Biography of Anne Killigrew
Anne Killigrew was an English poet. Born in London, Killigrew is perhaps best known as the subject of a famous elegy by the poet John Dryden entitled To The Pious Memory of the Accomplish'd Young Lady Mrs. Anne Killigrew (1686). She was however a skilful poet in her own right, and her Poems were published posthumously in 1686. Dryden compared her poetic abilities to the famous Greek poet of antiquity, Sappho. Killigrew died of smallpox aged 25.
Early Life and Inspiration
Anne Killigrew was born in early 1660, before the Restoration, at St. Martin's Lane in London England. Not much is known about her mother Judith Killigrew, but her father Dr. Henry Killigrew has published several sermons and poems as well as a play called The Conspiracy. Her two paternal uncles were also published playwrights. Sir William Killigrew (1606–1695) published two collections of plays and Thomas Killigrew (1612–1683) not only wrote plays but built the theatre now known as Drury Lane. Her father and her uncles had close connections with the Stuart Court, serving Charles I, Charles II, and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza. Anne was made a personal attendant, before her death, to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York.
Little is recorded about Anne’s education, but it is common fact she kept up with her social class, and she had received instruction in both poetry and painting in which she excelled. Her theatrical background added to her used of shifting voices in her poetry. In John Dryden’s Ode to Anne he points out that “Art she had none, yet wanted none. For Nature did that want supply” (Stanza V). Killigrew most likely got her education through studying the Bible, Greek mythology, and philosophy. Mythology was often expressed throughout her paintings and poetry.
Inspiration for Killigrew’s poetry came from her knowledge of Greek myths and Biblical proverbs as well as from some very influential female poets who lived during the Restoration period: Katherine Philips and Anne Finch (also a maid to Mary of Modena at the same time as Killigrew). Mary of Modena encouraged the French tradition of precieuses (patrician women intellectuals) which pressed women’s participation in theatre, literature, and music. In effect, Killigrew was surrounded with a poetic feminist inspiration on a daily basis in Court: she was encompassed by strong intelligent women who encouraged her writing career as much as their own.
With this motivation came a short book of only thirty-three poems published soon after her death by her father. It was not abnormal for poets, especially for women, never to see their work published in their lifetime. Since Killigrew died at the young age of 25 she was only able to produce a small collection of poetry. In fact, the last three poems were only found among her papers and it is still being debated about whether or not they were actually written by her. Inside the book is also a self painted portrait of Anne and the Ode by family friend and poet John Dryden.
The Poet and Painter
Anne Killigrew excelled in multiple media. It is said that she has painted a total of 15 paintings; only four are known to exist today. They are all based on biblical and mythological imagery. It is unknown whether she based the poems on the paintings, or whether she had painted the paintings to complement her poetry. Both share an emphasis on nature and suggest female rebellion in a male-dominated society.
All of her poetry has beautiful and potent imagery, but she has often been criticized for having used well worn and conventional topics such as death, love, and the human condition. Alexander Pope, a prominent critic as well as the leading poet of the time, labelled her work “crude” and “unsophisticated.” So, the question has frequently been raised: is Killigrew so deserving of such an immortalizing Ode by Dryden? Had he even read her poetry to properly determine her skills? Some say Dryden defended all poets as teachers of moral truths, and therefore Killigrew, despite her lack of experience, deserved his praise. However, evidence shows that she might not have been ready to see some of her work published, such as the unfinished poem “Alexandreis,” about Alexander the Great. At the end of the poem, she expresses the feeling that the task was too great for her to take on and she would try to finish it at another time. Then, there is the question of the last three poems that were found among her papers. They seem to be in her handwriting, which is why Killigrew’s father added them to her book. The poems are about the despair the author has for another woman, and could possibly be autobiographical if they are in fact by Killigrew. Some of her other poems are about failed friendships, possibly with Anne Finch, so this assumption may have some validity.
An early death
Killigrew died of smallpox on 16 June 1685, when she was only 25 years old. She is buried in the Chancel of the Savoy Chapel (dedicated to St John the Baptist) where a monument was built in her honour, but has since been destroyed by a fire.
Anne Killigrew's Works:
To the Queen
A Pastoral Dialogue
Upon Being Contented With A Little
On an Atheist
A Farewell to Worldly Joys
The Complaint of a Lover
Love, the Soul of Poetry
To my Lady Berkeley
St. John the Baptist
Nimphs of Diana’s
An Invective against Gold
The Miseries of Man
My Lord Colrane
A Pastoral Dialogue
A Pastoral Dialogue
On my Aunt Mrs. A. K.
On a Young Lady
On the Duchess of Grafton
Penelope to Ulysses
An Epitaph on Herself
Upon a Little Lady
Motions of Eudora
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Anne Killigrew Poems
Tell me thou safest End of all our Woe, Why wreched Mortals do avoid thee so: Thou gentle drier o'th' afflicteds Tears, Thou noble ender of the Cowards Fears;
Love, The Soul Of Poetry
WHen first Alexis did in Verse delight, His Muse in Low, but Graceful Numbers walk't, And now and then a little Proudly stalk't; But never aim'd at any noble Flight:
A Farewel To Worldly Joys
FArewel ye Unsubstantial Joyes, Ye Gilded Nothings, Gaudy Toyes, Too long ye have my Soul misled, Too long with Aiery Diet fed:
[I.] Arise my Dove, from mid'st of Pots arise, Thy sully'd Habitation leave, To Dust no longer cleave,
The Complaint Of A Lover
Seest thou younder craggy Rock, Whose Head o'er-looks the swelling Main, Where never Shepherd fed his Flock, Or careful Peasant sow'd his Grain.
Extemporary Counsel Given To A Young Gal...
As you are Young, if you'l be also Wise, Danger with Honour court, Quarrels despise; Believe you then are truly Brave and Bold,
First Epigram: Upon Being Contented with...
1 We deem them moderate, but Enough implore, 2 What barely will suffice, and ask no more: 3 Who say, (O Jove) a competency give, 4 Neither in Luxury, or Want we'd live.
An Epitaph On Her Self.
When I am Dead, few Friends attend my Hearse, And for a Monument, I leave my VERSE.
On The Dutchess Of Grafton
Th' ambitious Eye that seeks alone, Where Beauties Wonders most are shown;
The Miseries of Man
1 In that so temperate Soil Arcadia nam'd, 1 For fertile Pasturage by Poets fam'd; 2 Stands a steep Hill, whose lofty jetting Crown, 3 Casts o'er the neighbouring Plains, a seeming Frown;
On The Soft And Gentle Motions Of Eudora
Divine Thalia strike th' Harmonious Lute, But with a Stroke so Gentle as may sute The silent gliding of the Howers,
On My Aunt Mrs. A. K.
The Darling of a Father Good and Wise, The Vertue, which a Vertuous Age did prize; The Beauty Excellent even to those were Faire,
On The Birth-Day Of Queen Katherine
While yet it was the Empire of the Night, And Stars still check'r'd Darkness with their Light, From Temples round the cheerful Bells did ring,
Penelope To Ulysses.
Return my dearest Lord, at length return, Let me no longer your sad absence mourn, Ilium in Dust, does no more Work afford,
The Complaint Of A Lover
Seest thou younder craggy Rock,
Whose Head o'er-looks the swelling Main,
Where never Shepherd fed his Flock,
Or careful Peasant sow'd his Grain.
No wholesome Herb grows on the same,
Or Bird of Day will on it rest;
'Tis Barren as the Hopeless Flame,
That scortches my tormented Breast.