‘In a mirrour clere’: Protestantism and Politics in Anne Lok’s Miserere mei Deus

  • Rosalind Smith
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)

Abstract

In 1560, Anne Lok published a translation of four of Calvin’s sermons on Isaiah 38, prefaced by a dedicatory epistle to Catherine Brandon and followed by a sonnet sequence in two parts — five sonnets ‘expressing the passioned minde of the penitent sinner’, followed by a longer sequence paraphrasing the 51st psalm.1 It is an unsettling text in a number of ways. Generically anomalous, it contains the first sonnet sequence not only to be written in English, but to combine the Petrarchan genre of the sonnet sequence with that of psalm paraphrase. Compiled by a middle-class woman from the community of Protestant exiles in Geneva, it emerges from beyond the English court, in contrast to the texts of aristocratic women surrounding Catherine Parr which form the major precedent for women’s publication in England before 1560. The text’s strangeness disturbs the practice which underpins criticism on early modern women’s writing of this period: characterizing women’s textual activity in terms of a restricted class of aristocratic authors, in a secondary or derivative relationship to male-authored texts, and confined to religious genres and topoi. Lok’s text draws upon largely male-authored French Calvinist and Anglo-Genevan traditions of psalm paraphrase to construct a text in which textual virtuosity works to out-trope the sonnets and psalm paraphrases of Thomas Wyatt, Lok’s main poetic predecessor in England.

Keywords

Burning Assure Defend Editing Lost 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    A[nne] L[ok]; Sermons of John Caluin, vpon the songe that Ezechias made after he had bene sicke, and afflicted by the hand of God, conteyned in the 38. Chapiter of Esay (London, 1560).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Elaine Beilin, Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 61–3; Margaret P. Hannay, ‘“Strengthening the walles of … Ierusalem”: Anne Vaughan Lok’s Dedication to the Countess of Warwick’, ANO 5 (1992), 71–5, and ‘“Unlock my lippes”: the Miserere mei Deus of Anne Vaughan Lok and Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke,’ in Privileging Gender in Early Modern England, ed. Jean R. Brink (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1993), pp. 18–36; Susanne Woods, ‘The Body Penitent: A 1560 Calvinist Sonnet Sequence,’ ANO 5 (1992), 137–40. Of these texts, only Margaret Hannay’s 1993 essay considers the attribution problems raised by the disclaimer, but she finds ‘internal evidence’ to link the sonnets and the dedication in a similarity of theme and in Lok’s own parallel of the songs of Hezekiah and David, and makes the attribution in the face of a lack of external evidence to the contrary. Hannay (1993), pp. 21–2.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    J.W. Saunders, The Profession of English Letters (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964), p. 44; Wendy Wall, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), p. 13.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hyder Rollins, ed., Tottel’s Miscellany 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965) 1:2; Barnabe Googe, Eclogues, Epitaphs and Sonnets, ed. Judith M. Kennedy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989); Le Roy Merill, ed.. The Life and Poems of Nicholas Grimald (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1925), pp. 100–2.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Catherine Parr, Prayers and Meditations (London, 1545) and The Lamentacion of a Sinner (London, 1547); Lady Elizabeth Fane, The Lady Elizabeth Fane’s 21 Psalms and 102 Proverbs (London, 1550); Elizabeth I, A Godly Meditation of the Soul (London, 1548). Although Elizabeth Fane’s text is now lost, it was described by George Ballard as ‘several psalms and pious meditations, and proverbs, in the English Tongue,’ George Ballard, Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain (London, 1752), p. 119.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Margaret J.M. Ezell, The Patriarch’s Wife: Literary Evidence and the History of the Family (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), pp. 62–100.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Patrick Collinson makes the attribution tentatively, as ‘perhaps Knox’s work’, in ‘The Role of Women in the English Reformation Illustrated by the Life and Friendships of Anne Lok,’ Studies in Church History 2 (1965), p. 265; the notes to Mrs Lok’s Little Book (London: Olive Tree, 1973), a reprint of the British Museum text of the sermons, makes the attribution more definitely: ‘No doubt the second item in Mrs Lok’s little book, “A meditation of a penitent sinner,” a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 51, was sent to her by Knox at the same time as the first’ (p. 127). W. Stanford Reid’s biography of Knox follows Collinson’s more tentative position: Trumpeter of God: A Biography of John Knox (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), p. 141.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Laing glosses the psalms published in Knox’s texts as ‘although sanctioned by Knox, they cannot be considered as forming any part of the Reformer’s works.’ David Laing. ed., The Works of John Knox, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: Bannatyne Society, 1846–64), 6: 284–5.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jean Taffin, Des Marques des Enfans de Dieu (Harlem, 1588).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    For a discussion of Marot’s formal innovation, see Michel Jeanneret, Poésie et Tradition Biblique au XVIe Siecle (Paris: J. Corti, 1969).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Henri-Léonard Bordier, Le Chansonnier Huguenot du XVIe Siècle (Paris: Libraire Tross, 1870), p. 367.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Terence Cave, Devotional Poetry in France, c. 1570–1613 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp. 97–9, pp. 135–45.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    For a full and clear critique of definitions of a feminine text, see Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Sexual Signatures: Feminism after the Death of the Author,’ in Space, Time and Perversion: The Politics of Bodies (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 9–24.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    John Calvin, Letters of John Calvin Selected from the Bonnet Edition (Edinburgh, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), pp. 207–8.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Wallace T. MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I (London: Edward Arnold, 1993), pp. 49–51: Norman L. Jones, Faith by Statute: Parliament and the Settlement of Religion, 1559 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1982), p. 9; Winthrop S. Hudson, The Cambridge Connection and the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1980), pp. 90–9, pp. 131–7.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    Patrick Collinson, ‘Windows in a Woman’s Soul: Questions about the Religion of Queen Elizabeth I,’ in Elizabethan Essays (London: Hambledon Press, 1994), pp. 87–110.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    Ibid., p. 112.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    ‘Catherine, duchess of Suffolk, to Cecil,’ 4 March 1559. CSP I (1558–1559), pp. 160–1.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    Margaret Aston, The King’s Bedpost: Reformation and Iconography in a Tudor Group Portrait (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 113–27.Google Scholar
  20. 24.
    Jean Calvin, Sermons de Jehan Caluin Sur le Cantique que fait le bon Roy Ezechias apres qu’il eut este malade & afflige la main de Dieu (Geneva, 1562), p. 20.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    John Freccero, ‘The Fig Tree and the Laurel: Petrarch’s Poetics’, Diacritics 5 (1975), pp. 34–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 28.
    R.A. Rebholz, Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Complete Poems (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1978), pp. 206–9.Google Scholar
  23. 29.
    See Carl J. Rasmussen, ‘“Quietnesse of Minde”: A Theatre for Worldlings as Protestant Poetics’, Spenser Studies 1 (1980), pp. 3–27.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalind Smith

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations