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Writing the Way Out

Inheritance and Appropriation in Aemilia Lanyer, Isabella Whitney, Mary (Sidney) Herbert and Mary Wroth

Ann Margaret Lange

In the early modern period, there have been a vigorous debate in the public arena on the nature of women and their place in society. For instance, most women had been excluded from inheritance.
The author of this work is shedding light on how the notion of inheritance intrudes into the literature produced by women of the period.
She analyses the tropes of inheritance and appropriation as they are evidenced in the works of women from the upper strata of society – women such as Mary (Sidney) Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, and Lady Mary Wroth, both scions of the renowned Sidney family – and also those produced by those from lower down in the social spectrum, such as Aemilia Lanyer and Isabella Whitney.

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Appendix A 245

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Appendix A Tabulated summary of comparison between Lanyer’s The Description of Cooke-ham and Jonson’s To Penshurst from Susanne Woods Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet, (Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1999). Cooke-ham To Penshurst Valedictory “Lanyer’s crown manor is an Edenic world lost through “oc- casions” and “Fortune”, memorial- ised but not recoverable.” (p. 121) Celebratory – Penshurst is a classical model of right order, still in place and promising continuance of the order. (p. 121) Moves from summer through au- tumn to winter. (p. 122) Set in spring and autumn. (p. 122) Movement across terrain from low to high. (p. 122) Movement across terrain from high to low. (p. 122) Oak symbolises “retirement and contemplation”. (p. 122) Oak symbolises fame and worldly recogni- tion. (p. 122) Copses and birds offer shelter and accompany the idealised life of learning and song. (p. 122) Copses offer venison, pheasant, and partridge for happy feasting. (p. 122). Note: the copse is named “Gamage”, for Barbara Sidney, nee Gamage, whose dowry rescued Robert Sidney and his estate from financial ruin, so the sub- servience and consumption model applied to the estate is implicitly extended to her. Woods fails to note this suggestion. Emphasis on reading and retirement – social activities are reading aloud and singing. (p. 123) Emphasis on food and hospitality – social activities are hunting and eating. (p. 123) Women exist alone, forming society, centering nature, praising God. (p. 123) Women are “ripe daughters”, chaste wives (which does not accord Barbara Sidney her true historical...

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