Thumbprints of Ephelia introduces into the electronic medium of scholarly discourse a multimedia reconstruction of a long-contested case in literary detection.
This first monograph-length archive of information on the Ephelia subject (120 pages in typescript, with nineteen images and twenty-three linked notes) brings together a complex body of beliefs and traditions on this pseudonymous poet-playwright-songwriter of seventeenth-century London; and it has been assembled for (Re)Soundings with a view to:
(1) Shed new light on a reputedly intractable case in the annals of English pseudonyma;
(2) Introduce the most forceful candidate, to date, for Ephelia's authorship: Lady Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1622-85), the intriguing "Butterfly" of the Stuart court and arguably the most highly placed woman writer at the Court of Charles II; a monarch among women poets, this newly-reclaimed Stuart duchess displayed unlimited access to the highest levels of power, as well as audacious wit and an unusual talent in self-reinvention; and,
(3) Bring readers' attention to the divisive character of the pseudonymous personality, whose conflicting impulse is to conceal and reveal identity through clever rhetorics of disguise and disclosure. Observing the behavior of the pseudonymous personality in print and in image has been one of the excitements of the present case; for the artistic challenge of the writer behind the Ephelia pseudonym was not to find a single signature voice, but rather to devise a rich repertoire of voices. The polyvocal persona proved to be my poet's best subterfuge, until new findings enabled me to crack the Ephelia case in 1995. Testing a bold hypothesis against established facts and internal evidence, I finally was able to demystify this centuries-old enigma (Attribution and Evidence).
is least at home in his own voice;
but give him a mask, he'll tell you the Truth and who he really is.
- Oscar Wilde
Dating from the quiet circulation of Ephelia's poems at the Court of Charles II, the identity of this poet has been one of the most closely-held secrets in Stuart literary culture; and the allure of her concealed authorship has enticed and vexed several generations of literary sleuths. In the present century, recent contributors to the debate include, among others, Warren Chernaik, Georgina Colwell, Germaine Greer, Elaine Hobby, Judith Page, David Vieth, Marilyn Williamson, and this researcher. And regardless of a strong adversarial (or contrarian) basis in perceptions of the Ephelia poet, her canonical acknowledgement is now patent, with the release in 1992 of my scholarly edition and the inclusion of Ephelia in several principal reference works and anthologies, such as An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers edited by Paul and June Schlueter (second edition, 1998) and the redoubtable New Oxford Book of Seventeenth-Century Verse (1991) edited by Alastair Fowler. In July, 2001, the "Ephelia" records in the Eighteenth-Century Short-Title Catlogue were updated to include my case for Mary Villiers.
This first globally-accessible treatment of a virtual Ephelia consists of the following illustrated segments: