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The Collation

About that frontispiece portrait of Hannah Woolley....

I was delighted by the range of responses we got for last week’s Crocodile post on the identity of the woman in the engraving: Catherine of Braganza, Cleopatra, Lady Frances Egerton, Elizabeth Nash nee Hall (Shakespeare’s grand-daughter), Hannah Woolley, and Sarah Gilly.

The answer: None of the above, and some of the above.

Sarah Gilly?

Sarah Gilly by William Faithorne, after Sir Peter Lely. Line engraving, published 1662. NPG D22742. © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Some surviving impressions of this portrait have the inscription “The Effigies of M:trs Sarah Gilly,” as does the one above. Mistress Sarah Gilly died on August 14, 1659, aged 18, at Tottenham High Cross and was commemorated in a book of verse printed two years later, entitled Fideles aquæ: or some pious tears dropped upon the hearse of the incomparable gentlewoman Mrs. Sarah Gilly, the only daughter of the loyal and worthy gentleman Matthew Gilly Esq; together with some elegies upon the grave, and religious matron her grandmother, the courteous and ingenious gentleman her brother. This work was written by a kinsman, Henry Woolnough, and addressed to Sarah Gilly’s father, Matthew Gilly, who in a two year stretch lost his only daughter, his eldest son (William), his mother (Sarah), and his only brother (William, whose wife was also named Sarah). I think this book, or at least one copy of it, used the portrait as a frontispiece. The Library of Congress’s copy is missing the preliminary material, and the Beinecke copy is lacking the frontispiece. However, the Google Books digitized copy of the British Library copy shows offset of a portrait on the title page. You can just make out the mirror image of the portrait if you squint your eyes (I haven’t checked the copies at the Bodleian or Guildhall).

Fideles aquae: or some pious tears… London, 1661. British Library copy, available via Google Books.

According to the literature (Fagan’s Descriptive catalogue of engraved works by William Faithorne (1888), among others), the engraving of Mistress Sarah Gilly was after Sir Peter Lely. When I went sleuthing for Lely’s painting, I was surprised to find one not of Sarah Gilly but of her sister-in-law, Arabella Bankes (“Mrs. Gilly”), commissioned by Arabella’s brother, Ralph Bankes ca. 1660. Arabella married Samuel Gilly, Sarah’s brother. You can see the painting, which has lived in the library of Kingston Lacy since the 17th century, on the National Trust site. The similarity in jewelry, hair, clothing, and pose is striking. Was Faithorne’s engraving originally of Arabella Bankes, or did he base his engraving of Sarah Gilly upon Lely’s recent painting of Sarah’s brother’s wife, who was the same age as Sarah? Or is there a Peter Lely drawing or painting of which we are unaware or is now lost, done in a similar style, or is the attribution to “after Peter Lely” in Fagan’s catalogue of Faithorne’s engraved works and elsewhere wrong?

Here is the same portrait after the printing plate was trimmed to remove Sarah Gilly’s name. Other versions can be viewed in the National Portrait Gallery’s catalogue:

Sarah Gilly by William Faithorne, after Sir Peter Lely. Line engraving, 1662 or after. 5 5/8 in. x 3 7/8 in. (143 mm x 99 mm) paper size. Given by the daughter of compiler William Fleming MD, Mary Elizabeth Stopford (née Fleming), 1931. NPG D22743. Another copy is NPG D22744. © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Hannah Woolley?

After it served its purpose as a frontispiece engraving to Fideles aquae, the Sarah Gilly engraving was then retouched to serve as the “author portrait” for the cookbook author/lifestyle guru Hannah Woolley, for whom no known likeness exists. Woolley is the first woman to earn a living as an author, her works (and spurious adaptations of her works) appearing in many editions in her lifetime and after her death. Fagan and others have long identified this re-use of the engraving of Sarah Gilly as Hannah Woolley. But how and why did it happen?

Below is as the frontispiece to Hannah Woolley’s A guide to ladies (1668), published by Dorman Newman. In order to fit into the duodecimo book, the engraving has been trimmed on the left side. The inscribed part of the plate with Sarah Gilly’s name, and a small part of the oval containing the coat of arms, are gone.

