The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them

Since January is a time for resolutions and plans, it seems fititng to release the account of a fantastic trip.

I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #411:
"The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them: Being a Narrative of Two Years' Residence in the Eastern Himalaya and Two Months' Tour into the Interior, By a Lady Pioneer"
By Nina Elizabeth Mazuchelli, 1832-1914.
New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1876.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/mazuchelli/alps/alps.html

Francis Mazuchelli and Elizabeth Sara "Nina" Harris were married in 1853. Francis was an Anglican parish priest, employed as a curate in Wymering near Portsmouth.  In 1857, the year of the Indian Mutiny, he joined the British army as a chaplain. The Mazuchellis arrived in the district of Darjeeling, India the following year.  Nina was determined to explore, and convinced her husband to agree. Though he put in a token objection, commenting on the irrationality of women, he also  "sent in an application for three months' 'leave,' that he might travel with me whither my fancy led. The 'leave' was speedily granted, and everything now favoured my making the long-wished-for journey, across trackless wastes to the snows."  Their first journey was a two-week excursion into Bhutan, traveling via Kalimpoong to Dumsong and home again.

Undeterred, they planned a more extensive trip with the support of a district officer of the British Imperial Government, identified in the account simply as "C--", "a mighty potentate in the eyes of the natives of the province".  C--  made arrangements with agents of the Rajah of Sikkim for the delivery of food and supplies along their route.  The expedition, when underway, included Nina, Francis, C--, and about 70 servants to attend to the needs of the three British travellers by carrying food, supplies and people; cooking, clearing their route; and establishing their camps. For parts of the trip, Nina was carried in a type of sedan chair, on the back of a bearer. There were no detailed maps of the area: they relied on local guides, and travelled about 600 miles in two months.  They explored the Singaleeh (Singalila) mountain range along the border between Nepal and Sikkim, travelling towards Mount Kanchenjunga (Kinchinjunga).  They reached Junnoo Mountain and  the Chunjerma pass before being forced home by inhospitable conditions and shortages of food.

An ardent artist, Mazuchelli's book is lavishly illustrated with sketches of their journey and colorful  chromolithographs of her watercolors, including a view of Mount Everest. Nina Mazuchelli was unquestionably a romantic.  She rhapsodises that "Truly those who love Nature in her wild and savage aspects should come here; for a grander combination of these qualities cannot be conceived – the snowy peak, the ice-bound rock, the blasted pine, and the deadly precipice."  Further, "God's own language is written in stars; but these mountains, no less types of solidity and endurance beyond all Time, impress me with a sense of majesty and divinity above all else. "

Her love of nature and flowing prose are balanced by her sense of humor, and she often combines romantic philosophy with an attendant sting, as in her description of jackals serenading: "whether it arise from idealism, gregariousness, or a real attribute of external nature, it matters little in the present case, for to our ears, not familiarised to these nightingales by habit or fond association, the sound resembled a dismal and unearthly wailing of women, with a strong dash of the hyæna, to which a whole kennel of hounds baying the moon would in comparison have been as loveliest music of the spheres."

Mazuchelli is both fearful and intrepid. She usually makes the trip sound like a happy outing in a particularly beautiful if somewhat exhausting park.  But the travellers endured very real dangers: led astray by a guide, they faced not only cold but starvation. There is no question that the expedition came near to ending with the deaths of those involved.

"No food having overtaken us, we have been compelled to alter our route. Rice is diminishing ominously, and there is only a small quantity of bhoota left and four sheep. … getting into deeper snow with the mere hope of food reaching us, would be absolute madness. We have no right to risk the lives of our people, even were we disposed to hazard our own. Once at Yangpoong, should supplies meanwhile not overtake us, we shall not be far from a village, which we must sack in case of need."

Thankfully, though Nina regretted that they could not continue to their original goal, she survived to publish an account of her trip.  The Mazuchellis returned to Great Britain in 1875, and Francis served in several parishes in Wales. They had no children.  He died in 1901, and  Nina in 1914.

"And Both Were Young", Madeleine L'Engle, 1949

With the holidays in view, I like to release a children's or young adult novel in December.  This year, I'm happy to present something by a favorite author:

"And Both Were Young"
By Madeleine L'Engle, 1918-2007.
New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc., 1949, Copyright not renewed.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/lengle/young/young.html

This young adult novel of L'Engle's was not copyright renewed and is now in the public domain.   Some of the details of the original manuscript were apparently considered too "adult" for publication in 1949, when the book first appeared.  A modified version, recreating aspects of the original, was published in the 1980's, and is still under copyright.

