Conspiracy and Virtue: Women, Writing, and Politics in Seventeenth Century England

Conspiracy and Virtue: Women, Writing, and Politics in Seventeenth Century England

Conspiracy and Virtue: Women, Writing, and Politics in Seventeenth Century England

Conspiracy and Virtue: Women, Writing, and Politics in Seventeenth Century England

Synopsis

What was the relationship between woman and politics in seventeenth-century England? Responding to this question, Conspiracy and Virtue argues that theoretical exclusion of women from the political sphere shaped their relation to it. Rather than producing silence, this exclusion generated rich, complex, and oblique political involvements which this study traces through the writings of both men and women. Pursuing this argument Conspiracy and Virtue engages the main writings on women's relationship to the political sphere including debates on the public sphere and on contract theory. Writers and figures discussed include Elizabeth Avery, Aphra Behn, Anne Bradstreet, Maragret Cavendish, Queen Christina of Sweden, Anne Halkett, Brilliana Harley, Lucy Hutchinson, John Milton, Elizabeth Poole, Sara Wight, and Henry Jessey.

Excerpt

It seemed a very pleasant object, to see so many Semproniaes
(all the chiefe Court Ladies filling the Galleries at the [Earl of
Strafford’s] Tryall) with penne, inke, and paper in their hands,
noting the passages, and discoursing upon the grounds of Law and
State.

(Thomas May, The History of the Parliament (1647), Bk. I, p. 92)

D.D.D
To the pretious name and honour of Dorothy Selby,
The relict of Sir William Selby, Knt
The only daughter and heir of Charles Bonham, Esq.
She was a Dorcas
Whose curious Needle turn’d the abused Stage
Of this leud world into the Golden Age,
Whose Pen of Steele and silken inck enoll’d
The Acts of Jonah in Records of Gold.
Whose arte disclos’d the Plot which, had it taken,
Rome had tryumph’d and Britain’s walls had shaken;
In heart a Lydia and in Tongue a Hanna,
In Zeale a Ruth, in wedlock a Susanna;
Prudently, simply, providentially Wary,
To th’ world a Martha and to Heaven a Mary
(Epitaph for Dorothy Selby, Ightam Church, Kent)

If, as I am suggesting, the literary and cultural sphere is likely to disclose women’s relationship to politics in seventeenth-century England, what evidence is there, and how can it be interpreted? the introduction

Selby died 15 March 1641. See Sophie Jane Holroyd, ‘Embroidered Rhetoric: the Social, Religious and Political Functions of Elite Women’s Needlework, c.1560–1630’, Diss., University of Warwick, 2002.

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