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‘Teach her to live under obedience’: the making of women in the upper ranks of early modern England

  • Linda Pollock
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1 Gaskin, J., A just defence, (1660), cited in Reay, B., ‘Popular hostility towards Quakers in mid-seventeenth-century England’, Social History 5 (1980) 389.

2 Bennett, H., The Pastons and their England, 2nd edition (London, 1983) ch. 5; Clark, A., The working life of women in the seventeenth century (London, 1919, reprinted 1982); Houlbrooke, R., The English family 1450–1700 (London, 1984) 106–9, 113; Houlbrooke, R., ‘Women's social life and common action in England from the fifteenth century to the eve of the civil war’, Continuity and Change 1 (1986); Mingay, G., The gentry. The rise and fall of a ruling class (London and New York, 1976) 8990; Prior, M., ‘Women and the urban economy: Oxford 1500–1800’, in Prior, M., ed., Women in English society 1500–1800 (London, 1985); Rowlands, M., ‘Recusant women 1560–1640’, in Prior, ed., Women in English society; Spufford, M., The great reclothing of rural England. Petty chapmen and their wares in the seventeenth century (London, 1984) 23, 54; Thomas, K., ‘Women and the civil war sects’, Past and present 13 (1958); Walters, J., ‘Grain riots and popular attitudes to the law: Maldon and the crisis of 1629’, in Brewer, J. and Styles, J., eds., An ungovernable people: the English and their law in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (London, 1980) 60; Willen, D., ‘Guildswomen in the city of York 1560–1700’, The Historian 46 (1984).

3 Wrightson, K., English society 1580–1680 (London, 1982) 92.

4 Ulrich, L., Good wives. Image and reality in the lives of women in Northern New England 1650–1750 (New York, 1982) 3840.

5 Haskell, A., ‘The Paston women on marriage in fifteenth-century England’, Viator 4, (1973) 461, 462.

6 Prior, , ‘Women and the urban economy’, 95.

7 Ulrich, , Good wives, 50.

8 Haskell, , ‘The Paston women on marriage’, 470.

9 Castiglione, B., The book of the courtier (London, 1974) 199, first published 1528, translated into English by Sir Thomas Hoby, 1561. The dialogues of Plato, translated Jowett, B. (Oxford, 1953) ‘Republic’, book v, 455. For an analysis of Plato's views on the nature of woman, see Elshtain, J., Public man, private woman. Women in social and political thought (Princeton, 1981) 3340.

10 Woodbridge, L., Women and the English renaissance. Literature and the nature of womankind, 1540–1620 (Champaign, Illinois, 1984), analyses the use of the hemaphrodite theme in literature.

11 British Library, London (hereafter BL) Add. MSS 23213 (Conway papers) fo. 10.

12 Cited in Crawford, P., ‘Women's published writings 1600–1700’ in Prior, , ed., Women in English society (London, 1985) 219. Dr Crawford interprets this quotation as revealing that the criticism incurred by writing for publication created in women an anxiety about their sexual identity.

13 Cavendish, M., A true relation of my birth, breeding, and Life, ed. Brydges, E. (Kent, 1814) 7 (c. 1630).

14 Cited in Hey, D., Packmen, carriers and packhorse roads. Trade and communications in North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire (Leicester, 1980) 99; Woodbridge, , Women and the English renaissance, 157, observes that the literature of this period demonstrates that ‘Men had a greater horror of effeminancy than women of mannishness.’

15 Warwick Record Office, Warwick (hereafter WRO), Throckmorton MSS, CR 1998, box 60, folder 3, Mary Throckmorton to her father Thomas Throckmorton, 25 Dec. c. 1607.

16 Scofield, B., ed., ‘The Knyvett letters 1620–1644’, Norfolk Record Society 20 (1949) 110.

17 Beckett, J., The aristocracy in England 1660–1914 (Oxford, 1986); Bush, M., The English aristocracy (Manchester, 1984); Powis, J., Aristocracy (Oxford, 1984); Stone, L. and Stone, J. Fawtier, An open elite? England, 1540–1800 (Oxford, 1984).

18 John Rylands Library, Manchester (hereafter JRL), Earls of Crawford MSS, 17/15/1, fo. 12 (1670).

19 Gouge, W., Of domeslicall duties (London, 1622) 17. A point also noted by Amussen, S., ‘Gender, family and the social order’, in Fletcher, A. and Stevenson, J., eds., Order and disorder in early modern England (Cambridge, 1985) 200.

