Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Line Cottegnies: "Katherine Philips: New Sources"

Line Cottegnies

New Sources for Two Songs by Katherine Philips

1> Thanks to the work of Elizabeth Hageman and Andrea Sununu, we know that Katherine Philips read such popular collections of French narratives as Recueil de pièces en prose, les plus agréables de ce temps. Composées par divers Autheurs, published by Charles de Sercy.[1] They were able to show that this was the volume out of which she translated a poem, ‘Tendres desirs out of a French Prose.[2] This choice of a source shows that Philips was looking towards France for inspiration, and was in particular watching out for what was new and fashionable. In the same article, Hageman and Sununu also suggested that Philips’s song entitled ‘Song, To the Tune of Sommes nous pas trop heureux’ was based on a whole body of French political satires, for which they found four different manuscripts from the 1660s. They did not rule out the possibility, however, that the original source might be a love poem for which they found a manuscript copy in a late seventeenth-century collection of French songs kept at the National Library of Wales.[3] As for the source for ‘Song, To the Tune of Adieu, Phillis’, it was hitherto unidentified.

2> In fact, the song Sommes-nous pas trop heureux, on which the manuscript satires were based, originally featured in a royal ‘ballet’, an elaborate court entertainment which was performed in February 1661 at the Louvre, with music composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully (and possibly by Cavalli for the prologue and epilogue).[4] The libretto, written by Isaac de Benserade (and Francesco Butti for the Italian prologue and epilogue) was published the very same year by the bookseller Robert Ballard, as Ballet Royal De l’Impatience. Dansé par sa Majesté le 19. Feburier 1661 (Paris, 1661). The song can be found on p. 18 and 19 of the libretto.The book did not include the music, but a manuscript transcript of the whole ballet made in 1690 for the King by the musician (and librarian) André Danican Philidor, aka Philidor l’Aîné (c. 1650-1730),[5] is preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and was recently digitalized. It can be viewed at
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1036632/f17.image  (Consulted 2 July 2014). Other, slightly later transcripts of the song have also emerged.[6]

3> The transcribed song is a serenade in G minor for a ‘haute-contre’ (to be distinguished from ‘countertenor’), with a line for the base. On the stage, the song was initially performed by Claude le Gros (?-1695 ?) to a ‘concert’ of twenty-nine instruments – specified in the libretto as six theorbs, nine flutes and fourteen violins.

4> Katherine Philips obviously had access to the music, which must have circulated in manuscript, but her text is very different from the original love song. The French song is a delicate nocturnal love scene, as one might expect from a serenade:

Sommes nous pas trop heureux,
Belle Iris, que vous en semble?
Nous voicy tous deux ensemble,
Et nous nous parlons tous deux.
La nuict de ses sombres voiles
Couvre nos desirs ardens,
Et l’Amour & les Estoiles
Sont nos secrets confidens

Mon cœur est sous vostre loy
Et n’en peut aimer une autre,
Laissez moy voir dans le vostre
Ce qui s’y passe pour moy.
La Nuit est calme & profonde,
Nul ne vient mal à propos,
Le repos de tout le monde
Assure nostre repos.[7]

5> The lovers find themselves alone in the night and relish each other’s presence. Philips’s version is a more conventional love song where the speaker describes herself or himself (the speakers gender is not specified) as dying because of her or his lover’s cruelty.[8] It is the choice of the song itself which is remarkable rather than the new poem she writes to the same tune, as it reveals the extent of Philips’s interest in contemporary French court culture and music. The Ballet de l’impatience was a royal ballet, whose music was composed by the most prominent French musician of the times, Lully, while the text was by Benserade, himself a highly successful author of plays and romances. The Ballet was organized as a series of tableaux loosely illustrating the evils of impatience. It was a very public affair, performed three times, on 19, 22, and 26 February 1661 (French calendar). The performances were interrupted by the news of the agony, then the death of Cardinal of Mazarin (on 9 March). The young King himself, Louis XIV, was involved, acting the part of a lord, and dancing in front of the whole court in the Louvre palace. He also danced at some point, if we are to believe Guy Patin, in front of Henrietta Maria (and her followers), who had just returned from England to prepare the marriage of her daughter Henrietta to the Duke of Orléans, the King’s brother, a marriage which eventually took place on 31 March 1661.[9] Marie-Claude Canova-Green suggests that it is in fact to honour his aunt that the young Louis XIV commissioned this ballet, which she thinks contains allusions to Stuart masques such as Davenant’s Triumphs of the Prince D'Amour, among others.[10] Through the English present, there are many ways Philips could have heard about the performance, and about the song in particular. There were numerous exchanges between France and England in the early 1660s, at a time when the English court was reinventing itself. Sir Charles Cotterell, for intance, Philips’s dear friend, was the Master of Ceremony of Charles II: he might have had an interest in keeping informed about what the French court was being entertained with. Henry Jermyn, Henrietta-Maria’s loyal friend, was a correspondent of Cowley’s, himself a friend of Philips’s. In March 1661, Sir Samuel Tuke, whom Katherine Philips met, was sent on a embassy by Charles II to the funeral of Cardinal Mazarin. These are just a few examples of potential channels through which Katherine Philips could have got informed about contemporary French court culture, and could have heard about the song she used as a basis for her own song. For the upwardly-mobile poet, who found herself in Dublin in 1662 and 1663 at the very centre of a brilliant aristocratic circle, where she was asked to contribute to the new court culture, French literature was just the new thing that needed to be emulated. These were the years when she was busy translating Corneille, and, as is well-known, she also wrote original songs to be sung between the acts, in preparation for a superlative aristocratic entertainment, Pompey, which was performed to great acclaim in February 1663. All this might explain her interest in a French royal Ballet that had just been performed and published.

