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Lady Anne Southwell, poems

Heather Wolfe on Lady Anne Southwell:


This manuscript miscellany contains secular and religious poetry, as well as a list of books, receipts, and letters. It was written over a number of years, and includes contributions from various members of the household of Lady Anne Southwell and her second husband, Captain Henry Sibthorpe.


More than one-third of the volume is devoted to Southwell’s verse meditations on the ten commandments. On display is part of Southwell’s verse on the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." The left side and part of the right side are written by one of her copyists, while on the right side, halfway down, you can see a great example of Lady Anne Southwell’s practically indecipherable handwriting—a very distinctive angular italic hand. You can also see her in the act of revising, as she makes corrections to the first line of verse on the right side, altering what the copyist has written, and further down, revising herself using a much darker ink. Seeing a poet in the act of revision is always a very exciting thing, and seeing multiple layers of revision is even more interesting.


This manuscript has perplexed scholars for many years, especially because the first leaf is headed, “The workes of the Lady Ann Sothwell: December: 2 1626,” but is then followed by a series of songs and poems not written by her. None of the explanations for this or other mysteries has proved fully satisfactory.




Heather Wolfe is curator of manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She edited The literary career and legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613-1680 (2007) and Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2001) and has written widely on early modern manuscript culture.



Case 7 -- Lady Mary Wroth >>>

Anne Southwell. Miscellany of Lady Anne Southwell. Manuscript, ca. 1587–1636


Audio Stop: Heather Wolfe on Lady Anne Southwell

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