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Comment les femmes écrivent l’histoire

‘Kings are but Men’ : Elizabeth Cary’s Histories of Edward II

Karen Britland

Résumés

On a longtemps considéré qu’Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland, était l’auteure de deux histoires du roi Edward II, qui furent toutes deux composées dans les années 1620, mais seulement publiées en 1680. Cet article s’intéresse d’abord aux événements qui marquèrent la vie de Cary au moment où elle composa ses manuscrits. Il explore ensuite les révisions introduites dans la seconde version de son récit et s’interroge sur sa façon de concevoir son statut d’historienne. Partant de l’idée, avancée par Barbara Lewalski, que l’épigraphe tacitéenne apposée à la plus longue des deux histoires d’Edward II, associe Cary à une nouvelle sorte d’histoire “politique” dans la veine de Machiavel ou de Guicciardini, cette étude montre qu’elle renvoie aussi à The Anatomy of Melancholy de Robert Burton, ouvrage que Cary a probablement lu après sa séparation d’avec son mari en 1626. Elle suggère plus précisément que la version révisée d’Edward II, qui s’inspire de Burton, est une façon d’intervenir directement dans les débats politiques contemporains et que Cary, en dépit de son statut de récusante appauvrie, était apte à véritable opinion sur les affaires du temps.

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  • 1 E[lizabeth] C[ary], The History of the life, reign, and death of Edward II, London, 1680. Hereafter (...)
  • 2 [Elizabeth Cary], The History of the most unfortunate prince King Edward II […] supposed to be writ (...)
  • 3 D. R. Woolf, « The True Date and Authorship of Henry, Viscount Falkland’s History of the Life, Reig (...)
  • 4 For a detailed description of these texts, see Margaret Reeves, « From Manuscript to Printed Text : (...)
  • 5 At this time, the new year was counted from March, not January.

1In 1680, in the middle of the Exclusion Crisis, two texts of a prose history of King Edward II were published in London by different publishers. One was a folio volume, produced under the auspices of the booksellers Charles Harper, Samuel Crouch and Thomas Fox. The other was a cheaper octavo, printed for and sold by John Playford. The larger volume declared itself to be « Written by E. F. in the year 1627 / And Printed verbatim from the Original »1. The smaller volume announced itself to have been « Found among the Papers of, and (supposed to be) Writ by the Right Honourable HENRY Viscount FAULKLAND, Sometime Lord Deputy of Ireland »2. For a time, historians and literary critics believed these texts to be contemporary with their date of publication and to be responding directly to late-seventeenth-century political events3. However, in the mid 1990s, Jeremy Maule discovered two related manuscripts : one (the Finch-Hatton manuscript) is very similar to the printed octavo text, and the other (the Fitzwilliam manuscript) is similar to the longer folio text4. The shorter Finch-Hatton manuscript is dated « Janu : 7°. 1626 », while the Fitzwilliam manuscript is dated « Fe : 2°. 1627 ». In new-style dating, this dates the shorter manuscript to January 1627 and the longer one to February 16285. From Maule’s discovery, it seems clear that the histories of Edward II were composed in the 1620s and not in the 1680s.

2The longer, printed version of the text contains a publisher’s address « To the READER », which introduces the history and declares that its author « was every way qualified for an Historian », continuing :

  • 6 History 2°, sig. A2r.

bating a few obsolete words, (which shew the Antiquity of the Work) we are apt to believe those days produced very few who were able to express their Conceptions in so Masculine a Stile.6

  • 7 The BL catalogue qualifies this attribution with an unexplained proviso that « E. F. » might instea (...)
  • 8 Donald A. Stauffer, « A Deep and Sad Passion », in Hardin Craig (ed.), The Parrott Presentation Vol (...)
  • 9 As Tina Krontiris has noted, Elizabeth Cary signed her letters to the King and members of the privy (...)

3This does not need much comment. The publisher here sees the style as inherently masculine, and we may suppose that this is because of the text’s subject matter : it is a political history that treats of an English monarch and matters of state. Indeed, the British Library’s catalogue files both versions of the printed text under the presumed authorship of Henry Cary, Viscount Falkland7. Nevertheless, since 1935 when Donald A. Stauffer first made the suggestion, a body of evidence has been growing that attributes authorship to Elizabeth, Lady Falkland, Henry Cary’s wife8. This evidence is based primarily upon the initials « E.F. » which sign both the folio volume and the Fitzwilliam manuscript, although, as I will discuss, other persuasive factors also contribute to this attribution9. What is most interesting, however, is that, as literary critics have come to accept the idea that the Edward II histories were written by a woman, the critical discourse has subtly altered.

4To take one example, Louise Schleiner, in 1993, wrote of Cary’s text :

  • 10 Louise Schleiner, « Lady Falkland’s Re-entry into Writing », in Katherine Z. Keller and Gerald J. S (...)

[The] preface terms it, a « historical relation », not a history per se. We may consider it fictionalized history or historical fiction, prototypically akin to the modern historical novel.10

  • 11 Ibid.

5Here, the masculine style identified by the publishers in 1680 has given way to a novelist’s interest in what Schleiner terms « invented thoughts, motives and conversations »11. This piece of writing ceases to be seen as history written in a « masculine » style, and becomes (implicitly feminised) novel writing.

6In this paper, I want to look at these two different versions of Edward II in a more detailed way, considering the circumstances of their composition, and paying attention to their source material. After first considering Cary’s personal circumstances at the time her manuscripts were written, I will investigate the revisions that she made between the two versions of her history and assess what these can tell us about Cary’s thoughts on her position as a woman writing history.

  • 12 For information on this play and the circumstances surrounding its publication, see Karen Britland (...)

7Elizabeth Cary was an only child, born in Oxfordshire to Lawrence Tanfield and Elizabeth, his wife. She was married to Sir Henry Cary in 1602 when she was about seventeen years old, but the couple did not immediately live together because Henry was in the army in the Low Countries and was then captured and held hostage by the Spanish. It was during the early years of her marriage that she is supposed to have written her first published work, an original drama entitled The Tragedy of Mariam, Queen of Jewry, which was printed, perhaps without her consent, in 161312.

  • 13 Richard Butler appears to have been Henry Cary’s political enemy. However, after her conversion to (...)

8Henry and Elizabeth finally set up house together in 1606 and, from 1608 to 1624, she was almost perpetually pregnant, giving birth to eleven children. Around 1622, she accompanied her husband to Ireland where he took up the post of Lord Deputy. His letters indicate his severe distrust of Irish Catholics, but Cary herself seems to have been on friendly terms with many of them, especially the family of Richard Butler, Viscount Mountgarret13. In 1625, Cary travelled to London with her children, but without her husband, and there, on 14 November 1626, she declared her conversion to Catholicism.

9Estranged from her husband by her conversion, she set up house in London and received aid from women in the powerful Villiers family. It was probably through her connections with these women that she made the acquaintance of the Queen, to whom she dedicated an English translation of Cardinal du Perron’s French Catholic text, entitled, The Reply of the Most Illustrious Cardinal of Perron to the Answer of the Most Excellent King of Great Britain (1630). According to a manuscript biography written by one of her daughters (who was a nun at the English Benedictine convent at Cambrai in France), Cary also wrote a verse life of Tamburlaine, several saints lives, and various poems. She died in 1639 while working on a translation of the Flemish mystic, Louis de Blois.

  • 14 See Barry Weller and Margaret Ferguson (eds.), The Tragedy of Mariam, Berkeley, University of Calif (...)
  • 15 The preface to the shorter manuscript version observes the work was wrought in « tenne daies » : se (...)

10The Edward II texts, then, are doubly interesting, not only because they were almost certainly written by a woman, but because they were composed very soon after that woman’s declaration of her religious conversion. After her recusancy became known, Cary was confined to her house by King Charles for six weeks without any contact with Catholics, « her household » as we are told by the biographical Life, « being wholly Protestant »14. If the date of « Janu : 7°. 1626 » (that is, in new dating, 1627), on the Finch-Hatton manuscript is accurate, this early history of Edward II would have been written immediately upon Cary’s release from confinement, and possibly in only ten days15.

  • 16 By June 1628, Cary’s financial uncertainties seemed to be resolved when Falkland agreed to allow he (...)
  • 17 Calendar of State Papers, Ireland 1625-32, p. 279.
  • 18 The Life informs us that she lived in this little house during Lent in the period after her convers (...)

11During the following year, Cary struggled to receive a pension from her estranged husband and fought not to be sent to live in Oxfordshire with Lady Tanfield, her mother. The second version of her Edward II story, which, if one is to believe its own propaganda was written in a month, would therefore have been completed in January 1628 while Cary was struggling to establish her finances and household in England16. By October 1627, she owed £184 to various benefactors, including £50 to the Countess of Buckingham and £10 to Viscountess Mountgarret17. Despite a brief period, probably around March 1627, in a « little old house » located « in a little town ten mile from London […] on the Thames side », she seems to have managed – in the face of forceful opposition from her husband and her mother – to have remained in London and, by the early 1630s, is recorded in lodgings in Drury Lane18.

  • 19 In 1987, Betty S. Travitsky suggested the texts were composed in this order, but her findings were (...)

12If Elizabeth Cary was the author of these histories of Edward II, it would seem, then, that they were composed in London shortly after the declaration of her religious conversion in November 1626. The earlier manuscript version may well have been researched during her six-week confinement and written up in the ten days following her release, while the longer version, which bears many more allusions to contemporary Caroline politics, was an expansion of the former, completed a year later, and possibly in just one month, as she struggled to survive in London19. This raises several questions : why did Cary choose to write about Edward II at this time ; what resources were available to her ; how did she conceive of herself as a woman writing history ? In what remains of this chapter, I wish to investigate how these histories were composed and posit some suggestions about Cary’s intentions in writing them.

13The author’s preface to the shorter and earlier Finch-Hatton manuscript reads as follows :

  • 20 Reproduced in M. Reeves, art. cit., p. 136. Regrettably, I have not yet been able to view the origi (...)

To owte ronne, those wearie howers, of a sadde, and deepe passion : My melancholly, pen fell accidentallie, vpon this historicall relation. Wch speakes a Kinge, one of our owne, though one of the moste unfortunate, and shewes, ye fall, of his Inglorious Minions. Whose high and pride, occasionde, many strandge agitations in ye Kingedome, and finally wrought their own destruccion, and their, Indulgent masters Ruine. What tenne daies wrought, you may peruse in one. Wch may Informe you, and excuse my errors. Such workes requier, a quiet mynde, and leasure both wch to me, I doe confess, are strandgers. Some passadges remarkeable, may take. If you recente them, the rest may seeme to make, the story fuller. lett Critickes morallise, or Judge, their famye. I wright to please the truthe, not humor others, find In that sence, you may partake my labors.20

  • 21 Reproduced in M. Reeves, art. cit. , p. 137.
  • 22 See Barbara Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press (...)

14Several things are interesting here. The author tells us she came to this writing accidentally because she was melancholy, and she makes various excuses for the provisional nature of her work – although, notably, none of these is an apology for her gender. What is most interesting, perhaps, is her attitude to history writing : she claims she writes to please the truth, and that her subject is the fall of a king brought about by his servants. She also acknowledges a certain amount of amplification in her work which, she says, serves to make « the story fuller ». In the later version of the history, she would note : « I haue not herin followed the dull character of our historians, nor amplified more, then they, Infer, by circumstance »21. In other words, she does not present herself as an historian (nor, indeed, as a « Criticke »), but sees her writing as somehow supplementing historical discourse. Rather than simply replicating the work of historians, she is writing a considered, critical commentary about historical events. This does not, however, make her a proto-novelist. Rather, as Barbara Lewalski has noted, she seems to have been engaging in a new sort of « Tacitean « politic » history in the vein of Machiavelli and Guicciardini »22. Cary’s is a didactic text that serves both as a factual representation of history and as a moral exempla. In many ways, rather than acknowledging a debt to previous historical scholarship, her prefaces imply that their author aspires to write authoritatively in a manner that goes beyond and adds to this.

  • 23 This connection was first noticed by D. A. Stauffer, art. cit, p. 289-314.
  • 24 The 1577 first edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles was very expensive. It was owned by Robert Devereu (...)

15The story of Edward II’s reign was available in the 1620s in various forms. It had been dramatised by Christopher Marlowe in the 1590s and had also been the subject of Michael Drayton’s long poems, Piers Gaveston and the Mortimeridos, and Barons’ Wars. Cary may have encountered the tale in 1597 when Drayton dedicated a section of his England’s Heroical Epistles to her : this volume contained verse letters purporting to be from Queen Isabel and Roger Mortimer, plus a series of notes explaining the poems’ historical allusions. Edward’s story also appeared in John Bourchier’s English translation of Jean Froissart’s French Chronicles of England (1523), in Robert Fabyan’s Chronicle (1533), in the third volume of Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), in Stow’s A Summary of English Chronicles (1565) and in his Annals (1592), and in prose histories written by John Speed (1611) and Samuel Daniel (1618). Interestingly, however, the earlier version of Cary’s story in both the Finch-Hatton manuscript and the printed octavo is based almost exclusively upon Richard Grafton’s Tudor A Chronicle at Large, which was first published in 156823. This is perhaps surprising, considering the popularity of the later histories by Holinshed and Stow, which were used by writers such as William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson24. It seems a likely conjecture that Grafton’s book was available to Cary during her London confinement (perhaps because she owned or borrowed it) and that, as a consequence, it formed the backbone of her history.

  • 25 Richard Grafton, A Chronicle at Large, London, 1569, sig. 2v.
  • 26 Ibid., sig. 6r.

16A Protestant and committed reformer, Grafton was involved in printing English translations of the bible and his Chronicle is an equally nationalistic project. Noting that histories of England were frequently written by « straungers » who (particularly « in matters of Religion and ciuill pollicie »), had « eyther by ignoraunce or malyce slaunderously written and erred from the manifest truth », he took it upon himself to « confute such errors & vntruths as are written and scattred in foreyn stories concerning this realme »25. His chronicle celebrates the history of England from creation, through « the first entrie and habitation of the Britons in this Islande, vnto the first yere of the reigne of our soueraigne Lady Queen Elizabeth, presently reigning » and, as a non-authorial « Preface to the Reader » notes, it provides « delitefull & profitable knowlege », furnishing each reader with a « glasse to see things past, whereby to iudge iustly of things present and wisely of things to come ». Most importantly, it allows men to perceive « the course of Gods doings », so that they may « learne to dread his iudgementes and loue his prouidence »26. In other words, Grafton’s was a nationalistic project that celebrated the history of England (culminating in the reign of Elizabeth I) as an example of Protestant providentialism.

  • 27 See Barrett L. Beer, « Stow, John (1524/5–1605) », Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • 28 See B. Lewalski, op. cit., p. 203-211. For Drayton, see Virginia Brackett, « Elizabeth Cary, Drayto (...)

17It is tempting to wonder whether Cary was allowed to read Grafton during her confinement because of his strong Protestant credentials. (His rival, John Stow, was suspected of favouring Catholicism27.) However, on balance, and because many subsequent factual additions to Cary’s longer manuscript are also taken from Grafton, I think it is more likely that his text was simply the one available to her. What seems to have happened is that she drafted a text of her history, following the historical facts as laid out by Grafton, and that she later revised that history, reusing Grafton to fill in additional information. The second version of her text bears witness to further reading beyond Grafton : there is some evidence, at least, that she read Marlowe’s play Edward II, as well as Drayton’s poem, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall28. I will discuss this briefly later, but it is interesting to observe here that Cary does not appear to have made a distinction between different types of historical, dramatic or poetic sources when expanding her history.