Hannah Woolley, A guide to ladies, gentlewomen and maids… London: Dorman Newman and William Whitwood, 1668. Folger W3278.5. This is the only known surviving copy of this book. It rarely appears in lists of editions of Woolley’s works, and few scholars have identified it as part of her oeuvre, even though Woolley herself mentioned it in her last work, A supplement to the queen-like closet (1674). It is also the first book in Woolley’s name to include a portrait.

Here is the engraving as the frontispiece to The gentlewomans companion (1673), a work sent to the press by Dorman Newman against Woolley’s will, and renounced by her in 1674. The engraving did not have to be cropped on the left side to fit into this octavo book.

The gentlewomans companion. London: A. Maxwell for Dorman Newman, 1673. Folger W3276.8. Photograph by Heather Wolfe.

So many questions, especially about that coat of arms

It was not unusual to re-use, retouch, or adapt engravings in early modern England, and portrait engravers often used rather generic details to make it simpler to meet demand. There is a long tradition of recycling woodcuts in books (e.g., the different towns represented by the same woodcuts in the 15th-century Nuremberg Chronicle) and retouching engravings to update or mend them as they wore out (e.g., the Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare, which survives in various states).

But this brazen re-use of a memorial portrait of a recently deceased gentlewoman, including her coat of arms, to sell books by a middle class woman with no coat of arms, is a little different. It is by a prominent engraver, William Faithorne, who also engraved Oliver Cromwell, members of the royal family and aristocracy, and authors such as John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, Abraham Cowley, and William D’Avenant. He made private plates for individual sitters and engraved frontispieces for publishers, on commission. Did Dorman Newman, the publisher, acquire the plate from Faithorne and then have it retouched, or would Faithorne have done this? Why would they choose a portrait with a coat of arms?

I reached out to York Herald Peter O’Donoghue at the College of Arms to get his read on the coat of arms. He identified the first and fourth quarters as “blazoned Or a Pale between four Fleurs de Lys Gules,” granted to William Gilly by Garter King of Arms Edard Bysshe on 1 June 1650. Since the Gilly grant was made during the Commonwealth it was declared invalid at the Restoration, and a new grant was made, of the same arms and crest, to Sarah Gilly’s brother Samuel (the son of Matthew Gilly, who was the son of William Gilly), on December 18, 1662. Her brother’s pedigree was recorded at the heralds’ visitation of London in 1664. This is the same Samuel who married Arabella Bankes, whom Peter Lely painted. The second and third quarters, with the design of the three unicorn’s heads couped, most likely belonged to Matthew Paris, the father of Sarah Gilly’s grandmother, another Sarah Gilly (nee Paris, died October 1660) who was married to William Gilly, the original grantee — this unicorn design was often ascribed to families with the “Paris” surname. Any issue of Matthew Gilly would be entitled to these quartered arms. However, the fact that they are in a shield rather than a lozenge would suggest that they belong to a married woman — Arabella, rather than Sarah. But as Peter reminded me, it is not at all unusual “to find usage does not follow these principles.”

Did Woolley accept the “Gilly”-likeness as close enough when it first appeared in A guide to ladies in 1668? Did her publisher anticipate that the intended audience of her books would be impressed by the mere presence of a coat of arms, but not literate enough to recognize that it was not Woolley’s? Would they assume that Woolley came from a gentle family, and that reading her book might help them raise their own social status? Did Woolley hope that people would think she was a gentlewoman?

A guide to ladies is not normally listed as one of Woolley’s works (the ODNB doesn’t mention it, for example). It survives in only one copy at the Folger, according to ESTC. It was published by Dorman Newman, who went on to adapt, augment, and publish A gentlewoman’s companion against Woolley’s will, including the same “Gilly”-portrait of Woolley and title page layout as he used in A guide to ladies (1668) (see above). Woolley claims authorship of A guide to ladies in her last work, A supplement to the queen-like closet (1674), p. 131, where she refers to it as The Ladies Guide. In the same passage, she accuses Newman of speeding A gentlewoman’s companion (1673) to publication against her will, after having The Ladies Guide crudely augmented by a hack writer, rejecting her proof corrections, and then publishing it as hers, reaping all of the profits. She protests that she “thought to have sued him for it, but he very cunningly prevented that by taking advantage of me … So now he may take notice that it is my Humour to let all People know, that I was abused in that his late printed Book. He told me, he cared not for my Name, he would print it without it: if he do so, I have nothing to do with it.” Newman not only did not remove her name from the title page of A gentlewoman’s companion, but also included the same portrait that he used in A guide to ladies.

