Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods [1st ed.] 978-3-030-14210-0;978-3-030-14211-7

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Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods [1st ed.]

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xxxviii
Front Matter ....Pages 1-1
Adult Ideologies in Late-Medieval Advisory Writing (Anna Caughey)....Pages 3-20
Learning to Talk: Colloquies and the Formation of Childhood Monastic Identity in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Rebecca King Cerling)....Pages 21-35
Children Bewitched–Children Possessed: Three Early Modern Examples (Gerhild Scholz Williams)....Pages 37-51
The Tudor Schoolroom, Antique Fables, and Fairy Toys (Catherine Belsey)....Pages 53-67
Valuing New England Childhood Through the Joyful Deaths of Cotton Mather’s A Token for the Children of New England (Ivy Linton Stabell)....Pages 69-83
Front Matter ....Pages 85-85
Changeling Stories: The Child Substitution Motif in the Chester Mystery Cycle (Rose A. Sawyer)....Pages 87-101
Inducting Childhood: The Scripted Spontaneity of Self-Referential Child Players (Bethany Packard)....Pages 103-118
The Child on Display in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair (Anna-Claire Simpson)....Pages 119-133
“The King shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found”: Child Loss, Grief, and Recovery in Shakespeare’s Late Romances (Kathryn M. Moncrief)....Pages 135-149
Front Matter ....Pages 151-151
Figural Agency: Reading the Child in Amis and Amiloun (Julie Nelson Couch)....Pages 153-168
Writing Girls in Early Modern England (Jennifer Higginbotham)....Pages 169-186
Other Maids: Religion, Race, and Relationships Between Girls in Early Modern London (Kate Chedgzoy)....Pages 187-201
The Philosophy and Literature of Childhood Cognition: John Milton and Margaret Cavendish (Lisa Walters)....Pages 203-218
Children’s Literary Cultures in Early Modern England (1500–1740) (Margaret Reeves)....Pages 219-240
Front Matter ....Pages 241-241
Without a Trace? Archaeology, Literature, and the Life and Death of Children in Fifth to Eleventh Century England (Kirsty Squires)....Pages 243-259
A Mother’s Guilt: Female Responses to Child Death in High and Late Medieval England (Danielle Griego)....Pages 261-274
“How fair, how beautiful and great a prince”: Royal Children in the Tudor Chronicles (Carole Levin, Andrea Nichols)....Pages 275-289
“My Absent Child”: Ageless and Missing Offspring in Early Modern Literature (Sheila T. Cavanagh)....Pages 291-304
Literary Legacies: Children’s Reading and Writing in the Montagu Archive (Patricia Phillippy)....Pages 305-321
Front Matter ....Pages 323-323
Coming of Age as a Viking: Historical Children’s Books and Gender (Katherine Langrish)....Pages 325-339
Warm Pants and Wild Places: Domestic Anxieties in Malory’s Morte Darthur and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (Elly McCausland)....Pages 341-355
Through the Mists of Time: Reflections on Recreating Medieval and Early Modern Literary Texts for Children of Today (Marcia Williams)....Pages 357-361
Ballad Land (Ellen Kushner)....Pages 363-369
Sewing the Nettle Shirt, Pulling the Sword (Jane Yolen)....Pages 371-376
Back Matter ....Pages 377-394

Citation preview


Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods Edited by Naomi J. Miller · Diane Purkiss

Literary Cultures and Childhoods Series Editor Lynne Vallone Department of Childhood Studies Rutgers University Camden, NJ, USA

Scholarly interest in the literary figure of the child has grown exponentially over the last thirty years or so due, in part, to the increased attention given to children’s literature within the academy and the development of the multidisciplinary field of Childhood Studies. Given the crucial importance of children to biological, social, cultural and national reproduction, it is not surprising that child and adolescent characters may be found everywhere in Anglo-American literary expressions. Across time and in every literary genre written for adults as well as in the vast and complex array of children’s literature, ‘the child’ has functioned as a polysemous and potent figure. From Harry Potter to Huck Finn, some of the most beloved, intriguing and enduring characters in literature are children. The aim of this finite five-book series of edited volumes is to chart representations of the figure of the child in Anglo-American literary cultures throughout the ages, mapping how they have changed over time in different contexts and historical moments. Volumes move chronologically from medieval/early modern to contemporary, with each volume addressing a particular period (eg ‘The Early Modern Child’, ‘The Nineteenth Century Child’ etc). Through the aggregate of the essays, the series will advance new understandings of the constructions of the child and the child within different systems (familial, cultural, national), as communicated through literature. Volumes will also serve, collectively, as an examination of the way in which the figure of the child has evolved over the years and how this has been reflected/anticipated by literature of the time. More information about this series at

Naomi J. Miller  •  Diane Purkiss Editors

Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods

Editors Naomi J. Miller Smith College Northampton, MA, USA

Diane Purkiss Keble College University of Oxford Oxford, UK

Literary Cultures and Childhoods ISBN 978-3-030-14210-0    ISBN 978-3-030-14211-7 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Rudmer Zwerver / Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

To our children—Fiona, Isaiah, Damaris and Elias Miller, and Alice and Hermione Dowling—whose childhoods have been imbued with literary cultures.


Naomi Thanks go to my students at Smith College, who have inspired and challenged me through their own engagement with literary cultures and childhoods in classroom discussions of new and classic children’s books that adapt medieval and early modern literary cultures for contemporary audiences. I’m also grateful also for the faculty grant support offered by Smith College, which enabled continuing research and professional development in many of the areas and issues explored by this volume, both in archives and at scholarly conferences. Throughout the often challenging responsibilities that attend the compilation of a volume of essays as extensive and diverse in focus as this one, I benefited from the hard work and perseverance of the volume contributors, who responded to the numerous queries and suggestions of the co-­ editors with diligence and thoughtfulness. On the flip side of that exchange, I have appreciated the exceptional patience, good humor, and critical acumen of the Palgrave series editor, Lynne Vallone. My deepest gratitude goes to my volume co-editor, Diane Purkiss, whose expertise in childhood studies frequently supplied the necessary ballast as well as frame for this substantial endeavor, and whose generosity and compassion illuminated several dark patches along the way, vanquishing dragons of difficulty and delay. I couldn’t have hoped for a more valiant companion on this adventure!




Finally, and always, thanks for the loving support and keen editorial eye of my partner, Chris Rohmann, who also supplied crucial reminders to rest and breathe. Diane I thank my students at Oxford for their energy and curiosity and for the many illuminating questions they have asked. I am especially grateful to the brave pioneers of Oxford’s first children’s literature courses, and to the many visiting students who have contributed enormously to my sense of the early modern child. Special gratitude must go to my colleagues at Keble College Oxford, Alexandra Paddock and Anna Caughey, as well as Benjamin Westwood, Margaret Kean, and Carolyne Larrington in the Oxford English faculty. Their expertise is a constant source of encouragement. I am immensely indebted to the editorial team at Palgrave. It has been a genuine privilege to be able to engage with the scholarly work of the contributors and to be part of such a community. But the deepest gratitude must go to my co-editor Naomi J. Miller, whose generosity, kindness and patience are a continuing example to me. At times both of us wondered if the project was under some curse because so many minor glitches and obstacles materialised in both our lives. But Naomi’s courage and intelligence never flagged. As always, none of this would have been possible without the help of Ivan Dowling.


I ntroduction: Reading Childhood Through Literature   xxiii Naomi J. Miller and Diane Purkiss

Part I Educating Children   1 1 Adult Ideologies in Late-Medieval Advisory Writing  3 Anna Caughey 2 Learning to Talk: Colloquies and the Formation of Childhood Monastic Identity in Late Anglo-Saxon England 21 Rebecca King Cerling 3 Children Bewitched–Children Possessed: Three Early Modern Examples 37 Gerhild Scholz Williams 4 The Tudor Schoolroom, Antique Fables, and Fairy Toys 53 Catherine Belsey




5 Valuing New England Childhood Through the Joyful Deaths of Cotton Mather’s A Token for the Children of New England 69 Ivy Linton Stabell

Part II Performing Childhood  85 6 Changeling Stories: The Child Substitution Motif in the Chester Mystery Cycle 87 Rose A. Sawyer 7 Inducting Childhood: The Scripted Spontaneity of Self-Referential Child Players103 Bethany Packard 8 The Child on Display in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair119 Anna-Claire Simpson 9 “The King shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found”: Child Loss, Grief, and Recovery in Shakespeare’s Late Romances135 Kathryn M. Moncrief

Part III Literatures of Childhood 151 10 Figural Agency: Reading the Child in Amis and Amiloun153 Julie Nelson Couch 11 Writing Girls in Early Modern England169 Jennifer Higginbotham



12 Other Maids: Religion, Race, and Relationships Between Girls in Early Modern London187 Kate Chedgzoy 13 The Philosophy and Literature of Childhood Cognition: John Milton and Margaret Cavendish203 Lisa Walters 14 Children’s Literary Cultures in Early Modern England (1500–1740)219 Margaret Reeves

Part IV Legacies of Childhood 241 15 Without a Trace? Archaeology, Literature, and the Life and Death of Children in Fifth to Eleventh Century England243 Kirsty Squires 16 A Mother’s Guilt: Female Responses to Child Death in High and Late Medieval England261 Danielle Griego 17 “How fair, how beautiful and great a prince”: Royal Children in the Tudor Chronicles275 Carole Levin and Andrea Nichols 18 “My Absent Child”: Ageless and Missing Offspring in Early Modern Literature291 Sheila T. Cavanagh



19 Literary Legacies: Children’s Reading and Writing in the Montagu Archive305 Patricia Phillippy

Coda: Fictionalizing Literary Cultures for Children 323 20 Coming of Age as a Viking: Historical Children’s Books and Gender325 Katherine Langrish 21 Warm Pants and Wild Places: Domestic Anxieties in Malory’s Morte Darthur and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King341 Elly McCausland 22 Through the Mists of Time: Reflections on Recreating Medieval and Early Modern Literary Texts for Children of Today357 Marcia Williams 23 Ballad Land363 Ellen Kushner 24 Sewing the Nettle Shirt, Pulling the Sword371 Jane Yolen Index377

Notes on Contributors

Catherine Belsey  is Professor Emeritus in English at Swansea University and Visiting Professor at the University of Derby. Her books include Romeo and Juliet: Language and Writing (2014), Shakespeare in Theory and Practice (2008) and, most relevant here, Why Shakespeare? (2007). She is also author of Shakespeare and the Loss of Eden (1999) and The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (1985). Anna  Caughey has taught English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford since 2010, and currently carries out public engagement and community outreach work for the University. Her research interests are in chivalry, conflict and gender/sexuality in late medieval Scotland and England, and in the recurrence of these concepts in late Victorian and twentieth-century medievalist texts. She has published a wide range of essays and articles on these themes, most recently in Nicholas Perkins, ed., Medieval Romance and Material Culture (Boydell & Brewer, 2015) and Amanda Hopkins, Robert Rouse and Cory Rushton, ed., Sexual Culture in The Literature of Medieval Britain (D. S. Brewer, 2014). Sheila  T.  Cavanagh is Professor of English at Emory University. Founding director of the World Shakespeare Project ( and Director of Emory’s Year of Shakespeare (2016–2017), she was recently Fulbright/Global Shakespeare Distinguished Chair in the UK. Author of Wanton Eyes and Chaste Desires: Female Sexuality in the Faerie Queene and Cherished Torment: The xiii



Emotional Geography of Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania, she has published widely in the fields of pedagogy and of Renaissance literature. Rebecca King Cerling  received her PhD in European Medieval History from the University of Southern California. She is an independent scholar whose work examines the history of children in Christian contexts. She is working on a book-length manuscript about the place of oblates at Canterbury Cathedral in the 11th century. Kate  Chedgzoy is Professor of Renaissance Literature at Newcastle University, where she also has a role as Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Her research interests range across questions of gender, memory, childhood and sexuality in early modern culture. Relevant publications include “Did Children have a Renaissance?,” Early Modern Women, Vol. 8 (2013); “Playing with Cupid: Gender, Sexuality and Adolescence,” in Diana Henderson, ed., Alternative Shakespeares, Vol. 3 (2007); and Shakespeare and Childhood, which she co-edited with Susanne Greenhalgh and Robert Shaughnessy (2007). Julie  Nelson  Couch is Associate Professor of English at Texas Tech University. She has published previous articles on the role of childhood in Middle English texts, including several articles on Havelok the Dane and the Infancy of Jesus Christ. She has also co-edited a collection on The Texts and Contexts of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 108: The Shaping of English Vernacular Narrative (Brill, 2011) and is currently writing a book, with Kimberly K. Bell, relating game theory to the manuscript context of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Danielle  Griego  received a BA in Anthropology/Archaeology at the University of New Mexico and an MPhil in Medieval History at the University of Cambridge. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in History, with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her dissertation focuses on emotional responses to accidental child death in high- and late-medieval England. She is in the process of working on a publication about community reactions to child death and completing her dissertation. Jennifer  Higginbotham  is Associate Professor of English at the Ohio State University and the author of The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence (Edinburgh 2013). Her articles have



appeared in Modern Philology, Reformation, Literature Compass, and The Sixteenth Century Journal as well as several edited collections. With Mark Johnston, she is the co-editor Queering Childhood in Early Modern Drama and Culture (Palgrave, 2018). Ellen Kushner  is an acclaimed fantasy writer and teacher of creative writing. She is the winner of the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award (for Thomas the Rhymer), and the Locus Award (for The Privilege of the Sword). Other titles include Swordspoint, The Fall of the Kings (with Delia Sherman), and The Man with the Knives. She has also edited and coedited a number of acclaimed fantasy anthologies. She is co-­founder and a past president of the Interstitial Arts Society, which promotes and encourages artistic “in-betweenness”. Katherine Langrish  is a British children’s writer. She studied medieval literature at University College and Kings College, London, and is the author of a number of historical fantasies for children and young adults including the Viking trilogy Troll Fell, Troll Mill and Troll Blood (HarperCollins). More recently she has contributed a chapter on the children’s books of Mervyn Peake to Miracle Enough (ed. G.  Peter Winnington, Cambridge Scholars, 2013) and one on Alan Garner to First Light (ed. Erica Wagner, Unbound, 2016). Katherine is the creator of the award-winning blog Seven Miles of Steel Thistles http://steelthistles. which discusses fairy tales, folk-lore and fantasy, and in 2016 she published a book of essays of the same name. She is folk-lore consultant to the new fairy tale journal Unsettling Wonder and is a regular reviewer for the Sussex Folklore Centre’s journal Gramarye. Website: Carole  Levin  is Willa Cather Professor of History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She was the co-founder of the Queen Elizabeth I Society. She has won awards for her teaching from SUNY/New Paltz and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is the author or editor of seventeen books including The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power (second edition, 2013) and Dreaming the English Renaissance (2008). Her most recent books are the co-edited Scholars and Poets Talk About Queens (2015) and A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts, 1500–1650 (2016). She has held long-term fellowships at both the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and in 2015 she was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of York in England.



Elly  McCausland is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark. As part of the Trust and Risk in Literature Network, also based at Aarhus, she is currently working on a project examining representations of adventure in children’s literature from 1880 to the present day, with particular focus on the concept of adventurous space. Her first monograph, which investigates adaptations of the Arthurian legend in children’s literature from 1862 to 1960, is currently under contract with Boydell & Brewer. Her article “King Arthur in the Classroom: Teaching Malory in the Early Twentieth Century,” recently published in The Review of English Studies (February 2017), also explores the connections between the child and the medieval in the twentieth-century imagination. Naomi J. Miller’s  scholarship includes Changing the Subject: Mary Wroth and Figurations of Gender in Early Modern England (UP of Kentucky, 1996), and two recent co-edited volumes of essays: Re-Reading Mary Wroth (with Katherine Larson) (Palgrave, 2015), and Maternity and Romance Narratives in Early Modern England (with Karen Bamford) (Ashgate, 2015). In the field of childhood studies, she has edited three volumes of essays: Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood (with Naomi Yavneh) (Ashgate, 2011), Sibling Relations in the Early Modern World (with Naomi Yavneh) (Ashgate, 2006), and Reimagining Shakespeare for Children and Young Adults (Routledge, 2003), and has authored an essay on conjuring Shakespeare for young audiences in The Shakespearean World (Routledge, 2017). She is Professor of English and the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. Kathryn M. Moncrief  holds a PhD in English from University of Iowa and an M.A. in English and Theatre from University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is Paris Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Humanities and Head of Humanities and Arts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, MA. She is co-editor of Shakespeare Expressed: Page, Stage and Classroom in Early Modern Drama; Performing Pedagogy in Early Modern England: Gender, Instruction and Performance; and Performing Maternity in Early Modern England; and serves as co-editor of the Shakespeare Life and Times for the Internet Shakespeare Editions. She is the author of articles published in book collections and journals, including Literary Cultures and the Child, Shaping Shakespeare for Performance, Metaliterary in Practice, Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, Renaissance Quarterly and others. She also works professionally as a



­ ramaturg, most recently at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Colorado d Shakespeare Festival, and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Andrea Nichols  is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Her dissertation examines the narrative creation and intertextuality of the passages related to Queens Mary and Elizabeth Tudor in English histories printed between 1480 and 1650, along with reader annotation of those two queens. She has also published other work on royalty, readers, and early modern English histories in Scholars and Poets Talk about Queens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and Forgotten Queens in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Political Agency, Myth-Making, and Patronage (Routledge, 2018). Bethany  Packard is Assistant Professor of English at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Her research focuses on representations of children and childhood in early modern literature and their implications for modes of cultural reproduction. Her current work explores intersections between child figures and game play by considering period game rules and variations in the context of their literary appearances and pursues these appearances as opportunities for theorizing children’s agency. Publications on these topics include “Richard III’s Baby Teeth,” in Renaissance Drama and “Playing Prisoner’s Base in Marlowe’s Edward II,” in Marlowe Studies. Patricia  Phillippy is Professor of English Literature and Director of Research for the School of Arts, Culture, and Communication at Kingston University London, London. She has published extensively on early modern literature and culture, with a focus on women’s writing, monuments, and memorial writing, including works commemorating the deaths of children. She is the editor of A History of Early Modern Women’s Writing (Cambridge UP, 2018) and Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell: The Writings of An English Sappho (CRRS/ITER 2011). Her books include Painting Women: Cosmetics, Canvases and Early Modern Culture (Johns Hopkins UP, 2006), Women, Death and Literature in Post-Reformation England (Cambridge UP, 2002), and Shaping Remembrance from Shakespeare to Milton (Cambridge UP, 2018), which includes two chapters on the Montagu family of Northamptonshire. Diane  Purkiss’s  books on witches, fairies and the civil war all contain lengthy analyses of the roles played by children in early modern culture, and she has also published essays on children in Shakespeare, children,



babies and maternity in early modern drama, and girl prophets and possession victims in early modern England. She created Oxford University’s first children’s literature course, and co-curated the Bodleian Library’s most successful exhibition, on the works of the Oxford School of children’s writers. A book on the history of food in England is in press, and she is at work on a case study of a Scottish witch named Andro Man and a study of the writing process and its impediments from Homer to David Foster Wallace. She is Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Keble College. Margaret  Reeves  teaches in the Department of Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. Her research and teaching interests include seventeenth-century women’s writing, the literary history of fiction, Milton, children’s literature and fantasy, and concepts of childhood and female youth in the early modern period. She has published articles on the history of the novel and on several women writers, including Elizabeth Cary, Margaret Cavendish, and Aphra Behn, and is most recently co-editor with Elizabeth S.  Cohen of The Youth of Early Modern Women, forthcoming from Amsterdam University Press. Rose A. Sawyer  is a PhD student in the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses upon changelings and child substitution discourse in the Middle Ages, as well as other aspects of the medieval imaginative landscape. In addition to her contribution to this volume, she has contributed “A Miracle of Thomas Becket: De puero syntectino (Concerning a boy suffering from a wasting disease)” to the upcoming Medieval Disability Sourcebook, edited by Cameron Hunt McNabb (Punctum Press, 2018). Anna-Claire Simpson,  a PhD Student in Renaissance Studies at UMass Amherst, explores the ways in which representations of children and childhood in early modern English drama, alongside the activity of children’s companies and child actors in the period, offer a site of negotiation through which theater could form, deform, and define the human, and the human as subject. The child as nexus for “the human” and humanizing (as well as dehumanizing) characteristics such as gender, race, sexuality, and nationality demands an interdisciplinary approach, as does the recovery and reconstruction of the work of the materiality of the theater, and the bodies which create it, in relation to the plays it produced. This



childhood studies project knits together performance theory, gender and queer theory, critical race theory, and theater history. Kirsty  Squires  is a Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology at Staffordshire University (UK) and is the Outreach Officer for the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past. Her research into childhood in the past primarily focuses upon the social identity and funerary treatment of children belonging to cremation practicing groups in early medieval Europe. Two of her most recent papers on this subject were published in Medieval Childhood: Archaeological Approaches (D.  M. Hadley and K.  A. Hemer, eds.) and The Evidence of Material Culture: Studies for Professor Vera Evison (L. Keys, I. Riddler and J. Soulet, eds.). Ivy Linton Stabell  is an assistant professor of English at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. Her related work on early American children’s biographies appears in the journal Children’s Literature and Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane’s edited collection Who Writes for Black Children?: African American Children’s Literature before 1900. Lisa Walters  is a Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University. She is the author of Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Science and Politics (2014) published by Cambridge University Press. Dr. Walters serves on the editorial board of ANQ and has been the President of the International Margaret Cavendish Society. In addition, she has served on the General Council for the Renaissance Society of America. Her most recent articles include “Optics and Authorship in Margaret Cavendish’s Observations and The Blazing World,” Viator 45.3 (2014): 377–393 and “Monstrous Births and Imaginations: Authorship and Folklore in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Renaissance and Reformation 39.1 (2016): 115–146. Gerhild Scholz Williams’s  scholarship includes Defining Dominion: The Discourses of Magic and Witchcraft in early Modern France and Germany (Michigan UP, 1996) and, more recently, two monographs on Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel (Eberhard Werner Happel, 1647–1690) (Michigan UP, 2014) and Ways of Knowing in Early Modern Germany: Johannes Praetorius as a Witness to his Time (Ashgate, 2006). Translations and editions include Mothering Baby: On Being a Woman in Early Modern Germany. Johannes Praetorius’s Apocalypsis Myteriorum Cybeles. Das ist Eine Schnackische Wochen-Comedie (1662) (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2010);



On the Inconstancy of Witches: Pierre de Lancre’s Tableau de l’inconstance des mauvais anges et Demons (1612) (with Harriet Stone) (Arizona Center for Texts and Studies, 2006); Consuming News: Newspapers and Print Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1450–1700 (with William Layher) (Rodopi, 2009). She also published essays on early modern topics such as magic, witchcraft, print culture and media, the body, and secrets. She is the Barbara Schaps Thomas and David M.  Thomas Professor in the Humanities in Arts and Sciences, Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis. Marcia Williams,  a celebrated children’s book author and illustrator, has been creating picture books that bring classics to young readers for thirty years. From classical and medieval tales to Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens, her reimagining of classics through distinctive comic-strip illustrations have been enormously popular around the world with children and adults. Titles include Tales from Shakespeare, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, as well as Greek Myths, The Romans, The Iliad and the Odyssey, Ancient Egypt, and God and His Creations. Jane Yolen  often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” is the author of over 366 books, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight. A BA graduate of Smith College, with a Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts, she has won an assortment of awards for her work—two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott Medal, three Golden Kite awards, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among many others. She was the first woman to give the St Andrews University’s Andrew Lang lecture since the lecture series was started in 1927 and the first writer to win the New England Public Radio’s Arts and Humanities Award. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates. She is a GrandMaster three times: for Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), and the World Fantasy Association. She’s been on the board of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for the past 45 years (SCBWI) and is a past president of SFWA.  She taught children’s literature for seven years at Smith College. For more information, visit her website at:

List of Figures

Fig. 11.1 Fig. 11.2 Fig. 11.3 Fig. 11.4

Fig. 14.1

Fig. 14.2

Fig. 14.3

Fig. 14.4

Arbella Stuart, letter to Bess of Hardwick, 1587/88, February 8, MS HM 803. Courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California Jane Lumley, Iphigenia at Aulis, MS Royal 15.A.IX, fo. 66r. Courtesy of the British Library Princess Elizabeth Tudor, translation of The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, MS. Cherry 36, p. 5. Courtesy of the Bodleian Library of Oxford University Jane Cavendish, childhood writing exercise, University of Nottingham MS Portland Collection Pw V 25/20, fo. 21r. Courtesy of manuscripts and special collections, The University of Nottingham Genesis II. & III. from Hans Holbein, Images of the Old Testament, Lately Expressed, Set forthe in Ynglishe and Frenche, vuith a Playn and Brief Exposition, 1549, sig. A4v. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library Facing front endpapers from Æsop’s Fables, with Their Moralls: In Prose and Verse, Grammatically Translated; Illustrated with Pictures and Emblems, 1668. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library Inverted rear endpaper from Æsop’s Fables, with Their Moralls: In Prose and Verse, Grammatically Translated; Illustrated with Pictures and Emblems, 1668. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library Nicholas Udall, Floures for Latine Spekynge. London, 1560, sig. Aii. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library

175 176 177




232 234 xxi


List of Figures

Fig. 14.5 Rear endpaper from H. Robinson, Scholæ Wintoniensis Phrases Latinæ  =  The Latine Phrases of Winchester-school, 3rd ed. London, 1661. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library Fig. 14.6 Title leaf verso and “De Copia” from H.  Robinson, Scholæ Wintoniensis Phrases Latinæ = The Latine Phrases of Winchesterschool, 3rd ed. London, 1661. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library Fig. 15.1 Demographic profile of a sample of early Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries. The age categories employed in this paper are based on those initially employed by McKinley (19). Foetus: 8 weeks–39 weeks in utero; infant: 0–4 years; child: 5–12 years; adolescent: 13–18 years; adult: 19+ years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents and adults have been examined together Fig. 15.2 Demographic profile of a sample of early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries. The age categories employed in this paper are based on those initially employed by McKinley (19). Foetus: 8  weeks–39  weeks in utero; infant: 0–4 years; child: 5–12 years; adolescent: 13–18 years; adult: 19+ years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents and adults have been examined together Fig. 15.3 Demographic profile of a sample of later Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries. The age categories employed in this paper are based on those initially employed by McKinley (19). Foetus: 8 weeks–39 weeks in utero; infant: 0–4 years; child: 5–12 years; adolescent: 13–18 years; adult: 19+ years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents and adults have been examined together Fig. 19.1 William Wright (attrib.), Monument for Henry Montagu (detail). Barnwell All Saints, Northamptonshire (1626). Author’s photograph





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Introduction: Reading Childhood Through Literature

Does childhood have a history? Eamon Duffy recently found it necessary to ask that question, commenting that not all that long ago, William Wordsworth wrote about childhood as if every childhood was identical in its passionate contact with the eternal and also with the natural (Duffy, 111). Very few historians and even fewer literary critics would accept this opinion now. Now, most of us understand that “the child” is as much an historical construct as the state, race, and sexuality. But as with race and sexuality, there are really two intertwining histories that we need to address simultaneously: first, the history of the experience of the child, and second, its inevitable dancing partner, the history of the concept of what a child is. The latter, like the conceptions of sexuality and race, is rarely disinterested. Instead, it is typically constructed by the child’s other, the child’s ruler, the child’s dominant world maker. When children’s literature critic Perry Nodelman speaks of childhood as a subaltern state, it is this violent hierarchy he has in mind (Nodelman, 34). Following Gramsci, Homi Bhabha defines subalterns as “oppressed minority groups whose presence was crucial to the self-definition of the majority group” (Bhabha, 210). The child in the family, in the workplace, and in cultural work fits this definition. According to Nodelman, children are the last subalterns, the last example of a group occupying a cultural site always identifiable as subordinate to a culture not of their making, an identity which they play only a limited role in forging. Despite the fact that we know that there have always been children around, they are seldom included in our social models and fictions. Too often, children are a xxiii


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subaltern group of prehistory, belonging to a moment before and therefore outside the history of adults. Keith Thomas speaks of the child in medieval and early modern society as “muted” (Thomas, 47). Our goal is to turn up the volume. Building on recent, crucial work in thinking of children across a wide range of disciplines, from cultural anthropology and folklore to performance studies and the history of science, as well as historical and geographical locations from Anglo-Saxon burial sites to colonial America, this volume engages writers who are responsible for bringing the new field of childhood studies into being. Ironically, one of the most “adult” constructions of childhood is the one that most strenuously pretends to represent itself as a radical truth: the Romantic child, innocent of the burdens of adulthood, able to enjoy and appreciate nature as an extension of itself, often unconsciously and unstudiedly pious, mistaken for an angel, invariably rural, mostly unlettered. This child has never had very much to do with the way real children experience childhood. Instead, it is all too plainly an external, post-hoc construction of childhood as an imaginative refuge for adults, almost a paracosm alongside the much less comfortable real world which adults rule. One of the very great advantages of this collection is that the medieval and early modern periods its essays consider begins well before the advent of this particular form of adult fantasy. Therefore one of the questions it asks is: what kinds of fantasies gathered around the figure of the child before Rousseau and Wordsworth? What kinds of interests managed the idea of childhood before industrialisation and urbanisation made it natural to imagine the child as outside the terrifying and grinding demands of those very adult spaces? Our first question must be this: where do we find the child? Where do we even begin to look? We need to deepen and complicate the very idea of “the child.” Central to these essays is the task of ingeniously probing different kinds of written sources which turn out, on attentive examination, to have the faint image of a child hidden in the corner, or the shape of a child peeping out from under a table. The essays assembled here explore a very wide range of topics in their collective and coordinated efforts to locate the marginalized figure of the child in earlier cultures. Where, exactly, is the child made? The opening group of essays take as their starting point education—perhaps the most powerful social engine for the shaping of the child—in its historically various forms. The essays in this section, Educating Children, resist a simple

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equation between the ideology of the system and the child. Humanism, monasticism, Calvinism and home intersect and conflict with one another. Childhood is often the place on which the battles between ideologies are enacted. Each method of education creates both a new way of managing the child and a new form of agency in the child. And as the child learns to read, he or she becomes both the agent and the subject of further adult reshapings. Philippe Ariès, in Centuries of Childhood, argued that the nuclear family—invented, he proposed, in the seventeenth century, and bringing with it a sentimental idea of domesticity—acted more firmly to oppress the child than previous structures in which the child had previously been seen rather as a fragile and incompetent adult (Ariès). Certainly, the rise of print and Protestant interest in literacy saw a far greater emphasis on education in the home for all children. Education could be either formal or informal, a matter of family prayers, or of elaborate instruction in literacy or crafts and trades. Such education was inflected by class and social status, as well as, transparently, by gender, so that a boy might be the recipient of a toxic mix of Latin and beatings, while a girl might miss the beatings but also the Latin, in favor of either a modern language or domestic instruction. Such children were also built from books, to adopt Francis Spufford’s magical image, as the essays in this collection show (Spufford). We draw back, however, from suggesting that such books affected children directly; rather, all the essays here are interested in the conversation between the living child and the constructions of that child. Depending on the evidence examined, the authors come to a variety of conclusions, illustrating the complexity of the topic and showing that we cannot simply read the medieval or early modern child directly off books created to educate that child. Rather, such books are one factor among many in establishing the contested identity of the child in time. The authors in this volume both interrogate and emphasize the idea of childhood at the time of cultural installation. What if the culture installed was alien? What if it was hated? What if the child simply differed problematically from its parents and their values, a difference that most often arose precisely because of education, classically in the case of the grammar school or choir school in which the child was inducted into what amounted to a different social class than its class of origin? When Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare went to grammar school, both became literally unable to share their experiences with their parents because they now occupied a class space to which Latin provided a vital entrance requirement.


Introduction: Reading Childhood Through Literature

What has been termed the enterprise culture of the medieval town and the early modern city could open up chasms between parents and children. Another theme is children at work, for the idea of childhood as a space without work was not always part of earlier conceptions. In Performing Childhood, the second group of essays, the actor and the servant feature as points of contact, analysis, and fantasy for adults and children, meetingpoints between worlds. Such meetings often meant that the threads of thinking pulled at the child’s shape; the period’s interest in mind and its workings, for example, could make a frame for the child’s imagination. Such topics raise the acute question of the agential child. The essays in this group address the paradox that adults want children to be both independent and subordinate, spontaneous and obedient. For that reason, we are also collectively interested in play, and particularly in play as an initial site of social imitation and learning—ideological indoctrination, even—and also of creativity, resistance, and agency. The idea of the paracosm as literally a world built by children for children is both a vital site for the formation of the child’s imagination and an exciting space in which the norms of a culture can become visible enough to contest. In thinking about the paracosm, and about play, we are also thinking about the child in terms of space, in terms of space within the household, and in terms of occupying spaces dedicated to the child or spaces that remain firmly adult, and the movement between the two. Such movements—from adult to child, and from child to adult, particularly within subversively creative spaces offered by the theatre—are often defining. Studies that deal with children’s appearance in very adult spaces, perhaps most notably in courtrooms, often investigate the way in which the child in such a space becomes a deeply problematic and anxiety-provoking representation of the whole of a culture. Typically, such children are already performing an act of resistance by standing as witnesses or complainants. Whether in courtrooms or on the stage, the act as well as the content of children’s speech demonstrates the capacity to be explosive of ideals—for example, of the relation between mother and child. In some cases, the play world of the child and its acting out of stories of children told to it by adults can come troublingly to disturb the very ideas of childhood dear to the culture. Psychological studies have shown that when asked to reminisce about their lives, virtually everybody focuses on the years between their early teens and mid-­twenties, the years when a partner and a career are chosen. However, many writers of children’s books instead focus on childhood

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memories, including memories that are not made up of direct personal sensory experiences, but rather of remembered reading: remembering the act and experience of reading, remembering the story and the words as well. This necessarily casts a fascinating light on how far childhood is always a cultural construction, produced by evolving cultures of literacy, or “literary cultures,” across time. And if it is a cultural construction, and a subaltern state, then we should not be surprised to find that it is a contested construction, that writers of books about childhood are from the earliest times deliberately intervening and choosing how to represent and thus control the child. The third group of essays, Literatures of Childhood, consider how agency is figured in a variety of contexts that reveal alternative conceptions of the relation between children and parents and that address the notion of play, outside the restrictions of adult identity. Written texts from the thirteenth through seventeenth centuries suggest a variety of engagements with literary culture experienced by girls and boys learning to negotiate their places in a social world informed differentially by race and nation as well as gender. Literatures of childhood also attest to epistemological debates about the differential status of the imagination, mind and learning in children and young people by contrast to adults. Moreover, children’s literary culture bears witness to a range of instructional, educational, and recreational reading that engaged the interests of young people. In exploring literature for children, the child is made visible through new and often neglected prisms. As well, the essays consider how notions of gender identity and class distinctions inform possibilities for agency in childhood. In the periods embraced by this volume, death in childhood was common. Expressions of grief at the loss of a child offer us a window into conceptions of the child and its emotional value to the family. Exploring those dark places of the heart in Legacies of Childhood, the fourth group of essays take us to the brink of grasping both universality and the sharpest edges of historical difference. For parents, racked by losses and tormented by the dread of them, stories of the changeling child, of the orphan and the foundling, had special resonance, as they did too for children themselves when reprised as cautionary tales. Religion also provided a series of uncomfortable and in some respects grossly inadequate coping mechanisms to adults trying to manage the grief of child death. Both as a conceptual system and as a series of moral codes and discourses, religion dominated all conceptions of the human


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and hence all conceptions of children, while also offering a range of ways to distinguish between child and adult. Religion offered not only a framework for the child, but also and critically a framework for parenting, via the recurring motif of its stories of ideal or, conversely, dysfunctional families. One of the ways in which childhood was envisaged was as the destination of missionary and conversion activities. Precisely because children were understood as malleable and plastic, it was possible to understand them as having been formed not solely by the educational pressures exerted by their Christian parents and society, but by the far greater and more terrifying powers of hell itself. Yet religion also offered ways in which the child agent could sometimes reverse or even upend the power structures that normally held it in check. Christianity is a rich source of materials about the figure of the child. The themes of idealized child, lost child, and dead child coalesce in the figure of the ultimate child, Jesus Christ. Not only is there the particular devotion to the child Jesus, the child Mary, and child saints, especially child martyrs, but we can also see the idea of the child as subversively close both to the innocents evoked in the New Testament and to an unreconstructed and unbaptised lump of worldliness on which organised religion must act feverishly in order for it to be redeemed. Everywhere on the figure of the medieval and early modern child are the traces of a religion which took a child as its god, a child whose appearance as a child was both an impetus to love and a sign of the most extreme renunciation of power. Not only the real, material child, but the fantasy of the child is a subject here: fantasies about children and fantasies told to and shared with children. The final group of essays, Fictionalizing Literary Cultures for Children, serves as a coda to the volume. Here, scholars and authors of children’s and adult fiction explore varied instances when modern literary culture bridges historical notions of the child, from reimaginings of ancient legends, to contemporary adaptations of medieval and early modern texts, to picture-book versions of fairytales. Viewing childhood as a matchless space for imagination and creativity, and acknowledging that they themselves were children built from books, practicing creative writers illuminate conjunctions between the inner and outer child, between adults and their child selves, between material and imagined childhoods.

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Part I: Educating Children In “Adult Ideologies in Late-Medieval Advisory Writing,” Anna Caughey considers the possibility of aristocratic boys and young men as a readership group in the fifteenth century through two late medieval “chivalry handbooks,” Gilbert Hay’s The Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede (1456), and William Caxton’s The Book of the Ordre of Chyualry (1484). Caughey argues that chivalry handbooks served as a means of guiding and controlling the behaviour of boys and young men while also building their desire to participate in chivalric activity. This was accomplished by promoting the desirability of knighthood as a social status that depended upon setting up adult men as the keepers of knowledge and prestige. Children donated to monasteries by their parents in tenth- and eleventh-­ century England required not just education, but socialization to their monastic identities. In “Learning to Talk: Colloquies and the Formation of Childhood Monastic Identity in Late Anglo-Saxon England,” Rebecca King Cerling explores the monastic use of colloquies, or conversational dialogues, which taught the boys Latin, but also helped them to understand how to speak and act like monks. In order to illuminate a young child’s transition from home to monastery, the essay examines two colloquies used in Benedictine monasteries to teach young oblates who they were as monks, and traces the structure of the colloquies, which opened with quotidian concerns and then moved the students toward the practice of monastic patterns of speech, including restraint and blessing. Gerhild Scholz Williams reviews texts about children or very young adolescents who are being led to the witches’ sabbath by adults, usually their mothers or aunts, to be offered to Satan. In “Children Bewitched— Children Possessed,” we also meet a child who changes into a werewolf, terrifying the neighbors. Sensational news about children accused of and instructed in black magic appears in chapbooks, demonologies, and pamphlets all across early modern Europe, telling of a community fearful and suspicious of the outsider, the witch, the shapeshifter. The texts under discussion here argue that the Devil relentlessly pursues the young in his efforts to seduce and destroy them. Perhaps less intentionally, these texts also demonstrate that he thrives on despair, sadness, poverty, and abuse. While Tudor education was perceived to be strenuous and harsh, some schools included Aesop’s stories of talking animals and Ovid’s tales of magical transformation in the curriculum. In “The Tudor Schoolroom, Antique Fables, and Fairy Toys,” Catherine Belsey argues that Tudor


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children were offered access to rich fantasy worlds, both in the course of the school day and at home in the evenings. Her essay examines the range of cultural resources available to early modern children, from popular romances to fireside tales, and considers the differential experiences of girls and boys. In 1700, Cotton Mather produced a collection of short biographies of American children for adult and child readers alike where, after chronicling their commendable existences, the narratives culminate in an adulatory rendering of each child’s death. Ivy Linton Stabell’s “Valuing New England Childhood through the Joyful Deaths of Cotton Mather’s A Token for the Children of New England” examines how Mather’s emphasis on the ways survivors responded to these children’s actions, words, and ends, and his declaration that his readers will “profit” by reading their stories, characterized children as significant figures in the colonial community. Stabell argues that Mather’s inclusion of the lives of pious young New Englanders initiated the now commonplace practice of delivering narratives about American children to American children.

