An Collins' Divine Songs and Meditacions as a Pain Narrative: Exploring the Relationship between Early Modern Writing and Pain

Kala Hirtle


In her essay written for the fourth-year seminar "Literature of the English Revolution," Kala Hirtle joins a small but excited group of scholars writing about an unknown poet of the tumultuous 1650s. The few critics who have written about Collins's Divine Songs and Meditacions are, in fact, uniformly inclined to emphasize how little we have discovered about the volume's author, including the nature of the malady that confined her to the house for much of her life. But the essay that follows brings Collins into sharper focus, allowing us a clearer picture of the imaginative, sensitive, and determined woman behind the work. Refusing to surrender her psyche as well as her body, Collins reports that she found delight and solace in writing a volume of verse that, as Hirtle demonstrates, also constitutes an early modern pain narrative; evincing her own understanding of the healing potential of authorship, Collins attributes to the act of writing a therapeutic value latter-day researchers have only recently begun to understand. Bringing some 21st-century ideas about the value of writing to her reading of Collins's work, Hirtle emphasizes not Collins's illness but, more importantly, what she was able to discover because of it - the solace that came through a singularly private pen as much as it did a public faith shared by many.

-Dr. Lyn Bennett

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