"Michael Field"
1848-1914 and 1862-1913

Michael Field was the penname of Katherine Bradley and her niece, Edith Cooper. Katherine raised Edith from childhood, and when Edith was sixteen, Katherine attended classes with her at Bristol University. Katherine published her own poetry under pseudonym (Arran Leigh), but once she and Edith began writing together, they assumed the name of Michael Field.

Katherine and Edith wrote numerous plays and poems in collaboration. Even their journal (which reveals that they were lovers) was a shared effort. The women claimed that their collaboration was so complete that once a work was done, they could no longer recognize which line each had contributed. Their writing reflects entwined thoughts and ideas that raise their love into spiritual realms.

The first volume of poetry by Michael Field was published in 1889. The women acknowledged Henry Wharton's 1885 edition of Sappho (the first to translate the poems as lesbian) as a source of inspiration. While their poems spoke openly of love between women, they did not seem to suffer social ostracism. Robert Browning declared Michael Field a genius, and referred to Katherine and Edith as his "two dear Greek women."

Katherine and Edith traveled extensively together until they acquired a dog (Whym Chow) who they did not want to leave. In 1906, when Whym Chow died, their loss led to their conversion from atheism to Roman Catholicism. The poetry they produced after this point lost its previous sensual and pagan feel and began to reflect their religious outlook.

In 1913, Edith died of cancer. Katherine used the next eight months to compile several more books of poetry, before succumbing to the disease herself.

Biography by Alix North

(Katherine Harris Bradley)


Photograph of Michael Field
Photograph of "Michael Field" [Katherine Harris Bradley and
Edith Emma Cooper]
Bristol, c. 1884-87

eXTReMe Tracker