The main character of the novel is Philippa, or "Flip" Hunter.  Her mother is dead, and her father is an artist who cannot provide her with a full-time home. Flip is left at a boarding school in Switzerland while her father  travels for his work.  L'Engle takes a classic "school story" structure, but adds a level of seriousness by situating the story strongly in the aftermath of World War II. It is ironic that Philippa's father is travelling to create a book about "lost children" throughout history, for Philippa and many of the other children she gets to know can also be seen as "lost children", coming from broken or World-War-II-traumatized families.

"When Flip thought about all the lost children she felt a deep shame inside herself for her anger and resentment ... She was not a lost child. She would have a place to eat and sleep and keep warm all winter, and at Christmas time she would be with her father again."  Flip's own statement reminds the reader that however essential places to eat, sleep, and keep warm may be, material concerns are not the only ones that are essential.  The question of what truly constitutes a "lost child" is returned to throughout the book.  Listening to one of her friends, "Flip felt that having your mother not love you would be the bitterest way of all to lose her."

 Though Flip may consciously resist the idea, the stories of Flip's classmates suggest that Flip is in danger of becoming a lost child herself if she is further separated from her father.  The most explicit romantic interest of the book does not involve Philippa, but rather her absent father. The implications of his choices for Philippa are one of the paramount concerns of the book.  His intention to help lost children, expressed through his work, is a hopeful indicator that he and Philippa may not be lost to each other.  "He told Flip that he hoped maybe the book would help people to realize that all these children had to be found and taken care of." 

As the main character, Philippa herself is more concerned with family and friendships than with romantic involvement. As in many of L'Engle's books, Flip is approaching the threshold of adulthood, gawky and uncertain of her own skills and her place in the world around her.  "Now she was older, much older, almost an adult, and she had to stand on her own feet and not be afraid."  Attempts to form age-appropriate friendships are portrayed throughout the book:  Flip finds it difficult to make friends at school and is subjected to hazing by some of her classmates.  A time goes on,  friendships with both sexes provide a potential for healing and growth for those involved.  Flip's relationship with a French boy Paul, develops slowly, and their romance eventually grows out of friendship.  In her relationship with Paul, Philippa is explicitly contrasted with girls in her class who are "boy crazy". In some cases, L'Engle suggests that girls are moving prematurely into an adult world of dances and strapless gowns.   There are particularly creepy overtones to the relationships of a student who is given lace-and-silk pajamas by her mother's fiancé.

As the book develops, so does Philippa, and indeed some of the most significant changes begin within her.  She becomes increasingly aware of other people and their concerns, and less focused on her own fears.  As other people become more real to her,  she opens herself up to them and builds supportive relationships.  It is worth giving this book a closer reading, and paying attention not just to the superficial action, but to the themes underneath. 

Early history of Ambler, 1682-1888

Early history of Ambler, 1682-1888.
By
Ambler, PA: H. H. Kelly, 1936. Copyright not renewed.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hough/ambler/ambler.html

"The Early History of Ambler" was written by in Horsham, Montgomery County, where her ancestors settled in 1724, she was the daughter of farmer William Y. Hallowell. A  life-long Quaker, Mary Hough graduated from Swarthmore College in 1878, then studied to become a doctor at the Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, graduating in 1881. After interning at the Staten Island Hospital of New York, she married  Dr. C. B. Hough of Bucks County in 1886. They moved to Ambler, where she practiced successfully until her retirement in 1931. Interested in the history of the town, she researched and wrote a series of newspaper articles for the Ambler News which were published in book form in 1936.  The copyright was not renewed.  The town republished an expanded commemorative edition in 1976.  Reading her carefully researched account of the town makes me want to pick up my camera and head off to Ambler to see which of the buildings she described are still standing -- and to enjoy the autumn leaves.

Negro Musicians and Their Music

I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #408:
"Negro Musicians and Their Music"
By Maud Cuney-Hare, 1874-1936.
Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1936, 1943. Copyright not renewed.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/cuney-hare/musicians/musicians.html

Maud Cuney Hare (1874-1936) was, by all accounts, a fascinating woman.  Described by W. E. B. DuBois as "a tall, imperious brunette, with gold-bronze skin, brilliant eyes and coils of black hair", she was the daughter of  Texas politician and civil rights leader Norris Wright Cuney and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. Cuney Hare studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  She lived in Boston for much of her adult life, but she also travelled widely, in Mexico, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico,  studying folklore and music.

In "Negro Musicians and Their Music", Maud Cuney Hare documents the development of African-American music, nationally and internationally, from its beginnings in Africa to the newly evolving forms of blues and jazz in the 1930s. She was the first  music scholar to write about African American music.

Many of her discussions directly address racial issues.  She defends both African Americans who choose not to perform ethnic material, and those who do:

"Just as we find musicians of other races without any particular concern regarding the folk material of their nation or race, so are there many Negro lovers of music who have no special interest in the folk songs. This sentiment prevails among laymen as well as among musicians. On the other hand, there has arisen a group of serious men and women, who have not only shown a willingness to accept plantation songs as a heritage, but in doing so, lose no time in brooding over the cruel past or the unjust present."

Her discussions of white appropriation of Negro spirituals and dance forms are biting.  At one point she quotes a summary of the issue written by Eugene Kinckle Jones:

"It seems a little odd that until the Spirituals became accepted by music authorities abroad as the only original American music, Americans with few exceptions were not concerned with their origin, and still less their preservation. For two hundred years these songs had come up from the cotton fields and cabins . . . They were just "nigger songs" until the great world of music acclaimed them as the only music indigenous to America. Then it was that 'diligent scholars' started the painstaking and laborious task of finding their source, of collecting and amassing voluminous data by which ultimately they were enabled to announce that the Spirituals are not the creation of the enslaved black but rather the creation of the rural white."

Cuney Hare asserts that "The rich fund of folklore and folk-song has certainly been the vivifying source whence have sprung the modern art cultures of the world." She also acknowledges that "The syncopation of the African song is the fore-runner of American Ragtime and the more reprehensible Jazz and Blues." However, with her classical training, she disliked the new forms, associating Jazz with "monkeyish antics on the part of the performers, and the grotesque use of the instruments". It was her opinion that "Not until the past two or three years has Jazz arisen to the dignity of a subject for serious discussion by white and Negro students of music."  She preferred the "vision and high ideals" of African Americans working within the traditions of  symphony, opera and ballet.

The book is full of details about individuals, groups, and performances in the 1910s, 20s and early 30s. I strongly recommend that you read the footnotes -- some of them cover multiple pages, quoting hard-to-find sources and expanding on themes of the main text. Her footnoted discussions of the  Negro Symphony Orchestra, for example, are fascinating both in describing the organization and instrumentation of the "orchestra" and public responses to it.

"Negro Musicians and Their Music" has been acclaimed as "a priceless legacy of accomplished documentation" and scholarship.   Sadly, Cuney Hare never saw the book in published form. She died of cancer soon after she finished proof-reading the manuscript.  The copyright of the work was not renewed.  A second edition, with added photographs (many of Jazz musicians) was published in 1943.  There were almost no changes to the text in the second edition, and both variants of the text and photographs are included in this online edition.    I hope you will enjoy reading it.

The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps

I'm happy to announce Celebration Edition # 407;
"The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps"
By Edna Brooks
New York: Cupples & Leon Company, 1918
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/brooks/lines/lines.html

"The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps" is the second in a series of four books dealing with the adventures of two young women who are automobile-mad and determined to "find their place in the Big War".  That phrase is used as the subtitle of the first book in the series, and it hints at the divergence of feminist responses to the war effort in World War I.

 An advertisement for the series reads:

"Joan Mason, an enthusiastic motor girl, and Valerie Warde, a society debutante, meet at an automobile show. Next day they go together to the Motor Corps headquarters and in due time are accepted and become members of the Corps, in the service of the United States… As a result of their splendid work in the Motor Corps, the Khaki Girls receive the honor of an opportunity to drive with the Ambulance Corps in France."

Joan and Valerie, then, are in many ways laudable feminist heroines. They are capable, brave, and take initiative, aggressively stepping forward and preparing themselves to become ambulance drivers behind the front lines, and overcoming substantial obstacles to reach their goals. They are happy under a car, fixing it, and determined and competent drivers, even when under fire. In creating a place where they can contribute to the war effort, they are overcoming gender restrictions about what women can and cannot do.  They are also devoted friends, and affectionate and supportive of the other women with whom they work.

They are also -- not surprisingly for popular fiction of the time -- both adamantly patriotic and anti-German.Throughout the book, stereotypes abound. Germans are "Huns", "Boche", "beasts", a ruthless and  ignoble foe.  "Our boys" are "true blue", "gritty", gallantly singing on their way to the trenches.  French peasants are steadfast, enduring and perhaps a little subservient.

Another woman ambulance driver, who has killed an enemy soldier, does express conflicted feelings.  "I felt queer about having killed even a Hun. The boys made a lot of fuss over me, but I couldn't say a word hardly. I was glad I killed him, but sorry I had to do it. It doesn't seem just right for women to kill, even in self-defense. It is right, though."

Reading the Khaki girls today is somewhat disconcerting.  Their competence and ability to challenge gender roles are appealing, but their blood-thirsty patriotism is not.  The tension between feminism and pacifism that I experienced, reading this book, was  in fact central to English feminist politics at the time the book was written. Feminist historians such as Jo Vellacot have argued that in Britain the war was not a major factor in gaining the enfranchisement of women, and in fact, split the feminist movement.

In Britain, two main organizations were campaigning for the enfranchisement of women when World War I broke out.  One was the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) while the other, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, was the Women's Social and Political Union. Both groups limited agitation for the vote once the war began, but beyond that, they had very different approaches to war and the war effort.  The NWUSS helped by sponsoring women's hospital units, but refused to collaborate in recruiting.  In contrast, the WSPU actively collaborated in recruiting, in exchange for the government's release of women imprisoned for political activism.  Over time, the NWUSS women became more supportive of pacifism while the WSPU allied with the government and its pro-war propaganda. The women's peace movement, culminating in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, reached across class lines that the pro-war groups did not challenge.

The Pankhurst family is an interesting example of the type of divisions that occurred.  Though all had worked together in support of woman suffrage, the family split over the war.  Emmeline and her daughter Christabel formed the 1917 Women's Party on patriotic lines, eventually becoming anti-trade union.  Sylvia Pankhurst held to their original socialist beliefs and became an active pacifist.  Emmeline and Christabel favored conscription, while Sylvia actively opposed it.  Emmeline and Christabel supported a limited class-based  women's franchise, while Sylvia supported universal suffrage .

The Khaki girls don't discuss the vote, but I like to think they would have supported woman suffrage. In the USA, the 19th Amendment, ratified by Congress in 1920, enfranchised American women in recognition of their readiness to aid the war effort.  So the Khaki Girls, had they been real, would have returned from their wartime service with the right to vote alongside the boys they had transported in their ambulances. 

The Empire of the Invisibles

I am happy to announce Celebration edition #406:
"The Empire of the Invisibles"
by H. E. (Harriet E.) Orcutt.
First published in Intelligence, Vol. VII., No. 1, December 1897. pp. 65-71; Vol. VII., No. 2, January, 1898, pp. 166-173; Vol. VII., No. 3, February, 1898, pp. 246-258; Vol. VII., No. 4, March, 1898, pp. 325-335; Vol. VIII., No. 1, April, 1898, pp. 52-58; Vol. VIII., No. 2, May, 1898, pp. 135-140; Vol. VIII., No. 3, June, 1898, pp. 190-200; Vol. VIII., No. 4, July, 1898, pp. 246-253; Vol. VIII., No. 5, August, 1898, pp. 331-337. Reprinted as The Empire of the Invisibles by H. E. Orcutt.
New York: The Metaphysical Pub. Co., 1899.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/orcutt/invisibles/invisibles.html

"The Empire of the Invisibles" is a land peopled by the ghosts of those who have committed suicide. 
Many of the ghosts have killed themselves because of poverty, unable to raise the means to support themselves. What happens to those who die by other means, the ghosts do not know. 

As ghosts, they are no longer subject to the physical needs of food and sleep.  What sort of society will develop in this land of ghosts, non-material but still present in the world?  Each individual responds according to his personality, inclinations and interests.  Harriet Orcutt explores the possibilities of Utopia in an ethereal community, no longer subject to day-to-day physical needs.

Oddly enough, there appear to be no female ghosts. It is not clear whether this is an effect of perception, whether women did not commit suicide, or whether female ghosts go elsewhere after they die.

The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760

I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #405:
"The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760."
By Myra Reynolds.
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1920.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/reynolds/learned/learned.html

One of the things that I've noticed is that feminism, and works written by women, seem to go through cycles of discovery and forgetting.  As a graduate student I used to haunt the college bookstore, watching for new editions of early works through England's Pandora and Virago presses, and bemoaning the cost of the ever-so-tantalizing but more expensive scholarly editions of early works.  But one of the most delightful acquisitions I found was not in the university bookstore, but in a second hand shop down the street.  There I came across Myra Reynolds "The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760". Years before the current waves of feminist scholarly interest, Reynolds painstakingly collected the available details of every woman she could find from that time period.   She invariably mentioned the women whose lives I found so fascinating, quoting from their works and placing them in their societal and educational context. Other scholars have discovered more information since, and some of her conclusions reflect the time in which she herself wrote, but her book is still enjoyable and full of wonderful information about women who might otherwise have been lost from history.   I'm thrilled to be releasing her wonderful book from 1920.

Every time Myra Reynolds discussed a  book that I had republished in the Celebration of Women Writers, I realized again how much she had inspired this site. You can thank her when you read Anne Killigrew's "Poems" (1686), or Dorothy Osborne's letters, or Margaret Cavendish's wonderful science fiction account, The Blazing World, or Margaret Fell's "Woman Speaking Justified" (1666), or any of the other works online.

FELL, Mrs. MARGARET. Women's Speaking Justified Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, London, 1666.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/fell/speaking/speaking.html

KILLIGREW, ANNE. Poems London, 1686.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/killigrew/1686/1686-poems.html

OSBORNE, DOROTHY. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, 1652-1654. Edited by E. A. Parry. Dodd, Mead and Co., 1888.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/osborne/letters/letters.html

NEWCASTLE, MARGARET, DUCHESS OF. The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World. London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/newcastle/blazing/blazing.html

One of the exciting things about the web is that it has the potential to make works more accessible, to counteract the repetitive "erasure" of women from history.   While proofreading I kept finding wonderful quotes.  I encourage you to tweet your favorites as you read.  

The Sorceress of the Strand

I am happy to announce a collection of clever tales of chemical mayhem:
"The Sorceress of the Strand."
By L. T. Meade, 1854-1914 and Robert Eustace, 1854-1943.
First appeared in The Strand Magazine, Volume XXIV ["Madame Sara," "The Blood Red Cross," "The Face of the Abbot"] July-December, 1902;
Volume XXV ["The Talk of the Town", "The Bloodstone," and "The Teeth of the Wolf"] January-June, 1903.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/meade/sorceress/sorceress.html

It's terribly awkward to have an evil genius for a best friend.   At least, that could be the take-away from  "The Sorceress of the Strand", a collection of six short stories which appeared in The Strand Magazine in the early years of the 20th century.  It seems as though every young woman that Madame Sarah befriends is  the target or the means of extortion or murder -- sometimes both!    For Madame Sara is an evil chemical genius.  For good or ill, she has the secrets of the chemical world at her elegantly manicured fingertips.   She has returned from the wilds of the Amazon and other remote areas of the world with all sorts of arcane chemical knowledge, which she uses to remain stunningly beautiful -- retaining the looks of a women in her 20s or 30s when she must be a generation or two older.  Both her appearance and her knowledge enable her to charm London society.    Gentlemen and ladies both succumb to her charm, and seek her help to remain young and beautiful themselves.   Yet Madame Sara cannot seem to resist the lure of crime, particularly when unique, strange, and priceless treasures are involved.  And it seems that she must have a positive delight in destroying fortunes, reputations, and lives, so often does she indulge in such pastimes.

One can't help having some feminist sympathy for her.  Here is a women so brilliant that she can quickly deduce, from stolen glimpses at the draft of a technical paper, conclusions that the writer himself has completely failed to draw.  An expert chemist who works for the police, who finally reaches similar conclusions after several sleepless nights, at least has the honesty to recognize her brilliance as he enlightens the inventor: "she read your notes, and at a glance saw what you have not grasped at all, and what I have taken days to discover."  But however brilliant Madame Sara may be, and whatever secrets she has brought back from exotic places, she is clearly and bluntly put in her place by the male protagonists of the stories.  Without credentials, without official diplomas, she cannot be credited as anything but  a quack.  However marvellous her scientific attainments (and they are acknowledged to be considerable), the very fact that she is a woman raises questions.  As one of her opponents states, "The sort of knowledge you allude to, … that scientific knowledge which Madame possesses, and which is not a smattering, but a real thing, makes a woman at times – dangerous."  Surely, a little reflection must suggest that knowledge can make either men or women dangerous?  The authors, however, make it clear that the "official" detective "would be sure to suspect any very clever woman."

Honestly, what's a brilliant woman to do but become an evil genius?

Slightly less facetiously, it's always interesting to see how women are portrayed and not portrayed, and Madame Sara gives the attentive reader much to think about.  From the viewpoint of the somewhat stuffed-shirt male protagonists, women are predominantly valued for their beauty and their integrity.  Intellectual intelligence is not required; indeed most of the young women that the heroes attempt to protect are more than a bit gullible.  Admittedly, they are usually pointed out to be quite young, and Madame Sara is both much older than she looks, and much cannier, giving her the advantage in any battle of wits.  The male protagonists do seem to prefer their women young and stupid: it quite upsets them that Madame Sara combines the appearance of youth with keen intelligence.  The authors, on the other hand, may well have different views.  How tongue-in-cheek were L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace when they wrote sentences like: "No," I answered, boldly, "I cannot understand any circumstances in which a wife could rightly have a trouble apart from her husband."   Now I ask you, does that sentence suggest that she should share her troubles with her husband?  or that he is most likely to be the cause of them?

Whether you cheer on the heroes, Dixon Druce and his friend the mildly Holmesian Vandeleur, or confess to a sneaking sympathy for the evil Madame Sara, you cannot help but enjoy these clever tales of chemically-inspired mayhem.  After all, how often does the  denouement of a thriller occur at  a Royal Society lecture? 

"A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia"

Happy Women's History Month!  In celebration of which, for your reading pleasure, I release:

"A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia: Wherein is handled The Loves of Amphialus and Helena Queen of Corinth, Prince Plangus and Erona. With the Historie of the Loves of Old Claius and Young Strephon to Urania."
By Anna Weamys, ca. 1630-.
London: Printed by William Bentley, and are to be sold by Thomas Heath, 1651.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/weamys/arcadia/arcadia.html

Little is known about the life of English author Anna Weamys (fl. 1651).  The original (and only extant) printing of 1651 of  "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia" identifies the author as "a Young Gentle-woman, Mistress A. W."  An entry in Edward Arber's  "The Term Catalogues"  (1690)  advertises a proposed second edition as being "Written by a Young Gentlewoman, Mrs. A[nna] W[eamys]."

Historian Patrick Colborn Cullen suggests that the source of this attribution may be a letter from poet and essayist James Howell, who wrote one of the dedicatory poems to the volume, as "JAM. HOWEL."  Howell's "Epistolae Ho-elianae" (IV.xx) includes a letter which accompanied a commendatory poem for the continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's "Arcadia".  The letter congratulates "Dr. Weames" for being "father to a daughter that Europe hath not many of her equals."  Both in the letter and in the introductory poems in praise of her book, Mistress Weamys is mentioned repeatedly as being a very young woman, "so young a spirit", who should be cherished. It is also clear from the commendatory poems that she is unmarried.

Patrick Cullen situates Weamys as part of a network of royalist sympathizers,  including aristocratic patron Henry Pierrepont and his daughters Anne and Grace,  writer James Howell, printer William Bentley, bookseller Thomas Heath, and possibly poet Frances Vaughan (nee Altham), the wife of James Howell's friends, Richard Vaughan, second earl of Carberry. Her father, presumably, was a doctor of divinity in the Church of England, making her a member of an educated family.  That she is identified as a "Gentlewoman" suggests that it was not not a titled one.

The book itself is predominantly a romance, a form followed generally by royalists.  In writing "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia" (1651), Anna Weamys is following an accepted form, that of continuing and responding to another writers' work.  The source upon which Weamys builds is an unfinished fragment, the "New Arcadia" section of Sydney's 1593 edition, "Arcadia".   By continuing and reworking Sydney's story, Weamys is "placing herself on the same stage"  as the "learned Sydney". Her work, like his, is a mix of literary genres, the most dominant part of her conversation with him being romance, the second pastoral.

