Michael Field; the poet; Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper

Michael Field was a pseudonym used by Katharine Harris Bradley (27 October 1846 – 26 September 1914) and her niece and ward Edith Emma Cooper (12 January 1862 – 13 December 1913) to publish their poetry and plays. Born in Birmingham and educated in Paris and at Newnham College, Cambridge, Bradley became deeply attached to her invalid sister’s daughter Edith (born in Kenilworth). They attended University College, Bristol, together in the late 1870s, studying classics and philosophy.

Bradley published first under the pseudonym of Arran Leigh; together she and Cooper adopted the name ‘Michael Field’ with the publication of Callirrhoë; Fair Rosamund (1884). They produced more than twenty volumes of verse drama and poetry. Their best-known work draws sensuously and erotically on pagan classical themes: their most respected collections are Long Ago (1889), which retells the story of Sappho, and Sight and Song (1892), which pairs their poems with paintings viewed on their frequent European travels.

Their other verse dramas include A Question of Memory (1893), Attila, My Attila (1896), Race of Leaves (1901), Julia Domna (1903, Queen Mariamne (1908), Dian (1911) A Messiah (1911), etc.

Bradley and Cooper were significant figures in London’s literary and artistic culture; friends included Charles Shannon (1865-1937) and Charles Ricketts (who also illustrated their work), Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, and George Meredith. In 1907 the poets converted to Roman Catholicism: Bradley’s confessor was the poet and priest John Gray (1866-1934). While critics have debated the nature of Bradley and Cooper’s relationship, from the late 20th century onwards they have been widely regarded as pioneering lesbian poets.

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