Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2008 - 8/31/2008

Funding Totals

$37,800.00 (approved)
$33,600.00 (awarded)

Lady Mary Wroth, 17th-Century English Writer: A Biography

FAIN: FB-53488-08

Margaret P. Hannay
Siena College (Loudonville, NY 12211-1462)

LADY MARY WROTH: "A SYDNEY THOUGH UNNAMED" will be the first critical biography of this remarkable seventeenth-century writer, the first English woman to write an original drama, the first to write a Petrarchan sonnet sequence, and the first to write a prose romance. Based extensively on primary evidence (e.g., letters, account books, dedications, parish records, wills, chancery records, and land grants) the biography will emphasize Wroth's literary heritage as a Sidney, her pioneering role in women's writing, and her active engagement with English and Continental politics. It will include new findings on her childhood, her marriage, the lives of her natural children William and Katherine Herbert, her later life, the date of her death, and the probable fate of her lost writings.

Media Coverage

"Burned Estates" (Review)
Author(s): Helen Hacket
Publication: TLS
Date: 10/1/2011

Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Review)
Author(s): M. Cole
Publication: Choice
Date: 12/1/2011

Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Review)
Author(s): Paul Salzman
Publication: Parergon
Date: 9/1/2011

Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Review)
Author(s): Ilona Bell
Publication: Journal of British Studies
Date: 7/1/2011

Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Review)
Author(s): Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
Publication: Notes & Queries
Date: 12/1/2011

Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Review)
Author(s): Maureen Quilligan
Publication: Renaissance Quarterly
Date: 12/1/2010
Abstract: Vol. 63, No. 4

Associated Products

Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Book)
Title: Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth
Author: Margaret P. Hannay
Abstract: Despite her fascinating life and her importance as a writer, until now Lady Mary Wroth has never been the subject of a full-length biography. Margaret Hannay's reliance on primary sources results in some corrections, as well as additions, to our knowledge of Wroth's life, including Hannay's discovery of the career of her son William, the marriages of her daughter Katherine, her grandchildren, her last years, the date of her death, and the subsequent history of her manuscripts. This biography situates Lady Mary Wroth in her family and court context, emphasizing the growth of the writer's mind in the sections on her childhood and youth, with particular attention to her learned aunt, Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, as literary mentor, and to her Continental connections, notably Louise de Coligny, Princess of Orange, and her stepson Prince Maurice. Subsequent chapters of the biography treat her experience at the court of Queen Anne, her relationships with parents and siblings, her love for her cousin William Herbert, her marriage to Robert Wroth, the birth and early death of her only legitimate child, her finances and properties, her natural children, her grandchildren, and her last years in the midst of England's civil wars. Throughout the biography attention is paid to the complex connections between Wroth's life and work. The narrative is enhanced with a chronology; family trees for the Sidneys and Wroths; a map of Essex, showing where Wroth lived; a chart of family alliances; portraits; and illustrations from her manuscripts.
Year: 2010
Primary URL:
Publisher: Ashgate
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-7546-605


2011 Book Award
Date: 10/20/2012
Organization: Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
Abstract: Margaret P. Hannay's study is the first book-length critical biography of one of early modern England's most significant female writers. A deftly woven synthesis of historical, archival, and literary materials, Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth marks an important milestone in scholarship on early modern women. Working with a wide range of sources, sketching the numerous characters in Wroth's life story, and untangling Wroth's own inclusion of autobiographical details in her prose romance, Urania, Hannay weaves a prodigious amount of information into a compelling and engaging scholarly narrative. Her discussion extends into multiple aspects of early seventeenth-century English literary production, society, and politics, providing crucial context for a wide range of readers. The author has also made a significant number of factual discoveries, on the basis of which she meticulously and generously corrects errors and assumptions found in earlier scholarship. At the same time, her bo