Part II: Performing Childhood Focusing on the “Magi” and “Innocents” plays from the Chester Mystery Cycle, Rose Alice Sawyer considers the insults directed at children by Herod and his soldiers in these performances, and argues that the use of derogatory language which draws upon the discourse surrounding changelings and child substitution constructs the bodies of the infant Christ and the Innocents as suitable sites of violence. “Changeling Stories: The Child Substitution Motif in the Chester Mystery Cycle” addresses the particular impact that changeling insults had when used against the figure of a child, while also drawing attention to the way in which medieval concerns about cuckoldry, the paternal bond, and infant malleability could be expressed through the story of the Nativity. By interrogating the references to changelings, perhaps the ultimate “problem children,” Sawyer ­demonstrates that child substitution was a potent site upon which negative constructions of childhood could be built. In “Inducting Childhood: The Scripted Spontaneity of Self-Referential Child Players,” Bethany Packard surveys the inductions that often introduced performances by children’s companies in early modern England. Inductions interwove the fictional character and the performer through their combination of “scripted improvisation” and self-referential

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metatheatricality. These and other metatheatrical moments constructed the cultural role of the child player and made visible the role’s status as a fictional construct. Packard demonstrates that inductions featured boys manifesting multiple childhoods. Instead of fixing players’ status as children, in contrast to the adult roles they played, and setting them on track to eventually become the men they often enacted, inductions highlighted the constructed nature and plurality of adulthoods and childhoods. Anna-Claire Simpson considers how early modern plays capitalized on their associations with children’s companies. “The Child on Display in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair” explores that work, written for and performed by Lady Elizabeth’s Men, in relation to Jonson’s Epicoene, written for and performed by the Children of the Blackfriars. Simpson examines the problem of negotiating the legibility of child performers in early seventeenth-­ century London, and proposes that the company could dependably instrumentalize its young actors to create and consolidate theater and troupe identities in this particular nascent moment of theater professionalization. The importance of children and the pain of losing a child in the plays of Shakespeare, as in the lives of early modern parents, is considered by Kathryn M. Moncrief’s “Child Loss, Grief, and Recovery in Shakespeare’s Late Romances.” Moncrief explores the significance—socially, economically, and personally—of child loss and grief in early modern England, particularly as recorded in mother’s elegies, diaries, and poetry, in relation to the fantasy of recovery and restoration in Shakespeare’s late romances. She suggests that the stage both rehearses mourning and, in staging grief, functions powerfully as place of recovery.

Part III: Literatures of Childhood In “Figural Agency: Reading the Child in Amis and Amiloun,” Julie Nelson Couch explores the function of the poem’s child heroes and their relation to the genre of Middle English romance. What the author terms the ­“figural agency” of the child protagonists opens a rhetorical space that allows an expected romance experience of hero veneration and a spiritual experience of God’s radical mercy. The child protagonists serve both as agents who actively plight troth and adhere to their oath despite all obstacles and as figures who embody Christological suffering. Ultimately, the reader of Amis and Amiloun experiences a romance discourse that opposes


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adult and child, stringent legalism and excessive mercy, as inflected through the figural and agential use of childhood. Jennifer Higginbotham considers what kinds of written texts early modern girls left behind, and what can be learned about their engagements with literary culture. “Writing Girls in Early Modern England” argues that there is not just a literature of girlhood in the period; there is also a girls’ literature. Early modern girls’ writing remains underrepresented in both women’s and children’s literature partly because more of their work exists in manuscript than print sources and partly because their texts require an historically situated sense of the interrelation between various forms of material culture, including writing, dancing, singing, sewing, and painting. Extant girls’ writings include letters, translations, poems and plays, written in girlhood by figures such as Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Cary, Anne Clifford, Arbella Stuart, Rachel Fane, Elisabeth Hickman, Jane Cavendish, and Frances Andrews. In 1647 the Baptist minister Henry Jessey compiled and published The Exceeding Riches of Grace, documenting the words and experiences of fifteen-­year-old Sarah Wight in the course of the spiritual, physical, and psychological crisis she underwent that year. In “Maids and Race: Early Modern Girls’ Relationships with Each Other,” Kate Chedgzoy mines her extensive and complex documentation of early modern girls’ interactions with each other for new insights into the emotional, spiritual, and social textualization of early modern female adolescence. She analyzes Jessey’s transcripts of a series of “conferences” between Sarah and anonymous “maids” (young girls and women) who came to seek her advice on their own experiences of crisis and distress, as well as examining the text’s representation of Sarah’s relationships with the household maid and a further help-seeking “maid” tentatively identified as “Dinah the Blackmore.” Chedgzoy argues that The Exceeding Riches of Grace bears witness to the historical formation and literary representation of girlhood through the intersections of religion, race, and status as well as age and gender. Although Descartes and Hobbes were at the center of controversial and influential philosophical debates regarding the nature of the mind, ­providing opposing and contradictory depictions of childhood cognition, the construction of childhood was a contested territory, insofar as there was not one prevailing view of childhood in seventeenth-century philosophy. In “The Philosophy and Literature of Childhood Cognition: John Milton and Margaret Cavendish,” Lisa Walters demonstrates that such debates overlap into literature from the period. Childhood was also a

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politically charged concept that served as an epistemological base for the views of literary authors such as Milton and Cavendish on gender difference, education, and obedience to authority. As the world was turned upside down by the civil war’s interrogation of social hierarchy, childhood also became a contested epistemological space. While literary historians have consistently maintained that “children’s literature” did not exist as a generic category in England prior to the development of a children’s book market in the 1740s, Margaret Reeves suggests that this formulation simply confirms Locke’s vision of a culture improved by the education of its future citizenry through pleasurably instructive reading, thereby incorporating child readers into an Enlightenment metanarrative of social progress driven by individual advancement. “Children’s Literary Cultures in Early Modern England (1500–1740)” challenges the ideological underpinnings of this literary historical metanarrative by tracing the various ways that children read, enjoyed, and interacted with instructive as well as recreational reading. An examination of circumstantial as well as material evidence of children’s reading practices demonstrates that identifiable children’s literary cultures existed in the early modern period.

Part IV: Legacies of Childhood The Anglo-Saxon period (fifth–eleventh century AD) entailed shifting ideological beliefs, identities, and social and political structures. The recurring tendency of researchers to focus on childhood in particular phases of the Anglo-Saxon period, as opposed to the period as a whole, has limited our understanding of how the identities, social roles, and treatment of the youngest members of society changed over time. To overcome this issue, Kirsty Squires adopts a multi-period and multi-disciplinary approach to gain a more rounded insight into childhood and the multiple constructions of the child in Anglo-Saxon England. Investigating the demographic profile of cemetery sites, artefactual assemblages associated with infants and children, their placement in the funerary landscape, and literary sources, “Without a trace? Archaeology, literature, and the life and death of children in fifth–eleventh century England” addresses the transition from childhood to adulthood and the construction and display of childhood in the archaeological record. Confronted with high child mortality, medieval writers produced texts and sermons to help parents, specifically mothers, keep children safe


Introduction: Reading Childhood Through Literature

around the home and to help them cope with grief in times of crisis. Danielle Griego discusses mother-child relationships and examines descriptions of maternal reactions to child death, with particular attention to the feelings of grief and guilt, in didactic and admonitory literature and lyrics from the High and Late Middle Ages. By considering posthumous miracle stories in conjunction with medieval lullabies and Passion lyrics, “A Mother’s Guilt: Female Responses to Child Death in High and Late Medieval England” illuminates the expectations that religious men had in regards to childrearing and gender-appropriated emotions associated with child death. When considering the Tudor dynasty and how it was depicted in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century chronicles, one of the most compelling issues is that of succession. Carole Levin and Andrea Nichols address the importance of the pregnancies, births of heirs to the throne and other royal children, and the difference in depiction between male and female heirs as seen in English histories printed during or shortly after the Tudor era. “‘How fair, how beautiful and great a prince’: Royal Children in the Tudor Chronicles” highlights the political, religious, and gender issues that intertwined with the topic of producing a healthy royal heir. Sheila T. Cavanagh argues that “childhood” in early modern literature is frequently conceived according to a structuralist model that consistently prioritizes qualities important to inheritance over other characteristics. While emotional interactions and other facets of human life play roles in the relationships presented, patrilineal considerations commonly dominate. Whether an infant is “a boy or a child” (The Winter’s Tale) matters profoundly in an environment where individual behaviors are generally subservient to structural expectations. From this perspective, the life experience of any child matters far less than that individual’s lineal or economic status. In such a world, children could provide a tangible route to long-­ lasting status and power. Accordingly, an individual’s placement in early modern patrilineal hierarchies was supremely significant. “Ageless Offspring in Early Modern Literature” considers the role played by genealogy in the consideration of childhood in the early modern period. At her death in 1618, Elizabeth Harington Montagu bequeathed “a Book of goulde” to her ten-year-old granddaughter and namesake, Bess. This book of devotions, mounted in a gold cover and worn on a chain from her girdle, carried with it literary, religious, dynastic, and personal legacies. Such volumes figured in an active exchange of manuscripts among the literary Harington, Sidney, and Montagu families. Patricia Philippy

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considers manuscripts and material legacies created for and by these children, exploring the use to which texts and artifacts were put to induct children into a common devotional and dynastic culture. Collectively, the Montagus exploited material legacies, including manuscripts, to convey ancestral beliefs and values to posterity. “Literary Legacies: Children’s Reading and Writing in the Montagu Archive” focuses on the literate practices of Montagu women to argue that the pedagogical potential of material forms, including the material practices of reading and writing, illuminate distinctly gendered approaches to literary cultures and childhoods.

Coda: Fictionalizing Literary Cultures for Children Recognizing the significance of Viking/Norse culture to the Middle Ages in the British Isles, Katherine Langrish examines similarities and differences in the presentations of adolescence in four historical children’s books by Henry Treece and two by Kevin Crossley-Holland, set at various points between the late eighth and mid-eleventh centuries. Both authors offer nuanced and authentic-seeming accounts of the growth of their young protagonists from childhood to young adulthood in periods of violence and social change, but Treece, writing in the decades after the Second World War, focuses almost entirely on boys who must grow into fighting men, while Crossley-Holland’s books, published in 2011 and 2012, place girls and women firmly at center stage with a more complex and holistic understanding of the societies in which they live and act. In “Coming of Age as a Viking: Historical Children’s Books and Gender,” Langrish considers the challenges of interpreting the past for young readers, with a brief glance at Treece’s influence on her own Viking trilogy, and looks at how such fictional constructions are inevitably affected by the writer’s own cultural standards. T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (1938–58) is a text that simultaneously longs for, and is compelled to escape, the security of domesticity. Elly McCausland demonstrates how White’s tetralogy uses the Arthurian child to explore the complex pressures exerted by domesticity upon the developing human psyche. White’s medieval source, Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, depicts the centripetal activities of questing knights as they continually return to the safety of the court following trials in the forest or battlefield, but posits the domestic spaces of Camelot as equally perilous. White’s adaptation harnesses this tension to consider a paradox


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at the heart of childhood development: the need for dependent self-­ sufficiency. “Warm pants and wild places: Domestic Anxieties in Malory’s Morte Darthur and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King” argues that White transposes the absent children of the medieval Morte Darthur into a modern, introspective literary culture deeply aware of the connections between youth, memory and trauma. Her essay examines the ways in which White appropriates Malory to emphasize the contradictions underlying constructions of childhood subjectivity, and to reconsider the fraught relationship between domesticity and the child. Marcia Williams discusses her reimagining of several medieval and early modern literary texts as picture books for children, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare’s Plays. “Through the Mists of Time: Reflections on Recreating Medieval and Early Modern Literary Texts for Children of Today” illuminates the process by which, in reimagining a classic literary text, Williams strives at once to make it her own and to bring a freshness to it that will make it accessible to a contemporary child reader, while maintaining a strong link to the original. In asking herself where is the space for the modern child reader, she seeks to give her readers a foothold in the original author’s world and at the same time edge them towards taking a leap into the unknown. Williams illustrates her belief that, in order to keep our culture alive and enrich young people’s literary experience, reimagining classic texts is exactly what authors and illustrators should be doing. In this global world, the chance to discover and understand oneself and develop empathy for others, regardless of background or origin, through the safety of imaginative play and stories, has become ever more important. Fantasy lovers seek another world complete in itself. Ballads provide not just spells and enchantments, but a language like none other. In “Ballad Land,” Ellen Kushner remembers her own discovery of medieval fairy ballads, through both reading and music. She recalls the magical effect they had on her imagination as a child and ponders how and why this was carried into a creative adulthood. Among the results was her Thomas the Rhymer, a fantasy novel set in “Ballad Land”, the magical world that ballads both create and evoke. Ballads, as she writes, become as true for her as any other memories., connecting the individual’s past in childhood with our collective past. Jane Yolen is often called the Hans Christian Andersen of America because of her many original fairy tales and retellings of old stories, plus her numerous novels, picture books, and poems based on folklore and

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fairy tales. In “Sewing the Nettle Shirt, Pulling the Sword,” Yolen looks at the stories from her childhood that shoved her onto the literary storytelling path. She also parses a few well-known fairy stories in ways that may surprise the reader, linking her own tales as securely to modern culture and politics as Victorian and earlier tales were anchored in their own world. Explaining that she writes “not in cursive but in folkore,” she asserts that she is “drenched in mythos and it comes out as story.” If we dismiss the idea that the history of childhood is simply an agglutination of reminiscences, and instead focus on the idea of the child as a culturally contested space in which children themselves can be powerful agents or disempowered subjects, we can begin to ask how far childhood is less an ahistorical concept than the very stuff of history, the most variable and malleable idea of all human identities. All adults were once children, and that truth points to the difficulty of simply consigning children to the category of the voiceless. Rather, the child’s voice is in constant, unpredictable interaction with the adult voice. These essays not only self-consciously interrogate the possibility and unique necessity of representing childhood, but engage with the dance of the child that weaves itself into and out of adult constructions, sometimes agential and not always willing to accept the space it has been offered. The child is at once inside the adult, repressed and ignored, and outside the adult, needing to be managed, to be disciplined and to become the material of fantasies. Yet both the inner and the outer child can rebel against or subvert not just adult authority, but also adult ideas and conceptions of their identities. Collectively, the essays in this volume illustrate the plasticity and malleability of the figure of the child within literary cultures across time. Fictionalizing literary cultures for children renders visible some of the labors and inspirations that inform the education of children, self-­ motivated or other-directed; the performance of childhood for an audience of self as much as adults; the literatures of childhood across different lands and periods; and the legacies of childhood that haunt and hearten all adults who were children once upon a time.

Bibliography Ariès, Philippe. 1973. Centuries of Childhood: A History of Family Life. Translated by Robert Baldick. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.


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Bhabha, Homi K. 1996. “Unpacking My Library … Again.” In The Post-­Colonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons, ed. Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti Abingdon, 199–211. New York: Routledge. Duffy, Eamon. 2018. Royal Books and Holy Bones: Essays in Medieval Christianity. London: Bloomsbury Continuum. Nodelman, Perry. 1992. “The Other: Orientalism, Colonialism, and Children’s Literature.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 17: 29–35. Spufford, Francis. 2002. The Child that Books Built. London: Faber and Faber. Thomas, Keith. 1989. “Children in Early Modern England.” In Children and Their Books, ed. Julia Briggs, 45–77. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Educating Children


Adult Ideologies in Late-Medieval Advisory Writing Anna Caughey

On his return to England from the Boer War in the early years of the twentieth century, Robert Baden-Powell expressed serious concerns about the morals and behaviour of young British men. In a letter published in 1904, he attributed Japan’s military power to “the upper classes learning, as boys, the chivalry of their forefathers the Samurai,” and argued that: We in England have equally good ancestors to look back to in the Knights of the Middle Ages, but we do not imitate them as we ought to. If we, while we were boys, learnt their patriotism and put into practice their ideas of honour, self-sacrifice, and skill at arms, and then taught the same to all our lads throughout the country—we should be as strong as the [Japanese] against invasion by any foreign enemy.1

Scouting for Boys (1908) goes on to insinuate that the problems that Baden-Powell perceives in his world—juvenile delinquency, poor public


 Letter to Eton College Chronicle, December 22, 1904, quoted in Rosenthal (1980, 605).

A. Caughey (*) Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




health, anxieties surrounding the upkeep of Empire2—can be addressed by focusing on the individual characters of British boys, and specifically by providing them with technical skills, a clear-cut code of moral behaviour and a canon of enjoyable yet morally-improving stories in the form of the “Yarns” presented within Scouting for Boys and other subsequent Scouting texts. More than four hundred years previously, the publisher and translator William Caxton returned to England from a two-decade spell on the Continent (Blake)—and expressed similar concerns about the morals and behaviour of young English men. In the afterword to The Book of the Ordre of Chyualry (Chyualry) (1484), his translation of the French tradition of Ramon Lull’s Llibre de l’ordre de cavalleria,3 Caxton writes passionately about the perceived deficiencies of modern-day knights: O ye knyghtes of Englond where is the custome and vsage of noble chyualry that was vsed in tho dayes / what do ye now / but go to the baynes & playe att dyse… leue this / leue it and rede the noble volumes of saynt graal of lancelot / of galaad / of Trystram / of perse forest / of percyual / of gawayn / & many mo (Byles 122). Oh knights of England, where is the custom and practice of noble chivalry that was used in those days? What do you do now but go to the baths, and play at dice? … Leave this, leave it and read the noble volumes of the Holy Grail, of Lancelot, of Tristram, of Perceforest, of Percival, of Gawain, and many more.