  • 29 R. Grafton, op. cit., p. 193.

18The most sustained difference between Cary’s history and its source in Grafton is in the author’s choice of grammatical tense. Grafton’s Chronicle is narrated in the past tense, although the present tense is used to invoke the authority of previous chroniclers. « Polydore sayeth », notes Grafton, « that immediately after the death of [Edward’s] father he […] did first of all cause the Lords and rulers of Scotland to sweare unto him homage »29. This present-tense reference to Polydore generates a sense of a community of historical scholars whose work establishes, authorises and elucidates the events of the distant past. In contrast, Cary, on several occasions, presents the work of historians in the past tense, while the main body of her history is written in the present. For example, writing of the omens that followed the Parliament at York during which the elder Spencer was advanced to the earldom of Winchester, Cary notes :

  • 30 History 8º, p. 33.

19If we may credit all the Antient Historians, who seem to agree in this Relation, there were seen at this time many Sights, fearful and prodigious. Amongst them no one was so remarkable as that which for six hours space shewed the glorious Sun cloathed all in perfect Blood, to the great Admiration and Amazement of all those that beheld it. Following times, that had recorded it in their Memories by the sequel, believed it the fatal Prediction of the ensuing Miseries. Those that more aptly censure the present view of a Wonder, conceited, the just Heavens shew’d their incensed Anger, for the Noble Blood of the Earl of Lancaster, and his Adherents, so cruelly shed, without Compassion or Mercy.30

20The move to the present tense in the phrase, « Those that more aptly censure the present view of a Wonder », gives a clue to the intent behind Cary’s use of the present tense. In this passage, historical distance is shown to lead to misreadings because the views of interpreters are coloured by their knowledge of subsequent events. Instead, Cary implies that eyewitnesses have a more immediate access to the truth of an event ; a truth that is here presented as an expression of divine disapproval.

  • 31 Janet Starner-Wright and Susan Fitzmaurice, « Shaping a Drama out of a History : Elizabeth Cary and (...)
  • 32 When used in this way in history writing, the present tense is sometimes termed the « dramatic pres (...)

21Janet Starner-Wright and Susan Fitzmaurice have suggested that Cary’s decision to eschew the past tense helps to turn her work from a history into a drama31. However, this seems to me to rely too much on their knowledge of Cary’s twentieth-century reputation as a female dramatist32. Instead, I would argue that Cary’s deliberate use of the present tense is an integral part of her historical project : it provides not only a sense of a community across time in which readers are invited to consider, with some immediacy, Edward II’s reign, but also self-declaredly seeks to approach the truth of historical events by presenting them as if they were just unfolding. The narrator then becomes an historical witness whose responsibility it is to testify to the things she perceives. In addition, this choice of tense brings Edward II’s reign into the reader’s present, generating a sense of its immediate relevance to contemporary Caroline politics.

  • 33 See Leeds University, Brotherton Library, Special Collections, MS 97.

22The story of Edward II and his favourites was newly of interest in the 1620s, having first seen a flourishing in the 1590s when people were concerned about Queen Elizabeth’s favouritism towards the Earl of Essex. The Duke of Buckingham’s powerful influence over first King James and then King Charles was looked on with suspicion and the Edward story was invoked to express the anxieties that attended upon this. In April 1621, for example, Sir Henry Yelverton controversially drew parallels between Buckingham and Hugh Spencer, one of Edward’s favourites, in a speech before Parliament. In 1627, Drayton printed a new edition of his long poem, The Barons’ Wars, and, in 1628, François Garnier, Queen Henrietta Maria’s « procurer general », was commissioned to translate Stow’s account of Edward II’s reign into French for his mistress33. The story was topical and it bore very well upon the court situation of 1627 with a French-born Queen, England in conflict with France, the King at odds with his Parliament and a powerful favourite in the form of the Duke of Buckingham.

  • 34 See Raphael Holinshed, The Third Volume of Chronicles, London, 1586, p. 325-326.
  • 35 Grafton names the earls of Lancaster and Hertford, Sir John Mowbray, Sir Roger Clifford, Sir Goslyn (...)
  • 36 History 8º, p. 23.

23The octavo publication of Edward II follows the main events in Grafton’s Chronicle precisely, eschewing a lot of the more detailed political material found in Stow and Holinshed. Holinshed, for example, provides a long description of events leading up to the 1321 Parliament of the White Bands, showing how members of the nobility swore allegiance to each other, and explaining how some of them then rose against Edward II’s favoured Spencers. He also details the number of men at arms who fought with the nobles, and lists the extensive damage done to the Spencers’ lands and revenues34. In contrast, Grafton dispatches this conflict swiftly and objectively, simply noting the names of the nobles who joined together and observing that, by their advice and agreement, « Sir John Mowbray, Sir Roger Clifford, and Sir Goslyn Danyell, with a strong company entred upon the Manours, and Castelles of the sayde Spensers, standing in the marches of Wales, and spoyled and destroyed them »35. Cary takes her factual information from Grafton, naming Lancaster, Hertford, Mowbray, Clifford, Benningfield and Mortimer as part of the alliance, and observing, « They enter furiously on the Possessions of their Enemies, spoyling and wasting like profes’d Enemies »36. Like Grafton, she does not linger over the political ramifications of this episode. However, it is clear that she is prosecuting an agenda different from that of her source text.

  • 37 History 8º, p. 22-23.

24Cary’s presentation of the episode is not objective. Although she does not comment authorially upon it, her use of descriptive adjectives makes her position abundantly clear. Speaking to the nobles at Sherborough to seal their alliance against the Spencers, the Earl of Lancaster is shown to lay before them « (in a short and grave Discourse) the Iniquity and Danger that seemed eminently to threaten both them and the whole Kingdom ». The « Fore-knowledge of their Soveraign’s Behaviour, which would observe no Rule or Proportion in his immodest Affections » is acknowledged to give the nobles « small hope to prevail by Persuasion or Entreaty ». In sum, the Spencers’ pride is deemed « too great and haughty to go less without Compulsion » which leads the nobles to resolve to take up arms to right « the Time and State so much disorder’d »37. In Cary’s sympathetic version of this event, the nobles are presented as judicious and « grave », and are shown to enter into a conflict whose altruistic aim is to right the kingdom’s wrongs and puncture the pride of the immoderate Spencers. It is clear from Cary’s portrayal of his episode that one of her main objectives in constructing this history is to investigate, in detail, the malign influence of royal favourites.

  • 38 R. Grafton, op. cit., p. 200.
  • 39 R. Holinshed, op. cit., p. 327.
  • 40 John Stow, The Annales of England, London, 1601, p. 339-340.

25Soon after the White Bands episode, Cary makes a subtle, but telling, alteration to her source material. In Grafton, the Spencers are banished but soon recalled by the King who reinstalls them « as high as euer they were ». The King then picks a quarrel with the owner of Leeds castle in Kent, and seizes it and all its contents38. Holinshed provides more details, explaining that Lord Bartholomew de Badlesmere, the castle’s owner, had gone over to the side of the rebellious barons, and that the Queen was refused lodging there. This enraged the King, Holinshed says, so he raised a mighty army and took the castle39. Stow, too, recounts that the King was offended by the treatment received by his Queen at Leeds castle, and explains that this led to its seizure and to the imprisonment of Badlesmere’s wife and children in the Tower of London40. In contrast, Cary removes any mention of the King or Queen from her account of this episode, laying it entirely at the feet of the Spencers in a particularly telling way. After their return from exile, she notes, the Spencers strove to « crush by degrees all those of the adverse Faction ». They began with Sir Bartholomew Badlesmere, she says, continuing :

  • 41 History 8º, p. 26.

