Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England by James Daybell

By James Daybell

This e-book represents the main finished examine of women's letters and letter-writing through the early glossy interval up to now undertaken, and acts as a major corrective to conventional methods of analyzing and discussing letters as inner most, elite, male, and non-political. in response to over 3,000 manuscript letters, it indicates that letter-writing was once a bigger and extra socially assorted quarter of woman task than has been hitherto assumed. In that letters represent the most important physique of extant sixteenth-century women's writing, the booklet initiates a reassessment of women's schooling and literacy within the interval. As signs of literacy, letters yield actual proof of rudimentary writing task and skills, rfile "higher" kinds of girl literacy, and spotlight women's mastery of formal rhetorical and epistolary conventions. The e-book additionally stresses that letters are unprecedented as intimate and quick files of family members relationships, and as media for private and self-reflective kinds of girl expression. learn as records that inscribe social and gender kin, letters make clear the advanced variety of women's own relationships, as lady energy and authority fluctuated, negotiated on anyone foundation. additionally, correspondence highlights the $64000 political roles performed by means of early smooth girls. woman letter-writers have been vital in cultivating and preserving patronage and kinship networks; they have been energetic as suitors for crown want, and operated as political intermediaries and consumers of their personal correct, utilizing letters to elicit effect. Letters therefore support to find differing varieties of woman energy in the family members, locality and infrequently at the wider political level, and supply worthy fundamental facts from which to reconstruct the lives of early sleek women.

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The social composition of female deponents is also not proportional with their numbers within society as a whole; wives of gentlemen, clergymen and yeoman, for example, are poorly represented in court materials. 56 A more optimistic assessment of levels of female writing literacy, especially among elite, mercantile, and professional groups, is provided by the evidence of early modern women’s letters, which are extant in much greater numbers than hitherto has been assumed. The use of letters as evidence of female literacy clearly privileges ‘literate’ groups, and does not represent a ‘universal’ measurement of literacy in the way that signatures are capable of population-wide comparison of literacy rates differentiated by social status, gender, chronological period, and geographical location; though it does permit a more qualitative examination of hierarchies of literacy.

Such a linguistic shift, as argued in Chapter 8, is less likely representative of a change in emotional bonds between husbands and wives than of changing cultural conventions—that is, use of loving words—which in itself strongly suggests that affection between spouses was becoming normative. Moreover, the evidence of sixteenth-century women’s letters themselves expose the complexity Houlbrooke, English Family, 15. Ibid. 15; Constable, Letters and Letter Collections, 40; Bolgar, ‘Teaching of Letter-Writing’, 123 Jardine, ‘Reading and the Technology of Textual Affect’, 78–97.

99 Hackel, ‘Countess of Bridgewater’s London Library’, 149, 152. 90 92 22 Introduction preserving and perhaps imitating. 100 It is here that one finds the most examples of letters by women. 102 The circulation of these letters attests the range of materials available for emulation by female letter-writers. Women were also the compilers of their own collections of letters in letter-books and commonplace books. 104 While it is hard to establish (beyond a handful of individuals) the extent to which women read Renaissance letter-writing manuals, or manuscript miscellanies containing exemplary epistles, and borrowed from them rhetorical models, there is evidence that women were formally taught to write letters.

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