of common clay.
The event was certainly hurried, for before the middle of May Lucasia was married, Orinda meanwhile indulging herself in transports of jealousy, and in long correspondence on the subject with Rosania and Poliarchus. When the young people were actually married, Orinda remained with them at Landshipping, and when they prepared to go over to Ireland, where the bride's new home was, she announced her intention of accompanying them. The vigilance of friendship, however, was not the only or the main cause of this determination. There were several suits to be tried in Dublin, involving heavy gains or losses to her husband, and as he could by no means be roused to an interest in these, Mrs. Philips resolved to undertake them herself. On July 19th, 1662, she writes from Rosstrevor, in County Down, where she had been enjoying the society of Jeremy Taylor, who had been settled something less than two years in his diocese. This august companionship did not prevent Orinda from exercising a sharp supervision over the newly married pair. She informs Poliarchus, in a strain of the finest unconscious humour, that she believes the bridegroom to be of a most stubborn and surly humour, although, "to speak sincerely, she has not been able hitherto to detect in him the marks of any ill nature," and what exasperates her most of all, in her character of the social banshee, is that Lucasia herself "pretends to be the most satisfied creature in the world."
In July 1662, Mrs. Philips began what was evidently the happiest year of her life by taking up her abode in Dublin. At the Restoration the great difficulty of settling the claims of those Irish gentlemen who demanded the King's favour, and the endless litigations respecting the forfeited lands in Ireland, brought over to Dublin a large company of distinguished lawyers with their families, and gave the city a temporary show and glitter. It was many years before affairs were in any degree arranged, and the English colony in Dublin settled down to enjoy themselves as best they might. Orinda found herself thrown at once into the distinguished company which gathered round the Lord-Lieutenant, the great first Duke of Ormonde, and she received an exceptionally warm welcome in the family of the Countess of Cork. Of all the Boyles, however, at that moment, the most influential was Roger, Earl of Orrery, whose enthusiastic admiration for Orinda displayed itself at once in every species of compliment and hospitality. He was eminent alike as a soldier, a statesman, and a poet, was one of the most influential men in the three kingdoms, and at that moment was engaged in Ireland upon a most arduous and painful office. He had just been appointed Lord Chief-Justice of Ireland under the Duke of Ormonde, and his friendship was not merely flattering and agreeable to Orinda, but extremely advantageous. He placed her among the ladies of his family, obtained for her the protection and personal friendship of Lady Cork, and in fact did all that was possible to make her stay in Dublin pleasant.
Another distinguished person with whom she swore eternal friendship in Dublin was the young Earl of Roscommon, not yet famous as the author of the Essay on Translated Verse, and indeed only twenty-eight years of age, but already looked upon as a patron of poetry, and as a very agreeable and eligible bachelor, "distempered," unfortunately, "with a fatal affection for play." Another Dublin acquaintance was James Tyrell, the politician and historian; yet another was John Ogilby, a man belonging to a generation earlier than all these, who had successfully outwitted Sir William Davenant, and had contrived to persuade Charles II. to send him out to Dublin as Master of the Revels. Ogilby is still sometimes remembered as the translator of the Odyssey and of the Aeneid. That Orinda impressed all these persons with a great sense of her intellectual power and moral excellence, is evident from the nature of the eulogies they poured upon her while she lived and long after she died. When a man in the position of Lord Orrery says in print of a little plain Welsh lady of the middle class—
Madam, when I but knew you by report,
I feared the praises of the admiring Court
Were but their compliments, but now I must
Confess, what I thought civil is scarce just—
we may be sure that he is trying to express with sincerity a very genuine admiration. Nor is the Earl of Roscommon, who addresses her as "Dear Friend," less sincere, though more ridiculous, when he states it to be his experience that when he meets hungry wolves in the Scythian snows,
The magic of Orinda's name
Not only can their fierceness tame,
But, if that mighty word I once rehearse,
They seem submissively to roar in verse.