Like Baden-Powell, Caxton locates the social problems of his day in the characters of individual young men, and argues that the way to resolve them is through literature—namely, the romances and other chivalry-­ related works published by Caxton’s press in the mid-1480s—and the use of a clearly-defined set of standards of conduct presented in the book that Caxton is currently offering for sale. Perry Nodelman has famously argued that literature presented to children “offers… both what adults think children will like and what adults want them to need, but it does so always in order to satisfy adults’ needs in regard to children” (242). He situates this need in a figure known as “the hidden adult”, concealed behind the text offered to the child. This 2 3

 For further discussion, see Boehmer, Rosenthal (1980, 1986).  See Fallows (2013).



essay adopts the concept of “the hidden adult” to consider the ways in which two fifteenth-century insular translations of the Llibre de l’ordre de cavalleria construct adult prestige and power by presenting the attentive and obedient boy as an ideal “reader” of a text handed down by an adult. Lull’s work, written in Catalan “for the benefit of knights who may not have been conversant in Latin” between 1274 and 1276 (Fallows 1), aimed at “nothing less than total reform of the Order of Chivalry” (3). It circulated in various French-language recensions throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and was translated from French into Older Scots by Sir Gilbert Hay as The Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede (Knychthede) in 1456, and again into English by Caxton in 1484. Both translations consist of a manual dealing with the spiritual, moral and symbolic aspects of knighthood—and to this extent, the didactic voice within them is not “hidden” but presented in plain sight: the books’ explicit goal is to instruct the reader in correct behaviour for an adult male of the knightly class. However, as I will argue here, both translations also serve a “hidden” purpose: in addition to their chivalry-related content, they also inform the reader about the prestige and value of aristocratic adult maleness, and persuasively argue that the correct way for a boy to access this prestige is to accept and internalise the guidance of adult men. The key to this is the important fictional episode which comprises Chap. 1 of both Hay’s and Caxton’s texts, and which is taken from Lull’s original. This episode features an eager young squire who is socialised into ideal patterns of gendered and class behaviour by a wise elderly knight, and it is on this story that I will focus my analysis here. I will begin by briefly discussing the existence of secular adolescent males as a readership group in the midto-late fifteenth century, and the extent to which their reading can be considered as part of the study of “children’s literature”. I will then move on to analyse the first chapter of both Caxton and Hay’s translations and their construction of “adult norms” of class- and gender-­related power and prestige, and will briefly note the way in which these constructions also recur in Hay’s prose and poetical writings on the life of Alexander the Great. In undertaking this analysis, the first question that must be asked is, to what extent did fifteenth-century children—and specifically, non-clerical male children of the aristocratic and gentry classes—exist as readers? As the scholar of medieval childhood Nicholas Orme comments, this is an area that can be misunderstood: he notes the popular modern perception that medieval children “were regarded as small adults” (3) and attributes the popularity of this viewpoint to the works of mid-twentieth-century historians



such as Philippe Ariès.4 Orme goes on to cite a number of researchers whose work has subsequently disputed Ariès’ ideas, including Shulamith Shahar, Pierre Riché and Danièle Alexandre-Bidon, Sally Crawford, Barbara Hanawalt and Ronald Finucane.5 He also draws upon substantial literary, legal and documentary evidence to demonstrate that children in the Middle Ages “wore clothes, had toys, chanted rhymes, played games, and read literature invented by themselves or designed especially for them” (10). Seth Lerer has also argued convincingly that “[f]ar from being an age that had no perception of or investment in the child, the European Middle Ages was in many ways an aetas puerorum” (12), intensely concerned with the figure of the child. With regard to the reading of literature by aristocratic boys and young men in training for knighthood, Shahar notes that “[u]p to the beginning of the twelfth century, the upbringing and training of the future knight included almost no academic study” (209), but that after this time divisions between literate clergy and non-literate knights became more blurred. By the 1380s, Chaucer’s portrait of the Squire in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales tells us that this twenty-year-old knightin-training can “songes make and wel endite, / Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write”6 (compose music and words for songs / Joust and also dance, and write and draw well), while in the fifteenth century Gilbert Hay’s position as both experienced knight and poet/translator (see below) demonstrate that knightly training and literacy were highly compatible. Similarly, while Caxton’s claims to address “ye knyghtes of Englond” must be approached with caution (see below), his afterword makes it clear that chivalry and book consumption are both potential subjects of interest for his target market. It is worth acknowledging that there are some difficulties in considering Hay’s and Caxton’s texts under the heading of “children’s literature”. 4  Orme (4), citing Philippe Ariès, L’enfant et la vie familiale sous l’Ancien Régime (Plon: Paris, 1960), translated into English as Centuries of Childhood (translated by Robert Baldick, London: Jonathan Cape, 1962). 5  Orme (5), citing Shahar (1990); Pierre Riché and Danièle Alexandre-Bidon, L’enfance au Moyen Age (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, Bibliothèque nationale, 1994); Sally Crawford, Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England (Stroud: Sutton, 1999); Barbara Hanawalt, The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); Ronald Finucane, The Rescue of the Innocents: Endangered Children in Medieval Miracles (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997). 6  The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue, ll.95–6: see Benson (25).



Nodelman argues that “special literature for children seems to have come into existence in Europe somewhere around the end of the sixteenth century at the point at which adults perceived a need for expurgated editions of classics for children” (152), excluding fifteenth-century works from consideration. Certainly, the paucity of surviving textual evidence means that it is impossible to prove that these works were read only, or even primarily, by children. The explicitly didactic and instructional nature of the work may also preclude it from the study of “children’s literature” for some critics: F.J. Harvey Darton, for example, ruled out “[p]rinted works produced…primarily to teach [children]… to make them good [or] to keep them profitably quiet”7; as Nodelman surmises, for critics such as Darton “such obviously didactic texts are not children’s literature simply because they are not literature” (153). Yet when dealing with pre-sixteenth-century works, the exclusion of the didactic disqualifies many useful sources of information in an already narrow field of surviving texts: as Lerer’s and Orme’s work (alongside that of other critics and historians) has demonstrated, educational works such as colloquies, courtesy books and abecedaria provide details that vitalise our understanding of pre-modern childhood. While we cannot always come to clear-cut conclusions about the way in which a medieval child may have responded to Hay’s and Caxton’s translations, it seems likely that they were among their consumers, and that these books shaped their experiences both as readers and as maturing human beings. The life of Sir Gilbert Hay (born c.1397–died after 1465) successfully combined the disparate roles of “soldier and poet” (Edington). Hay was probably educated at the University of St Andrews in 1418–198 and spent a significant proportion of his adult life in France before returning to Scotland (Mapstone 1999, 32). As late as 1459–60 he is described in the exchequer rolls as both “domino” and “militi” (Mapstone 1986, 52), suggesting that he retained his status as a knight even towards the end of his life. Hay is known to have spent some time living at Roslin with the family of William Sinclair, third earl of Orkney and Caithness (b. after 1407–d. 1480) (Crawford). While with the Sinclairs, Hay translated three prose texts from the French: these were a recension of the Secret des Secrets, entitled the Buke of the Gouernaunce of Princis by Hay, Honoré Bouvet’s  Darton (1), quoted in Nodelman (152–3).  Note that any discussion of Hay’s biography is problematised by the fact that a number of men of that name were active in public life at approximately the appropriate dates. 7 8



L’Arbre des batailles, and Lull’s work. These translations were completed in 1456, and survive today in National Library of Scotland Acc. 9253. While this manuscript is not scribal (Mapstone 2005, 7) it was placed in an expensive and ornate binding9: this suggests that the family held it in high esteem, as does the autograph of William’s son Oliver which appears at the beginning of the text (Norton-Smith 649). The fact that William Sinclair also travelled in France, and presumably spoke French, raises the question of why he would have required a French chivalry handbook to be rendered into Older Scots. This may be partially explained by the considerable social prestige associated with commissioning and translating such a text, an explanation that appears particularly likely in the context of Sinclair’s other activities at this time, such as the construction of the collegiate chapel of St Matthew at Roslin. However, it also seems obvious that a vernacular translation of these French prose texts would have been a useful tool for the military and character education of young men such as Sinclair’s many sons. While these clues cannot furnish conclusive proof that the prose translations were consumed by adolescent boys they do, together with the books’ contents, increase the likelihood that they may have been encountered by a young adult audience. Born around twenty years after Hay, William Caxton (b. 1415-24–d.1492) (Blake) was educated in Kent and spent the first phase of his career as a merchant, living abroad in Bruges and Cologne from the 1450s until the 1470s. On his return to England in 1475 or 1476, he brought with him the equipment that would become the country’s first printing press (Blake), and went on to publish a large canon of works on a diverse range of subjects. Some of these, including Chyualry, were translated by Caxton himself, primarily from “French works which had been written or printed recently in France or Flanders” (Blake). Twentiethcentury scholarship has often been somewhat dismissive of Caxton’s relationship to literature: the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sums him up as “essentially a man who bought and sold goods for his livelihood”, for whom “[p]rinted books were simply a different type of merchandise” (Blake). In light of this, Caxton’s appeal to “ye knyghtes of Englond” must be approached critically. Caxton’s Prologues and Epilogues may speak primarily to the aristocracy that provided the majority of his patronage, but when selling copies of his books he seems to have “looked


 See Stevenson and Hobson.



to his own class” (Thrupp 247), particularly the upper echelons of the merchant class and the gentry. However, from the perspective of cultural history this concern with marketability arguably makes Caxton’s output more, rather than less, interesting—his decision to base his business around the production of popular reading material provides valuable evidence for the existence of recreational reading as a pastime among the urban gentry, and for this group’s interest in consuming books about “chuyalry” as education and entertainment. Orme also notes that early in his English career Caxton printed child-oriented texts such as Lydgate’s fables and Stans Puer ad Mensam, identifying him as “a pioneer of publishing for young people” (296), while Lerer considers his press one of the factors that “change[d] dramatically the making and dissemination of what children read” (76) in the fifteenth century. While Caxton’s afterword to Chyualry does specifically address “euery man… [that] entendeth to come to the noble ordre of chyualry”10 (every man that intends to enter the noble order of chivalry), it also concludes by “presenting” the book to Richard III “to thende / that he commaunde this book to be had and redde vnto other yong lordes knyghtes and gentylmen within this royame / that the noble ordre of chyualrye be herafter better vsed & honoured than hit hath ben in late dayes passed”11 (for the purpose that he command this book to be owned by and read to other young lords, knights and gentlemen within this realm, so that the noble order of chivalry will be better upheld than it has been in recent days), suggesting that shaping the characters of young male readers was at least part of the purpose that Caxton intended for the work. While both Caxton’s and Hay’s texts follow the French tradition of Lull’s work, there are significant differences in focus and detail between the two: where possible I have illustrated my reading of the text below with parallel quotations drawn from both translations. In both texts, the initial chapter opens by introducing an elderly knight who has retired to live as a hermit in a quiet garden or meadow within the deep forest. For a fifteenthcentury reader habituated to romance narratives, this setting would immediately invoke the tropes associated with the forest as a space for exploration, growth and maturation for young knights.12 Moreover, we learn that the elderly knight makes his home beside a highly symbolic fountain:  Byles (124), emphasis added.  Byles (125), emphasis added. 12  For further discussion of these conventions, see Saunders and Cooper (esp. Chap. 1). 10 11



Hay: “And jn that herbare vnder the said fruyte tree / thare was a faire well of water of noble nature / quhilk in diuers stryndis past throu the herber / till othir gardyns and preaux // till water thame in somer for mare gudely growthe.” (Glenn 4) And in that garden under the said fruit tree, there was a fair well of water of noble nature, which ran in many streams through the garden, and into other gardens and parks to water them in summer for more goodly growth Caxton: “And vnder the same tree was a fontayne moche fayre and clere / that arowsed and moysted all the medowe” (Byles 5). And under the same tree was a fountain, very beautiful and clear, that watered and gave life to the whole meadow

A reader who is already familiar with the romance convention of externalising character traits and emotional states to the landscape13 will be primed to understand this fountain, which gives life and promotes the “gudely growthe” of young living things, as standing in for the elderly knight’s role as a “fount” of potential wisdom to young people. Next, we are introduced to a young squire travelling to the king’s court for the first time, with, as Caxton says, the “entencion that there he shold be made knyght” (Byles 6) (intention that he should be knighted). Although endearingly eager to participate in the affairs of adult men, the squire is a less than competent traveller—on the way to court he becomes so exhausted that he falls asleep on his horse,14 which promptly wanders away from the road and becomes lost in the forest, carrying him at last to the home of the elderly knight. As Noel Fallows points out, “[t]he notion of ‘straying in a wood’ on horseback is a common motif in chivalric romance”, and is particularly significant in this text as the knight’s ability to control a horse is later referenced as a key signifier of his validity as a knight (15), further emphasising the squire’s immaturity at this point. Both Hay and Caxton’s narrators take care to inform us that the squire greets the knight with appropriate respect despite his hermit-like appearance,15 remaining silent and allowing the old man to speak to  See Saunders and Cooper.  Glenn (4) and Byles (6). 15  Glenn (5) and Byles (8). 13 14



him first so “as to do him reuerence for honour and age” (Glenn 5). This moment fulfils one of what Nodelman identifies as the purposes of children’s literature, “encourag[ing] child readers to perform specific versions of childhood” (193). Already we have been subtly informed that the squire’s youth, signified by his lack of physical endurance and failure to control his horse, have led him to an embarrassing mishap: at this stage he is very far from being the one in a thousand “most stronge / and of most noble courage” (Byles 15) identified later in the text as being worthy of knighthood. Yet we are also shown that he is wellmannered enough to understand and carry out the correct procedure for greeting one’s elders: the squire is praised by the narratorial voice for demonstrating this “reuerence”, providing the reader with our first clue that he may be able to attain the dignity of a knight after all. After the knight and the squire exchange words about “the gretenesse [in] whiche a knyghte is holden” (Byles 9) and the knight’s special knowledge on the subject becomes apparent, the boy asks the elderly man to teach him about the ways of chivalry. However, the knight expresses shock at his ignorance: Hay: “the said knycht blenkit vp / sayand O faire sone how art thou sa bald as to sett the to tak that forenamyt order / bot first tho knew the poyntis belangand the gouernaunce and manetenaunce of jt” (Glenn 6). The said knight looked up, saying “Oh, fair son, how are you so bold as to set yourself to take that order [of chivalry] unless you first know the points relating to the governance and maintenance of it?” Caxton: “How sone sayd the knyght knowest thow not what is the rule and ordre of knyghthode / and I meruaylle how thow darest demaunde Chyualrye or knyghthode / vnto the tyme that thow knowe the ordre” (Byles 10). “How, son,” said the knight, “do you not know what is the rule and order of knighthood? I marvel how you dare demand chivalry or knighthood before the time that you know about its rules.”

Nodelman notes that “children’s literature exists most significantly as part of a system that confirms the childlikeness of children in order to confirm the adulthood—and the power and authority—of adults” (169). This system is clearly inscribed in the power dynamic between knight and squire



here. In addition to setting up the importance of the non-fictional advisory content that is to follow, this scene insists upon “the poyntis belangand the gouernaunce and manetenaunce” of chivalry as an adult system of knowledge to which the squire is not yet privy, and emphasises that those who are not yet admitted to this system of knowledge may not ask to access the rights and privileges of adult aristocratic men. Yet help is at hand in the form of a book which the elderly knight presents to the squire. The boy reads it and is immediately filled with enlightenment and joy: Hay: “And than delyuerit the knycht the buke to the bachelere jn the quhilk quhen he had red a lytyll space / he hevit vp his handis to the hevyn and lovit almycthj god yat had gevin him the grace tocum that way jn the tyme yat he was sa wele fortunyt to haue knaulage of the poyntis techingis and propreteis of the said ordre” (Glenn 7). And then the knight delivered that book to the young man. And when he had read for a little while, he raised up his hands to the heavens and praised Almighty God who had given him the grace to happen to come that way at the time: he was so fortunate to have knowledge of the points, teachings and properties of the order. Caxton: “And whanne he hadde redde therin / he vnderstode that the knyght only amonge a thousand persones is chosen worthy to haue more noble offyce than all the thousand… And thenne he remembryd hym a lytyle / And after sayd / A syre / blessyd be ye / that haue brought me in place and in tyme / that I haue knowlege of Chyualrye” (Byles 12). And when he had read therein, he understood that the knight alone among a thousand people is chosen worthy to have more noble office than all the rest of the thousand... And then he remembered himself, and said, “Oh sir, blessed be you that have brought me at this place and time that I [now] have knowledge of Chivalry.”

This book is, of course, intended to represent the one that the reader is currently holding in his16 hands: specifically, the non-fictional content that follows the narrative of Chap. 1. The squire is now able to move a step 16  Given the surviving evidence regarding the target audience for these translations, I have deliberately chosen to use the masculine pronoun here.



closer to being included in the prestigious adult male system of knowledge and behaviour signified by “the Rule and ordre of Chyualry”, and the reader is now primed to do likewise by paying close attention to the material that he is about to read. Furthermore, after conducting his reading we see that the fictional squire is now placed in a position of power: formerly an outsider hoping to make a supplication for acceptance into the court, now he is the one entrusted with taking the elderly knight’s book to the court for the instruction of the king and his knights: Hay: “And than said the knycht faire sone / thou sall tak this buke with the to the court / ffor sen j am bathe alde and wayke / and may nocht trauaill to schaw the reuglis and documentis and proprieteis of the said ordre to thame yat desyris thame… Thou sall geve the copy of this said buke till all men yat desyris jt” (Glenn 7). And then the knight said, “Fair son, you shall take this book with you to the court, because I am both old and weak and may not journey to show the principles and documents and proprieties of the said order to those who desire it… You shall give copies of this said book to all men who desire it.” Caxton: “The knyght sayd / Faire sone I am an old man & feble / and my not forthon moche longe lyue / And therfore this lytyl booke that is made for the deuocion loyalte / and the ordenau[n]ce that a knyght ought to haue in holdynge his ordre / ye shall bere with yow to the Courte… and to shewe to alle them that will be made knyghtes” (Byles 13). The knight said, “Fair son, I am an old man and feeble, and therefore may not live much longer. And therefore this little book that is made for the devotion, loyalty and the ordinance that a knight ought to have in holding his order, you shall bear with you to the court… and show to all who will be made knights.”

The book is well-received at court: Hay’s text states that “the quhilk buke the king lovit mekle and prisit / and all the lordis /. And helde jt rycht dere” (Glenn 8) (the king praised this book and valued it, and so did all the lords, and they held it very dear). The chapter concludes with the squire securely at the centre of chivalric society and presumably accepted as a member of it: Caxton’s text adds that every nobleman in the court was subsequently offered “a copye of the sayd book / to thende that he myght



see & lerne thordre of knyghthode and Chyualrye” (a copy of the said book, so that he might see and learn the order of knighthood and Chivalry) (Byles 14). As the subsequent chapters make clear, the power inscribed in “thordre” attained by the adult knight is explicitly gendered and class-based: in addition to requiring knights to defend “wymmen / wydowes and orphanes / and men dyseased” (Byles 38), Caxton’s text points out that: Of as moche as a man hath more of wytte and of vnderstandyng / and is of more stronger nature than a woman / Of soo moche may he [be] better than a woman... Thenne al thus as a man by his nature is more apparaylled to haue noble courage / and to be better than the woman / In lyke wyse moche more enclyned to be vycious than a woman (Byles 17–18) As much as a man has more intelligence and understanding and is of a stronger nature than a woman, so much may he be better than a woman… Then just as a man by his nature is better-equipped to have noble courage, and to be better than a woman, likewise he is more inclined to be vicious than a woman.

