Harriette Andreadis

While Harriette Andreadis (2001) certainly hears an incarnate, female voice in the Ephelia texts, she (disputably) reads Ephelia's three verse-letters to the "angry" and 'commanding' 'Excellent Eugenia' (most probably Ephelia's only female social superior, namely, her adoptive mother Queen Henrietta Maria) as instances of "same-sex literary erotics" and lesbian "negotiations." Eugenia and Ephelia surely are "negotiating," as Andreadis says, but it is doubtful that their sensitive agenda in these few poems pertains to the female body. In one instance, e.g., their subject is Eugenia's angry response to an unspecified public misstep by Ephelia; this blunder is most probably Ephelia's (Mary Villiers') mention of the queen's name when Lady Mary was imprisoned in Whitehall Palace by Cromwell during the Civil Wars ("But I, prophanely nam'd you in the Ear / Of Crowds unfit such Sacred Sounds to hear: / Yet what I said, if trac'd, you will find, / Tho short of you, out-did all Woman-kind. / My fault was too much Zeal; this forc'd my Tongue…", Female Poems…by Ephelia, pp. 109-110). Ephelia's poems to Eugenia do not employ a language of seduction, desire, or sexual intimacy. The poet's verses to women -- 'Marina' (Frances Stuart, a younger 'double' of Mary Villiers/Ephelia, hence 'Marina'), 'Phillida' (Betty Felton), 'Phylena' (Mary Fairfax Villiers), Madam Bhen (Aphra Behn, 'Bhen' but a contemporary variant spelling of 'Behn'), Madam G. (Nell Gwyn), Madam F. (Cary Frazier), and 'Eugenia' (the queen-mother) -- are not sexual entreaties from one woman to another, but rather verse firmly in the tradition of the classical encomium. If one reads aloud, e.g., the sapphic verse of Aphra Behn to her lesbian companions, reasonably identified by Janet Todd in her biography of Behn (1996) as most probably the actress Emily Price and the notorious bisexual courtesan and cross-dresser Lady Anne Frecheville (see pp. 190-191, 382-3), the differences between Behn's poetry of overt sexual longing and Ephelia's poetry of decorous affection and praise are patent, if not compelling. For Ephelia's skill in a poetics of (heterosexual) desire, see her many pathetic lyrics to "J.G." (most probably, the queen-mother's favorite, Henry Jermyn, first Earl of St Albans; see my remarks on Jermyn in this document's Appendix A: A Key to Female Poems…by Ephelia, 1679), with Notes. Andreadis's other readings of women's "literary erotics" are more persuasive and, in some respects, admirably original.