His Castle of Leedes in Kent, under a pretended and feigned Title, is surprized and taken from him, without a due Form, or any Legal Proceeding. Their return, and the abrogation of the Law that banished them, was provocation enough, there needed not this second Motive to enflame the hearts of the angry Barons.41

26Cary clearly manipulates the facts as she received them from Grafton, reforming historical events to make them more conducive to her purposes. She removes any sense of direct culpability for the seizure of Leeds castle from the King and the Queen, and places it squarely at the door of the vengeful Spencers. This serves, however, to underline the dangers of favouritism and to emphasise the corruptions in justice and the law that result from this kind of monarchical rule. The Spencers flout the laws and go unchecked because the King has disregarded his own laws as well as the coronation oath in which he promised to deal justly with his people.

27Cary is particularly exercised in her history by the corruption of justice and the breaking of oaths, noting early on that,

  • 42 History 8º, p. 15-16.

The eye of the world may be blinded, and the severity of humane Conditions removed ; but […] Perjury seldome escapes unpunished by the Divine Justice, who admits no dalliance with Oaths, even in the Case of Necessity.42

  • 43 James I’s speech to Parliament, 21 March 1610, quoted in Michael Hattaway, « Tragedy and political (...)

28National justice and religion are integrally bound together here, providing a sense of a King constrained, like his subjects, by divine and human law. This links into Jacobean political debates about the King’s divine right, which were invoked by James I in a 1610 speech to Parliament. « I will not be content that my power be disputed upon », James observed, « but I shall ever be willing to make the reason appear of all my doings and rule my actions according to my laws »43. Although James here asserts his willingness to adhere to the law, it remains « his » law and he clearly states that his subjects have no right to question his power ; only God has the ability to direct a monarch’s decisions.

  • 44 Roger Lockyer, « Villiers, George, First Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628) », Oxford Dictionary of Nat (...)

29Charles I, too, ruled under the aegis of divine right, yet his judgement was implicitly called into question during the 1626 sessions of Parliament, which sought to impeach the Duke of Buckingham, his favourite and chief advisor. As Roger Lockyer notes, Buckingham was accused by Parliament of holding too many offices, of procuring titles for his kindred and even of poisoning James I44. Rather than allowing Parliament to dismiss him, though, Charles dissolved the assembly and then resorted to a forced loan to raise money that would otherwise have been delivered to the Crown by Parliamentary subsidies. The legality of this move was debateable and many people refused to pay, adding fuel to the discontent about Buckingham’s influence over the King.

  • 45 History 8˚, p. 26.
  • 46 R. Grafton, op. cit., p. 202.

30Cary’s history is clearly linked to these contemporary debates about the power of favourites and the extent to which the King should be constrained by the law. « The Actions of a Crown are Exemplary, and should be clean, pure, and innocent », Cary writes in one of the moralising passages that augment her story, « the stains of their Errors dye not with them, but are registred in the story of their lives, either with Honour or Infamy »45. Taking her cue from Grafton, whose Chronicle includes a disquisition on financial abuses under Edward II, her description of these events nonetheless has an early-seventeenth-century ring. Where Grafton notes that « good store of forfeites and fines were gathered into the kinges treasury » at the same time as « the king gathered the sixt penny of all temporall mennes goodes within England, Ireland, & Wales »46, Cary asserts :

  • 47 History 8˚, p. 32.

The Subject is rack’d with strange Inventions, and new unheard of Propositions for Money, and many great Loans required, beyond all proportion or order. Lastly, the Royal Demeans are set at Sale, and all things that might make Money within the Kingdom.47

31Clearly invoking the charges of corruption levelled at Buckingham, her version of the story of Edward II has a discernible agenda, presenting Edward’s reign as a form of exemplary history that can tell us not only about the ancient King’s actions and mistakes, but shed light upon the current time. History, for this female writer, provides useful evidence of good and bad government, and beneath it all, as a pressing truth, is a sense of God’s providence. Indeed, the history concludes with a disquisition upon Edward’s failings as a king when it notes :

  • 48 History 8˚, p. 74.

Reasons are given probable enough to instance the necessity of his fall, which questionless were the secondary means to work it. But his Doom was registred by that inscrutable Providence of Heaven, who with the self-same Sentence punish’d both him, and Richard the Second his great Grandchild, who were guilty of the same Offences. The Example of these two so unfortunate Kings may be justly a leading precedent to all Posterity.48

32The conception here is of a form of cyclical or repetitive history which shows how similar monarchical failings are punished in similar ways. Although the historian is aware of many worldly reasons why such kings might fall, she cites divine providence as a first cause, and there is a strong warning that similar behaviour might cause the disintegration of the monarchy in her own age. This shorter version of the History of Edward II, which was derived from Grafton and which demonstrates a strong interest in history as exemplary and providentialist, is, then, above all, forcefully concerned with the issue of royal favouritism, predominantly as this affects the integrity of Stuart England and the justice of its laws.

  • 49 See D. R. Woolf, art. cit., p. 444.

33When Cary came to expand her history, she returned predominantly to Grafton, rather than to one of the other historians, taking from him many of the additional facts that thicken her story. This seems to provide an additional indication that she either owned a copy of his work or had it on long-term loan. However, as well as being informed by Grafton, the expanded version of her work shows the influence of other writers. For example, early in the revised text, she floats the idea that Gaveston, Edward’s favourite, might have been an Italian. This is a suggestion found obliquely in Marlowe’s play of Edward II, but which probably has its source in Geoffrey le Baker’s fourteenth-century chronicle, Vita et Mors Edwardii Secundi, a manuscript of which was in circulation in late-sixteenth-century London49. Interestingly, though, Cary returns to the idea of Gaveston’s putative Italian nationality later in her text, only to debunk it, noting :

  • 50 History 2˚, p. 26.

It is a Dispute variously believ’d, what Climate hatch’d this Vulture. I cannot credit him to be an Italian, when I observe the map of his Actions so far different from the disposition and practice of that politick Nation : They use not to vent publickly their spleens, till they do act them. He that will work in State, and thrive, must be reserved ; [...] Wise men made great, disguise their aims with Vizards, which see and are not seen, while they are plotting. Judge not by their smooth looks or words, which hath no kindred with the hearts of Machiavilian States-men.50

  • 51 History 2˚, p. 26.

34Several things are going on here that make this version of the history both more complicated and, I would argue, more personal, than the earlier version. First, Cary enters into a forceful debate with her sources, the use of the personal pronoun introducing a sense of intellectual authority into her writing. By doing this, she further increases the gap she had opened up in the shorter version of the work when she questioned the veracity of historical interpretations made after the fact. Moreover, despite inheriting her earlier history’s sense of cyclical, historical repetition, plus the immediacy brought to the story by the use of the present tense, she begins to increase the distance between her own age and that of Edward’s. « Those ancient times were more innocent », she writes, « or [Gaveston] more ignorant ». Instead of behaving like a seventeenth-century Machiavel, the ancient Gaveston « went on the plain way of corrupted flesh and bloud, seeking to enchant his Master, in which he was a perfect Work-man »51. In other words, Edward’s age was not as cynically corrupt as Cary’s own, and Gaveston was not as devious as a Caroline statesman. This strategy, while it certainly makes Cary’s retelling of the Edward II story less universally exemplary, paradoxically serves to increase its application to Cary’s own time, and it is this I want to investigate.

35Many modern critics have observed how this longer version of the Edward II story treats Edward’s queen Isabella in a favourable light. In Tina Krontiris’s words :

  • 52 Tina Krontiris, Oppositional Voices, Abingdon, Routledge, 1997, p. 94-98.

The queen’s appearance in the history is strategically delayed until Edward’s abuse has been sufficiently – and emphatically – exposed. Her affair with Mortimer is described only briefly, while he is made to appear more like a companion to her griefs than a sexual partner [...] The author makes Edward’s end a providential piece of work, and while she implicates Mortimer, she exonerates the queen.52

  • 53 History 2˚, p. 2.