In addition to this, Hay’s text also particularly emphasises the knight’s responsibility to care for “all his subiectis yat he has vnder him jn gouernaunce / yat ar gude folk & symple” (Glenn 10) (all his subjects that he has under him to govern over, who are good and simple people). On the surface, these statements appear as straightforward calls to virtue: a man must guard himself against the temptation to use his strength and intelligence viciously, an aristocrat must look after those under his protection. However, these instructions also serve to indirectly emphasise the superiority of the aristocratic male: to be called upon to use one’s power for the benefit of others is to be reminded of the force of that power—and after all, only someone who has a genuine capacity to cause harm needs to be warned about the need to use their abilities responsibly. While these texts ostensibly instruct the young aristocratic male reader about the need for a knight to wield his authority over others altruistically, they thus also educate him about the extent and privilege of that authority and the desirability of attaining it, if possible, for oneself. This presentation of “adult norms” (Nodelman 130) surrounding both the desirability of a knight’s power and the need to listen to adults in order to attain it also appears in two of Hay’s other surviving works. In the Buke of the Gouernaunce of Princis, which appears alongside Knychthede, Alexander the Great’s relationship with Aristotle is used to model this. Although the use of letters is an established element of the Alexander story derived from



the Hellenistic Pseudo-Callisthenes17 and recurs widely throughout the Alexandre le Grand tradition, Hay’s text does place a particular emphasis on Aristotle’s advice as a key factor in Alexander’s success. The narrator makes it very clear that “alslang as Alexander’ le grant had with hym Aristotil the wys clerk /- he passit throuche /. and vencust all realmes—ande all his jnymyes. throu the mekle prudence and wis’dome of that noble philosophour’ and throu his counsale” (Glenn 56) As long as Alexander the Great had with him Aristotle the wise clerk, he passed through and vanquished all realms and all his enemies, through the great prudence and wisdom of that noble philosopher and through his counsel.

The format of the text also lends itself to the promotion of literacy as a means for young people to internalise adult norms, and for adults to control young people. When Hay’s Aristotle realises that he mycht nocht for elde langsumly be nature lest /—he compilit this buke tobe a reugle of gouernaunce till [Alexander] euermare quhill he lyvit / And send jt till him with grete regrate and lamentacioun yat he mycht nomare be with him /. sa/ mekle he lufit him /. for caus’ he was his maister’—and his techour euer fra his begynning of barnehede till that tyme (Glenn 56) he might not live for much longer, he compiled this book to be a rule of governance for Alexander for evermore, as long as he lived. And he sent it to Alexander with great regret and lamentation that he might no more be with him, so much he loved him, because he was Alexander’s master and teacher, always from the beginning of his childhood until that time.

Again, the reader is presented with a model for the way in which adult systems of power are intended to be internalised by a young man through reading, with the language of “maister”, “techour” and “barnehede” particularly emphasising Alexander’s youth, his lack of knowledge and his dependence upon Aristotle. As in Knychthede, the book now in the r­ eader’s hands is presented as a stand-in for the internalisation and absorption of adult wisdom: lacking the physical Aristotle, Alexander receives a “buke” to substitute for the physical presence of his “maister”, and similarly, lacking an Aristotle

 For further details, see Cary (9–11).




of our own we are invited to use Hay’s translation as a means of getting as close as we can to receiving the advice of the legendary mentor-figure. Finally, Hay’s only surviving work of poetry, the Buik of King Alexander Þe Conquerour, was composed in 1460 and survives in an incomplete form recopied with significant alterations by an unknown redactor in 1499.18 It is a decasyllabic retelling of Alexander’s life stretching to over 19,000 lines, and incorporates a very wide range of source materials and generic styles to detail Alexander’s life from birth to his death by poisoning. However, it is also explicitly advisory in tone: the narrator explains that the book has been created for “all men that richteouslie wald life, / It sall thame g[u]id teitcheing and exampill gife”19 (all men that would live righteously / It shall give them good teaching and examples). In the section on Alexander’s childhood, the poem takes pains to stress that he is a highly intelligent boy and an eager learner who can “lere in ane hour and bere away / Far mare þan ane vther wald vpoun ane day”20 (learn in an hour and carry away / Far more than another [child] would in a day). Despite his early childhood being marked by the traditionally troubling episode of the death of Nectanabus, Alexander’s relationship with his tutor Aristotle portrays him a model pupil who respectfully internalises Aristotle’s teachings and increases his own power by doing so:                                    

Syne into morall virtue he him foundit, And into wit and wisdome he him groundit, And bad him, gif he thocht till haue victo[ur], And cum to glore, wirschip, and honour, That euir he sett resoun befoir his deid, And help all pure and peciabill at neid,21


[Aristotle] gave him a foundation in moral virtue And grounded him in wit and wisdom, And instructed him, if he wanted to have victory And come to glory, worship and honour, That he should always set reason before his deeds, And help all poor and peaceful people at need.

 For further discussion, see Caughey (140).  Cartwright 255 (ll.19277–8). 20  Cartwright 7 (ll.242–5). 21  Cartwright 11 (ll.414–19). 18 19



As in the Gouernaunce of Princis, in the latter part of the text Aristotle’s age and ill health mean that his advice appears only in epistolary form, again allowing for reading to be presented as a way of internalising adult norms. For a time, this continues to be successful. However, as I have argued elsewhere,22 Hay’s writing switches genre from romance to tragedy in the final section of poem (ll.17000–19274): he increasingly fails to govern according to the precepts of reason and mercy laid out by Aristotle, and correspondingly loses his grip on army and empire. What is interesting for our purposes is the way in which Alexander is portrayed as retreating into childlike powerlessness during his decline. In particular, when Alexander hears his own death prophesied he laments the fact that he no longer has the support of Aristotle:                        

Quhat will my maister Arestotill say? I was nevir vele sen þat he past away— Quhill I had him, I had na dred of dede; He is now sa fer, he may sett na remede.23


What will my master Aristotle say? I have never been at ease since he passed away, While I had him, I had no fear of death, He is now so far, he cannot remedy this situation.

At around the point in the poem when Alexander begins to disobey the precepts passed down to him by his teacher, this speech undermines our sense of him as a successful and well-integrated adult, while his cries for his mother (“Quhat will my moder say, Olimpias,”24 (What will my mother, Olympia, say?)) and his wife’s efforts to console and rally him further problematise him as a masculine ideal. This recalls Nodelman’s contention that children’s literature often presents conflicted images of the imagined child reader as “both teachable and incorrigible, savage and innocent—eternally ambivalent” (243). After seeing Alexander portrayed as a model pupil at the beginning of the text, the poem’s conclusion asks us to question how effectively the young conqueror has in fact internalised the lessons passed down to him through both face-to-face teaching and his experiences as a reader.

 See Caughey.  Cartwright 113 (ll.13691–4). 24  Cartwright 112 (l.13685). 22 23



By implication, we are also reminded to pay better attention to the edicts of Aristotle—and potentially other wise teachers in our lives—ourselves. Nodelman identifies “[t]he adult impulse to control children” as existing “at the heart of children’s literature” (187). This impulse is readily apparent in these texts’ representations of the boy who respectfully submits to adult control by internalising a system of knowledge passed down by his elders through the medium of text, and is highlighted by details such as Caxton’s instruction to the reader to “rede this lytyl book and doo therafter / in kepying the lore and commaundements therein” (Byles 124) and Hay’s use of Alexander as both exemplar and cautionary tale. If correctly mastered, these adult systems of knowledge will bring the protagonist (and, by implication, the young male reader) to gendered prestige and power as the man who is symbolically “chosyn amang a thowsand” (Glenn 8) as most worthy to protect others and to wield authority over them. Failure to correctly internalise these ideals, however, will lead to rebuke such as that given to the young squire who “darest demaunde Chyualrye” (Byles 10) before understanding its precepts or worse, shame and loss such as Alexander’s humiliation prior to his death. While these texts represent only a small fragment of the vast medieval traditions of advisory literature, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the ways in which young men in the late Middle Ages were encouraged to use their reading to come to “knowe the ordre” (Byles 10) of chivalry.

Bibliography Benson, Larry D., ed. 1987. The Riverside Chaucer. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Blake, N.F. 2004. “Caxton, William (1415x24–1492).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, January 2008. Accessed April 8, 2017. Boehmer, Elleke, ed. 2004. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Byles, Alfred T.P., ed. 1926. The Book of the Ordre of Chyualry. London: Early English Text Society Original Series 168. Cartwright, John., ed. 1986–1990. The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour. 2 vols. Scottish Text Society 4th Series 16, 18. Aberdeen; Edinburgh. Cary, George. 1956. The Medieval Alexander. Edited by D.J.A. Ross. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Caughey, Anna. 2010. “‘Als for the Worthynes of þe Romance’: Exploitation of Genre in the Buik of King Alexander the Conqueror.” In The Exploitations of Medieval Romance, ed. Laura Ashe, Ivana Djordjevic, and Judith Weiss, 139–159. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. Cooper, Helen. 2004. The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crawford, Barbara E. 2004. “Sinclair family (per. 1280–c.1500).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H.C.G.  Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, January 2009. Accessed April 8, 2017. article/54321. Darton, F.J. Harvey. 1982. Children’s Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. 3rd ed. Revised by Brian Alderston. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Edington, C. 2004. “Hay, Sir Gilbert (b. c.1397, d. after 1465).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Online edition, edited by David Cannadine. Accessed April 8, 2017. http://www. Fallows, Noel, trans. 2013. The Book of the Order of Chivalry. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. Glenn, Jonathan A., ed. 1993–2005. The Prose Works of Sir Gilbert Hay. 2 vols. Scottish Text Society 4th Series 21, 5th Series 3. Edinburgh. Hobson, G.D. 1930. “Further Notes on the Binding of the Haye Manuscript.” Publications of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society xiv: 89–97. Lerer, S. 2008. Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mapstone, Sally. 1986. “The Advice to Princes Tradition in Scottish Literature 1450–1500.” D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford. ———. 1999. “The Scotichronicon’s First Readers.” In Church, Chronicle and Learning in Medieval and Early Renaissance Scotland, ed. Barbara E. Crawford, 31–55. Edinburgh: Mercat Press. ———. 2005. “Introduction.” In Older Scots Literature, ed. Sally Mapstone. Edinburgh: John Donald. Nodelman, Perry. 2008. The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Norton-Smith, J. 1971. “The Kingis Quair.” Times Literary Supplement, 649, June 4. Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive. Accessed April 19, 2019. Orme, Nicholas. 2001. Medieval Children. London: Yale University Press. Rosenthal, Michael. 1980. “Knights and Retainers: The Earliest Version of Baden-­ Powell’s Boy Scout Scheme.” Journal of Contemporary History 15: 603–617.



———. 1986. The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement. London: Collins. Saunders, Corinne. 1993. The Forest of Medieval Romance: Avernus, Broceliande, Arden. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. Shahar, Shulamith. 1990. Childhood in the Middle Ages. London: Routledge. Stevenson, J.H. 1906. “The Fifteenth Century Scots Binding of the Haye Manuscript.” Publications of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society vi: 77–82. Thrupp, Sylvia. 1962. The Merchant Class of Medieval London 1300–1500. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Learning to Talk: Colloquies and the Formation of Childhood Monastic Identity in Late Anglo-Saxon England Rebecca King Cerling

Children, offered to God by their parents, to be raised by monks in a monastery, living in accordance with monastic rules, for the rest of their lives: this was the practice of child oblation.1 While child oblation does not readily comport with modern, western sensibilities of child-rearing, the practice was widespread for centuries in Europe. Oblates, some as young as seven, moved into an established adult community and faced the challenge of embracing their new identity as monks. When an oblate first arrived in the monastery, he had a dual identity: he was both a child and a monk. The oblate needed to move from being merely a boy who lived in a monastery, to a boy who was a monk; from being a child whose very nature was understood to be loquacious and unruly, to being a monk characterized by the quiet humility and ordered obedience required by the Rule of Benedict.2 1  The Rule of Benedict Chapter 59. Hereafter ROB, with chapter number. De Jong, Alexandre-Bidon and Lett, Boswell, Cochelin, Boynton (1998, 2000, 2008), Quinn. 2  ROB (4–7 and passim).

R. K. Cerling (*) Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




The challenge for an oblate and his teachers was to bridge those identities; and colloquies, which were practice conversations in Latin, created that bridge. In the same way that learning to talk marks an important milestone in a toddler’s development, learning to speak the language of monasticism was a crucial part of an oblate’s formation. The outward language of the monks, of course, was Latin, which Anglo-Saxon boys needed to acquire. The language of the monastery, however extended to the kind of speech stipulated by the Rule of Benedict, which every monk needed to learn and practice. Colloquies not only helped oblates to learn Latin, but also to familiarize them with the speech and temperament required of monks. To see how the colloquies functioned in the boys’ formation as monks, it is useful first to understand the parameters of their lives inside the monastery. The boys’ teachers recognized that the oblates were children, and that the boys needed to learn that they were monks. Consequently, the oblates’ life accounted for both sides of their identity. First, they were monks. As such, the oblates participated in the regular life of the monastery, performed liturgical duties specific to them, and learned by doing. For example, every evening they led the monks in the Trina oratio, the three final prayers spoken before the community retired.3 Second, they were children, and went to school daily in a corner of the cloister separated from the other monks. During school, they learned to read and write and speak, and colloquies were a foundational part of their curriculum. Colloquies, together with grammars and glossaries, formed the curricular triangle used to teach Latin. The practice conversations that made up colloquies put the language into a meaningful context for the boys, engaging everyday life in the monastery and, occasionally, the world outside. During school, the oblates memorized the conversations and took turns speaking the various parts. The conversations could be modified when oblates exchanged appropriate vocabulary words.4 Two colloquies used to teach oblates in late Anglo-Saxon England will be examined. The contrast between the two is striking: one is a prescriptive, pedantic text; the other, a text portraying a raucous, bawdy monastic life that on the surface appears to subvert the very kind of character ­prescribed by the first colloquy. The first, Aelfric’s Colloquy, remains the best-­known and was written partially as a result of Abbot Aelfric’s involve3 4

 Regularis Concordia (23). Hereafter Regularis.  Porter (15–23, 34–43), O’Brien O’Keeffe (111), Barrau.



ment in monastic renewal in late-tenth and early-eleventh-century England.5 The second, The Colloquies of Aelfric Bata, was written a generation later by one of Abbot Aelfric’s students, as part of his own teaching.6 Considered together, the two colloquies provide a robust portrayal of the formation of childhood monastic identity. Abbot Aelfric, author of the first Colloquy, was at the forefront of the second generation of monastic renewal. Monasticism in England had been devastated in the aftermath of ninth- and tenth-century Danish raiding, and Aelfric’s teacher, Aethelwold, along with Dunstan and Oswald, two other monk-bishops, set out to revive the diminished institution by reforming existing monasteries and beginning new ones.7 Aelfric was educated at Winchester in the atmosphere of renewal, which emphasized a return to the Rule of Benedict and its uniform observance in monasteries throughout England. To promote that uniformity, a council of abbots and abbesses at Winchester in c. 970 settled upon the customary ways in which the Rule of Benedict would be observed. They outlined those customs in the Regularis Concordia—The Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation. Not surprisingly, when Aelfric began teaching, he wrote conversations that reflected the sensibilities of both the Rule of Benedict and the Regularis Concordia, including the guidelines for children in the monastery stipulated by both documents. The Regularis Concordia included specific speaking parts in various liturgies throughout the year. In addition to the Trina oratio, for example, the children had integral roles on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday (Regularis 23, 35, 36, 51). Participation in the liturgy, however, could not be perfunctory. The Rule of Benedict stipulated that the monks’ minds be “in harmony with [their] voice” whenever the office was said (19). In order to pray and participate as monks, then, the boys needed to understand what they were saying, to speak clearly, and to speak not just with their lips, but with their minds engaged. Aelfric’s Colloquy began that process of integration by teaching the Latin needed to understand the liturgy, but also by admonishing the boys to bring their entire beings to their monastic identity. The Colloquy began with the boys (pueri) telling their master that they would like to learn to speak. When he asked how they would like to speak, they replied that they  Porter (33), O’Brien O’Keeffe (107), Hurt.  Porter (3–4, 29, 43–51). 7  Hart, Tinti, Barlow, Hurt. 5 6



wanted to speak properly and effectively (recta locutio sit et utilis).8 Because the outward performance of the liturgy reflected a monk’s inward mindset, both the Rule of Benedict and the Regularis Concordia mandated punishment when mistakes were made. Punishment for children when they made mistakes included whipping, a practice that reflected the contemporary understanding that corporal correction aided the learning process.9 Aelfric had recognized and addressed the boys’ understandable concern with speaking correctly. In addition to teaching the children to speak properly, the colloquies became vehicles for teaching oblates about their identity as children who were in the process of becoming monks.10 Indeed, as O’Brien O’Keeffe has demonstrated, the boys learned that identity and vocation were combined—in every occupation (94–150). The dialogues that form the first two-thirds of Aelfric’s Colloquy discuss various secular occupations, such as merchant, fisherman, and hunter. The conversations follow an orderly pattern in which the teacher asked a question and a student, representing a vocation, replied. For example, the teacher asked, “What kind of skill do you know?” and the fisherman replied, “I am a fisherman” (26). The questions and answers that followed covered methods of fishing, various kinds of fish, and the dangers of fishing in the ocean. The discussion of occupations and the appropriate work associated with them culminated in a lesson from the teacher about the connection between identity and occupation. At the conclusion of the dialogues about secular vocations, the teacher told the oblates to “be what you are (esto quod es) because it is a great loss and shame when a person refuses to be what he is or what he ought to be” (Aelfric 42). Indeed, one might imagine that the charge was spoken with the emphasis on “you.” The oblates were not fishermen or merchants or ­hunters, they were monks and needed to live into that identity. Like every other person with an occupation, they needed to become who they were (O’Brien O’Keeffe 126, 150). After making this charge, the teacher asked what the students thought of his speech and then echoed the question he had asked at the beginning of the conversation. At the outset of the colloquy, however, the teacher had asked the students how they would like to speak. Here, he broadened his question and simply asked what they would  Aelfric (18), Regularis (8).  ROB (19, 45), Regularis (7–8), O’Brien O’Keeffe (121–3). 10  O’Brien O’Keeffe (104–9), Anderson (158–9). 8 9



like. They replied that they would like to become wise (Aelfric 42–3). In keeping with the overarching metaphor of speech, the teacher suggested that some people sound wise, but their speech is like the stench of rot coming from a beautiful, monumental tomb, that is, that their speech did not reflect who they were inside.11 The boys said clearly that they were not interested in that kind of wisdom, and asked the teacher to explain in a way that they could understand (sed loquere nobis nostro more, non tam profunde) (Aelfric 43). The teacher agreed, and, in a seeming non sequitur, asked the students to describe their day in the monastery. The students’ answers demonstrated their knowledge of appropriate monastic deportment for the ordinary tasks of singing the hours, eating, drinking, and sleeping Aelfric (43–9). In his response, the teacher told the students to obey the discipline of the monastery and observe it on their own wherever they are, which, he concluded, also meant entering both the cloister and the school without any tomfoolery (scurrilitate)! In this concluding conversation about the boys’ daily life, Aelfric implied that wisdom simply consisted in doing what monks do every day and doing it in such a way that their speech and actions were integrated. Their outside behavior had to reflect their inward identity. The boys could have wisdom if they stopped behaving like children and became what they were: monks. Aelfric Bata, one of Abbot Aelfric’s students, produced a very different set of conversations.12 Born in the late tenth or early eleventh century, Bata seems to have been irreverent and incompliant, a brilliant Latin teacher, and, possibly, the teacher remembered by monastic historians Osbern and Eadmer as the cruel master of their childhoods at Canterbury.13 In addition to whatever personal vices he practiced, he also may have been part of a resistance at Canterbury to the tenth-century monastic reforms.14 Osbern, in rounding out his minimal and less than exemplary portrait of Bata, named him as the monk who tried to alienate land from Christ Church, Canterbury, but who was prevented by the timely intervention of a saintly, deceased Archbishop.15 That Bata was a character is not in ques11  Aelfric (43). Garmonsway identified Aelfric’s reference to Matthew 23:27 in which Jesus excoriates leaders for being like “whitewashed tombs” which are beautiful on the outside, but unclean on the inside (Ibid., 43, n. 257–8). O’Brien O’Keeffe (134–6). 12  Aelfric/Garmonsway (5), Aelfric Bata/Porter (1–3), James (xxvii), Hill (7–29). 13  Porter (3, 36–7), Brooks (266). 14  Jones (242–3, 248–51). 15  Osbern (135–6), Eadmer (169).



