Ephelia entry: Overview screen.
Writing and Life
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The Restoration user of the name Ephelia was a remarkably assured, forceful, and accomplished poet (as well as a playwright), although she left, outside her single printed collection (1679), only four poems extant: political broadsheets and a manuscript elegy. She writes outspokenly about the pains of love, and about her ambition to outdo the achievements of women thus far in writing poetry. Her poems mourn deaths, advise and celebrate the monarch, and prosecute the war between the sexes. The possibility that these poems might have been written by a man or men has been seriously argued, but seems remote when her voice is compared on the one hand with those of male contemporaries and on the other with, for instance, Katherine Philips, Aphra Behn, Philo-Philippa, and Damaris Masham. In more than a dozen years since Maureen E. Mulvihill identified Ephelia with Mary Villiers Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, the attribution has been accepted by all standard reference sources and has had no serious printed counter-identification. Ephelia is therefore quite probably one of those few elite women who, remarkably, thought subversively in gender politics although patriarchally in national politics.
March 1622 Mary Villiers (later Mary Stuart, Duchess of Lennox and Richmond), who may have later written and published as 'Ephelia', was born at Wallingford House in London, the eldest of three children, and the only girl. Bibliographic Citation link.
By 1678 The mysterious poet Ephelia first reached public notice when she produced (besides an anonymous verse eulogy addressed to Charles II on the 'Popish Plot') a play, "The Pair-Royal of Coxcombs", from which only four fragments remain. Bibliographic Citation link.
Spring 1679 Ephelia published her most extensive and notable work: the volume Female Poems on Several Occasions (listed in the Term Catalogues for this Easter term), selling bound for a shilling. Bibliographic Citation link.
6 June 1681 Elias Ashmole thus dated his copy of a verse broadside, Advice to His Grace (that is, to the Duke of Monmouth, would-be heir to the throne), by Ephelia. Bibliographic Citation link.
November 1685 Mary Stuart, Duchess of Lennox and Richmond, who may have been the poet 'Ephelia', died a Catholic convert, after a long illness. Bibliographic Citation link.
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