36Cary, a female historian, is certainly interested in the position of women within historical discourse, making a point, for example, in the expanded version of her work, to go beyond her sources and praise Edward’s mother as « one of the most pious and illustrious pieces of Female-goodness that is registered in those memorable Stories of all our Royal Wedlocks »53. Moreover, at moments, Cary’s portrayal of Isabel, particularly in the longer and later version of the text, echoes the circumstances of the young Queen Henrietta Maria, who arrived in England in 1625 to discover her new husband in strong alliance with the Duke of Buckingham. Cary notes, in a departure from her source, that the younger Spencer tried to annex the good will of Queen Isabel, noting :

  • 54 History 2˚, p. 52.

37To win a nearer place in her opinion, he gains his Kindred places next her person ; and those that were her own, he bribes to back him.54

  • 55 Letter from the countess of Tillières to her husband at court, 9 August 1626, in M. C. Hippeau (ed. (...)

38This was precisely Buckingham’s strategy towards Henrietta Maria in 1626 ; a strategy that caused the comtesse de Tillières, wife of Henrietta Maria’s lord chamberlain and herself a woman of the bedchamber, bitterly to report to her husband that the Frenchwoman, Françoise de Monbodeac, Henrietta Maria’s « première femme de chambre », was « plus pour ses alliés que pour sa maîtresse »55. It is also well known that Buckingham attempted from the first to seek appointments in Henrietta Maria’s bedchamber for his own relations, most notably for his wife, his mother and his sister.

  • 56 For one of the exceptions to this critical trend, see Curtis Perry, « Royal fever and the giddy com (...)
  • 57 History 2˚, p. 9.

39This critical focus on Isabel, though, while illuminating and important, runs the risk of leading critics away from what I see as the text’s more immediate purpose : an investigation into the malign influence of favourites at the courts of the Stuart kings, coupled with a disquisition upon the status of noble counsel56. The longer version of Cary’s Edward II substantially increases its discussion of favourites, already a significant topic in the shorter version. Early in the expanded text, the narrator provides a much longer exploration of Edward’s decision to recall Gaveston in a manner that serves to underline the King’s emotional reliance on his favourite. « All his thoughts are entirely fixt upon his Gaveston », we are told, and this weakness means he is opened to the wiles of a page who seeks to advance himself by sympathising with the King’s passion57. Not only does this episode underline the dangers to justice and the nation that arise when a monarch is emotionally weak, it also introduces an apparently invented character into Cary’s history. The inclusion of this character, moreover, reveals not only Cary’s views about royal favouritism in general, but also sheds light on her more personal animus against the practice of favouritism at court.

  • 58 Ibid.

40This page, we are told, is a « green States-man » with « an oyly tongue » who, « with a fore-right look, strives rather to please, than to advise ; caring not what succeeds, so he may make it the Stair of his Preferment »58. Initially unnamed, he belongs to a world of « Caterpillers », engendered by « Court-corruption », who « to work their own ends, value not at one blow to hazard both the King and Kingdom ». Edward comes to rely on this page and soon sends him to recall Gaveston from exile. At this point, we discover the creature’s name. Cary writes :

  • 59 History 2˚, p. 12-13.

[Edward] calls his trusty Roger to his private presence, and after some Instructions throws him his Purse, and bids him haste ; he knew his Errand. The wily Servant knows his Masters meaning and leaves the Court, pretending just occasion, proud of imployment posting on his Journey.59

  • 60 Elizabeth Cary to Secretary Conway, March 1627/8 : National Archives, SP 16/58/18.
  • 61 Falkland to Buckingham, March 1627/8 : Calendar of State Papers, Ireland, 1625-32, p. 321.
  • 62 Jones was created Baron Jones of Navan and 1st Viscount Ranelagh by Charles I in 1628.

41Although there is a famous Roger in the historical Edward II story – the rebellious Roger Mortimer, Earl of March – this servant is clearly not meant to be associated with him. Instead, I suggest he comes from Cary’s personal history. In the year after her conversion, she begged the court official, Secretary Conway, to credit the Duchess and Countess of Buckingham’s positive reports of her, rather than to believe the slanderous rumours put about by the « pestilent servants of my lord that seeke to make their advantage of my misery and know nothinge of mee because they never see me, but what they faine to worke their owne basse ends »60. At this time, her husband (who was still in Ireland) was corresponding with the Duke of Buckingham through the intermediary of Sir Roger Jones, and, in the wake of his wife’s controversial conversion, was writing virulently about Catholics, averring « it was well something were done to abate the pride of the Popish party » which threatened « shortly to overrun all the world »61. One can only imagine that Sir Roger Jones, who was entrusted by Falkland to communicate with Buckingham directly, was perceived by Cary to be slandering her at court62. It is entirely possible that she relieved her feelings about this by giving him a bit-part in her history.

42That said, the responsibility for the control of servants such as Edward’s Roger is placed, in Cary’s history, firmly at the door of their masters. Cary moralises :

  • 63 History 2˚, p. 9.

The Errour is not so properly theirs, as their Masters, who do countenance and advance such Sycophants ; leaving the integrity of hearts more honest (that would sacrifice themselves in his Service in the true way of Honour) wholly contemn’d and neglected.63

  • 64 Ibid., p. 12.

43This passage opens up a very important issue within Cary’s work, which sees her engaging carefully in contemporary debates about the counsel provided by good statesmen and the evils of bad patronage. « All the Abilities of Nature, Art, Education, are useless, if they be tied to the links of Honesty », she writes ironically. « Honesty », she says, « hath little or no society in the Rules of State or Pleasure, which as they are unlimited, walk in the by-way from all that is good or vertuous »64. Cary’s text moves, at this point, from a narrow consideration of royal patronage and favouritism into a discussion of noble patronage and courtly preferment more generally. And it is here, I think, that a previously unacknowledged, but very significant, influence on her longer manuscript history can be discerned : one that speaks not only to her personal circumstances, but which connects her apparently Tacitean style of history writing to a wider literary environment and to broader seventeenth-century concerns.

  • 65 Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 198 (...)

44The title page of both later versions of Cary’s history (the Fitzwilliam manuscript and the printed folio text) has a Latin epigram which reads : Qui nescit dissimulare, nequit vivere, perire melius (« He who does not know how to dissimulate, is not able to live, rather will perish »). It is tempting to read this as a comment upon Cary’s own position as someone who could not continue to dissemble her conversion to Catholicism and who was writing in a moment of intense physical deprivation. However, it also connects her closely to contemporary political debate. As Jonathan Goldberg has noted, the phrase Qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare (« He who does not know how to dissimulate, does not know how to rule »), was associated with Tacitus’s Emperor Tiberius, who dissimulated his intentions to Gallus when the latter tried to meddle in the arcana imperii65. The phrase chosen by Cary seems to be a variation on this Tacitean tag line, and was used, in part, by Robert Burton, both in his Anatomy of Melancholy and in his Latin Philosophaster.

  • 66 History 2˚, p. 9.

45I am becoming increasingly convinced that Cary read Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy in the aftermath of her conversion, while she was struggling to re-establish herself in London. As I have noted, the preface to the initial history of Edward II presented the work as a means of outrunning the weary hours of a sad and deep passion. Moreover, the text is also particularly interested in investigating the King’s own melancholy attacks. For example, after Edward’s accession to the throne, we are told he struggled with his conscience about whether to break his oath and call home Gaveston, until he brought himself « to the height of such an inward agitation » that he fell « into a sad retired Melancholy »66. Burton’s text, printed for the first time in 1621, was modern, topical and entirely pertinent to Cary’s situation in 1627. It informs not only her manuscript prefaces, but influences her characterisation of Edward II and, most importantly, connects to her presentation of favourites, courtly corruption and noble counsel.

46Burton’s use of the Tacitean tag participates in an argument about the melancholy engendered in scholars whose work is under valued. It is also entirely pertinent to Cary’s topic of favouritism. Indeed, the two things come together early in the expanded text of her history which debates the « Disease of Greatness » which falls upon kings who « advance the corrupt ends of their Minions », and which inevitably leads to « a miserable Condition » and a « fatal and just Repentance ». Cary asserts :

  • 67 Ibid., p. 16.