tion. What is in question is how to understand his portrayal of monastic life as raucous and bawdy in dialogues intended to teach young monks entering the pious and quiet world of Rule of Benedict and the Regularis Concordia.16 On the surface, Bata’s colloquies would seem to work at cross purposes to the goal of having the boys consistently and with integrity observe the discipline of the monastery. I contend, however, that Bata’s colloquies vividly represented oblates who were simply boys living in a monastery and whose two identities remained disconnected. Like Aelfric’s Colloquy, Bata’s conversations worked on two levels and taught the acquisition of Latin and of monastic identity. And, like Aelfric, Bata employed scenes from ordinary life: getting dressed, washing, eating, going to school, playing, and interacting with teachers and visitors. In almost every conversation, however, Bata provided some sort of heightened drama. For example, in Colloquy 9, an adult monk asked an oblate to accompany him to the toilet. Aghast, the oblate explained that he could not without his master’s permission. The master immediately gave the permission and further instructed the oblate to help the older monk undress and go to bed (Bata 99–101). In a pedagogical culture that depended on memory, the kind of shock that may have accompanied the repetition of that conversation was useful. The author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium, widely available in the Middle Ages, noted: When we see in everyday life things that are petty, ordinary, and banal, we generally fail to remember them, because the mind is not being stirred by anything novel or marvelous. But if we see or hear something exceptionally base, dishonorable, extraordinary, great, unbelievable, or laughable, that we are likely to remember a long time. Accordingly … incidents of our childhood we often remember best.17

Buffoonery, violence, and titillation were helpful as mnemonics, and Bata employed all of them.18 Late night trips to the lavatory, taking baths (23), wanton drinking (8, 9, 14), getting beaten (6, 24, 25, 26, 28), traveling with an older monk (21), and similar incidents reversed the kind of expectations found in Benedictine texts in the service of teaching Latin. The very nature of teaching a spoken language, however, mitigated against  O’Brien O’Keeffe, Porter, Jones.  Cicero (221). Caplan translation. 18  Carruthers (171), O’Brien O’Keeffe (116–17). 16 17



the restraint in speech called for by the Rule. Indeed, Bata chose language in the colloquies based on structure, rather than meaning, which surely contributed to some of the fantastic feeling of the conversations (Porter 34). In addition, given medieval sensibilities about content appropriate for young boys, even in the context of a monastery, Bata’s conversations should not surprise. Medieval feelings about childhood innocence differed from those of the twenty-first-century West. As a regular part of their education, boys in the Middle Ages read texts that were considered inappropriate for contemporary adults—and that moderns would consider inappropriate for boys.19 For example, classical texts, such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which included incidents of rape, prostitution, and transvestitism, were routinely used to teach Latin grammar. Scholars studying manuscript glosses on these texts argue that the focus of the pedagogy was on clarifying grammar and teaching vocabulary, not on judging the behavior depicted.20 Colloquies likewise emphasize and clarify spoken vocabulary, syntax, and grammar. In addition to using the Latin classics for language instruction, it is possible that Bata was also acknowledging the boys’ changing sexuality. Oblates were approaching puberty, if they had not already entered it, and the bawdy elements of Bata’s conversations may have allowed the boys to recognize their own sexuality, and begin to exercise control over it. Control was an important aspect of medieval masculinity. Whereas laymen could exercise sexual control over women and physical control over other men, monks exercised self-control.21 The bawdiness of Bata’s colloquies may have served as a bridge that enabled the boys to cross from childhood to adulthood by acknowledging and containing their sexuality within the realm of speech. Regardless, Bata also gave clues in his conversations that he was aware of Aelfric’s charge to young monks, to “be who they were.” Indeed, in Colloquy 14, at the end of the long list, the student mischievously asked his teacher for a slingshot so he could shoot birds in the field. The teacher retorted, “What are you—a fowler? I thought you were a monk or a cleric!” The student replied, “If you say so, I am.” (Sic sum.) (Bata 110–17). The student’s reply seems stark in the midst of the playfulness. No matter if his tone was sardonic and his identity dependent upon his teacher’s naming it, there was no denying reality. He was a monk. Sic sum.  Karras (200), Woods (66).  Woods (65), Hexter (413–42), Porter (41). 21  Woods (60–1, 65, 69), Karras (44–50). 19 20



Like Aelfric, Bata recognized that identity. Bata, however, also explicitly acknowledged the dual identity of his students by incorporating the characteristics of their young age in his conversations. Certainly the boys had been made monks, and needed to embrace their monastic identity. At the same time, however, they remained young boys. Bata’s impious introduction to the Colloquies reflected his understanding of the situation. Bata said nothing about writing for the glory of God or at the behest of a godly person or in the service of his monastery. He simply identified himself as a “very short monk,” (monachus brevissimus) who wrote the dialogues so that students might have an introduction to speaking Latin (Bata 80–1). Bata knew who he was—a very short monk. And he knew who they were—wriggly, loud, talkative boys whom someone else had declared to be monks. He acknowledged the congruence of their identities as boys who both were and were becoming monks. Whereas Aelfric may have envisioned an ideal classroom filled with ideal boys in his Colloquy, Bata depicted a real classroom full of loquacious boys, seated on their planks in the cloister walk, ready to burst out of the bounds set for them (O’Brien O’Keeffe 97, 111). By acknowledging youthful behavior, the colloquies contained that behavior and provided a bridge to a new identity characterized by different behavior and speech. In the colloquies Bata began to demonstrate the speech required in the broader monastic context. As a Benedictine monk and teacher, Bata knew the Rule and the Regularis Concordia, and the presence of both is unmistakable beneath the surface of the Colloquies (Porter 2–3). Through the dialogues’ drama, the boys were taught about the life and language of the monastery. Embracing appropriate speech was part of attaining maturity as a monk. The Rule of Benedict devoted an entire chapter to “restraint in speaking,” and three of the twelve steps toward attaining the all-important virtue of humility were devoted to speech (6). Step nine simply called for restraint in speech. Essentially the monk was not to speak unless spoken to. Laughter was limited in step ten, and step eleven required gentle, humble speech characterized by few words (ROB 7).22 Bata implicitly acknowledged these parameters in his final colloquy, and as will be seen, called his students to the next level of speech. They were to stop singing vulgar, childish songs and to quit being distracted (Desistamus quantotius cunctas nenias et  The Rule addressed the need for circumspect speech throughout; cf. Chaps. 6, 19, and





inlecebras).23 He allowed childish chatter in the classroom, but eventually it needed to be put aside. Along the way, however, he kept in mind that his students were boys who were learning Latin. For example, Colloquy 14 began with the teacher asking the student what he was doing (quid facis). In reply, the student chattered about doing good and doing nothing wrong and desiring to do good and not to do evil, and in point of fact, neither had his companions or anyone else done evil and not good, and good must, indeed, be done by everyone always. By the time he came up for air nine lines later, he had used some form of the verb facere (to do or to make) 23 times. The teacher told him he talked too much (verbosus es et multiloquax)—and that in spite of all his verbosity, he never did anything good (Bata 112–13). Here, although he touched very briefly on the immorality of laziness, the teacher launched into a speech that introduced more vocabulary verbs: sing, read, write, learn, teach, eat, drink. The colloquy continued with several more speeches that introduced sentences using the verbs and corresponding nouns. For example, the student requested a jug so he could get a drink, presumably the first of many, in the refectory. The dialogue was lively and fast-paced, full of sarcasm and teasing between master and students. Indeed, close to the end of the conversation, the teacher told a student, “You really know how to make excuses for yourself!” To which the student shot back, “I wish I knew as well as you!” As in all the ­dialogues, Colloquy 14 gives every indication that Bata’s classroom was a place where boys were engaged and learning Latin (Porter 56). In the same colloquy, however, Bata introduced the idea that the blabbering that characterized little boys was foolish and antithetical to their monastic identity. He made the same caution in four other colloquies, including Colloquy 25, Bata’s longest.24 Colloquy 25 began with the teacher asking a student what he had been up to. The conversation rapidly moved into a series of accusations seemingly designed to teach the vocabulary of vice (evil, slothful, lazy, bad, devil). The accusations then descended into an exchange of insults involving the body parts and excrement of every animal imaginable—the entirety of which even at this distance in time is laughable and the opposite of anything resembling  Bata (196–7). Translation modified.  Bata. Colloquies (3, 4, 14, 24, 25).

23 24



“restraint” in speech. In the midst of the insults, however, Bata had the student retort, “Now your words reveal the truth, that you are a buffoon and a fool and a silly blabbermouth.” (Modo verba tua verum manifestant, quod unus mimus et unus sottus es et insipiens et fatuus.)25 The connection between blabbering and foolishness becomes clear in the next section of the colloquy—a string of over 100 biblical proverbs (O’Brien O’Keeffe 126). The juxtaposition of proverbial wisdom and scatological insults highlighted the contrasting speech patterns, and made clear that foolishness and blabbering went hand-in-hand no matter if the speaker was an adult or a child. The students, however, had had enough, and, in a request that echoed the one made by the students in Aelfric’s Colloquy, they asked the teacher to stop and speak more simply. “Following your old custom you speak such a profound Latin that we almost cannot understand it. For the sake of Christ, stop awhile and tell us something different, speaking with us more simply” (Bata 154–5). The teacher complied, and directed the conversation toward a discussion of the monastic orchard. The conversation even then, however, quickly turned to matters of speech when the teacher tried to catch the students lying about having permission to play in the orchard. They denied lying and, the teacher, perhaps wishfully thinking, replied that if they were “good and true Christians, not false ones, then [the teacher’s] life would be blessed.” The students replied, “God knows what we are and what we will become in the future.” (Deus scit, quid sumus et quales in futuro esse debemus.) (Bata 156). In this conclusion, both teacher and students spoke plainly and had the simple insight that a “good Christian,” and, by easy extrapolation, a good monk, was the same inside and outside. The teacher applied that insight to singular behaviors, like lying and telling the truth. The boys, however, took it a step further— a step in the direction of integrating their two identities. In a phrase reminiscent of Aelfric’s esto quod es, the boys replied that God knew both their current identity and their future identity. It was a fitting reply for oblates who knew they were boys and who were beginning to recognize that they needed to become what they also were: monks.

25  Bata (138). Literally “foolish.” Given the context of the string of synonyms for “foolish”, Porter appropriately translates “blabbermouth.”



In Bata’s final colloquy, which was the master’s final instruction to the boys, Bata connected these two identities to their speech: As you’ve learned in this speech, my boys, and as you read in many places, joking is often mixed and joined with wise words and sayings. For that reason I’ve written and arranged these speeches in my own way for you young men, knowing that boys speaking to one another in their way more often say words that are playful than honorable or wise, because their age always draws them to foolish speech, frequent joking, and naughty chattering. And if they’re allowed, they’d rather play and joke foolishly with their pals and peers, and in this they take great pleasure.26

Throughout the colloquies, Bata had alluded to the broader language of monasticism and interspersed exemplary monastic speech with the bawdy irreverence and childish chatter. Bata’s antidote to childish chatter was to call the oblates to the speech required of them by their guiding texts, the Rule of Benedict and the Regularis Concordia. For example, the drama in Colloquy 3 revolved around a student who wanted to borrow a book, and included several implicit references to both the Rule and the Regularis Concordia.27 Lend me your book—bless you! (Bene sit tibi)—so I can read in it and memorize what I learned yesterday, because today I couldn’t find my book anywhere. I don’t dare look for it right now on account of our master who is so very stern with us. If he sees any one of us leaving, he immediately wants to beat him well. Why are you asking me this? I certainly won’t lend you my book, nor do I care whether you have yours or not. Why did you want to go and lose your book like that? All day you dash here and there wandering about, doing no good. You don’t want to read with us, nor are you willing to learn. You aren’t willing to sing or write on your tablet or on a vellum scrap or on a parchment or in a quire. You won’t stay indoors here with your classmates, but where stupidity and foolishness are, that’s where you rush off to.

 Bata (170–1). Porter’s translation.  Bata (82–5). Translation modified. The dialogues dealing with the boys’ schooling include numbers 3–6, 14–17, 24–25, 29. 26 27



The masters’ beating of the boys and the warning against wandering recall the Rule of Benedict.28 Sitting on a bench to do lessons, the reporting of faults to a master, and the loss of a book each call to mind lines in the Regularis Concordia (17–18, 56). But Bata also drew an implicit comparison between the prattle taking place in the school and kind of speech called for in the Regularis Concordia and the Rule of Benedict. At the beginning of the same conversation, Bata put words of blessing, Bene sit tibi, in the mouth of the student presented as the problem. The blessing recalls the stipulation in the Regularis Concordia that every (omnia) activity in the monastery must be begun with a blessing (11). Indeed, according to the Regularis Concordia, a monk’s first action of the day was to make the sign of the cross and recite, “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”29 Before even attending to the “needs of nature,” a monk drew to mind the importance of exemplary speech in his monastic life (Regularis 11). Bata did the same in his colloquies. Seven of the conversations incorporated words of blessing, including one in which the boys came to their master and asked if they could go outside and play. Like the rest of their lives, time for play was determined by their masters and according to the schedule of the monastery. In this conversation, the boys told the master that there was still time before vespers, and they had already learned their parts in the liturgy.30 The master gave them permission because it was a feast day (Bata 94–5). They got their sticks and balls and hoops, and ran off yelling, “This is the good life!” Bata depicted the oblates as they were: little boys burst out of confined spaces into the freedom of the outdoors and play. Even here, however, when the boys agreed to share a ball and hoop, Bata placed a blessing on the lips of one: Bless you always! (Bene sit tibi semper.) (Bata 94–5) He was learning to talk, shouting the monastic words of blessing on his way to play—both a boy and a monk. The oblate had begun to cross the bridge and unite his two identities. He had not lost the desire to play, but he had incorporated monastic speech into his play.

 ROB (30), Bata (83).  Regularis (11, cf. Psalm 51:15). 30  Bata (94–5). The other blessing colloquies are 6, 7, 8, 10, 14, 24, 25. 28 29



Both Aelfric and Bata wrote colloquies that aimed to teach young oblates Latin and in the process to help them integrate into the life of the monastery. Both clearly succeeded in teaching Latin. Bata’s facility with the language was ample testimony to his teacher, Aelfric, and his Colloquy, and, although they disliked Bata, both Osbern and Eadmer used Latin with ease, most likely thanks to Bata’s conversations. Aelfric’s Colloquy was prescriptive. Through the conversations he told the children that they should be monks simply because they were. Esto quod es. He instructed them that their speech and their behavior should reflect that identity. No more tomfoolery. Aelfric’s teaching might perhaps be characterized as the medieval equivalent of “just do it.” Bata also told the children that they should be monks. Rather than asking them to stop being children, however, he grounded his instruction in the, albeit exaggerated, lives of children. Bata bookended his text with conversations that called the boys to speech reflective of their monastic identity. Almost at the outset of the colloquies, in Colloquy 3, rather than asking the oblates to stop playing, he incorporated the monastic speech of blessing into that play. And in the teacher’s final speech, he acknowledged that he had snuck wise sayings amidst the joking because young boys were drawn to play and pleasure. Aelfric’s call, esto quod es, can be heard amidst Bata’s buffoonery and exaggeration, and the combination of both teachings was all the better for the oblates to learn and remember Latin, and to begin to speak the language that reflected who they were: monks.

Bibliography Aelfric. 1947. Aelfric’s Colloquy. 2nd ed. Edited by G.  N. Garmonsway. London: Methuen. Aelfric Bata. 1997. Anglo-Saxon Conversations: The Colloquies of Aelfric Bata. Edited and translated by Scott Gwara and David W.  Porter. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press. Anderson, Earl R. 1974. “Social Idealism in Aelfric’s Colloquy.” Anglo-Saxon England 3: 153–162. Alexandre-Bidon, Danièle, and Didier Lett. 1999. Children in the Middle Ages: Fifth–Fifteenth Centuries. With a preface by Pierre Riché. Translated by Jody Gladding. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Barlow, Frank. 1979. The English Church, 1000–1066: A History of the Later Anglo-­ Saxon Church. 2nd ed. London: Longman.



Barrau, Julie. 2011. “Did Medieval Monks Actually Speak Latin?” In Understanding Monastic Practices of Oral Communication, 293–317. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. Boswell, John. 1988. The Kindness of Strangers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Boynton, Susan. 1998. “The Liturgical Role of Children in Monastic Customaries from the Central Middle Ages.” Studia Liturgica 28 (2): 194–209. ———. 2000. “Training for the Liturgy as a Form of Monastic Education.” In Medieval Monastic Education, ed. George Ferzoco and Carolyn Muessig, 7–20. London and New York: Leicester University Press. ———. 2008. “Boy Singers in Medieval Monasteries and Cathedrals.” In Young Choristers, 650–1700, ed. Susan Boynton and Eric Rice, 37–48. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. Brooks, Nicholas. 1984. The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066. Leicester: Leicester University Press. Carruthers, Mary. 2008. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cicero. 1954. Rhetorica Ad Herennium. The Loeb Classical Library. [Latin Authors 403]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Cochelin, Isabelle. 2000. “Besides the Book: Using the Body to Mould the Mind—Cluny in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries.” In Medieval Monastic Education, ed. George Ferzoco and Carolyn Muessig, 21–34. London and New York: Leicester University Press. De Jong, Mayke. 1996. In Samuel’s Image: Child Oblation in the Early Medieval West, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, vol. 12. Leiden and New  York: E.J. Brill. Eadmer. 2006. “Miracles of St. Dunstan.” In Lives and Miracles of Saints Oda, Dunstan, and Oswald. Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press. Gwara, Scott. 1996. “Introduction.” In Latin Colloquies from Pre-Conquest Britain, ed. Scott Gwara, 1–26. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Hart, Cyril. 2003. Learning and Culture in Late Anglo-Saxon England and the Influence of Ramsey Abbey on the Major English Monastic Schools. Lewiston, NY: Mellen Press. Hexter, Ralph. 2002. “Ovid in the Middle Ages: Exile, Mythographer, Lover.” In Brill’s Companion to Ovid, 413–442. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Hill, Joyce. 2003. “Learning Latin in Anglo-Saxon England.” In Learning and Literacy in Medieval England and Abroad, 7–29. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. Hurt, James. 1983. Aelfric. New York: Macmillan.



James, M.R. 1903. The Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and Dover. The Catalogues of the Libraries of Christ Church Priory and St. Augustine’s Abbey at Canterbury and of St. Martin’s Priory at Dover. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jones, Christopher A. 2006. “The Irregular Life in Ælfric Bata’s Colloquies.” Leeds Studies in English, New Series 37: 241–260. Karras, Ruth Mazo. 2012. Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing unto Others. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. O’Brien O’Keeffe, Katherine. 2012. Stealing Obedience: Narratives of Agency and Identity in Later Anglo-Saxon England. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Osbern. 1874. “Liber Miraculorum Beatissimi Patris Nostri Dunstani Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis et Confessoris.” In Memorials of St. Dunstan, Rolls Series 63, ed. William Stubbs. London: Longman. Porter, David W. 1997. “Introduction.” In Anglo-Saxon Conversations: The Colloquies of Aelfric Bata, ed. and trans. Scott Gwara and David W. Porter. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press. Quinn, Patricia A. 1989. Better than the Sons of Kings: Boys and Monks in the Early Middle Ages. New York: P. Lang. Regularis Concordia, or The Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation. 1953. Translated and with an Introduction by Dom Thomas Symons. New York: Oxford University Press. The Rule of Benedict. 1997. Edited and translated by Luke Dysinger. Santa Ana, CA: Source Books. Tinti, Francesca. 2010. Sustaining Belief. Farnham: Ashgate. Woods, Marjorie Curry. 1996. “Rape and the Pedagogical Rhetoric of Sexual Violence.” In Criticism and Dissent in the Middle Ages, ed. Rita Copeland, 56–86. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.