6> The song Sommes-nous pas trop heureux was also obviously very popular on its own, however, as its use as a basis for the several political satires discovered by Hageman and Sununu shows. It was in fact included in one of the several volumes of fashionable airs and songs gathered by Bertrand de Bacilly first for the bookseller Charles de Sercy in 1661,[11] then for Robert Ballard — the bookseller who had a monopoly for publishing music in the period, and has also published the libretto of the Ballet —, in a volume entitled Suite de la Troisiesme partie du Recueil des plus beaux vers qui ont esté mis en chant, 3e partie.[12] Published in this collection as free-standing, the song was meant to be sung to the lute, and performed in salons or at court, like the other songs of the volume.[13] The piece was clearly amalgamated with a whole genre of court songs and airs which circulated in manuscript and printed forms, and were often reused and recycled.

7> The second poem ‘Song, To the Tune of Adieu, Phillis’, whose source was hitherto unidentified, is actually based on one of these songs, which, in all likelihood, circulated in manuscript, but was at some point published in one of the volumes of the collection of airs that the music bookseller Robert Ballard gathered between 1670 and 1699. The song can be found on f. 28v-29 of XVI. Livre d’Airs de differents autheurs à deux parties (Paris, 1673). It comes with the music, which is by Antoine Carré, Sieur de la Grange (while the author of the words is unknown). It is an air in C major, for two voices:[14]

‘Adieu, belle Phillis, je vais loin de tes charmes,
Passer mes tristes jours,
Et mourir de langueur:
Je n’auray plus du moins, ces mortelles alarmes
Que tes yeux donnoient à mon cœur.’

8> An undated manuscript  version of this song, in the BnF, contains the variant ‘Adieu, Philis, adieu, je vais loin de tes charmes finir ma triste vie’ for the first couple of lines.[15] In her poem, Philips radically departs from the original, rather conventional, love song to write a melancholy piece about the vanity of life: ‘’Tis true our life is but a long disease, / Made up of real pain and seeming ease ...’[16]

9> In recent years, French music historians like Anne-Madeleine Goulet and Thomas Leconte have started studying the circulation of these airs, both for the music and the words, and the forms of sociability which they conditioned[17]. All these songs belong to the same précieux, largely European moment, where originality was not sought after and derivativeness was the very thing. By choosing to echo this contemporary aesthetic, Philips must be seen as a mediator in England for the French aristocratic continental culture. In the case of the song from the Ballet de l’impatience, she was clearly curious about a royal entertainement which had been performed in front of Henrietta Maria. Here Philips shows her interest in French court culture, but also in the musical culture of her time, and in the continental song as a coterie genre, clearly identified as elitist.


[1] Paris: Charles de Sercy, 1660, 3e partie. Many thanks to Sarah Nancy for her help with some of the musical material dealt with in this article.

[2] Elizabeth Hageman and Andrea Sununu, ‘New Manuscript Texts and Katherine Philips, the ‘Matchless Orinda’’, English Manuscript Studies 1100-1700, vol. 4, ed. Peter Beal and Jeremy Griffiths (London and Toront: The British Library and the University of Toronto Press, 1993), pp. 174-219, p.  205. See also Peter Beal, Index of Literary Manuscripts, 2 vols (London: Mansell Publishing Ltd, 1987), vol. 2.

[3] Hageman and Sununu, p. 200. NLW MS 5057A.

