Category Archives: Love

Family Love Marriage Women

A true way of Taming a Shrew


These fragments come from A Caution for SCOLDS: OR, A True way of Taming a SHREWTo the Tune of Why are my Eyes still flowing (c.1685).

A Noble Man he Marry’d with a cruel Scold,
Who in her humours would ne’r be control’d,
So that he was almost aweary of his Life,
By the cross humours of his forward Wife:
Although he show’d himself exceeding kind,
Yet she was still of a turbulent mind;
Husband and Servants her Fury must feel,
For in their Ears she would Ring them a Peal.

When any Friend approach’d the presence of her Lord,
By this vile Shrew they were strangely abhord;
With cruel Frowns and Railings she would them salute
Though they were Persons of worthy Repute,
All was a case, for she would have her Will.
And the whole House with Confusion she’d fill;
So that for fear of the heat of her Pray,
They have been forc’d to run packing away.

It was his chance to make a worthy noble Feast,
Inviting full forty couple at least,
Both Lords & Earls with vertuous Ladies of high fame,
Who in true Friendship accordingly came:
All sorts of Dainties he then did prepare,
No cost nor charge in the least did he spare;
But ere they could to their Banquetting fall,
Sirs, you shall hear how she welcom’d them all.

When she beheld the costly Dishes of rich Meat,
This Shrew had not any Stomach to Eat,
But did cry out, I shall be Ruin’d at this rate,
This is enough to consume an Estate:
Before she any more words did reply·
She made both Bottles and Dishes to flye;
Both Friends and Husband she then did abuse,
Asking him how he dare be so profuse?

Like the Thunder loud, her voice the straight began to raise,
Which made the Guest to stand all in amaze,
Who never saw the like in all their lives before,
Dishes of Meat they lay strow’d on the floor:
Thus in disorder they all went their way,
Each one was glad they were out of the fray:
Then said her Husband, did ever Man know,
Any poor Mortal so plagu’d with a Shrow.

Now the next day he to a Skilful Doctor went,
Promising that he would give him content,
If he could cure the cause of a Distracted Wife,
Which almost made him aweary of Life:
Yes, quoth the Doctor, I’ll do it ne’r fear,
Bring her, for now ’tis the Spring of the Year;
I’ll take the Lunacy out of her Brains,
Or else I won’t have a Groat for my pains.

Then home he went, and sent her thither out of hand,
Now when the Shrow she did well understand.
All their intent, she call’d the Doctor sneaking knave,
Now when he see she began for to Rave;
Straightways the Doctor did bind her in Bed,
Leting her Blood, likewise Shaving her Head:
Sirrah, said she, I would have you to know,
That you shall suffer for serving me so.

Madam, said he, I know you are beside your Wits,
But I will soon bring you out of those Fits;
I’ll cut your Tongue, and when a Gallon you have bled
‘Twill Cure that violent Noise in your Head:
Pray Sir, said she, don’t afflict me so sore,
I’ll ne’r offend my sweet Husband no more:
Thus by sharp Vsage and Keeping her low,
He had the fortune to Conquer the Shrow.

After some time, he came to see his Wife at last,
Where she begg’d pardon for all that was past;
Saying, her Fits for evermore she would refrain,
If he’d be pleas’d to retrive her again;
My former Follies I pray now forgive,
I’ll ne’r oftend you no more while I live:
Then in much love they both homeward did go,
Thus has he made a sweet Wife of a Shrow.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Biography Court Elizabeth Love Marriage Poetry

In Stella’s face I read what love and beauty be

Penelope Rich was a notorious Elizabethan beauty, inspiring poetry and praise from the courtly male elite. But as a married women she also achieved a certain notoriety and fame by virtue of a serious of love affairs.   Born into the wealthy Essex family in 1563, Penelope was the daughter of Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex and his wife, Lettice. Well-educated, she spoke several languages including French, and was accomplished in music. Before his death, her father had sought to have her contracted in marriage to the poet and courtier Philip Sydney, however Sydney opposed the match and seemed disinclined to marry. In 1581 Penelope arrived at court and became one of Elizabeth I’s maids of honour, and by the end of the year she was married to Robert Rich, Lord Rich of Essex, later first Earl of Warwick. The wedding took place in November, and afterwards Penelope developed a habit of visiting her mother, who by now had become wife of the Queen’s favourite, the Earl of Leicester; often staying with her brother Robert, earl of Essex (he of the famous Essex Rebellion of 1603).

At the time of her marriage, Sydney, who had previously discounted marriage to Penelope, appears to have had belated second thoughts, and attending court in 1581 he fell in love with her. Astrophil and Stella, his famous sonnet sequence, is thought to have been inspired by Penelope. There are several puns on the name Rich throughout the sequence, and in Sonnet 35 he claims:

long needy Fame
Doth even grow rich, naming my Stella’s name

No evidence survives to confirm Stella ever read Sydney’s poetry, neither is there proof the two became lovers, but Penelope’s biographer suggests it is likely, since ‘on his deathbed in 1586 Sidney reportedly told the preacher George Gifford of a vanity in which he had taken delight, of which he must now rid himself, naming Lady Rich.’