Children Bewitched–Children Possessed: Three Early Modern Examples Gerhild Scholz Williams

During the early modern period, sensationalist news about witches and werewolves appear in chapbooks, demonologies, and pamphlets all across Europe. These stories reveal not only misogynistic fears, but frequently also the challenges of poverty, homelessness, and rejection by communities suspicious of the outsider, here understood as the witch, shape shifter, or the possessed.1 While most of these stories report on adults’ contact with the devil, some also tell of children falling prey to Satan’s guiles. In this essay I will explore examples of children claiming to have been led to the witches’ sabbath by adults (usually their mothers or aunts), to be presented to Satan. We will also meet a girl possessed, and a boy who, according to court records, changed into a werewolf, terrifying his 1  The literature on witchcraft and witches is immense. First forays into the field can be made via Levack. For more information on children and witchcraft, see Behringer and Opitz-Belakhal. The bibliographies in the sources provided in the footnotes are similarly useful. I am using the German translation of Bodin’s text by Fischart (1591) parenthetical page references refer to this text.

G. S. Williams (*) Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




c­ ommunity and neighbors. The texts under discussion here argue that the Devil relentlessly pursues the young in his efforts to seduce and destroy them. Perhaps less intentionally these texts also demonstrate that he thrives on despair, sadness, poverty, and abuse. These childhoods are not ours, we do not look at children as potential victims of evil forces, except for the real threat visited upon them by adults. But since Satan exercised his powers over all humanity, the child as victim is present in the demonologies and trial records of the day.2

I. Jean Bodin begins his demonology De la démonomanie des sorciers (1580) in medias res with the trial of Johanna Harwilerin in April of 1578, whose prosecution he witnessed. He notes in the margins that this experience inspired him to write his tract.3 Johanna had been accused of killing cattle (“vieler Leute Vieh”). According to the report she at first resisted (“sehr Halßstariglich”), but under torture (“peinliche frag”) admitted that, at age twelve, her mother had presented her to the Devil as his own.4 This act fulfilled a promise allegedly made by her mother to the Devil at her daughter’s birth. In exchange for the child, the Devil promised to support the mother and bring her good fortune (“zu ihren geschäfften”). Johanna confessed that from age twelve to the date of the trial, at which time she was fifty years old, she had had dalliances with the Devil (“an einander getriben habe”). When the Devil visited her, he came dressed in fine clothes and on a horse, never visible to anyone but her.5 The lives of mother and daughter were in many ways typical for persons accused of witchcraft, with the daughter learning the craft from her mother. The accusations against them also followed a pattern: here for example the mother admitted to the murder of a man who had hit her daughter. The weapon used to commit the crime, again typically, was a special powder prepared by the Devil (2). As Lyndal Roper reports, a magical powder believed to be made from the remains of unbaptized  For literature on child witches, see Roper (154–5).  “Anlaß zu der Schreibung folgenden Buches” in Bodin (1). 4  “In Gestalt eines Schwarzen Mannes … in schwartzer Kleidung… presentiert ynnd für eigen hingegeben vnnd überliffert habe” (2). 5  “Also nemlich gestiffelt und gespornt/ und mit der Wehr/ an der Seiten/ und mit eim Pferd/ so er an der Haußthüren angebunden gelassen/ welches nimandt dann sie hab sehen können” (2). 2 3



c­ hildren was also thought to be employed by children to bewitch their parents and other adults.6 Such preparations were often said to be concocted at the Sabbath celebration and distributed to the newly inducted for their first evil deeds.7 About thirty years after the execution of Johanna, in 1609, King Henry IV of France appointed the counselor Pierre de Rostéguy, Sieur de Lancre, along with Jean d’Espagnet, President of the Bordeaux Parlement, to a commission. This commission was charged with investigating alleged witch activities among the Basques in the Labourd region, situated in the extreme southwest corner of France, bordering Spain and Navarre. In 1612, de Lancre published the first of three demonologies reflecting on this experience and exploring in great detail the history and nature of witchcraft, the witch, and his role in their prosecution.8 The witch-to-be was most often pledged to Satan as a child by the mother, nurse, or other relative, to participate fully in the Sabbath by the age of twelve or thereabouts (although sometimes not until twenty or twenty-two). In a recent essay and presentation on child witches in Navarre, Lu Ann Homza confirms this child witch phenomenon for Navarre.9 She states further, that court records between 1611–12 offer lengthy depositions by child-­ witches, by which she means boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 13. Moreover, Homza observes that “Children were almost always involved in early modern witchcraft in Navarre” (3).  See Roper (211).  See the chapter on “Godless Children” in Ibid., 204–22. 8  Gerhild Scholz Williams. De Lancre was born in Bordeaux around 1553. First educated by Jesuit teachers in Toulouse and Turin, he then studied at the Jesuit Collège de Clermont at Paris. After he received his doctorate in law in 1579, he set out on a career as a lawyer in Bordeaux. Around 1582 he joined the Bordeaux Parlement as a magistrate. In 1607, he published his first witch tract, which went through a second edition in 1610: Tableau de l’inconstance de toutes choses, où il est monstré qu’en Dieu seul gist la vraye Constance, à laquelle homme sage doit viser. Shortly after his return to Bordeaux on December 5, 1609, de Lancre began work on the present text, an extraordinary report of his four-months stay hunting and prosecuting witches in the Labourd region. The demonology was published under the title Tableau de l’inconstance des mauvais anges et demons, où il est amplement traicté des sorcier et de la sorcelerie in 1612. A second edition followed the next year. After his return to his post in Bordeaux, de Lancre served as a counselor in Paris from 1612 to 1622. That year he published a third witch tract, a résumé and extension of his previous two. He died in 1631. 9  “Child witches, boys and girls between the ages of 5–15,” and further “Children were almost always involved in early modern witchcraft in Navarre (ms 3).” I am grateful to Professor Homza (William & Mary) for allowing me to read and quote from this essay. 6 7



For de Lancre, the first step in the initiation for adult women and girls, was satanic copulation and/or the anal kiss. The task of leading very young children to Satan in Navarre as well as in the Labourd, was a crime allegedly committed primarily by older women.10 De Lancre’s witch was often young, in her teens or early twenties; many are still children. During de Lancre’s stay in the Labourd, the number of children who accused their elders of taking them to the Sabbath grew steadily on both sides of the border. At the height of the craze there was hardly a village in the region where panic-stricken parents were not moved to demand the execution of suspected witches, all alleged to have taken children to Satan, “usually after the children had fallen asleep in their own beds,” as Homza notes for Navarre (6). Especially distressing and alarming to de Lancre was the fact that there seemed to be no haven for the innocent, not even the church, and no one was secure from Satan’s wiles: parents even feared that witches would tear sleeping children from their arms. Accordingly they tried to save the children by tying them to their beds, or they endeavored to keep them awake, fearful that, once asleep, they would be unable to resist satanic abduction. In desperation they brought them to church, but de Lancre concluded that the priests to whose spiritual care the people were entrusted were also witches, who led satanic celebrations as readily as Sunday mass (39). Having presided over a number of witch investigations in the Labourd, Pierre de Lancre, using the information he gleaned from the inquests, describes how children were presented to Satan (Bk. 3). Adoring Satan, the female witches offered their young children to him. The witches prostrated themselves on the ground, saying submissively: “Great Lord whom I adore, I bring you this new servant, who wants to be your slave for eternity.” The children were usually about six years old. The Devil, as a sign of gratitude and satisfaction, invited the women to approach him. They obeyed, moving forward on their knees, offering him the child. He received the child in his arms, then returned the child to the witch, thanking her. He counseled the women to take good care of the children, for their continued service would increase the number of his followers, clearly mocking Christ’s call to His Children.

10  “One woman clubbed another in the head with a rock for carrying off her child to worship the devil” (Homza 3).



At this induction, the children were often given a toad dressed in green or gray. Until the age of nine, the children were to guard the toads while their parents amused themselves at the Sabbath. Sometimes the toads were whipped, causing them to swell. The swollen toads were then pressed with the foot to secrete a green liquid used as an ingredient in magical salves.11 Aside from toads, cats, black dogs, and owls also show up in Sabbath illustrations as familiars with those accused of having entered into a pact with Satan.12 If the children gave themselves to the Devil independently (without the intervention of an adult witch), they bowed down before Satan, who, throwing fire in their eyes, asked them: “What are you asking for? Do you want to belong to me?” When they responded that they did want to be his, he asked: “Do you come of your own free will?” They answered affirmatively [391], to which he replied, “Then do as I instruct you, and do what I do.” The Queen of the Sabbath, who seems to be Satan’s companion, but is not further described in her relationship with him, instructed the novice being presented to say out loud: “First I renounce God, then Jesus Christ, His son, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin, the saints, the holy cross, holy oil, the baptism, and the faith that I maintain, and I completely place myself in your power and in your hand.” At that point, the child also receives a toad dressed in a hood or coat. The children kneel before the Devil, who marks them near their left eye and on their chest, buttocks, thigh, and “shameful” parts. He also lets go with some filthy and disgusting things, which fall directly from his body into their mouths.13 The substance is not specified, only described as generally disgusting.14 Then the Devil scratched them with his left hand, quickly taking a pin of fake gold and marking them with an image that resembles a small toad, most often in the white of their left eye. Sometimes he put something like a brand on their shoulder and left side, or on their thighs, tearing their flesh until they bled profusely.15 Often the girls reported experiencing con11  Bandini and Bandini (122–5). Toads secrete a liquid that can affect the person ingesting it like a drug. Along with cats, they are common familiars of the witch. 12  Hults. 13  See Roper for the anal and sexual exploits with the devil (204–8). 14  Homza (7) quotes an eight year old girl’s trial documents that “the Goat (Satan) makes him adore him in his filthy parts.” 15  The witches’ mark (Barstow 130).



siderable pain for months thereafter, soothed only by a certain herb provided by the dark lord. Thereafter, the flesh of the wound remained unresponsive to any instrument. It was for this reason, that witch finders employed needles to test suspects, whose insensitivity to the needle’s prick represented proof of a pact with the devil. It was said that the Devil did not make pacts with the children promised to him until they reached puberty [179]. De Lancre mentions that Johanna Harwilerin was promised at birth but did not enter into the pact until age twelve. He agrees that twelve would be the age of copulation, but for the renunciation of the Savior, the adoration, and the simple pact, he reports that he saw a hundred depositions from children committed to Satan between six and twelve (and older), most likely associated with the age of confirmation/first communion. Also, girls were generally thought to have reached sexual maturation at twelve, thus they were of marriageable age. Moreover, at age twelve girls were able to exercise their free will, and thus could give themselves to Satan without compulsion from others. They made a pact with him, renounced God, and received the seal and the mark that was insensitive to touch. Interestingly, of all the children who went to the Sabbath, most never fell ill, which suggests that in an age when many children died of illness at an early age, often of unknown origin, the witch’s mark was credited with an inoculating effect. De Lancre references such a mark when talking about the boy Jean Grainier (about whom more below), who allegedly turned into a werewolf. The boy bore a mark with which the Evil Spirit had branded him. It looked like a little circle and was without feeling, like that of the witches. This mark sometimes appears on the forehead [301], on a lip, under the eyelid, or on the “shameful” parts of the body, depending on the Devil’s intentions. De Lancre also tells of a girl who could identify witches at first glance. She told the court that all the witches had a mark in their left eye like that of a toad’s foot [185]. Only a confirmed female witch could see and recognize such signs, invisible to those who have not taken an oath with a toad. He reports of a foreign surgeon living in Bayonne, extraordinarily proficient and knowledgeable on this topic, who had visited several witches and searched for marks. But de Lancre and his court put greater trust in the young girl of seventeen. Having abjured Satan’s calling, she visited young girls and boys like her whom she recognized from the Sabbath. She and the surgeon began the examinations of the girls who, in the Labourd,



seemed unperturbed by letting the mark be seen regardless of where it appeared on their bodies [186]. Once inducted, Satan instructed the children how they should place hexes on people. He also gave them brains of young children, bones from their feet and hands, countless powders, snakes, vipers, salamanders, snails, [392] and an herb named wolf’s foot, instructing them to concoct a potent and dangerous unguent for them to use. According to de Lancre, the mixtures were and rubbed on the arms, spine, and joints, enabling the witches to fly to the Sabbath with their dressed-up toads. De Lancre mentions a girl, one Jeannette d’Abadie, who said that she had seen a woman dance at the Sabbath with four toads, one of them dressed in black velvet with bells on its feet, which she carried on her left shoulder.16 When gathered for the Sabbath meal, the Devil invited the assembled witches to sit down at a table covered with soiled tablecloths, with demons for servers. Their toad familiars were also present, whom they fed with a portion of each of their own dishes. Before retiring for the night, the devil fornicated with the female witches and raped the young girls [397].

II. Just a few years before de Lancre was commissioned to go to the Labourd to rid the countryside of witches, the Devil was said to have possessed a young girl in Lewenberg, Silesia, causing horrible things to happen (“überaus erschrecklich Dinge zugetragen”) (Albertus). The report on this incident was published as a Relatio Historica, with the date of the possession given as starting at Lichtmess (February 2) and ending on Ascension Day of 1605. The Relatio, an early form of pamphlet, tells of Magdalena, who was orphaned at the age of twelve. Her father had drowned and shortly thereafter her mother died of unknown causes. Magdalena was assigned to local guardians, owners of a barley mill (Graupen-Mühl), who were to look after her until her inheritance came due. The Relatio is divided into several 16  The Navarre child witches talk about being trained to skin toads at the Sabbath (Homza 11), and they report about being snatched from their beds by their aunts: “While the (witch) priest danced with the others, Maria Lucca brought out live toads from the water and killed them.”



sections beginning with the detailed report about Magdalena’s possession. A dedication to the mayor of Lewenberg follows, signed by a Tobias Seiler, Pastor and Inspector of the Lewenberg school and church—and by all appearance, the author of this tract. From the start, the guardianship did not work well for Magdalena. When she could not complete her assigned chores, for example, she was beaten bloody with her dress tied over her head. Horribly cursed and tyrannized, she had to spend nights alone locked in a dark hole, leading her to become terrified, shaking with fear, and falling into a depression (“grosse Furcht/ Zittern und Kleinmüthigkeit” [2]). Alone in the house on a Sunday, when everyone else was at church, she was visited by a large black bird who flew into her room and struck her first on the neck and then on the arm, causing her to faint from abject terror (“Furcht und Entsetzen”). This attack was followed by violent vomiting and loud noises like the grinding of millstones. After this initial contact, the Devil began to “play” with her (“die Spil angefangen”), turning her into a ball, immobilizing her, throwing her in the air, turning her backwards like a bow, braiding her arms and legs together like a switch, and keeping her elevated for hours on end where nobody could reach her (3). In despair, she ran head first into a door in an attempt to end her life; she also made noises like a cow, or laughed loudly in a mocking way that could be heard up and down the lane. Then the devil made her stick out her tongue a foot long and turned her head completely around. He also made noises from the inside her body like a cat or dog. All of this caused a sensation in the community, and the curious came from near and far to witness the amazing events (“wunderbar dinge sehen und hören wollen”). To insure the veracity of the event, the document mentions that, in addition to the narrator himself, a clergyman, several god-fearing people had attempted to force the devil to leave her body by praying, singing hymns, and reading passages from Scripture. Because Lewenberg was a Protestant community, the attempted exorcisms were mostly verbal (5).17 Witnessed by many trustworthy bystanders, and held to be true by the people believing in the reality of Satan, he appeared in different sizes, occupying most of the girl’s orifices. He was seen to sit in her ears, on her tongue, in her eyes; he put her to sleep and made her voice hoarse, or stopped her speech altogether. An educated demon speaking to educated  Very much what we remember from “The Exorcist,” the book and the movie.




clergy, he spoke of Judas, Pilatus, Herodes, Faustus, and Scotus, whom he called his close friends and councilors (7). Moreover, in a conversation with the narrator (“mit mir”) Satan showed off the multi-lingualism typically ascribed to the dark lord, speaking every language imaginable including “indianisch.”18 Moreover, Satan threatened the narrator and his family who, as a clergy, had done much to diminish the devil’s empire. True to his Protestant faith, the narrator tells the devil that he should stay with his own people: the “Türcken/ Tattern/ Jüden/ Werckheiligen (Catholics), Schwärmern (Anabaptists), and Calvinisten” (14). Honorable citizens (“ehrbaren Bürger”) watched the Devil appear in Magdalena’s mouth in the form of a mouse or frog, dancing and approaching her lips, only then to jump back into her body. He forced her mouth open and had her scream for more than thirty minutes without moving her lips. And when she tried to reach for him, he bit her in her finger, inflicting small punctures and making her cry out in misery (“welche wunderbare Löchlein (the onlookers) mit viel verwunderung angesehen” [9]). When the spectacle of the girl’s misery became too much, frightening even pregnant women, Magdalena was taken from the mill and placed in front of the altar every day at 12 noon. In addition, the Honorable Town Council readied a house for her in the churchyard where she would always be close to the preachers (“Praedicanten”).When placed in front of the altar, she screamed and writhed so much that two grown men struggled to restrain her. She turned and spit on the crucifix and cursed God, calling Him horrible names and making a terrible scene in front of a sizeable crowd of the curious and terrified. The tract ends with a review of the means that helped to liberate the possessed girl (“besessenen Jungfräulein”): a list of Bible verses, prayers, and sermons. The faithful presented prayers every day at noon before the altar until Ascension Day. As that day approached, the Devil finally started leaving the girl. The violent attacks subsided, she began to speak and repeat some of the prayers and, finally, she was able to pray with great devotion in front of the altar (“letzlich offt laut für dem Altar mit Andacht gebetet hat” [116]). The tract concludes with a prayer for her salvation.

 Mahal (261). Wagner’s familiar Auerhan translates the Indian languages for him.




