The Knowing Few: Katherine Philips and the Courtly Coterie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


John Berkenhead, writing in 1651 on the Royalist divine and playwright William Cartwright, makes Cartwright’s wit the “blood of verse,” which “like a German Prince’s title, runs / Both to thy eldest and to all thy Sons” (“In Memory” [B1]). Berkenhead’s fantasy of the dissolution of primogeniture into a leveled fraternity of Royalist poets seems to exclude women, yet the multi-authored collection of prefatorial poems in which his elegy appears did include one woman writer: Katherine Philips. Philips’s poem to Cartwright, her first published poem, promoted her as a pivotal figure for a group of Royalist writers, many of whom had been expelled from Oxford University by a Parliamentary commission in 1647. Indeed, Philips’s published and manuscript poetry of this period figures her as a proxy poet who substitutes for decentered royal power and panegyric by helping to forge this group into a paradoxically elitist counterpublic. Ironically, given Philips’s own Royalism, it is this very decentering that sanctions the emergence of the nonaristocratic woman writer as a privileged member of the group. From within the exclusivity of the post-courtly coterie, Philips and her interlocutors imagine a thriving public culture of Royalist opposition that hinges on the figure of a woman writer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700
Number of pages38
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameEarly Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700
ISSN (Print)2634-5897
ISSN (Electronic)2634-5900


  • Female Friend
  • Political Affiliation
  • Public Culture
  • Public Power
  • Wide Public

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Linguistics and Language


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