20 Parkinson, R., ed., ‘The autobiography of Henry Newcome’, Chetham Society, old series 26 and 27 (1852) 1 300.

21 BL, Lansdowne 235 (autobiography of Thomas Godfrey), fo. 6 (1623).

22 The upbringing of girls but not their brothers has been the focus of much attention from historians. See for example: Dyhouse, C., Girls growing up in late Victorian and Edwardian England (London, 1981); Lewis, J., ed., Women's experience of home and family, 1850–1940 (Oxford, 1986); Roberts, E., A woman's place. An oral history of working-class woman 1890–1940 (Oxford (1984). An exception, which pays equal attention to the construction of concepts of masculinity, is Davidoff, L. and Hall, C., Family fortunes. Men and women of the English middle class 1780–1850 (London, 1987).

23 As well as the extracts given below, Canny, N., The upstart Earl. A study of the social and mental world of Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork, 1566–1643 (Cambridge, 1982) 110, cites Boyle's dislike of idleness in the children of great men. See too the efforts of Lady Frances Hatton to ensure her daughter would not lose any time, even though she would be spending the summer in the country, NRO, FH 4321 (1678). Wagner, A., ‘Idleness and the ideal of the gentleman’, History of Education Quarterly 25 (1985) provides a review of the prescriptive literature condemning idleness. Thompson, E. P., ‘Time, work-discipline, and industrual capitalism’, Past and present 38 (1967) 87–8, describes the preoccupation of the seventeenth-century non-conformists with the value of time and the necessity of internalizing a time discipline.

24 Salter, M., Family life in the seventeenth century. The Verneys of Claydon house (London, 1984) 136 (1647).

25 Sheffield Central Library, Sheffield (hereafter SCL), Wentworth-Woodhouse MSS, vol. 21, fo. 147 (1636).

26 BL, Add. MSS 23212 (Conway papers), fo. 169, late sixteenth century.

27 The principle of obedience was instilled in both sexes, ‘Love, obedience, and respect of children for their parents is conducive to the publicke peace of the country’ was the maxim in force in the Papillon family, Northampton Record Office, Northampton (hereafter NRO), Papillon MSS P(L), vol. 224, fo. 69 (1698). The religious principles passed on to offspring and the stress on the necessity of preparing for salvation also do not seem to be differentiated according to sex or birth order. Anne Montagu, in common with many parents of these ranks, compiled one set of instructions for all her family: ‘My deare children I have often tymes had a desier in my harte and thoughts to write somewhat to you which might bee som guide or rule to walke in a holy and Christian lyfe as may be pleasing to God and everlasting comfort to your owne soules.’ NRO, Montagu of Boughton MSS, vol. 3, fo. 235 (1640s).

28 Evelyn, J., Memoires for my grandson, ed. Keynes, G. (Oxford, 1926) 28–9. Gouge, , Of domesticall duties, 255, stated ‘affaires abroad doe most appertaine to the man, and are especially to be ordered by him: that which the wife is especially to care for, is the businesse of the house’.

29 Meads, D., Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby 1599–1605 (London, 1930).

30 Cited in O'Day, R., Education and society 1500–1800. The social foundations of education in early modern Britain (London and New York, 1982) 184. John Dugdale sent similar instructions to the household in which his daughter was residing: WRO, Dugdale MSS, in the possession of Sir William Dugdale, documents in the horsehair trunk, bundle 4, Sir John Dugdale to his father, 16 Dec. 1684.

31 NRO, IC 348 (1654).

32 Cavendish, , A true relation, 16 (c. 1630).

33 A university education fitted students for a career in public service: Stone, L., The crisis of the aristocracy 1558–1641 (Oxford, 1965) 673. Although many heirs attended the inns of court, they were unlikely to pick up sufficient knowledge to aid them in land or other litigious disputes. For an explanation, see Prest, W., The inns of court under Elizabeth I and the early Stuarts 1590–1640 (London, 1972) 141–53.

34 See, for example, ‘About menaging an estate’, compiled by Justinian Isham, NRO, IC 528 (1663). Thirsk, J., ‘Agricultural innovations and their diffusion’, in Thirsk, J., ed., The agrarian history of England and Wales (Cambridge, 1985), vol. 5, part 2, surveys the agricultural textbooks available for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

35 Gardiner, D., ed., The Oxinden and Peyton letters 1642–1670 (London, 1937) 154 (1649).

36 Justinian Isham cited scriptural proverbs when advising his daughters how to comport themselves, NRO IC 3415 (1642). See too Gataker, T., A good wife God's gift: and, a wife indeed. Two marriage sermons (London, 1623) and, for Robert Filmer's anxiety about the implications of viewing a good wife as God's gift, see Ezell, M., ‘Sir Robert Filmer and the English patriarch’, Seventeenth-century News, winter (1984) 63.

37 Stone, , The open elite?, 147; Finch, M., The wealth of five Northamptonshire families 1540–1640 (Oxford, 1956) 168; Everitt, A., ‘The marketing of agricultural produce’, in Thirsk, , ed., Agrarian history (Cambridge, 1967), vol. 4, 567; James, M., Family, lineage, and civil society. A study of society, politics and mentality in the Durham region, 1500–1640 (Oxford, 1974) 26.

38 For examples of the high value placed on outward unity, see BL, Add. MSS 23212, fo. 13; LPL, Shrewsbury and Talbot papers, MS 3199, vol. H, fo. 345; Townshend, D., The life and letters of Mr Endymion Porter: sometime gentleman of the bedchamber to King Charles the First (London, 1897) 74.

39 Cavendish, , A true relation, 6 (c. 1630).

40 Friedman, A., ‘The influence of humanism on the education of girls and boys in Tudor England’, History of Education Quarterly 30 (1985); McMullen, N., ‘The education of English gentlewomen 1540–1640’, History of Education 6 (1977); O'Day, , Education and society, ch. 10; Slater, , Family life, 134–8; Stone, L., The family, sex and marriage in England 1500–1800 (London, 1979) 343–58.

41 Loftis, J., ed., The memoirs of Anne, Lady Halkett and Ann, Lady Fanshawe (Oxford, 1979) 110; Thornton, Alice's education was similar: ‘The autobiography of Mrs Alice Thornton of East Newton, county York’, Surtees Soceity 62 (1875) 8.

42 Parsons, D., ed., The diary of Sir Henry Slingsby of Scriven, bart (London, 1836) 3, 53 (1640).

43 Verney, F. and Verney, M., Memoirs of the Verney family (London, 1892) vol. 1, 496, 497, 500 (1647).

44 Loftis, , Memoirs of Lady Halkett and Lady Fanshawe, 10.

45 Gardiner, , ed., The Oxinden and Peyton Letters, 128.

46 Gardiner, D., English girlhood at school. A study of women's education through twelve centuries (London, 1929) 216.

47 Gardiner, , English girlhood at school, 210, 217, 224; O'Day, , Education and society, 186.

48 Manchester Central Library, Manchester, Carill Worsley account book M/35/5/4/4.

49 Hertford Record Office, Hertford (hereafter HRO), accounts of James Wittewronge MSS, D/ELw F41.

50 Somerset Record Office, Taunton (hereafter TRO), Phelips MSS, DD/PH 238.

51 This finding contradicts the claim of Professor Slater that ‘the lower intellectual goals which were set for girls provided some convenient financial relief for parents’, Slater, , Family life, 136–7. See also the conference paper of Amy Erikson in which she concludes from her analysis of probate accounts dealing with the middling sort that the annual maintenance and education costs for girls were slightly more expensive than those for boys: £5 5s. 0d. for the former and £5 0s. 0d. for the latter; ‘The expense of children and maternal management in early modern England’ (ESRC Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, C/1847, 1986). It may be that the fees of the more exclusive public schools for boys were greater than those of the more expensive girls' schools: Stone, L., The crisis of the aristocracy 1558–1641 (Oxford, 1965) 686.

52 WRO, Fielding MSS, CR 2017, vol. C1, fo. 230 (1666).

53 Cornwallis, J., The private correspondence of Jane Lady Cornwallis 1613–44 (London, 1842) 277 (1636).

54 Canny, , The upstart Earl, 87.

55 NRO, Isham MSS IC 284 (1650).

56 ‘Correspondence of the family of Hatton’, Camden Society (1878), 2, 237, (c. 1698).

57 As does Slater, , Family life, 137.

58 BL, Add. MSS 28004 (Oxinden papers) fo. 11 (1655).

59 Northampton Central Library, Northampton (hereafter NCL), Lady Mildmay's meditations MF 25273, fo. 11, mid-sixteenth century.

60 Newton, E., Lyme letters 1660–1760 (London, 1925) 155, 1688.

61 Verney, , Memoirs of the Verney family, vol. 1, 496.

62 Ibid., 501–2.

63 Joceline, E., The mother's legacie to her unborne childe, 3rd edition (London, 1852) composed 1622, 3.

64 O'Day, , Education and society, 179; Stone, L., ‘Literacy and education in England 1640–1900’, Past and Present 42 (1969) 74; Wrightson, , English society, 188.

65 Stone, , Crisis of the aristocracy, 679–80.

66 SCL, Wentworth-Woodhouse MSS, vol. 40, fo. 57.

67 Bodleian Library, Oxford (hereafter BOD), Eng. letts. E 29, fo. 24 (1686).

68 Slater, , Family life, 135.

69 Smith, H., Reason's disciples. Seventeenth-century English feminists (Chicago and London, 1982) 41–2.

70 Verney, , Memoirs of the Verney family, vol. 1, 500 (1650).

71 Evelyn, , Memoires for my grandson, 13, 71.

72 Hull, S., Chaste, silent and obedient. English books for women 1475–1640 (San Marino, 1982) 58; Maclean, I., The renaissance notion of woman (Cambridge, 1980) 66.

73 Gardiner, , English girlhood at school, 361–2; Stone, , Family, sex and marriage, 347–8.

74 BL, Add. MSS 45199 (Brockman papers), 1674, NRO, FH 4321 (1678). It should be noted that there was a general revulsion against education after the Restoration, as revealed by the curtailment of educational provision for the poor as well as by the decline in the numbers of the upper ranks attending university. Stone, L., ‘Literacy and education in England 1640–1900’, Past and Present 139, (1969). Women may have been only one case in this overall scenario. Nevertheless the choice of subject from which they were being excluded is significant.

75 Gardiner, , English girlhood at school, 225.

76 BOD, Eng. letts. E29, fo. 21.

77 Underdown, D., ‘The taming of the scold: the enforcement of patriarchal authority in early modern England’, in Fletcher, A. and Stevenson, J., eds., Order and disorder in early modern England (Cambridge, 1985).

78 Andresen-Thom, M., ‘Thinking about women and their prosperous art: a reply to Juliet Dusinberre's “Shakespeare and the nature of women”’, Shakespeare Studies 11 (1978) 263.

79 Houlbrooke, As does R., The English family 1450–1700 (London, 1984) 150.

80 Slater, , Family life 137 (1647).

81 Hutchinson, L., Memoirs of the life of Colonel (John) Hutchinson (London, 1810) 25–6 (1627).

82 Elizabeth Joceline emphasized the importance of teaching daughters humility. Joceline, , The mother's legacie, 3 (1622).

83 NRO, IC 596.

84 NRO, IC 3415 (1642); Ezell, , ‘Sir Robert Filmer’, 63.

85 NRO, Montagu of Boughton, , vol. 7, fo. 81 (1632); see too, BL, Osborne MSS, Add. MSS 28050, fo. 67, late seventeenth century, in which Peregrine Osborne was assured that he would like a young woman proposed as a bride for him since she was ‘very modestly bred’.

86 NRO, FH 278 127b (c. 1670).

87 Gardiner, , The Oxiden and Peyton letters, 128 (1647).

89 See, for example, the letter from James Simeon to his father in 1697 in which he apologizes for his bashfulness at school, a ‘great affliction’ to him. BOD, MSS DD Weld/c. 13.4/10. As Rosemary O'Day points out, in a patronage society, competitiveness among boys was to be encouraged since, in order to attract a patron, it was essential to display, rather than hide, one's talents, O'Day, , Education and Society, 52–3.

90 Wheatley, H., ed., Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn (London, 1906) vol. 3, 108 (1693).

91 Crowley, R.The woman's lesson 1549, cited in Hull, , Chaste, silent and obedient, 54. For reviews of the domestic conduct manuals see Powell, C., English domestic relations 1487–1653 (New York, 1917) and Davies, K., ‘Continuity and change in literary advice on marriage’, in Outhwaite, R. B., Marriage and society: studies in the history of marriage (London, 1981). It is, of course, unclear how much attention was paid to such literature. However, Emma Gell, third wife of Ralf Gell of Derbyshire, owned a copy of Vives, J., A very fruiteful and pleasant booke called the instruction of a christen women (London, 1557), Derbyshire Record Office, D258/64/12 and the Lindsay, Earls of Crawford, collection of family papers contains a verbatim copy of Halifax, Advice to a daughter, JRL, 84/1/19.

92 Verney, , Memoirs of the Verney family, vol. 1, 500 (1650).

93 Hull, , Chaste, silent and obedient, 16, 133, 140.

94 Braithwaite, , English gentleman, 271–84, 293, 339.

95 Marquis, of Halifax, Advice to daughter, 23, 25–6, 32.

96 BL, Add. MSS 29571 (Finch papers), fo. 459 (1678).

97 TRO, DD/PH/224, fo. 21 (c. 1636).

98 Loftis, , Memoirs of Lady Halkett and Lady Fanshawe, 110, born 1625.

99 For the seclusion of girls in the home, see Dyhouse, , Girls growing up, 44; Pollock, L., A lasting relationship. Parents and children over three centuries (London, 1987) 136. Examples of girls with playmates in the seventeenth century can be found in NOR, FH 4409 and Bagley, J., ed., ‘The great diurnal of Nicholas Blundell’, The record society of Lancashire and Cheshire 112, (1970), 29.

100 Hutchinson, , Memoirs of the Life, 26 (1627).

101 Marquis, G. of Halifax, The lady's new year gift: or, advice to a daughter, 3rd edition (London, 1688) 3, 23.

102 Braithwaite, R., The English gentleman and English gentlewoman, 3rd edition (London, 1641), 339.

103 Cornwallis, , The private correspondence of Lady Comwallis, 227 (1636).

104 NCL, MF 25273, part 2, fo. 30.

105 NOR, FH 1416 (c. 1666).

106 Loftis, , Memoirs of Lady Halkett and Lady Fanshawe, 18 (1644). See too Mendelson, S., ‘Debate. The weightiest business: marriage in an upper-gentry family in seventeenth century England’, Past and Present 85 (1979) 131–2.

107 Canny, , The upstart Earl, 107–8 has the best description of the episode.

108 SRO, MF 9/L.a.486 (c. 1610). Mary and Elizabeth Isham also refused prospective bridegrooms approved of by their parents, NRO, IC 524 (1661); IC 1008 (1677).

109 Kent Archive Office, Wykeham-Martin MSS, U23/CI/16; U23/F7/2 (1680).

110 Gardiner, D., ed., The Oxinden letters 1607–42. Being the correspondence of Henry Oxinden of Barham and his circle (London, 1933), 87 (1632).

111 NRO, Montagu of Boughton, , vol. 7, fo. 73.

112 NRO, IC 901, 931, 953, 973 (1675).

113 Parsons, , ed., Diary of Sir Henry Slingsby, 217–8 (1658).

114 Hainsworth, D. R., ed., ‘The correspondence of Sir John Lowther of Whitehaven 1693–1698’, British Academy records of social and economic history new series 7 (1983) xiv.

115 Lewis, T., ed., ‘Letters of the Lady Brilliana Harley’, (Camden Society 1854) 212, 213, (1641).

116 For example, William Wentworth and Thomas Isham regularly received instructions as a child from their father whenever he was absent from home; SCL Wentworth-Woodhouse MSS, vol. 34, fo. 13; NRO, IC 593, 639, 640, 672, 712 (1667–71). Ralph Verney was utilized by his father to pass on criticism to the other children; Slater, , Family life, 32 (1638).

117 SCL, Strafford MSS, vol. 2, fos. 38–9 (1620).

118 BOD, Eng. letts. E 29, fos 36–7 (c. 1687).

119 Bray, W., ed., Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn (London, 18501852) vol. 4, 32.

120 Crawford, , ‘Women's published writings’, 216.

121 NRO, FH, vol. 283, fo. 1.

122 Joceline, , The mother's legacie, preface, letter to her husband; Leigh, D., The mother's blessing to the Godly counsaile of a gentlewoman, not long since decreased, left behind for her children, 4th edition (London, 1618), 4.

123 Gouge, , Of domesticall duties, 271.

124 NRO, W/A, vol. 32, fo. 3.

125 Castiglione, , The book of the courtier, 200.

126 For a mathematical analysis of the way in which people select between two world views, see Brandenburger, A., ‘The role of common knowledge assumptions in game theory’, section 6, in Hahn, F., ed., The economics of information, games and missing markets (Oxford University Press, Oxford) forthcoming.

127 Susan Amussen points out the problems the role of women posed for the authors of domestic-conduct books: though they stressed the deference of women, they wished women to be competent rather than replete with subjection. Amussen, , ‘Gender, family and the social order’, 201.

128 Newdigate-Newedgate, Lady, ed., Gossip from a muniment room. Being passages in the lives of Anne and Mary Fytton (London, 1898), 84, 85 (1609). See also the tactics employed by Anne Barrett-Lennard and Frances Hatton in an attempt to persuade their husbands to return home, Essex Record Office, Chelmsford, D/DL/C43/1/35; NRO, FH 4328.

129 Slater, , Family life, 66, notes that, during the civil war, wives were often used to present their husband's case to avoid sequestration since it was thought that the committee for compounding would be more indulgent to weak women.

130 Gardiner, , ed., The Oxinden and Peyton letters, 121 (1647); Gardiner, , ed., The Oxinden letters 16071642, 111 (1641).

131 Scofield, , ed., ‘The Knyvett letters’, 154 (1644).

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