Continuing our spotlight on women in literature from history, we come to the sensational Lady Mary Wroth. She was a member of the Sidney bloodline as the daughter of Robert Sidney who was the brother of Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert. She had many different works published and had two firsts in literature for English women. The first of these was The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania and the other was the unpublished pastoral drama Love’s Victory.
Lady Mary Wroth was a standard bearer for women in literature, replacing heroes with heroines in genres that the males of her bloodline wrote in, transforming their genre politics and gave rise to the exploration of poetics and situations for female writers.
She was educated at Penhurst, the Sidney family country house, that was celebrated by Ben Jonson. She was a patron as well as a writer and some of those that enjoyed her patronage included Ben Jonson, who celebrated her in two epigrams and a verse letter honouring Sir Robert Wroth, Lady Mary’s husband. She was engaged in a long-standing love affair with her cousin, William Herbet, which she continued after the death of her husband. William Herbert was also an accomplished poet and a patron of the theatre and literature as well as being a power courtier. His affair with Lady Mary Wroth produced two children as well as a scandal.
Here is an extract from one of Lady Mary’s works “The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania”
Here all alone in silence might I mourn
But how can silence be where sorrows flow?
Sighs with complaints have poorer pains out-worne;
But broken hearts can only true grief show.
Drops of my dearest blood shall let Love know
Such tears for her I shed, yet still do burn,
As no spring can quench least part of my woe,
Til this live earth, again to earth doe turne.
Hateful all thought of comfort is to me,
Despised day, let me still night possess;
Let me all torments feel in their excesse,
And bu this light allow my state to see.
Which still doth waste, and wasting as this light,
Are my sad days unto eternal night.