To Madam Bhen
MAdam! permit a Muse that has been long
This second Poem of the Week selection of a poem by "Ephelia" marks the recent publication of the new Ephelia edition (Ashgate UK, 2003), edited and selected by Maureen E. Mulvihill (Princeton Research Forum, NJ), with an apparatus and two Van Dyck portraits of Lady Mary Villiers, Dr. Mulvihill"s candidate for the "Ephelia" poet.
To Madam Bhen, an intimate lyric from a famous pseudonymous woman poet of the late l7th century to the most public woman poet of that age, is a tender pledge of sororal affection and artistic solidarity. It was written, most probably, by Lady Mary Villiers, later Stuart, Duchess of Richmond & Lennox (1622-1685) ("Ephelia"), to Aphra Behn, a close friend of the Villiers circle and England"s first professional woman writer. The text of our posting, fully faithful to the poem"s original orthography and punctuation, is taken from the new, authoritative edition.
For an illustrated archive on the "Ephelia" subject, see http://www.millersville.edu/~resound/ephelia/. For more information on the evolution of the Villiers case, see Seventeenth-Century News (Spring/Summer, 2003; "News" section).
For a detailed and closely-documented profile of Lady Mary Villiers, with color image, see the handsome website of the Historical Portraits gallery, 31 Dover Street, Mayfair, London, which mentions that Mary Villiers was "very probably" the 'Ephelia' poet. See the gallery's Discoveries link for "A Royal Van Dyck," at http://www.historicalportraits.com.
To Madam Bhen, first appeared in Ephelia's 1679 Female Poems on Several Occasions. It should be noted that "Bhen" in the title is not a printing error, but rather a contemporary variant spelling of "Behn."