Katherine Philips was the first British poet to write of same-sex love between women
Extracts from Forbidden Lives:
“Much discussion around Katherine’s poetry and life concentrates on whether she was or was not a lesbian. For the emotional focus of her poetry was on women and the passionate relationships she had with them. Regardless of Katherine’s own sexual orientation they are the first British poems which express same-sex love between women”…
“it is Katherine’s relationships with these women that has caused so much attention. She lived in a society where the two sexes were shaped by radically different expectations and experiences. Close relationships were bound to be formed when spending so much time with members of the same sex. Most did not have a sexual element but there were those which, measured against the non-sexual close friendships, stand out for their exceptional emotional and romantic content”…
Having been rejected by her first love she “like many a wounded lover quickly transferred her affections to another, a local woman she had known about a year. Anne Owen lived at Landshipping near Katherine’s mother’s old home at Picton Castle.
She joined Katherine’s Society of Friendship and was given the name Lucasia and Katherine lost no time parading her emotions for her new friend before her old flame in “On Rosania’s Apostacy, and Lucasia’s Friendship”
For ten years Katherine and Anne remained the closest of friends, visiting each other and staying in each other’s houses. Katherine was devoted to her and wrote probably her greatest and most quoted poem, “To My Lucasia, in Defence of Declared Friendship:”
O My Lucasia, let us speak our Love,
And think not that impertinent can be,
Which to us both doth such assurance prove,
And whence we fine how justly we agree.
If I distruct, ‘tis my own worth for thee,
‘Tis my own fitness for a love like thine;
And therefore still new evidence would see
T’assure my wonder that thou canst be mine.
But when she died it was not in Anne’s arms, but that of her first love Rosania.
Read more about Katherine Philips and her same-sex relationships in Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales by Norena Shopland published by Seren Books