Funeral elegies on elite women
in The daring muse of the early Stuart funeral elegy
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The first half of this chapter surveys the period’s funeral elegies on women, the circumstances of composition and circulation, the influential norms established by John Donne, the outrageous elegies on women by Francis Beaumont, the use of funeral elegies on women for satiric detraction, and the general patterns of elegiac commemoration of female virtue. The second half turns to the elegies on two particular elite women of the 1630s: Venetia Digby and Elizabeth, Countess of Huntingdon. As sexual virtue was central to many elegies on women, some cases, like that of Venetia Digby, required a defensive posture to challenge persistent rumours about the deceased. Lady Huntingdon, renowned as a patron, was commemorated by a number of elegists, of whom the most significant were Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, and Thomas Pestell. Explicitly acknowledging the influence of Donne and Beaumont, Pestell is notable for the way in which his patronage-seeking poems go beyond the celebration of female virtue to the satirizing of a range of vices and follies. They are also marked by a strong sense of elegiac inheritance descending from John Donne and Francis Beaumont.


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