On one of the earliest occasions upon which Mrs. Philips met Lord Orrery, in August 1662, she ventured to show him her latest effusion, a scene she had translated from the third act of Corneille's tragedy of Pompee. Orrery admired it excessively, and laid his entreaties, almost his commands, upon her to complete it in the same style — that is, in rhymed heroic verse. She set to work and completed the task, a very considerable one, by the middle of October. She found that it relieved her, in combination with select passages from Seneca and Epictetus, from absolutely breaking her heart over Lucasia, whose husband at last insisted on taking her back to their house at Rosstrevor. Orinda, ensconced in her snug nest of quality at Dublin, full of literary ambition, and scribbling day and night at Pompey, seems to have missed her friend as little as could be expected. She was treated as a very great celebrity; and when she had occasion to hand round some manuscript verses which Cowley had just sent her for approval, she must have felt that her cup of literary importance was full.
Thus caressed by Lady Cork and complimented by all the lettered earls, she passed the months of August and September 1662 in a sort of golden dream, scarcely finding time, amid all her avocations, to write a hasty letter to the devoted Poliarchus, to whom, however, Pompey was sent in quick instalments. She gives him an interesting account, in October, of the theatre which the new master of the revels, Ogilby, was building at Dublin — a theatre that cost £2000 to put up. She holds it to be much finer than Davenant's in London; and she is present when the season opens with a performance of Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy of Wit without Money. As soon as the rough draft of Pompey was finished, she busied herself with her husband's affairs — "putting in Antenor's claim as an adventurer in my father's right here in Ireland" — and this, with two other minor lawsuits, occupies her spare time until the summer of the ensuing year. Her most serious attention, however, settles upon Pompey. Sir Charles Cotterel takes so much interest in it that she says, "I look on you as more a friend to me than David was to Jonathan;" but she shows a little temper when he offers some verbal criticism. For instance, and this is interesting historically, he objects to the word "effort" as not English, and she replies that it has been naturalised here these twelve years. She might have added that Cotgrave had included it in his dictionary, in 1660.
Orinda spent the winter of 1662 at Dublin, touching up the text of Pompey, writing songs for it, and having them put to music — not without regret that her friend, the great Henry Lawes, who died just as the first manuscript of the play reached London, could not adorn them with immortal strains. Lord Orrery, who looked upon himself as the "onlie begetter" of this tragedy, moved heaven and earth to bring it out upon the stage; and, when Ogilby had made arrangements for its representation, Orrery spent £100 out of his own pocket to buy handsome Egyptian and Roman dresses and bring out the tragedy in style. It was dedicated to his mother, Lady Cork. Lord Roscommon wrote the prologue, and Sir Edward Dering the epilogue; each of them so ordered their verses that they should be delivered by the actor while turning to the Duke of Ormonde's box. New dances and a masque were introduced here and there by Ogilby, and on the second week of February 1663 it was finally presented to the public. It enjoyed an unbounded success; but, unfortunately, the letter in which Mrs. Philips gave Sir Charles Cotterel an account of the performance has not been preserved. Her friends, however, pressed her to print the play, and from the success which attended this experiment we may judge of the reception of the piece on the boards. An edition of five hundred was printed, a single packet only being sent to London, and in a fortnight the whole of the impression was sold. In London the demand was so great, that hardly had the few copies sent arrived at the capital, than Mr. Herringman, the poets' publisher in those early days of the Restoration, wrote to ask Orinda's leave to bring out a London edition.
Meanwhile, Orinda had certain literary experiences. She made the acquaintance of Samuel Tuke, whose very successful play, the Adventures of Five Hours, was awakening delusive hopes of a great new dramatist; and she welcomed in Hudibras the advent of one much greater than Tuke. Her first impulse of criticism was that which the world has endorsed: "In my life I never read anything so naturally and so knowingly burlesque." In May, her troubles as an authoress began. A miscellany of poems by living writers appeared, in which some of her lyrics were pirated and widely advertised; and her serenity was shaken, a week or two later, by the fact that two London publishers were quarrelling for Pompey, and did, in fact, bring out, in the month of June, two simultaneous editions of that lucky play. And now it came to her knowledge that, while she had been thus busily employed, she had cut the ground from under the feet of some of the most celebrated wits of the day; for Waller had set his heart on translating Pompee, and had finished one act before Orinda's version was heard of. The other four acts had been supplied by Sir Edward Fillmore, Sir Charles Sedley, and the young men who were afterwards known as the Earls of Dorset and Middlesex. As early as January 1663 it was announced that this translation was complete and immediately to appear. The success, however, of the Irish version checked the London one; and Orinda, hearing nothing of her illustrious rivals, became frightened, and wrote to Waller a letter deprecating his anger. His reply, which reached her early in June, reassured her; the courtly poet was characteristically smooth, courteous, and obliging, and, if he felt annoyance, contrived most wittily to avoid the show of it. At last, on July 16, 1663, having gained the two most important of her three suits, Mrs. Philips set sail from Dublin to Milford, and went home to her husband at Cardigan after an absence of exactly twelve months.