It were much better, if with a provident foresight [kings] would fear and prevent the blow before they feel it. But such melancholy Meditations are deemed a fit food for Penitentials, rather than a necessary reflection for the full stomach of Regal Authority.67

47Melancholy meditations (including, perhaps, Cary’s composition of her Edward II manuscripts) are presented here as the products of retrospective penitence and are deemed never to have informed the decisions that bring that penitence into being.

  • 68 Robert Burton, Philosophaster, trans. Connie McQuillen, Medieval Texts and Studies, 1993, p. 83.

48In the Philosophaster, the phrase, Qui nescit dissimulare nescit vivere, appears during a conversation in which a character called Aequivocus tells his interlocutor Antonius that he need only memorize it to appear fully educated, after which he can spend his time worrying about pursuits such as hunting, singing and dancing68. In the Anatomy of Melancholy, the phrase is again used in the context of court life. Next to a marginal note which reads « He that cannot dissemble, cannot liue », Burton notes :

  • 69 Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, London, 1621, p. 181.

When [Patrons] contemne Learning, & think themselues sufficiently qualified, if they can write & read, or scamble at a piece of Evidence, or haue so much Latin as that Emperor had, qui nescit dissimulare, nescit vivere, they are vnfit to doe their country service, or to performe or vndertake any action or imployment, which may tend to the good of a Common-wealth, except it be to fight, or to doe country Iustice, with common sence, which every thresher can likewise doe.69

49Burton’s point here is that an uneducated patron cannot judge well of another’s worth, and so is apt to patronise poorly. Cary’s preoccupations are very similar and the expanded version of her history forcibly presents this dilemma for the honest subject whose inability to dissemble like a courtier deprives him of the means to earn a living. Indeed, in an addition to her earlier text, she makes the following comment :

  • 70 History 2˚, p. 31.

Those that are truely wise, discreet, and vertuous, will make him so that pursues their counsel ; upon which Rock he rests secure untainted. But this is Country-Doctrine Courts resent not, where ’tis no way to thrive, for them are honest. A Champion-Conscience without bound or limit, a Tongue as smooth as Jet that sings in season, a bloudless Face that buries guilt in boldness ; these Ornaments are fit to cloath a Courtier : he that wants these, still wants a means to live, if he must make his Service his Revenue.70

  • 71 T. Krontiris, op. cit., p. 92.
  • 72 B. Lewalski, op. cit., p. 203.

50Although Tina Krontiris suggests Cary does not have « anything particularly new to say about absolute monarchy as a governing system », noting that « her criticism seems specifically aimed at Edward for using his power arbitrarily and setting a bad example for his subjects »71, I suggest that Cary’s main purpose in re-working the earlier version of her history was to intervene in the urgent debates of the 1620s about the limits of monarchical authority and the position of royal favourites. Her evocation of this Tacitean tag line, as Lewalski suggests, certainly links her method of history writing to other seventeenth-century histories such as Daniel’s 1618 Collection of the History of England72. However, in its connections to Burton, it extends Cary’s criticism of favouritism beyond Edward II’s own actions into a meditation on the position of court servants and the reception of their counsel more generally.

51In this respect, the revised version of the history is interesting for its introduction of more precise technical terms concerned with absolutist rule. Early in the shorter version of the history, Cary describes how Edward II was instructed in the arts of monarchy by his father, Edward I, noting :

  • 73 History 8˚, p. 2.

Lastly, [Edward I] opens the closet of his Heart, and presents [his son] with the politic Mysteries of State, and teacheth him how to use them by his own Example, letting him know, that all these helps are little enough to support the weight of a Crown, if there were not a correspondent worth in him that wears it.73

52In the expanded version of the text, this moment is reworked as follows :

  • 74 History 2˚, p. 3.

Lastly, [Edward I] unlocks the Closet of his heart, and lays before him those same Arcana Imperii and secret mysteries of State, which are onely proper to the Royal Operations, and lie not in the road of Vulgar knowledge ; yet letting him withal know, that all these were too weak to support the burthen of a Crown, if there be not a correspondent worth in him that wears it.74

  • 75 J. Starner-Wright and S. Fitzmaurice, art. cit., p. 84-85.
  • 76 Charles Howard McIlwain, The Political Works of James I, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press (...)
  • 77 For early Stuart perceptions of the differences between Elizabethan and Jacobean dependencies on th (...)

53Cary has made a choice here to insert the Latin term, arcana imperii, not only, as Starner-Wright and Fitzmaurice note, to convey her ease with learned discourse and signal the expectations she has about the education of her audience, but also to place her work within the frame of a particular Stuart debate75. Early in James I’s reign, George Abbot, afterwards Archbishop, was warned that he had « dipp’d too deep in what all Kings reserve among the Arcana Imperii », and, as Charles McIlwain notes, « was advised in future to « meddle no more » with such « Edge-Tools » »76. James, unlike Elizabeth I, his predecessor, was vocal in his assertion of his divinely ordained monarchical authority. These were words that had a particular currency in the Stuart period, and Cary used them in full knowledge of that fact77.

  • 78 History 2˚, p. 71.

54In the longer version of her history, the reader sees King Edward, amongst others, presented with speeches that attempt to persuade him to take various courses of action. For example, after the battle of Boroughbridge, Valence, Earl of Pembroke (called « a stout and noble Gentleman »78), is given a speech in which he attempts to persuade Edward not to take bloody revenge upon the rebellious barons, Lancaster and Mowbray. Counselling mercy and moderation, he utters the surprising words :

  • 79 Ibid., p. 72. Cary employed the idea of blood as a crying sin in Mariam. The Butler, repenting his (...)

Kings are but men, that have their fates attend them, which measure out to them, what they to others. Blood is a crying sin that cries for vengeance, which follows swiftly those that vainly shed it.79

  • 80 Ibid., p. 72-73.

55Edward summarily rejects his advice, noting : « Valence […] your words do touch too near your Soveraigns Honour […] blood must have blood, their own Law be their Tryal ; let justice take her course, Ile not oppose it »80. In other words, the expanded version of Cary’s history intervenes directly into the debate about monarchical absolutism, engaging with issues of law, justice, mercy, counsel, tyranny and right government.

  • 81 History 8˚, p. 65. The earlier history does include the comment, « Edward is but a Man » (op. cit., (...)

56What is most interesting about this longer version is the subtle shift in attitude to which it bears witness. The earlier version of the history, while clearly presenting the case that an absolute king in thrall to his passions can become a tyrant, is unequivocal on the subject of monarchical absolutism. « Kings are Gods on Earth », it states, continuing : « [they] ought in all their Actions to direct the imitation after a Divine Nature, which inclines to Mercy more than Justice »81. In the 1628 version, this becomes :

  • 82 History 2˚, p. 140.

[The King] should on earth order his proceedings in imitation after the Divine Nature, which evermore inclines more to Mercy than Justice.82

57Here, the King is no longer explicitly perceived as an earthly God ; rather, following Valance’s more balanced view of things, he is a man who should imitate God’s example, so that his servants, in turn, can imitate him. To reinforce this further, Cary’s later version of the history also notes :

  • 83 Ibid., p. 44.

It is a very dangerous thing when the Head is ill, and all the Members suffer by his infirmity. Kings are but men, and Man is prone to Errour.83

58Ungoverned monarchical passions, in this text, lead to the law’s corruption and the perversion of natural justice. Despite being instructed in the arcana imperii, the King, because he is human, is fallible. Therefore, instead of ruling alone or with only one adviser, Cary suggests that,

  • 84 Ibid., p. 138.

