A Woman to Know: Lady Mary Wroth

My hopes in love are dead. — Mary


The amazing thing about Lady Mary Wroth is that she wrote all this incredibly moving love poetry in an era when many women didn't even write shopping lists. In 1599 she became the first Englishwoman to publish a complete sonnet sequence, 16,000-plus words long, starring two female heroines and their wonderfully tight friendship. She would eventually publish multiple poetic sagas, all somewhat surreal (do you see her dress above? It's patterned in eyes), sweet and soapy. With a dash of kink: her "burning heart" poems are pretty much all love poems about her kind-of-creepy cousin. He strung her along for years and years (they even shacked up in a family castle for a month) and then eventually married someone else, claiming Mary was "too poor" to wed. This tortured cousin love made for some delicious melodramatic poetry:

Nightly I will lye
Wailing inconstancy
Since all true love is dead.

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Fun fact: Lady Mary Wroth was my original research project in college, when I was an 18-year-old baby English major! I wrote a pre-thesis, presented at a conference and then told my badass English lit prof (heyyy Dr. Teague!): "Yeah, I hate Petrarchan love poetry."


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