Description

These manuscripts – two poems handwritten by Katherine Philips, and a scribal copy of an extract from her play Pompey (1663) – are part of a collection of 16th- and 17th-century poetry compiled by Sir Richard Browne (1605–1683), a diplomat who served the royal family in exile during the Interregnum (‘between reigns’) of 1649–60.

Pompey was the first play by a woman to be performed in a commercial theatre, making this manuscript fragment particularly significant.

Manuscript transmission of Katherine Philips’s poetry

Instead of publishing her work, which would have exposed it to a public and unknown audience, Philips circulated her poetry privately amongst friends and patrons who shared her Royalist politics. The two autograph poems collected here demonstrate manuscript transmission in action: they are written on loose but folded pieces of paper, indicating that they were sent by Philips in letters.

Which works are digitised here?

  • ‘To the Queen's Majesty’ (ff. 69r–69v)

In the printed editions of Philips’s works this poem is titled, ‘To the Queen Mother's Majesty, Jan. 1. 1660/1’. This is to avoid confusion between Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), mother of King Charles II (1630–1685), and his wife Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705), whom he married on the 21 May 1662.

In the poem, Philips laments the ’unwearied spite’ (l. 7) of the Civil War, the execution of Charles I and the ordeals endured by the Queen Mother in exile: ‘As from our Mischiefs all your troubles grew, / 'Tis your sad right to suffer for them too’ (ll. 25–26). However, the poem also celebrates the triumphant return of the Stuarts to England.

  • ‘An ode upon retirement, made upon occasion of Mr. Cowley's on that subject’ (ff. 70r, 70v and 71r)

‘An ode upon retirement’ was written as a response to a poem by Abraham Cowley (1618–1667), a prominent poet and literary correspondent of Philips. Retirement poetry, as a genre, focussed on the merits of a solitary, mindful retreat from the chaos and corruption of the world. The genre was widely used by Royalist poets during the Interregnum as a means of reconciling themselves to their new position outside mainstream society.

In her poem, Philips declares that those ‘Who will be happy, must be unconcern'd, / Must all their comfort in their bosome weare, / And seeke their power and their treasure there’ (ll. 44–46).

  • Pompey. A Tragedy: extract from Act 3, Scene 4. (ff. 72r, 72v and 73r)

Pompey. A Tragedy is Philips’s translation of Pierre Corneille's La Mort de Pompée (1644). The play would have resonated with a contemporary audience because of the parallels between the plot and the events of the English Civil War, the Interregnum and the Restoration. Set during the Roman civil wars, the eponymous Pompey is brutally murdered by King Ptolemy of Egypt, who is subsequently defeated by Cleopatra upon her return from exile.

Transcript

To the Queen’s Majesty

You Justly may forsake a Land, which you_
Have found so guilty, & so fatall too,
Fortune injurious to your Innocence,
Empty’d her Quiver here, & shot from hence;
‘Twas here, bold. Rebells once, your life pursu’d,
To whom ‘twas Treason, onely to be rude,
Till you were forc’d by their unweary’d spight
(O! Glorious criminall!) to take your flight.
And after you, all that was humane fled,
For here, oh! here, the Royall Martyr bled.
Whose cause & heart must sacred be & high,
That having you could be content to dy.
Here they purloyn’d what we to you did on,
And payd you in Variety of woe.
Yet all those billows, in your brest did meet
A heart, so firm, so royall, & so sweet,
That over them you greatir conquest made,
Then your immortal Father ever had.
(For we may read in Story, of some few
Who fought like him, none ye endur’d like you.)
Till sorrow blush’d to act what Traytors meant,
And Providence it self did first repeat;
But as our Active, so our Passive Ill,
Hath made your share to be the Sufferers still,
As from our mischiefs all your troubles grew,
‘Tis your sad right, to suffer for them too.
Else our Great Charles had not been hence so long,
Nor ye adored Gloucester dy’d so young,

  1. Transcript

    To the Queen’s Majesty

    You Justly may forsake a Land, which you_
    Have found so guilty, & so fatall too,
    Fortune injurious to your Innocence,
    Empty’d her Quiver here, & shot from hence;
    ‘Twas here, bold. Rebells once, your life pursu’d,
    To whom ‘twas Treason, onely to be rude,
    Till you were forc’d by their unweary’d spight
    (O! Glorious criminall!) to take your flight.
    And after you, all that was humane fled,
    For here, oh! here, the Royall Martyr bled.
    Whose cause & heart must sacred be & high,
    That having you could be content to dy.
    Here they purloyn’d what we to you did on,
    And payd you in Variety of woe.
    Yet all those billows, in your brest did meet
    A heart, so firm, so royall, & so sweet,
    That over them you greatir conquest made,
    Then your immortal Father ever had.
    (For we may read in Story, of some few
    Who fought like him, none ye endur’d like you.)
    Till sorrow blush’d to act what Traytors meant,
    And Providence it self did first repeat;
    But as our Active, so our Passive Ill,
    Hath made your share to be the Sufferers still,
    As from our mischiefs all your troubles grew,
    ‘Tis your sad right, to suffer for them too.
    Else our Great Charles had not been hence so long,
    Nor ye adored Gloucester dy’d so young,

  2. Transcript

    Nor had we lost a Princess, all confessd
    To be the Greatest, wisest & the best.
    Who leaving colour parts, though less unkind,
    (For it was here she set, & there she shin’d)
    Did to a most ungrateful Climate come,
    To make a Visit, & to find a Tomb.
    So yt we might your pardon now despaire,
    As of your stay, in this unpurged Ayre,
    But yt your mercy does transcend our crimes,
    As much, as your example former times;
    And will accept our Offerings, though ye flame
    Does tremble still betwixt regrett & shame,
    For we have (Justly) suffer’d more than you,
    By the sad guilt of your afflictions too;

    As you ye Great Idea have been seen
    of either Fortune & in both a Queen
    Live still triumphant on ye noblest wars
    And Justify your reconciled Stars;
    See your offendors for your mercy bow,
    And your try’d Virtue, all mankind allow.
    While you to such a race have given birth,
    Who are contended for, by heaven, & Earth.

  3. Transcript

    No, No, unfaithfull world thou hast
    Too long my easy heart betray’d
    And me too long thy captive made
    But I am wiser grown at last
    And will improve by all that I have past.
    I know ‘twas Just I should be practised on
    For I was told before
    And told in sober. & instructions bore,
    How little all that trusted thee have won,
    And yet I would make hast to be undone
    But by my sufferings I am better taught
    And will no more comit yt stupid fault
    Go get some other Foole
    Whom thou may’st next cajole:
    On me thy frowns thou wilt in vain bestow
    For I know now
    To be as coy & as reserved as thou
    2.
    In my remote & humble seat
    Now I’m again possess’d
    of that late fugitive my Brest
    From all thy tumults, & from all thy heat
    He find a quiet, & a coole retreat
    And on the letters I have worne
    Look with experienc’d. & revengefull scorne
    In thy my sovereign = Privacy
    In truth, I cannot govorn thee

  4. Transcript

    [Left hand page]

    But yet my self I may subdue
    And that’s the nobler Empire of the Two.
    If every passion had got leave
    It’s satisfaction to receive
    Yet I would it a higher pleasure call
    So conquer one, than to indulge them all.
    3.
    For thy Inconstant Sea no more
    I’ll leave this safe, & solid shore
    No, though to proper in the cheat
    Thou shouldst my Destiny defeat
    And make me belov’d, or rich, or Great
    Nor from my self, shouldst me reclaim
    With all the noise, & all the pomp of fame
    Judiciously I’ll thee dispise
    Too small the bargain . & too dear the price
    For them to cozen twice
    At length thy secret I have learn’d
    Who will be happy must be unconcern’d
    Must all their comfort in their bosom wear
    And seek their power. & their Treasure there.
    4.
    Nor other newly
    No other wealth will I aspire
    But that of nature to admire
    Nor envy on a Laurel will bestow
    Whilst I have any in my Garden grow
    I And when I would be great
    ‘tis but assending to a seat
    Which nature in a lofty Rock has built

    [Right hand page]

    A throne as free from trouble as from Guilt
    Where when my soul her wings does raise
    Above what wordlings fear or praise
    With Innocent & quiet Pride I’le sit
    And see the humble waves pay tribute to my Feet
    O’ life divine! When free from Joys= diseas’d
    Not always merry, but ‘tis always pleas’d.
    5.
    A heart which is too great a thing
    To be a present for a Persian King
    Which God himself would have to be X his Court
    Where Angells would officiously resort
    From its’ own height would much decline
    If this converse it should resign
    Ill=natur’d world for Thine
    Thy unwise rigour hath thy Empire lost
    It has not onely set me free
    But is has’ let me see
    They onely can of thy possession boast
    Who do enjoy thee Least. & understand thee most.
    For Loe! The Man whom all mankind admire’d
    By the very grace adorn’d. & every Muse inspired
    Is now triumphantly retir’d
    The Mightly Cowley thy hath done
    And over thee a Parthian conquest won.
    Which future ages shall adore
    And which in this subject thee more
    Than either Greek or Roman, ever X could before.

  5. Transcript

    Extract of a Scene in Corneile’s Pompey
    Act 3 Scene 4
    Enter Ceasar, and Cornelia Being his Prisoner

    Cornelia

    Ceasar! That envious Fate which I can
    makes mee thy Prisoner, but not thy Slave.
    nor canst thou hope my Heart should ere afford
    to pay thee Homage, or to call thee Lord
    how rude soever fortune makes’ her blow
    I Crassus Widdow once and Pompeyes now
    Great Scipios’ Daughetor, (and what’s higher yet)
    A Roman have a Courage still more great
    and of all wrongs her Creulty can guid
    nothing can make mee blush, but that I livd
    I have not follow’d Pompey when he dyd
    and though the meanes to doo it word deny’d,
    though creull Pittye would not let me have,
    the quicke assistance of a stoole, or Wave,
    yet I’m ashan’d that after Such a Woe
    greif: had not cut my hard life in two
    Death had been glorious, & had set me free
    as from my Sorrow then, see now from thee
    yet I must thanke the Gods though soo Severe
    that coming hither I doo find thee here,
    that Caesar reigns here and not Ptolomy
    And yet O! Heaven! what stares doo governe mee,
    that some faint Kind of Comfort now it is,
    to meet heere with my greatest Enemyes.
    And that into their handes I rather fall;
    then into his that ow’d my Husband all,
    but of thy Conquest Casar., makes noo boast.
    which to my single Destiny thou ows’t

  6. Transcript

    I both my Husbands fortunes have defaec’t
    and twice have causd the World to be disgrac’d,
    my nuptiall knott twice ominously ty’d
    banish'd the Gods from the uprighter Side,
    but I had happye been in Misery, if it
    For Romes advantage had wth thee been knitt
    and if on thy house I could soo dispence
    all my owne starres malignant influence
    for never thinke my hatred can grow less,
    since I sho Romane constancy professe,
    and though thy Captive, yet a heart like mine
    can never stoope to hope for ought from thine;
    Comand, but never thinke to bend my Will,
    Remember this I am Cornelia still.

    Casar

    O’worthy Widdow of a spouse soo brave,
    whose Courage Wonder Fate does Pitty crave
    your noble thoughts doe quickly make us know,
    to whom your Loud; to whome your Birth you owd,
    and wed may find your heartes glorious frame,
    to whome you married, and from whome you came,
    young Crassus Soule; & noble Pompeyes too
    (whose Virtues fortune cheated of their due)
    the Scipios’ blood (who said out Deityes)
    speakes in your tongue; & sparkles in your Eyes,
    and Rome her self hath not an auntient stem,
    whose Wife; or Daughter hath more honour’d them
    Oh! that those Gods your Ancestors once sav’d,
    When Hannibal then at their Altar’s brav’d,
    had steerd yor Hero to decline this port;
    and to avoid a wild Barbarians Court
    that his uncertaine faith hee had not try’d,
    but on our auntient friendship had rely’d,
    and would have sufferd my victorious Fate

  7. Transcript

    onely to conquer his hill grounded hate
    and that expecting not distrusting mee;
    h'had stay’d till I my Selfe could justifye,
    then trampling on our former enuius strife;
    I would have begg’d him to accept of Life,
    forget my Conquest, & his Rivall, love,
    who fought, but that he might his equall prove,
    then I with a Content entirely great,
    had pray’d the Gods to pardon his Defeate,
    and giving me his friendship to possesse,
    he had pray’d Rome to pardon my Successe.
    But since fate (Soe ambitious to destroye;)
    has robbed the World, & VS of soe much joye
    Caesar must Strive & acquit himselfe to you,
    of what was your Illustrious Husbands due;
    Enjoye your selfe then, with all freedome heere;
    onely two dayes my Prisoner appeare,
    and witnesse beare how after our Debate,
    I shall revere his name; revenge his Fate;
    you this account to Italye may yield,
    what Pride I borrow from Thessalia’s field,
    I leave you to yor selfe, and Shall retire,
    Lepidus furnish her, to her desire
    as Romane Ladyes have respected been
    Soe honour her that is above a Queene,
    Madam Command, all Shall your orders waite,

    Cornelia

    O! Heavns! how may vertues must I hate!