Kings in their deliberations should be served with a Council of State, and a Council of particular Interest and Honour ; the one to survey the Policy, the other the Goodness of all matters in question.84

59Cary came from a class of nobles who, like her husband, might aspire to serve and advise the King. Indeed, it seems that her ideas about monarchical absolutism changed during the year 1627-1628 as debate raged in London about King Charles’s monarchical prerogatives and as England tumbled further into an ill-advised naval war with France. From presenting the King as Godlike in the earlier version of her history, she came to see him as fallible and in need of counsel. Her revised text of Edward II, drawing on Burton’s sentiments in his Anatomy of Melancholy, intervenes directly in these contemporary, political debates, revealing that, despite her situation as an apparently impoverished Catholic recusant and a woman, she was able both to have and to articulate an opinion about current affairs.

60Cary self-declaredly did not ascribe to the writing style of a Grafton or a medieval chronicler. Instead, she was clearly concerned to develop a compelling and vigorous story whose didactic passages encouraged her readers to view it in a particular way. This is not, I would argue, because she was a proto-novelist, concerned with « invented thoughts, motives and conversations ». Her history is voluble on the subject of monarchical absolutism and ungoverned royal passions, but, above all it is concerned with the notion of counsel, and counsel such as her own class was best fitted to provide. As such, both internally as a text structured around debates about such issues, and externally, as a piece of historical writing produced in dialogue with other writings, her history of Edward II enters into contemporary seventeenth-century debates about monarchical government and the uses and abuses of history. In the end, it redefines the ostensible meanings of its opening Latin tag, itself re-written from the Tacitean phrase adopted by Burton.

  • 85 History 8˚, p. 2.
  • 86 History 2˚, p. 160.

61Qui nescit dissimulare, nequit vivere, perire melius, writes Cary (« He who does not know how to dissimulate, is not able to live, rather will perish »). At first we understand this to refer to the virtuous courtier or scholar who cannot survive alongside corrupt and dissimulating competitors, but then we watch Gaveston, and the Spencers and then Edward himself fail to dissemble their emotions and fall. Time is the « discoverer of truth », Cary wrote in the first version of her history85. In the end, in her historical writing, it appears that truth is what we can derive from the patterns of history and what they reveal about divine intentions. Long inset speeches like that of Valence provide a multiplicity of views from which we are asked to draw our own conclusions. Despite their coercive adjectives and moralising passages, everything in Cary’s multiple versions of Edward’s history – even history-writing itself – is provisional and subject to interpretation. Indeed, above all, she draws attention to the incompleteness and provisionality of historical narrative. At the end of her longer history, she notes that Edward finally discovered that « both Heaven and Earth conspir’d his ruine ». However, she then immediately undermines her position : « But you may object », she says, « He fell by Infidelity and Treason, as have many other that went before and followed him ». Even this is not satisfactory, though, and she offers another conclusion : « ’Tis true », she continues, « but yet withal observe, here was no second Pretendents, but those of his own, a Wife, and a Son, which were the greatest Traytors : had he not been a Traytor to himself, they could not all have wronged him »86. Finding out the truth within historical discourse is intrinsically personal and problematic however much one might try to present historical evidence in an immediately accessible way.

  • 87 Alzada Tipton, « Caught between ‘Virtue’ and ‘Memorie’ : Providential and Political Historiography (...)
  • 88 Quoted in A. Tipton, art. cit., p. 330.
  • 89 History 2º, p. 160.

62Alzada Tipton has suggested that, in his own presentations of English history, the seventeenth-century writer, Samuel Daniel, was trying to move away from a providentialist style of historical writing to one that used « the facts at one’s disposal to reconstruct the past » but which understood « that a previous age was a distinct and different entity from the present »87. Elizabeth Cary, who might have known Daniel’s work through her connections with his friend Michael Drayton, seems both to participate in and eschew this idea. Her work, as I have discussed, has a strong providentialist bias that allies her with older historians such as Grafton, and yet – in the way it questions the conclusions of other historical commentators and presents multiple interpretative possibilities for the same historical event – it engages with Daniel’s concerns by questioning the very nature of historical fact. Daniel claimed his historical poem, The Civil Wars, was intended to « versify the troth ; not Poetize »88. Cary’s work picks up this emphasis on truth and embraces it, at the same time as it calls the nature of truthful writing into question. The most immediate access to truth, her present tenses suggest, comes from approaching historical events as if they had just occurred, without the encumbrances of hindsight. Limited by their imperfections and incapable fully of comprehending God’s plan, traditional historians can only ever present plausible interpretations of historical facts, but those interpretations are, nevertheless, useful and can warn the current age against repeating the mistakes of the past. Historians will go on writing histories until the end of time when the truth of God’s plan will be revealed to all. In the end, this is both exhausting and empowering : « my weary Pen doth now desire a respite », Cary concludes, « wherefore leaving the perfection of this, to those better Abilities that are worthy to give it a more full expression ; I rest, until some more fortunate Subject invite a new Relation »89. History writing, like history itself, is constantly developing, and historians can, like monarchs, profit both from an understanding of God’s providence in the past, and also from an awareness of the extremely provisional nature of their narratives. Historians do not have access to the divine plan, although they can attempt to illuminate it, and their writings, while gesturing towards the truth, can never hope to incarnate it fully in the present. Like kings, Cary ultimately seems to say, historians are but men – that is, of course, when they are not women.

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Notes

1 E[lizabeth] C[ary], The History of the life, reign, and death of Edward II, London, 1680. Hereafter History 2°.

2 [Elizabeth Cary], The History of the most unfortunate prince King Edward II […] supposed to be writ by the right honourable Henry Viscount Falkland, London, 1680 (hereafter History 8°).

3 D. R. Woolf, « The True Date and Authorship of Henry, Viscount Falkland’s History of the Life, Reign and Death of King Edward II », The Bodleian Library Record, 12.6, 1988, p. 440-452.

4 For a detailed description of these texts, see Margaret Reeves, « From Manuscript to Printed Text : Telling and Retelling the History of Edward II », in Heather Wolfe (ed.), The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613-1680, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, p. 125-144. I could not have written this article without M. Reeves’s excellent work.

5 At this time, the new year was counted from March, not January.

6 History 2°, sig. A2r.

7 The BL catalogue qualifies this attribution with an unexplained proviso that « E. F. » might instead stand for « Edward Fannant ». The rationale behind this attribution seems to be that Fannant published a Narration of the Memorable Parliament of 1386 (1641). The printed text of this Narration, however, names Fannant unmistakably as Thomas, not Edward.

8 Donald A. Stauffer, « A Deep and Sad Passion », in Hardin Craig (ed.), The Parrott Presentation Volume, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1935, p. 289-314. For a more detailed discussion of the authorship debate, see Meredith Skura, « Elizabeth Cary and Edward II : What do Women Want to Write ? », Renaissance Drama, 27, 1996, p. 79-104.

9 As Tina Krontiris has noted, Elizabeth Cary signed her letters to the King and members of the privy council, « E. Falkland » (T. Krontiris, « Style and Gender in Elizabeth Cary’s Edward II », in A. M. Haselkorn and B. S. Travitsky [eds.], The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, p. 139).

10 Louise Schleiner, « Lady Falkland’s Re-entry into Writing », in Katherine Z. Keller and Gerald J. Schiffhorst (eds.), The Witness of Times, Pennsylvania, Duquesne University Press, 1993, p. 201-217, p. 210.

11 Ibid.

12 For information on this play and the circumstances surrounding its publication, see Karen Britland (ed.), The Tragedy of Mariam, London, A&C Black, 2010.

13 Richard Butler appears to have been Henry Cary’s political enemy. However, after her conversion to Catholicism, Elizabeth Cary was lent money by Viscountess Mountgarret. See the Calendar of State Papers, Ireland 1625-32, p. 279. See also Sean Kelsey, « Butler, Richard, Third Viscount Mountgarret (1578–1651) », Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004.