She found the excellent Antenor much improved in health, and she settled down to spend the autumn and winter at home. Her new importance as a woman of letters, and her large London correspondence, however, exposed her to a fresh annoyance. The postmaster at Carmarthen scandalously neglected his duty, and letters were constantly delayed and lost. The gentry of the neighbourhood, however, stirred up by the ever-energetic Orinda, sent in a memorial to O'Neil, the Postmaster-General, and the indolence at Carmarthen received a sharp reprimand. She found the winter tedious after her happy life at Dublin; she does not complain, but her letters to Sir Charles Cotterel are dejected in tone, and her appeals to her friends to find something in London for her husband to do are constant and pathetic. And now another annoyance occurred. A piratical London publisher managed to obtain copies of all her miscellaneous poems, which she had refused to print, and brought them out surreptitiously in November 1663, the title-page dated 1664. Her friends wrote to her to condole, but did not send her the book, and her anxiety and vexation, combined with the rumour that the verses were very incorrectly printed, threw her into a sharp attack of illness. The volume, however, is not particularly incorrect, and it was prefaced by an ode of Cowley's which should have been balm to the breast of the wounded poetess. In it that eminent rhetorician, speaking in the consciousness of his enormous prestige, addressed her in terms of the highest and most affectionate eulogy, and contrived to throw into one stanza, at least, of his encomiastic ode, some of the most delicately felicitous compliments that a poet ever addressed to a sister in Apollo:—
Thou dost my wonder, would'st my envy raise,
If to be praised I loved more than to praise;
I must admire to see thy well-knit sense,
Thy numbers gentle, and thy fancies high,
These as thy forehead smooth, these sparkling as thine eye.
'Tis solid and 'tis manly all,
Or rather, 'tis angelical!
For, as in angels, we
Do in thy verses see
Both improved sexes eminently meet,—
They are than Man more strong, and more than Woman sweet.
In January 1664 she took in hand another play of Corneille's, and that the one most popular in England through his lifetime — Horace. It had been translated before, by Sir William Lower, in 1656, and was attempted later on by Charles Cotton, in 1671. Orinda worked slowly at this, and brought four acts of it, all she was destined to complete, with her when she came to London in March. She was absolutely unable to stay any longer in suspense, and she thought that her energy and influence might secure some post for her husband if she came right up to town. The last three months of her life were brilliantly spent; she was warmly welcomed at court and in the best society. Her last verses, signed June 10, 1664, were addressed in terms of affectionate respect to the Archbishop of Canterbury. They breathe the old ardour, the old moral elevation, the old eager note of the enthusiastic Orinda. Twelve days later she was dead, a victim to smallpox, that frightful disease to which the science of the day saw no hope of resistance. She had but half completed her thirty-fourth year. She was buried under a great slab in the church of St. Bennet Sherehog, among the remains of her ancestors.
Thus, in the middle of a brilliant social and literary success, the abhorred shears slipped in and cut the thread. The memory of the matchless Orinda was celebrated in numberless odes. All the Royalist poets combined to do her honour. Cowley mourned her in a massive lyric. Denham demanded the privilege of concluding her Horace. Her name was mentioned with those of Sappho and Corinna, and language was used without reproach which might have seemed a little fulsome if addressed to the Muse herself.
For half a century Orinda was an unquestioned light in English song; then she sank into utter darkness. But her memory is worthy of some judicious revival. She presents us with a clearly defined and curious type of the literary woman, and there are few such in our early literature. She secured the affectionate esteem of the principal people of her time, and we know enough of her character to see that she could not but secure it; and if she sinned against poetry, as we understand it, much may be forgiven her, for she loved it much.
Fifteen years after the death of Orinda there was published in London a volume of Female Poems, which now forms one of the rarest books of the Restoration. This little volume was anonymous, but was said to be "written by Ephelia," and we are told that Ephelia was a certain Miss Joan Philips. I do not know whether I start too wild a theory when I acknowledge that it has several times crossed my mind that Ephelia may have been Orinda's only daughter, who, as we have said, eventually married a Mr. Wogan, of Pembrokeshire. This daughter seems to have been born about 1656, and accordingly would be twenty-three in 1679. The portrait of Ephelia affixed to her poems, and the description she gives of her person would tally closely enough with this hypothesis; and she expressly speaks of herself as deprived of her parents in early life, and as having soon after lost the property which they bequeathed to her.