Philip Sydney


Penelope and her husband had five children, four of whom survived. But Penelope was not content to lead the life of a wife and mother, trapped in a country house with no diversions. She insisted on attending court, and soon attracted the advances of another courtier, Sir Charles Blount. Their affair became public knowledge in 1590 when he wore her colours at the Accession Day jousting tournament. Blount and Penelope went on to have six children together, the first, Penelope, born in 1592. However the child was given the surname Rich, and her mother continued to spend some time with her husband. She nursed him through a serious illness in 1600 and he appears to have at the very least accepted the situation he found himself in, even permitting all the children to be brought up together. This may have been because by this stage Penelope was quite a powerful force at court. People petitioned her for favours and for mediation with the Queen, and she would request favours for people from Robert Cecil. However after Essex’s debacle in Ireland in 1599, her brother fell dramatically out of favour with the Queen, and Penelope, ill-advisedly attempted to intervene. The result was a humiliating response from Elizabeth, castigating Penelope for daring to meddle, and although the two later resolved their differences, Penelope was never fully forgiven.

In 1603, Penelope’s relationship with court suffered a catastrophic failure when she was named as one of the ring-leaders in Essex’s botched attempt at a coup:

she had dined at Essex House with the leaders the previous night, and went to fetch the earl of Bedford on the morning of the revolt. After the trial, Essex reportedly insisted that she had urged him on by saying that all his friends and followers thought him a coward. She maintained that she had been more like a slave, and that her brother had wrongly accused her. After a brief confinement, and examination by the privy council, she was released.


Sir Charles Blount, earl of Devonshire


After the death of the Queen, Penelope restored her status and social standing by escorting James I’s wife from the borders, and appearing in a series of masques at court alongside the new queen Anne. In 1605, her marriage to Rich was formally dissolved in the London consistory court, on the grounds of her acknowledged adultery. Although she named no one in the proceedings, she had by this point become involved with the earl of Devonshire, formerly Mountjoy, head of armed forces in Ireland. Remarriage remained illegal while her former spouse lived, but nevertheless the two were married on Boxing Day 1605.  Her new husband prepared a long defence of his marriage to Penelope, writing to James I, claiming that Penelope had ‘protested during the wedding with Rich, that after it Rich had tormented her, and had now not “enjoyed her” for twelve years.’ Their marriage however proved to be short lived. Devonshire died in April the following year, and Penelope outlived him by little more than a year, dying at Westminster in July 1607.

Penelope fascinated men throughout her life. She was celebrated in paintings, poetry, and songs; described as ‘the starre of honor, and the sphere of beautie’. Nicholas Hilliard painted her portrait, and named his daughter after her. The happiness of her relationship with Devonshire was celebrated by John Ford in his elegy Fame’s Memorial.

Sources: DNB; NPG; EBBO

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Love Poetry

Now let us sport us while we may

Utilising the Horatian precept of carpe dieum, the following poem by metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), has been extensively mined by authors since it’s original publication shortly after the poet’s death.

To his Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Love Marriage Women

Danger hid under a Petticoat

The poetry of Katherine Philips celebrates a woman’s love for her female friend in the seventeenth century in such poems as To My excellent Lucasia, on our friendship:

I did not live until this time
Crown’d my felicity,
When I could say without a crime,
I am not thine, but Thee

In the 1630s, Constantia Fowler became acquainted with Catherine Thimelby through her brother, Herbert Ashton, to whom she wrote of Catherine:

I canot hide from you the many, and great obligations, that I have received from Mrs Thimelby: truely, I never gained so much by the acquaintance of any, as of her; therefore a thousand times have I blest, and allmost adored the time, that I first saw her.

Later, Constantia writes:

I have bin more deadly in love with her as ever lover was… For never creature was more fortunate than I in gaining affection from her. For I believe I am blest with the most perfectest and constant lover as ever women was blest with.

Single women who cohabited were often objects of suspicion. Four women of South Milton who occupied themselves ‘by their own honest employment of spinning which they followed many years’ were ordered to put themselves into service. Jane and Anne Wright, ‘both single persons living only upon their labour’ were taken from home.

One way in which women disguised their relationships with each other was by cross-dressing. On 12th September 1680, in the parish of St-Martins-in-the-Fields, Amy Poulter, ‘representing herself to be a man’ named James Howard, was married to 18-year-old Arabella Hunt. Amy had courted Arabella in the guise of a ‘young heir, not yet of an age’. By day she went about disguised as a woman. When Arabella began to realise that her husband ‘went under the suspition of one of a double gender’, she immediately appealed for an annulment. The case came to court in 1682, and a jury of five midwives examined Amy Poulter and found her to be a ‘perfect woman in all her parts’. The marriage was annulled and both women were free to remarry. Arabella, who went on to become a famous lutenist and soprano at the court of Queen Mary II, insisted on her role as the innocent deceived, but it is more probable that she was quite aware her husband was not a man.

Aphra Behn’s play of 1682, The False Count, may allude to Arabella and Amy. In the play, an elderly husband is troubled by his wife’s relationship with her sister and her maid: ‘I have known as much danger hid under a Petticoat, as a pair of Breeches. I have heard of two Women that married each other – oh abominable, as if there were so prodigious a scarcity of Christian Mans Flesh.’ While this remark suggests contemporaries may well have thought a shortage of men the reason for the marriage between Arabella and Amy, it is possible that Behn was using public discourse to air the possibility of lesbian marriage.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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