14 See Barry Weller and Margaret Ferguson (eds.), The Tragedy of Mariam, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1994, p. 205. The royal household passed Christmas at Hampton Court and it seems the King forgot about Cary. The Life notes that Lady Carlisle eventually approached him on her behalf and he « wondered she was still confined, it having been far from his intention, but that he had not been put in mind of her before, and he presently gave her leave to go abroad at her pleasure » (ibid., p. 208).

15 The preface to the shorter manuscript version observes the work was wrought in « tenne daies » : see M. Reeves, art. cit., p. 136.

16 By June 1628, Cary’s financial uncertainties seemed to be resolved when Falkland agreed to allow her £300 a year, but she was forced, in April 1630, to appeal to the King because of her husband’s continuing reluctance to pay.

17 Calendar of State Papers, Ireland 1625-32, p. 279.

18 The Life informs us that she lived in this little house during Lent in the period after her conversion, probably, therefore, March 1627 (B. Weller and M. Ferguson [eds.], op. cit., p. 212). If the cited distance is accurate, then this house was probably located somewhere near Mortlake. In the early 1630s, Cary is recorded as having lodgings in the French ambassador’s house and is listed as a Catholic recusant in Drury Lane.

19 In 1987, Betty S. Travitsky suggested the texts were composed in this order, but her findings were not widely embraced. See B. S. Travitsky, « The Feme Covert in Elizabeth Cary’s Mariam », in Carole Levin and Jeanie Watson (eds.), Ambiguous Realities, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1987, p. 193, note 3.

20 Reproduced in M. Reeves, art. cit., p. 136. Regrettably, I have not yet been able to view the original manuscripts.

21 Reproduced in M. Reeves, art. cit. , p. 137.

22 See Barbara Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1993, repr. 1994, p. 203.

23 This connection was first noticed by D. A. Stauffer, art. cit, p. 289-314.

24 The 1577 first edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles was very expensive. It was owned by Robert Devereux, the future second earl of Essex, and cost him £1 6s in 1577 : a price equal to breakfast for one whole Cambridge term : see Cyndia Susan Clegg, « Holinshed, Raphael (c.1525–1580 ?) », The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

25 Richard Grafton, A Chronicle at Large, London, 1569, sig. 2v.

26 Ibid., sig. 6r.

27 See Barrett L. Beer, « Stow, John (1524/5–1605) », Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

28 See B. Lewalski, op. cit., p. 203-211. For Drayton, see Virginia Brackett, « Elizabeth Cary, Drayton, and Edward II », Notes and Queries, 41.4, 1994, p. 517-519.

29 R. Grafton, op. cit., p. 193.

30 History 8º, p. 33.

31 Janet Starner-Wright and Susan Fitzmaurice, « Shaping a Drama out of a History : Elizabeth Cary and the Story of Edward II », Critical Survey, 14.1, 2002, p. 79-92.

32 When used in this way in history writing, the present tense is sometimes termed the « dramatic present ». It is also referred to as the « historical present ». For a good summary of criticism about the use of this tense, see Laurel J. Brinton, « The Historical Present in Charlotte Bronte’s Novels », Style, 26.2, 1992, passim.

33 See Leeds University, Brotherton Library, Special Collections, MS 97.

34 See Raphael Holinshed, The Third Volume of Chronicles, London, 1586, p. 325-326.

35 Grafton names the earls of Lancaster and Hertford, Sir John Mowbray, Sir Roger Clifford, Sir Goslyn Daniell, Sir Roger Toket, Roger Benefield, Sir Roger Mortimer, Sir William Sulland, Sir William Elmenbridge, Sir John Gifford and Sir John Tyers (R. Grafton, op. cit. p. 199).

36 History 8º, p. 23.

37 History 8º, p. 22-23.

38 R. Grafton, op. cit., p. 200.

39 R. Holinshed, op. cit., p. 327.

40 John Stow, The Annales of England, London, 1601, p. 339-340.

41 History 8º, p. 26.

42 History 8º, p. 15-16.

43 James I’s speech to Parliament, 21 March 1610, quoted in Michael Hattaway, « Tragedy and political authority », in Claire McEachern (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2002, p. 103-122, p. 110.

44 Roger Lockyer, « Villiers, George, First Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628) », Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

45 History 8˚, p. 26.

46 R. Grafton, op. cit., p. 202.

47 History 8˚, p. 32.

48 History 8˚, p. 74.

49 See D. R. Woolf, art. cit., p. 444.

50 History 2˚, p. 26.

51 History 2˚, p. 26.

52 Tina Krontiris, Oppositional Voices, Abingdon, Routledge, 1997, p. 94-98.

53 History 2˚, p. 2.

54 History 2˚, p. 52.

55 Letter from the countess of Tillières to her husband at court, 9 August 1626, in M. C. Hippeau (ed.), Mémoires inédits du Comte Leveneur de Tillières, Paris, Poulet-Malassis, 1862, p. 252.

56 For one of the exceptions to this critical trend, see Curtis Perry, « Royal fever and the giddy commons : Cary’s History of the Life, Reign, and Death of Edward II and the Buckingham phenomenon », in H. Wolfe (ed.), op. cit, p. 71-88.

57 History 2˚, p. 9.

58 Ibid.

59 History 2˚, p. 12-13.

60 Elizabeth Cary to Secretary Conway, March 1627/8 : National Archives, SP 16/58/18.

61 Falkland to Buckingham, March 1627/8 : Calendar of State Papers, Ireland, 1625-32, p. 321.

62 Jones was created Baron Jones of Navan and 1st Viscount Ranelagh by Charles I in 1628.

63 History 2˚, p. 9.

64 Ibid., p. 12.

65 Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1989, p. 68.

66 History 2˚, p. 9.

67 Ibid., p. 16.

68 Robert Burton, Philosophaster, trans. Connie McQuillen, Medieval Texts and Studies, 1993, p. 83.

69 Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, London, 1621, p. 181.

70 History 2˚, p. 31.

71 T. Krontiris, op. cit., p. 92.

72 B. Lewalski, op. cit., p. 203.

73 History 8˚, p. 2.

74 History 2˚, p. 3.

75 J. Starner-Wright and S. Fitzmaurice, art. cit., p. 84-85.

76 Charles Howard McIlwain, The Political Works of James I, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1918 ; repr. 2002, p. xxxvi.

77 For early Stuart perceptions of the differences between Elizabethan and Jacobean dependencies on the arcana imperii, see Curtis Perry, The Making of Jacobean Culture : James I and the Renegotiation of Elizabethan Literary Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1997, p. 180.

78 History 2˚, p. 71.

79 Ibid., p. 72. Cary employed the idea of blood as a crying sin in Mariam. The Butler, repenting his part in the heroine’s death, laments : « My sin ascends and doth to heaven cry ». See K. Britland (ed.), Mariam, IV.v.13.

80 Ibid., p. 72-73.

81 History 8˚, p. 65. The earlier history does include the comment, « Edward is but a Man » (op. cit., p. 31). However, this invokes the concept of the King’s two bodies and does not contradict the text’s assertion that a King is an earthly God. The conflict between Edward’s private person and his public office is the crux of his difficulties as a ruler.

82 History 2˚, p. 140.

83 Ibid., p. 44.

84 Ibid., p. 138.

85 History 8˚, p. 2.

86 History 2˚, p. 160.

87 Alzada Tipton, « Caught between ‘Virtue’ and ‘Memorie’ : Providential and Political Historiography in Samuel Daniel’s The Civil Wars », Huntington Library Quarterly, 61.3/4, 1998, p. 325-341, p. 330.

88 Quoted in A. Tipton, art. cit., p. 330.

89 History 2º, p. 160.

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Karen Britland, « ‘Kings are but Men’ : Elizabeth Cary’s Histories of Edward II », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 17 | 2010, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2010, consulté le 12 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/660 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.660

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Karen Britland

Karen Britland is an Associate Professor in the English department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the editor of Elizabeth Cary’s play, The Tragedy of Mariam. She has written numerous articles about early modern women’s writing and is the author of Drama at the Courts of Henrietta Maria (Cambridge, 2006).

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