1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Katherine Philips

D., in "On the Poems of Katherine Philips" Edinburgh Magazine NS 4 (March 1819) 203.



There is nothing, it is true, in her poetry, of that close inspection of the human heart, that terrific exhibition of passion, or that inventive facility which have enabled a woman, in our own time, to surpass in the drama the efforts of any male competitor. If Mrs. Philips had those high powers, she has not put them forth; and it is rather in the sober intelligence, and moral character of her poetry, that we at all compare her to Miss Baillie, than in any of the higher qualities of genius. In these respects, however, her compositions are very remarkable, and it is singular to see how well the unaffected exercise of these endowments has preserved her from the false taste of her age. She seems to have been an uncommonly amiable and high-minded woman, — and the time in which she lived, — the beginning of Charles Second's reign, when every loyal spirit that had mourned over the fate of his father, and had clung to the ruins of church and state, was once more visited by the glow of hopes restored, — suited well the character of her soul, and gives to her poetry a moral sublimity which is sometimes of an higher order than that of genius itself. Her life is interesting, — she was married, lived mostly in retirement in Wales, and had one child, who died before her, and was herself taken from the world at the early age of 31. Her total unconcern about fame, and the evident proof that her poems were merely the result of her occasional feelings and reflections, without any farther view, give to them an additional interest, and we really think it is edifying for our modern versifiers, who are commonly so eager to print their effusions, to be informed of the real pain and uneasiness which she suffered, on being written to by a friend that her poem had been collected, and surreptitiously published.