Anne Killigrew bigraphy, stories - English poet

Anne Killigrew : biography

1660 - 1685

Anne Killigrew (1660—1685) was an English poet. Born in London, Killigrew is perhaps best known as the subject of a famous elegy by the poet John Dryden entitled To The Pious Memory of the Accomplish'd Young Lady Mrs. Anne Killigrew (1686). She was however a skilful poet in her own right, and her Poems were published posthumously in 1686. Dryden compared her poetic abilities to the famous Greek poet of antiquity, Sappho. Killigrew died of smallpox aged 25.

An early death

Killigrew died of smallpox on 16 June 1685, when she was only 25 years old. She is buried in the Chancel of the Savoy Chapel (dedicated to St John the Baptist) where a monument was built in her honour, but has since been destroyed by a fire.

The Poet and the Painter

Anne Killigrew excelled in multiple media, which was noted by contemporary poet, mentor, and family friend, John Dryden in his dedicatory ode to Killigrew. He addresses her as "the Accomplisht Young LADY Mrs Anne Killigrew, Excellent in the two Sister-Arts of Poësie, and Painting." Scholars believe that Kelligrew painted a total of 15 paintings; however, only four are known to exist today.

Many of her paintings display biblical and mythological imagery. Yet, Killigrew was also skilled at portraits, and her works include a self-portrait and a portrait of James, Duke of York. Some of her poetry references her own paintings, such as her poem "On a Picture Painted by her self, representing two Nimphs of DIANA's, one in a posture to Hunt, the other Batheing." Both her poems and her paintings place emphasis on women and nature, suggesting female rebellion in a male-dominated society. Contemporary critics noted her exceptional skill in both mediums, with John Dryden addressing his dedicatory

John Dryden and critical reception

Killigrew is best known for being the subject of John Dryden's famous, extolling ode, which praises Killigrew for her beauty, virtue, and literary talent. However, Dryden was one of several contemporary admirers of Killigrew, and the posthumous collection of her work published in 1686 included several additional poems commending her literary merit, irreproachable piety, and personal charm.

Nonetheless, critics often disagree about the nature of Dryden's ode: some believe his praise to be too excessive, and even ironic. These individuals condemn Killigrew for using well worn and conventional topics, such as death, love, and the human condition, in her poetry and pastoral dialogues. In fact, Alexander Pope, a prominent critic, as well as the leading poet of the time, labelled her work "crude" and "unsophisticated." As a young poet who had only distributed her work via manuscript prior to her death, it is possible that Killigrew was not ready to see her work published so soon.

Some say Dryden defended all poets because he believed them to be teachers of moral truths; thus, he felt Killigrew, as an inexperienced yet dedicated poet, deserved his praise. However, Anthony Wood in his 1721 essay defends Dryden's praise, confirming that Killigrew "was equal to, if not superior" to any of the compliments lavished upon her. Furthermore, Wood asserts that Killigrew must have been well received in her time, otherwise “her Father would never have suffered them to pass the Press” after her death.


  1. Alexandreis
  2. To the Queen
  3. A Pastoral Dialogue
  4. On Death
  5. Upon Being Contented With A Little
  6. On Billinda
  7. On an Atheist
  8. On Galla
  9. A Farewell to Worldly Joys
  10. The Complaint of a Lover
  11. Love, the Soul of Poetry
  12. To my Lady Berkeley
  13. St. John the Baptist
  14. Herodias
  15. Nimphs of Diana’s
  16. An Invective against Gold
  17. The Miseries of Man
  18. Verses
  19. Queen Katherine
  20. My Lord Colrane
  21. The Discontent
  22. A Pastoral Dialogue
  23. A Pastoral Dialogue
  24. On my Aunt Mrs. A. K.
  25. On a Young Lady
  26. On the Duchess of Grafton
  27. Penelope to Ulysses
  28. An Epitaph on Herself
  29. An Ode
  30. Young Gallant
  31. Cloris Charmes
  32. Upon a Little Lady
  33. Motions of Eudora
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