Sharon Cadman Seelig
or, The Illusions of My Youth
Once upon a time there was a period called the Renaissance, characterized by an awakening from ignorance of classical literary texts. During that time writers, under the inﬂuence of powerful texts such as Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man, quite suddenly realized that human life was worthwhile; they stopped disregarding or suppressing the body and began to value the present life. 1. They wrote love poems on the theme of carpe diem and, even in England, translating and adapting from Italian models, indulged in a fashion of writing sonnets to beloved mistresses. The sonnet, an inherently heterosexual form, conveys great power to a lady who exercises authority over the poet who idealizes her and pleads with her. One of these women was Shakespeare's Dark Lady, whom A. L. Rowse later conveniently identiﬁed as Emilia Lanier. 2. During this period there were no English women writers worth mentioning. That fact was passionately regretted by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own:
Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at. For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty. 3.