Female and Male Voices in Early Modern England: An Anthology of Renaissance Writing

By Betty S. Travitsky; Anne Lake Prescott | Go to book overview

22
Mary Fage (fl. 1637)
Francis Lenton (fl. 1630–1640)

Mary Fage Composes Anagrams

Mary Fage (fl. 1637) was known until recently only as “wife of Robert Fage the younger, Gentleman,” as she is called on the title page of her Fames Roule. She can now be tentatively identified on the basis of this clue as the wife of Robert Fage and the daughter of Edward Fage in Doddinghurst parish, Essex. If Mary Fage is this Fage, then her husband was well connected. This would explain the composition of Fames Roule, a series of over four hundred acrostic verses, arranged in order of legally established precedence, each with an anagram and each addressed to one of the noble and powerful of Caroline England. Occasional slips suggest that Fage did not know the persons she addressed, but she knew enough to exclude women, aside from royalty, from her roll of honor.

Anagrams were popular. Noting that Elizabeth I enjoyed anagrams on her name, George Puttenham had in 1589 called them “commendable enough” if “done for pastime and exercise of the wit without superstition” and “a meet study for Ladies.”1 His reference to “superstition” acknowledges that such wordplay appeals to a sense that names have quasi-magical significance. Since Fage's book was entered in the Stationers' Register with the approval of Thomas Herbert, whose imprimatur was required for books on heraldry, it is safe to assume that it

____________________
1
The Art of English Poesy, ed. Gladys D. Willcock and Alice Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 108–111. Puttenham had read Estienne Tabourot,Les Bigarrures (1588 ed., ed. Francis Goyet [Geneva: Droz, 1986], ff. 102–114).

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