The lyrics in manuscript that Jamie Reid-Baxter has attributed to Elizabeth Melville, the Scottish religious poet and author of Ane Godlie Dreame, include three sequences of religious sonnets. Elizabeth Melville's innovative engagement with the religious sonnet sequence occurs at a crucial moment around the turn of the seventeenth century. Deirdre Serjeantson has argued that the English religious poetic of Henry Lok owes much to his Scottish connections, and to an 'emergent literary self-awareness' in religious poetry that was more developed in Scotland than in England. Elizabeth Melville's religious sonnets are, then, likely to date from some forty years after Anne Lock's Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, the foundational series of Calvinist, female-authored and sequential religious sonnets. Melville is also a known purveyor of the religious sonnet for spiritual succour in the first decade of the seventeenth century.
For women writers, the decades of the English Civil War were of special importance. This book presents a complex and rewarding poetic culture that is both uniquely women-centred and integrally connected to the male canonical poetry. It brings together extensive selections of poetry by the five most prolific and prominent women poets of the English Civil War: Anne Bradstreet, Hester Pulter, Margaret Cavendish, Katherine Philips, and Lucy Hutchinson. All these five women were attracting new and concerted attention as poets by seventeenth-century women. Bradstreet's poems first appeared in The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America, and the later volume of Several Poemsincluded revised texts of those poems and several new ones. Each version of the poems spoke more directly on the context of the English Civil War. Pulter's poems construe Broadfield as a place of unwelcome isolation: she describes herself as 'shut up in a country grange', 'tied to one habitation', and 'buried, thus, alive'. Philips's poetry was first printed in 1664, her state-political poems, on members of the royal family and events of the Civil War, Interregnum, and Restoration, suggest Philips as a poet writing on matters of political significance. Cavendish's two major editions of Poems and Fancies in 1653 and 1664 each have strongly competing claims both to textual authority and to the more resonant political moment. Across poetry and prose, print and manuscript, Hutchinson's writing bears the marks of her fervent hostility to corrupt rulers and her remarkably broad education, adventurous reading habits, and energetic intellect.
This chapter focuses on the relationship between religious conflict and poetry, and the networks and communities within which the women situated themselves. It also focuses on the transformative scientific and philosophical culture of the seventeenth century; the genres in which the poets wrote; and the physical forms taken by their poetry, in print and manuscript. The chapter presents some key concepts discussed in the book. The book provides extensive selections of poetry by the five most prolific and prominent women poets of the English Civil War: Anne Bradstreet, Hester Pulter, Margaret Cavendish, Katherine Philips, and Lucy Hutchinson. It presents a complex and rewarding poetic culture that is both uniquely women-centred and integrally connected to the male canonical poetry for which the era is justifiably famous.
This chapter presents poems of Anne Bradstreet who was born in Northampton, England, in 1612. Her poems appear to have been taken without her consent to London by her brother-in-law John Woodbridge, who travelled there in 1647; they were published as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America in 1650. Bradstreet continued to write until her death in 1672. A fire in 1666 destroyed her North Andover house and most of her papers, including lines she had written towards an ending of The Four Monarchies. Her poems after this date seem to have been predominantly personal: a second, posthumous edition of her poetry was published as Several Poems in 1678. It included several additional poems that attest to her life as a wife, mother, and grandmother. The chapter explores the aesthetics and political contributions of her 1650s poems to their English Civil War context.
This chapter presents poems of Hester Pulter who was born in or around 1605 in Dublin, into a well-connected and literary English family. Pulter was based at Broadfield for the rest of her life. It was there that she composed her poems, her emblems, and the prose romance entitled The Unfortunate Florinda, all of which are contained in the sole surviving manuscript of her work. Pulter's poetry engages in a number of the governing tropes of royalist literary culture in the 1640s and 1650s. While there is no reception history for Pulter's verse, however, the content of her poems and their engagement in the tropes and conventions were also evident in the poetry of Katherine Philips, William Cavendish, and Lucy Hutchinson. This makes her a notable woman poet of the English Civil War.
This chapter presents poems of Katherine Philips who was born in London in 1632 to a family with puritan connections. As a poet, Katherine Philips is best known for poems on the theme of friendship, and for the establishment of a 'Society of Friendship' among her close associates, to whom she assigned pastoral coterie names. Philips actively circulated her poetry in manuscript, and was well known as a manuscript poet in a number of overlapping literary, musical, social, and political circles. Her poem 'To Antenor, on a Paper of Mine' illustrates the political nature of some of the exchanges. Other poems, such as her encomium 'To the Right Honourable Alice, Countess of Carbery, on her Enriching Wales with her Presence', serve a more social purpose.
This chapter presents poems of Margaret Cavendish who was born around 1623 to the Lucas family of Essex. Her early works were poetry and short essays, followed by plays, philosophical and fictional letters, and prose fiction in both romance and experimental modes. Cavendish's poems, mostly published in the 1650s, reflect the tensions, philosophical, and ethical questions raised by Civil War. Cavendish's first two publications were collections of poetry which also included prefaces explaining her theories of authorship, publication, and poetics. These include some of the period's most explicit statements about the status of women writers. Like Lucy Hutchinson's life of her husband, Cavendish's biography of her husband is a history of the Civil War and a defence of her family's own involvement.
This chapter presents poems of Lucy Hutchinson who was an educated republican and religious Independent. Hutchinson wrote much of her poetry, including her version of Lucretius' Epicurean poem De rerum natura, which was one of the first translations into English of this radical and influential work. She managed the Owthorpe estate and continued to write, producing among other things a manuscript collection of poignant and political elegies on her husband's death and probably working on her biblical poem Order and Disorder. Hutchinson's literary corpus has shown that she was a major poet as well as the author of Memoirs, long a crucial resource for Civil War historians. Across poetry and prose, print and manuscript, Hutchinson's writing bears the marks of her fervent hostility to corrupt rulers and her remarkably broad education, adventurous reading habits, and energetic intellect.
This final chapter presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in this book. The book aims to treat the selected women's poems according to the broad editorial principles behind anthologies such as The Norton Anthology of English Literature. It provides extensive selections of poetry by the five most prolific and prominent women poets of the English Civil War: Anne Bradstreet, Hester Pulter, Margaret Cavendish, Katherine Philips, and Lucy Hutchinson. Collations for Bradstreet's texts are based on The Tenth Muse and Several Poems. Collations for Philips's texts are based on the Tutin manuscript and Poems 1664 and 1667. Collations for Cavendish's texts are based on Poems and Fancies 1653 and 1664. Collations for Hutchinson's Order and Disorder is based on the Beinecke manuscript and the printed version of 1679.