Cruder versions of the portrait

The “Gilly”-portrait of Woolley generated a whole slew of additional, increasingly cruder, author portraits that were added to Woolley-like cookbooks in order to tacitly associate them with the best-selling author. Indeed, in her own lifetime and in the years following her death, she achieved Betty Crocker status, her “image” linked to cookbooks in order to give them a stamp of authority and authenticity, even though she had no connection to them and her name did not appear on the title page.

The compleat servant-maid; or, The young maidens tutor. … London: for T. Passenger, 1683. Folger W3273.8This is the third edition of an unauthorized work bearing a crude version of Woolley’s fake portrait. It was published after Woolley’s death in ten editions between 1677 and 1729.

The accomplish’d ladies delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery. … London: for Benjamin Harris, 1684. Folger W3271. This is the fourth edition of an unauthorized work, bearing a crude version of Woolley’s fake portrait. It was published in twelve editions between 1675 and 1720.

The compleat servant maid, or, The young maidens tutor. … London: for Thomas Passenger, 1691. Folger 270105. This is the fifth edition of The compleat servant maid, again unauthorized, with a more crudely rendered version of the fake portrait.

All of these author portraits will be on view in the upcoming exhibition First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas, January 19 to March 31. Amanda Herbert and I are co-curating this exhibition, with a heavy assist from Elizabeth DeBold. Thanks to Caroline Duroselle-Melish for her art historical help, and Sarah Pennell (whose upcoming Before Farm to Table fellowship project at the Folger in spring 2019 is called Hannah Wolley: Cooking, Commerce and Print in Restoration London)for confirming our confusion about all of these so-called author portraits of Woolley. I look forward to learning of additional theories from Collation readers.

Postscript: A few other similar engravings

Now that we are all totally confused, here are a few other engravings that seem rather Woolley or Gilly-like, just for fun! This portrait of Catherine of Braganza is quite similar to the extra-spurious depictions of Woolley, so I can see why her name came up as an answer to the Crocodile:

Catherine of Braganza by Peter Williamson, sold by John Overton. Line engraving, circa 1660-1685. 10 5/8 in. x 7 1/2 in. (270 mm x 191 mm) plate size; 11 1/4 in. x 7 7/8 in. (285 mm x 199 mm) paper size. NPG D17861.  © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

The Gilly-Woolley engraving also bears a striking resemblance to Faithorne’s portraits of Lady Mary Langham and Lady Catherine Harrington:

Lady Mary Langham (née Alston) by William Faithorne. Line engraving, published 1662. 8 3/4 in. x 6 1/4 in. (221 mm x 160 mm) paper size. Given by the daughter of compiler William Fleming MD, Mary Elizabeth Stopford (née Fleming), 1931. NPG D22831. © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).


Lady Catherine Harrington (née Wright) by William Faithorne. Line engraving, published 1682. 7 3/8 in. x 5 in. (188 mm x 128 mm) plate size; 7 3/4 in. x 5 3/8 in. (198 mm x 136 mm) paper size. Given by the daughter of compiler William Fleming MD, Mary Elizabeth Stopford (née Fleming), 1931. NPG D22771. © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).


Is anything more known about this Henry Woolnough who edited the volume of commemorative poetry? He strikes me as having a suspiciously similar-sounding name to Woolley, so perhaps there’s some connection there (if Woolley was distantly related to the Gilly family through marriage, maybe the recycling of the portrait would have made some sort of sense).

Elisabeth Chaghafi — September 7, 2018


I hadn’t even thought of that! Would definitely be worth investigating.

Heather Wolfe — October 3, 2018


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