The ending of Sydney's "Arcadia" leaves open the fates of many of his characters, and indeed invites their continuation:  "The strange stories of Artaxia and Plexirtus, Erona and Plangus, Helen and Amphialus, with the wonderful chances that befell them; … the poor hopes of the poor Philisides in the pursuit of his affections; the strange continuance of Claius' and Strephon's desire; … may awake some other spirit to exercise his pen in that wherewith mine is already dulled."

That Anna Weamys has taken up this challenge, to further the romance, is hailed by her auditors as a most suitable transformation of Sydney's work, indeed his "gallant generous spirit" is described as defying death "with a timely Metempsychosis" to breath "through female Organs".  F. Vaughan goes even further, charging other women to "Lay by your Needles Ladies, take the Pen, The onely difference 'twixt you and Men."  Weamys not only furthers the romances hinted at in Sydney's account, but takes them in new directions, reshaping them with wit, energy and humour.

Weamys herself was writing during a time of upheaval, during or soon after the English civil wars.   Perhaps because of this, she avoids political complications in her account.  However, a desire for not just personal, but also political, stability, is explicitly included in the happy ending she describes at the end of her book:

"Then after all Ceremonies accomplished, they retired severally to their flourishing Kingdoms of Thessalia and Macedon, and Armenia, with Corinth, where they increased in riches, and were fruitfull in their renowned Families.  And when they had sufficiently participated of the pleasures of this world, they resigned their Crowns to their lawfull Successours, and ended their days in Peace and Quietness."

Whether Anna Weamys herself found a happy ending, with either political or personal stability, we do not know.

"The Convent of Pleasure", Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

Happy Valentine's Day! I am delighted to announce:

Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674
"The Convent of Pleasure", as first published in "Plays, never before printed." London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/newcastle/convent/convent.html

I admit that I cannot resist a February title that plays upon the questions of gender, sexual attraction, and what is natural and unnatural. We have Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, to thank for a rolicking play that I would love to see staged.  "The Convent of Pleasure" never graced the boards during Cavendish's life -- or indeed, for several hundred years after her death.  Its first known performance was by Gweno Williams and students at the University of Ripon and York in 1995.  Depending on the director, widely varying interpretations could be presented of this clever, enjoyable, and witty script. 

"Retiredness bars the life from nothing else but Men."

-- So saith Lady Happy, whose father  has just died, leaving her young, beautiful, wealthy -- and independent. She gathers friends and followers and creates a world apart, one consisting solely of women.    Of course, one must be fabulously wealthy and upper class to live, like Lady Happy, a life "incloister'd with all the delights and pleasures that are allowable and lawful."
While she and her friends enjoy a life of ease, lower class women do the work of all the servants and farmers needed to support the elaborate household.  Yet Lady Happy considers poor women too to benefit from a separation of the sexes, which frees them from an oppressor:  A set of plays-within-a-play graphically illustrates the dangers and abuses that women of all classes may experience in relationships with men.

"Men are the only troublers of Women; for they only cross and oppose their sweet delights, and peaceable life; they cause their pains,  but not their pleasures. Wherefore those Women that are poor, ...  are only fit for Men; for having not means to please themselves,  they must serve only to please others; but those Women,  where Fortune, Nature, and the gods are joined to make them happy,  were mad to live with Men, who make the Female sex their slaves;  but I will not be so inslaved, but will live retired from their Company."

Of course, the men are quite put out :-) so to speak, about their exclusion from feminine bliss, and in particular that feminine bliss that comes with possession of a WEALTHY wife.  Various plots are proposed to regain access to the women, but only one man, the Prince, is willing (or able) to pass as female in order to enter the precincts of the women's cloister.  Presenting himself as a Princess desirous of engaging in the women's cross-gendered exploration of sex roles, a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man, he seriously disturbs the Lady Happy's contentment, causing her to reflect that:

"My Name is Happy, and so was my Condition, before I saw this Princess;
but now I am like to be the most unhappy Maid alive:
But why may not I love a Woman with the same affection I could a Man?"

What is the nature of gender?  Throughout the play Newcastle delights in teasing her characters, and her audience, with this question.  She concludes, perhaps somewhat ambiguously still, that

"No, no, Nature is Nature, and still will be
    The same she was from all Eternity."

I hope you will enjoy this valentine (of sorts), with all its clever wit, as much as I did.
Mary Mark Ockerbloom