(From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble).
PHILIPS, Katherine (1631-64), known as the 'Matchless Orinda', the daughter of Royalist John Fowler, a London merchant. She lived in London until the age of 15, attending Mrs Salmon's School, Hackney. Upon her father's death her mother married a Welsh baronet, whose castle in Pembrokeshire became Katherine's home. In 1648 she married Parliamentarian James Philips of Cardigan: he was 59, she 17. Her poems were widely circulated in manuscript, inspiring eulogies by Henry *Vaughan ('It was thy light showed me the way' in Olor Iscanus and Thalia Rediviva); a commendatory poem by 'Orinda' was prefixed to the latter volume. Her translation of *Corneille's Pompée was acted in Dublin with great success in 1663, and her version of Horace, completed by *Denham, in 1668. Her collected poems appeared unauthorized in 1664. She died of smallpox, and was mourned in elegies by *Cowley and Sir William *Temple; her collected poems were published in 1667. They memorialize a coterie, a Platonic Society of Friendship, whose members were known by poetic sobriquets, including Anne Owen (Lucasia), Mary Aubrey (Rosania), John *Berkenhead (Cratander), and Sir Charles Cotterell (Polliarchus), her correspondence with whom was published as Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus in 1705. These letters show Philips's careful construction of the persona of 'Orinda'. She was pre-eminently a poet of female friendship. Her lyrics, marrying Cavalier and Metaphysical influences, applied Petrarchan love conventions to present women's friendship as an ideal. Friendship is 'our passion . . . the strongest thing I know'. See P. W. Souers, The Matchless Orinda (1931); E. Hobby, The Virtue of Necessity (1988); Germaine *Greer, Kissing the Rod (1988).