Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705

By Linnell, Anna-Marie | The Seventeenth Century, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705


Linnell, Anna-Marie, The Seventeenth Century


Friendship's shadows: women's friendship and the politics of betrayal in England, 1640-1705, by Penelope Anderson, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2012, xii + 291 pp., £75.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-7486-5582-3

Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal (2012) is part of the Edinburgh Critical Studies in Renaissance Culture series, which aims to create "conversa- tions with the past, which may reveal to us some surprising alternatives within texts familiarly construed as episodes on the way to certain identifying features of our endlessly fascinating modernity" (x). On the whole, Anderson's first book achieves that objective. This study is a comparative analysis of two familiar names in women's writing, Katherine Philips and Lucy Hutchinson. It appeared on the cusp of several studies about the political culture and memory of the Civil Wars, including Andrew Hopper 's Turncoats and Renegadoes: Changing Sides in the English Civil Wars (2012). Here, Anderson makes a timely and incisive feminist contribution to the debate.

Drawing upon manuscript and printed primary materials and intervening in a number of secondary debates about gender and queer theory, Anderson's study covers a lot of ground. The introduction explains Ciceronian, Aristotelian and Epicurean notions of friendship, deftly making these various classical positions accessible for an unfamiliar reader. Crucially, Anderson identifies an inherent threat of betrayal in the friendship tradition. Loyalty between friends was understood to test the loyalty between a subject and the state. In the context of the 1640s, conflicting allegiances subsequently made friendship, here termed amicitia, a potent political discourse. The premise of Friendship's Shadows is that Philips and Hutchinson appropriated amicitia in order to reconcile the social dislocation of the English Civil Wars. To Anderson, both women are "exceptional" (3), adapting the classical tradition in different ways for the same end. She focuses on their work specifically as she believes that their reputations enacted a shift in the representation of female friendship. The overarching argument of Friendship's Shadows is that Philips and Hutchinson provided an intersection in the representation of same-sex friendship, which was increasingly feminised and depoliticised in the eighteenth century. As put by Anderson: "what we now think about when we think about friendship has everything to do with what particular women writers use it to do in a particular historical moment" (3).

Accordingly, the book is divided into two sections. The first section explores the politicisation of friendship during the 1640s. It opens with a notably broad overview of betrayal in the works of Marchamont Nedham, Abraham Cowley, Edmund Waller and Andrew Marvell: providing a useful background, but one with clear limitations of time and space. The second and third chapters allow Anderson to reveal her strength, as she closely analyses the linguistic construction of Philips and Hutchinson's verse. …

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