[4] Source:
consulted 2 July 2014. On the genre of the French Ballet, see for instance Karen Britland, Drama at the Courts of Queen Henrietta Maria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 211-15.

[5] On Philidor, see David J. Buch, Dance Music from the Ballets de cour 1575-1651: Historical Commentary, Source Study, and Transcriptions from the Philidor Manuscripts (Stuyvesant, N.Y.: Pendragon Press, 1993), pp.  39-46.

[6] Two are available on line, another one copied by Philidor in 1705 without the music, which is kept at the BnF
(http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1036755/f104.image.r=ballet%20de%20l%27impatience.langFR, consulted 2 July 2014),
one at the Bibliothèque municipale de Toulouse, with the music
(http://numerique.bibliotheque.toulouse.fr/cgi-bin/superlibrary?a=d&d=/ark:/74899/B315556101_CONS0001_2_1#.U7Pb86i3ob0, consulted 2 July 2014).
There are five more manuscripts of the score referenced in the Répertoire international des sources musicales (RISM, http://www.rism.info/fr/home.html, consulted 2 July 2014), where the song appears in collections of songs and airs out of ballets.

[7] Ballet Royal De l’Impatience. Dansé par sa Majesté le 19. Feburier 1661 (Paris: Robert Ballard, 1661), p. 18-19.

[8] Katherine Philips, Poems, in Minor Poets of the Caroline Period, ed. G. Saintsbury (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), vol. I, p. 577.

[9] Letter dated 18 February 1661, in Lettres choisies de feu Mr. Guy Patin, 2 vols (Paris: Jean Petit, 1692), vol. 1: ‘Le Roy a répété son balet par deux fois pour le danser devant la Reine d’Angleterre’ (561). Madame de Motteville notes that the Queen arrived in Paris on 20 February in Memoires de Madame de Motteville, in Nouvelle Collection des mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de France depuis le XIIIe siècle jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe, ed. Michaud and Poujoulat (Paris, 1838), t. 10, p. 502.

[10] Marie-Claude Canova-Green, La Politique spectacle au Grand Siècle: les rapports franco-anglais  (Paris: Biblio 17, 1993), p. 259. M.-C. Canova-Green, however, has the date of the princely wedding wrong. I am grateful to Karen Britland for this reference, as well as the preceding one. For more details on Henrietta-Maria after the Restoration, see her as yet unpublished ‘Recent Studies on Henrietta Maria (1970-2014)’, ELR (forthcoming).

[11] Recueil des plus beaux vers qui ont été mis en chant (Paris: Charles de Sercy, 1ère partie 1661).

[12] Undated, p. 205. On Robert Ballard as a publisher of songs and music in the period, see Laurent Guillo, Pierre I Ballard et Robert III Ballard: imprimeurs du roy pour la musique (1599-1673) (Sprimont: Mardaga ; Versailles: Editions du CMBV, 2003). L. Guillo dates this volume to 1667, which would make it too late for K. Philips, but still testifies to the popularity of the song.

[13] On the generic transformation involved in the recyling of the ‘air de ballet’ into the genre of the ‘air de cour’, see Anne-Madeleine Goulet, Poésie, musique et sociabilité au XVIIe siècle. Les livres d’airs de différents auteurs publiés chez Ballard de 1658 à 1694 (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2004), p. 624-28.

[14] The song is listed in Anne-Madeleine Goulet, Paroles de musique (1658-1694): Catalogue des livres d’airs de différents auteurs publiés chez Ballard (Wavre: Mardaga, 2007), p. 620.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Philips, p. 578.

[17] See Anne-Madeleine Goulet and Laura Naudeix, ed., La Fabrique des paroles de musique en France à l’Age classique (Centre de Musique baroque de Versailles, Wavre, Mardaga, n.d . [2010]), and in particular Thomas Leconte, ‘Les textes d’airs anciens dans les Recueils de vers mis en chant (1661-1680): "‘Remarques curieuses’ sur l’art d’éditer des ‘paroles de musique’", in Goulet and Naudeix, ibid., pp. 221-51, as well as Goulet, Poésie, musique et sociabilité au XVIIe siècle, and her useful catalogue of the songs published by Ballard, Paroles de musique (1658-1694).

Line Cottegnies is Professor of Early-Modern Literature at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3. She has published widely on Caroline poetry, and early modern women writers such as Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn. She has also edited several plays by Shakespeare for the bilingual French Gallimard edition, as well as Henry IV, Part 2 for Norton.

Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature & Culture,
Volume Seven (2014): Genres & Cultures

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