However this may be, the poems of Joan Philips are closely modelled upon those of Katherine Philips, even to the form of her addresses to royalty and to the enthusiastic pseudonyms which she gives to her friends. That she does not refer to any such relationship would be amply accounted for by her desire to conceal her name, which the extremely confidential nature of her effusions made imperative. Her little book deserves mention as an appendix to Orinda's, not merely because it may be written by a relation and is certainly quite unknown to students, but also on account of its inherent merit. It is a sincere page out of the heart of a human being — a series of confessions so true and so poignant that we seem to hear a living voice across two centuries. In its warmth and vivacity, its womanly passion and subtlety, I know no utterance like it except the sonnets of Louise Labe. A real human voice is so rare in Restoration literature, that we may listen for a few moments to this not very tuneful one.
Ephelia tells us her story without any maidenly reserve, but with a great deal of nature. Her earliest poems show her, as Orinda had been before her, enslaved to a circle of fair friends of her own sex. One day she meets Strephon, or J. G., whose surname appears from an acrostic to have been Gilbert, and she falls in love with him at first sight. He is much older than she, and does not for some time respond to her passion; but by degrees he melts to her, and they are engaged to be married. J. G., however, is offered a valuable appointment in the factory at Tangiers, and he rides away under her bower-caves, like a false knight in a ballad, and sets sail without even bidding her farewell. She hears first a rumour that he is paying court to a lady of wealth in Morocco, and then that he had married This, "the best-born among the Afric maids." Ephelia loudly bewails her fate and Strephon's unkindness, and presents the public with a volume of poems in which every shade of emotion, as it passed through her mind, has been conscientiously transferred to verse. The result is extraordinary.
Joan Philips is a very unequal writer, but at her best she attains some undeniable vigour in the use of the heroic couplet. The following example gives as good an impression of her style as the reader can require; it is a passage inspired by the first suspicion of J. G.'s unfaithfulness:—
Why do I love? go, ask the glorious sun
Why every day it round the world doth run;
Ask Thames and Tiber, why they ebb and flow;
Ask damask roses, why in June they blow;
Ask ice and hail, the reason why they're cold;
Decaying beauties, why they will grow old;
They'll tell thee, fate, that everything doth move,
Inforces them to this, and me to love.
There is no reason for our love or hate,
'Tis irresistible as Death or Fate;
'Tis not his face; I've seen enough to see
That is not good, though doted on by me;
Nor is't his tongue that has this conquest won,
For that at least is equalled by my own;
His carriage can to none obliging be,
'Tis rude, affected, full of vanity,
Strangely ill-natured, peevish and unkind,
Unconstant, false, to jealousy inclined;
His temper could not have so great a power,
'Tis mutable and changes every hour;
Those vigorous years, that women so adore,
Are past in him, he's twice my age and more;
And yet I love this false, this worthless man
With all the passion that a woman can,
Dote on his imperfections, though I spy
Nothing to love, I love, and know not why.
Save 'tis decreed in the dark book of fate,
That I should love, and he should be ingrate.
The artificial accent of the age is entirely absent here, as elsewhere in Ephelia, and her couplets are not without vigour. Dryden's Aureng-Zebe had not been acted without profit to the ear of this young lady, who might, one fancies, under proper training, have become a genuine poet. She mentions Waller and Cowley with enthusiasm, and addresses a copy of rhymes to Aphra Behn, complimenting her on her "strenuous polite verses." In all this she is the child of her age. But her misfortunes, her amazing frankness in the analysis of her feelings, and the possibility that she was Orinda's daughter, lift her out of the region of commonplace.
There was a second edition of Ephelia's Poems, for a knowledge of which I am indebted to the courtesy of Mr. Edward H. Bierstadt, of New York. It consists of the sheets of the first edition, with a new title dated 1682, and twenty-eight additional leaves at the end containing thirty-two new poems. At least nine of these additional poems are taken from the first (1680) edition of Rochester, and many of the others are of such a character as to make us hope that the chaste Ephelia not merely did not write, but never read them.