III. Since Satan is the master of deception, he not only possesses children, but also changes their shape. Sometimes he turns them into animals, specifically werewolves. During de Lancre’s time in the Labourd, he became interested in lycanthropy (“werewolfism”) and researched the subject with much curiosity and in great depth.19 The reason for his interest was a contemporary judgment against a werewolf20 who was said to have run in the country of Guienne [255] in 1603. According to Johannes Dillinger, de Lancre was the only major demonologist who personally met a werewolf and who associated the werewolf’s habit of running in the moon light which “made him more susceptible to delusions.”21 Judgment was pronounced by the high court of the Parlement of Bordeaux. De Lancre assures his readers that his report was taken directly from the trial transcripts. According to the documents, it had been reported that a wolf-like animal had been seen in the village of Paulot in the parish of Esparon. It had attacked a young girl named Marguerite Poirier in broad daylight. In this same village a young boy, thirteen or fourteen years of age, admitted that it was he who, having been transformed into a wolf, had savaged young Marguerite [257]. The boy testified in court on the 29th of May, 1603. One witness was Marguerite Poirier herself, age thirteen. She reportedly had tended livestock with a young boy named Jean Grainier,22 about whom rumors circulated that he could change into a wolf whenever he wanted; that he had attacked and killed dogs; and that he had eaten a bit of flesh from one of them and drunk some of its blood. She had also heard that he had declared that such blood was not as good as that of young boys and girls. Another witness was Jeanne Gaboriaut, age eighteen who said that one day, as she and other girls were tending the flock, Jean Grenier showed up  He reported about the case under discussion here which was decided in 1603 by the Bordeaux Parlement. See de Blécourt (4–7). Many of the essays in Blécourt’s edition refer to de Lancre’s report on Jean Grenier as well as other werewolf reports up to the nineteenth century. 20  This is described in great detail in Book 4. A brief introduction to the topic can be found in Jacques-Lefèvre (181–99). 21  Dillinger (154–5). 22  The name appears in different spelling in the text: Grainier, Grenier, Gernier. 19



looking very dark skinned. He explained that this was because of a red wolf skin that he wore, given to him by a man who wore an iron chain around his neck [258]. Jean told her that when he put on his wolf skin on, he changed into a wolf and in this form had killed not only dogs but also boys and girls. He ran every Monday, Friday, and Saturday when the moon was low, toward evening and toward morning, as Satan, mocking God, likewise singles out certain days for his deeds. Thus, the boy said that he also ran on the eve of Pentecost, Good Friday, and during Holy Week, normally in the moonlight, not unlike witches, who also report special days reserved for their assemblies. Upon hearing this information, the authorities issued a warrant for the boy’s arrest, and he was subsequently taken into custody. At the first court session on June 2, 1603, the boy gave his name as Jean Grainier, son of the worker Pierre Grainier. Three months earlier, Jean had left his father’s house and had not seen him since. He first worked for various masters and then supported himself by begging [259]. Along the way he met another boy named Pierre du Tilhaire who told him that a man in the St. Antoine forest wanted to speak to them. In the forest they found a big man all alone, dressed in black and mounted on a black horse. The man dismounted and kissed them with an extremely cold mouth. He then got back on his horse and shortly thereafter left, but not before making them promise that they would seek him out whenever he asked for them. According to Jean Grainier, this first meeting took place about three years prior to the trial, when he was ten or eleven years old. He testified that the man marked both boys on the buttocks with a pin. In fact, Jean had a round mark in the shape of a little shell on his left buttock. In addition, during the inquest, where he confessed many crimes, Jean showed the nail of his left thumb, which was very thick and very long, since the Devil had forbidden him to cut it as a sign of belief in and obedience to him. When the boys wanted to speak to the man, they went to the forest which they had done three times. At the meetings the Devil made them rub down his horse, promised them money, and gave them a glass of wine. When the boy wanted to run, he wore the wolf skin which the Lord of the Forest had brought for him. He rubbed himself with some kind of grease, also a gift from the Lord. During such a run Jean had once entered a house where he found a baby in a cradle, a boy about a year old [260]. He took this child in his teeth and carried him behind a garden wall, where he ate as much of him as he wanted. Then, on his way to the parish St. Anthoine de Fizon, he



came upon a little girl wearing a black dress who was tending sheep. He killed her too, and partially devoured her. A second investigation of Jean was held on June 3, 1603, to determine if, during the time the accused confessed to having eaten the children, any child had in fact been eaten in the villages he mentioned. The witnesses and the accused completely agreed regarding the time, the appearance of the werewolf, the wounds, the help that the parents or other people gave to the boys and girls who had been hurt, the words they said to each other while screaming at the wolf, and the weapons or sticks they used—everything down to the smallest details [262]. The court finally had to determine if this transformation or transmutation of man into a beast was real. And if it was, what punishment should be administered [264] to Jean Garnier, who seemed to have given himself to the service of the Lord of the Forest, or Satan. At trial it was verified that this young boy had been transformed into a wolf. It was further confirmed that such creatures of Satan can run as fast as wolves typically do. This had been observed years before, in Besançon, in 1521, as described in detail by the physician and author Johan Weyer (6.13). During the inquest, the question arose whether this boy deserved to be punished as a witch and be put to death. The boy was obviously dazed, as was recorded during the trial where he himself spoke. He was a country child, poorly instructed, and utterly ignorant of religion. He knew even less about how to defend himself against Satan’s wiles. He had never been instructed in the use of the most potent weapon of a good Christian, namely the sign of the cross. If, among all the spiritual remedies, this miserable boy had known the Lord’s Prayer, which ends with the supplication not to lead us into temptation but to deliver us from all evil, these words would have provided protection against all demons. All this in addition to his age and the physical condition prevented the judges from ordering him to be tortured and, ultimately, put to death [299]. According to de Lancre, however, this boy was neither so stupid nor so demented as not to have been thoroughly taught and trained in the school of the Evil Spirit. He did not invent the appearance of a big, black man with an extremely cold mouth; this was the language of witches. Nor did he make up the title Lord of the Forest, also used to designate the Evil Spirit. Having examined all these reasons, the court, in the end, took note of the accused’s age and ignorance, after all, he was a child who seemed men-



tally impaired, badly fed, and so small that he as to be only ten years old. He had been driven out and abandoned by his father and his stepmother; he was homeless and forced to beg for his supper. He lacked all instruction in the fear of God, his nature was corrupted not only by evil seduction, but also by the lack of daily necessities and by despair—all conditions that the Evil Spirit exploited. Nor wanting to contribute further to the anguish of the boy, the court preferred, after due consideration of all matters, to save his soul for God. In no small part this lenience was due to a report by the monks to whom he had been entrusted, and according to whom he began to show that he abhorred his crimes, as witnessed by his tears and his repentance. Thus the court decided that this boy only had to be removed from the villages where he had committed his crimes and confined. Accordingly, on September 6, 1603, the court sentenced Jean Grenier to be locked up for the rest of his life in one of the city’s monasteries, which he was forbidden to ever leave under penalty of death [312]. De Lancre confesses that it was a challenge for him to believe that this boy could be a werewolf. For this reason he went to visit him in the Franciscan monastery in 1610,23 where he examined him [315] as carefully as if he were there to conduct a trial based on further questioning. He found a young man of twenty or twenty-one, of medium height and small for his age, with wild-looking eyes, sunken and black. The by now young man did not dare look anyone straight in the eye, and he seemed a bit dazed. He had very long teeth spaced wider than normal, protruding somewhat, rotten, and half black (purportedly from lashing out at animals and people). His fingernails were also quite long, some blackened from base to tip including the thumb of the left hand, which the Devil had prevented him from trimming. The black nails were worn down indicating (so de Lancre) that he was indeed a werewolf, and that he used his hands both for running and for grabbing children and dogs by the throat. The encounter did not solve the contradiction that werewolfism was a demonic delusion, after all, Grenier was completely upfront about his preferences. A contradiction, de Lance was not able to solve. * * *

 St. Francis is known to have tamed a savage wolf.




A review of these reports makes clear, that the fear of and fascination with Satan and his minions is very present in early modern life. Most demonologies do mention the vulnerability of the young to Satan’s wiles. Turning to Satan and away from God and the Church is a community affair involving the young and their elders. The danger brought upon this community by children being pledged to Satan, children shapeshifting, or a child being possessed demands a community response, either by the courts, as we have seen in the de Lancre examples, or by the faith community, as in the Lewenberg possession. No matter how young or what gender the child the danger brought upon the community by the intrusion of evil is addressed forcefully by the courts of law and the faithful leading to execution, confinement, and, in the best case scenario, to the salvation and reentry of the afflicted into this saving community. In addition to experiencing the religious preoccupations of the age, in the case of the Lewerberg possession and Jean Greniers werewolf trial, we gained insight into young lives, into the challenges faced by children in early modern society. And perhaps most importantly, we have witnessed how great learning and abysmal ignorance alike will occasionally save but just as often conspire to hurt and even kill the innocent.

Bibliography Albertus, L.  Val. 1673. “Summarischer Bericht des Historischen verlauffs/ was sich mit dem besessenen Jungfraeulein zu Lewenberg in Schlesien/ von Liechtmess/ biß auff Himelfahrt/ in diesem 1605. Jahr/ für überauserschreckliche Dinge zugetragen.” Relation Historica n.a.: 1–126. Bandini, Ditte, and Giovanni Bandini, ed. 1999/2000. Kleines Lexikon des Hexenwesens. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. 1994. Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts. San Francisco: Pandora. Behringer, Wolfgang, and Claudia Opitz-Belakhal. 2016. Hexenkinder  – Kinderbanden – Straßenkinder. Gütersloh: Verlag für Regionalgeschichte. de Blécourt, Willem, ed. 2015. Werewolf Histories. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Bodin, Jean. 1973 (1591). Vom aussgelasnen wuetigen Teuffelsheer. Translated by Johann Fischart. Graz, Austria: Akademische Drucks- u. Verlagsanstalt. Dillinger, Johannes. 2015. “‘Species,’ ‘Phantasia,’ ‘Raison’: Werewolves and Shapf-­Shifters in Demonological Literature.” In Werewolf Histories, ed. Willem de Blécourt, 142–159. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Fischart, Johann, ed. 1591. Jean Bodin. Vom aussgelasnen wuetigen Teuffelsheer. Strassburg: Jobin.



Homza, Lou Ann. “Child-Witches in Navarre, 1550–1650: Law, Religion, Families,” (unpublished essay) and “Legal Improvisation in Navarre: Witches, Villagers, and the Spanish Inquisition,” (presentation at Washington University in St. Louis). Houdard, Sophie. 1992. Les sciences du diable: quatre discours sur la sorcellerie (XVe–XVIIe siecle). Paris: Editions du Cerf. Hults, Linda C. 2005. The Witch as Muse: Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Jacques-Lefèvre, Nicole. 2002. “Such an Impure, Cruel, and Savage Beast: Images of the Werewolf in Demonological Works.” In Werewolves, Witches, and Wandering Spirits: Traditional Belief and Folklore in Early Modern Europe, ed. Kathryn Edwards, 181–199. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press. Krause, Virginia. 2015. Witchcraft, Demonology and Confession in Early Modern France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Levack, Brian P. 2013. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mahal, Günther, ed. 2010. Das Wagnerbuch von 1593. 2 vols. Tübingen and Basel: Francke. Roper, Lyndal. 2004. Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Wier, Johan. 1575. De praestigiis. Von den Teuffeln/Zaubrern, Schwartzkunstlern, Teuffels beschwerern/Hexen oder Vnholden vnd Gifftbereitern. Franckfurt am Mayn: Getruckt [durch N. Basse]. Williams, Gerhild Scholz, ed. 2005. On the Inconstancy of Witches: Pierre de Lancre’s Tableau de l’inconstance des mauvais anges et demons (1612), Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, vol. 307. Tempe, AR: AMCRS/Brepols.


The Tudor Schoolroom, Antique Fables, and Fairy Toys Catherine Belsey

How much can we tell about the cultural life of early modern children? What stories did they know, where did they learn them, and what did they make of them? When in A Midsummer Night’s Dream Theseus repudiates as “antique fables” and “fairy toys” the lovers’ record of supernatural mischief in the forest (5.1.3), his rejection disavows the play that gives him life. As Hippolyta does not scruple to point out, there is “something of great constancy” (26) to be found in Shakespeare’s blend of classical allusion, English writing, and fireside storytelling. The play draws on Ovid and Aesop, as well as Chaucer, popular romance, and folklore, the stuff of old wives’ tales. A “toy” is a trifle but also a child’s plaything, and much of this material was made available to Tudor children either at school, among the rigors of an unrelenting curriculum, or at home, perhaps beside the winter hearth. It is hard to know what impression such educational and recreational narratives made on the young but, when the familiar materials resurface in what some of them went on to write as adults, we see evidence of the lasting imprint left by their upbringing. Reinvented in new contexts, the rich linguistic and imaginative worlds offered to children by C. Belsey (*) University of Derby, Derby, UK © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




their culture would in due course permit them to reshape that culture in their turn.

The School Curriculum Classical stories were relayed by the education system in what appears a forbidding process. Children of both sexes might begin at petty school, where they learned to read—but not write—from a hornbook, a hand-­ held tablet bearing the alphabet, perhaps the Lord’s Prayer and possibly a psalm. This stage of their schooling was conventionally completed by the age of seven or so and, after that, their ways divided. Seven-year-olds could contribute to the family income by simple work on the farm or in the textile trade and, where the family budget required, they were duly set to work. Girls who were not required to earn money continued any schooling at home, while in exceptional cases tutors would be employed to teach them. Boys, meantime, whose parents could afford to keep them in full-­ time education, went on in all but the most aristocratic (or recusant) instances to the grammar school, where the grammar they were required to master was Latin. The project was discipline, not pleasure, and still less creativity. Classes started at six in the summer, an hour later in winter, and went on until five or six in the evening. Little boys spent their days translating Latin into English and English into Latin, declaiming passages they had learnt by heart overnight, composing in Latin on a given theme, and turning Latin prose into verse or verse into prose. In due course, Greek often followed on the same lines until, at fourteen or fifteen, the boys went on variously to work, to apprenticeships, the inns of court or one of the two universities. Translation had its virtues—and vices. Latin began with memorizing the rules. Shakespeare offers a taste of the method in The Merry Wives of Windsor, where the teacher puts William Page through his paces to prove that his education is doing him good. Young William (can the name possibly be an accident?), who seems to be in his first year at the grammar school, is required to give the Latin for “fair” (adjective) and the English for “lapis” (noun), as well as to answer questions based on the standard grammar book of the period, as reformulated by his Welsh parson-­ schoolmaster. “William, how many numbers is in nouns?” The rote answer is “Two”, although whether William has made any sense of the question is open to doubt. The teacher grinds on, “What is he, William, that does lend articles?” “Articles”, the boy stolidly recites, “are borrowed of the



pronoun, and be thus declined: Singulariter nominativo, hic, haec, hoc” (4.1.18–36). More follows, while Mistress Quickly detects sexual allusions everywhere, to the delight, no doubt, of those in the audience who were brought up on the same grammar book and found similar double meanings whenever the teacher’s back was turned. No wonder As You Like It’s schoolboy, with his satchel, creeps “like snail/unwillingly to school” (2.7.145–7). No wonder, too, that the giant Tediousness is the enemy facing the young hero of Wit and Science, who wants to marry the daughter of Reason. This interlude of the 1530s or 40s, the work of the schoolmaster John Redford, and written, no doubt, for his pupils to perform, allegorizes what it costs to bring the child’s inclination into line with learning. Wit, son of Nature, is soon felled by a blow from the giant. Restored by Honest Recreation but side-tracked by Idleness, Wit succumbs to folly until, after due chastisement, he overcomes Tediousness and marries the lady (Schell and Shuchter, 199–234). Other plays show heavy penalties for outright resistance. The protagonist of The World and the Child (c. 1508–22), opts to play truant. Between the ages of seven and fourteen the lad prefers squabbling and scrumping to beatings at school. This leads to the stocks and Newgate prison before repentance in old age gives him hope of heaven (Schell and Shuchter, 167–98). Worse, however, befalls two further truants in Nice Wanton, a play printed in 1560. Ismael is hanged, while his sister Dalilah dies of the pox. An epilogue cautions parents against negligence and children against disobeying their elders. Thomas Ingelend’s play, The Disobedient Child (printed 1570), also illustrates the unfortunate consequences that befall a boy who refuses to go to school. But there was no such escape for poor Edward VI, whose one-to-one instruction continued well after he became king in 1547 at the age of nine. The child had already begun composing letters in Latin. Now, as monarch, he was subject to extra doses of moral philosophy in both Latin and Greek. The standard 1500-page account of Tudor education includes the speculation that Edward’s early death from consumption at 15 was precipitated by a surfeit of schooling. “[His tutors] Cox and Cheke had consecrated themselves to the task of making a godly king of Edward. And godly they made him—but a king of dust” (Baldwin, 256). The remedy for all forms of recalcitrance was corporal punishment. “If you forget your quies, your quaes and your quods, you must be preeches”, William’s schoolmaster warns him (The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1.69–70). After an early flowering of humanism, which favored e­ ncouragement over



force, it was widely agreed that to spare the rod was to spoil the child. Human frailty was seen as given: only firm discipline could be relied on to establish good habits. When Simon Forman was nearly eight, “because his capacity could not understand the mistery of spelling, he prayed his master he mighte goe to scolle noe more, because he should never learne yt.” His master beat him soundly and, after thinking it over for four days, Simon learned it (Baldwin, 205).

Aesop Despite this unlikely context for stories that would stretch the boys’ imagination, when it came to reading Latin some concessions were made to the age of the pupils. In the second or third form, at the age of eight or nine, they could expect to read Aesop’s fables. The school text was chosen for its relative simplicity, its moral value, and the classical purity of the Latin: entertainment was not uppermost in the design of the syllabus. Even so, there was much to charm the young in the short, pithy tales of mischievous and irrepressible talking animals. There was also plenty to integrate children into their own culture, where some individual fables already had a strong hold. In one recurring example, Aesop tells the tale of a countryman who came across a snake half dead with cold and, moved by pity, picked it up and tucked it inside his coat to preserve its life. Revived by the warmth from his chest, the snake stung him to death. By the time the children encountered it in Latin, the idea of nourishing a viper in one’s bosom was already proverbial in English (Tilley, V68). On the other hand, the dramatists invoke the fable with a particular precision that suggests how far they internalized the story they must have construed and parsed in Latin at school. When Marlowe’s Aeneas remains immune to Dido’s pleas to stay with her in Carthage, she reminds him of how she welcomed and enriched the needy Trojans:      O serpent that came creeping from the shore      And I for pity harbour’d in my bosom,      Wilt thou now slay me with thy venomed sting?       (Dido, Queen of Carthage, 5.1.165–8)

The same stinging snake recurs in Shakespeare’s Richard II (3.2.132; 5.3.55–6). In these cases, the allusion draws a parallel between betrayal and the fable but, as time went on, Shakespeare in particular would weave the story



more closely into the construction of new meanings, actively characterizing ingratitude. Possessed and put to work in different contexts, the tale became less visible as an extra, no longer a borrowing from outside, but integral to the meaning of the new work. In King Lear, for instance, the serpent has cast its allusive skin but slides its way even so among the metaphors that define filial ingratitude. Goneril, Lear complains, has “struck me with her tongue/Most serpent-like, upon the very heart” (2.2.352–3). No wonder, then, that his curse on her has enjoined a punishment in kind, “that she may feel/How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a thankless child” (1.4.279–81). In Hamlet it is given out that the dead king was stung to death by a serpent as he slept in his orchard. This official version of events owes nothing to the extant sources of the play but it allows the Ghost to emphasize in his appeal for revenge the treachery of his murder by the younger brother he sheltered in his castle: “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life/Now wears his crown” (1.5.39–40). Although he invokes the fables repeatedly, Shakespeare mentions Aesop by name only once, when Prince Edward of York insults his enemy, the future Richard III: “Let Aesop fable in a winter’s night; / His currish riddles sorts not with this place” (3 Henry VI, 5.5.25). The young prince, now old enough to bear arms, repudiates the author who belongs to childhood. Elementary Aesop’s tales may have been but, according to William Baldwin, Edward VI’s players evidently thought the young king was not too grown-up for them: in the early 1550s, they rehearsed a Christmas interlude based on Aesop, where most of the characters were birds (Bennett, 11). The Defence of Poesy invoked Aesop as evidence that the poet is the people’s philosopher (Sidney, 223), while in 1575 the Earl of Leicester evidently found the fable of Arion and the dolphin fit material for a pageant that would entertain the Queen at Kenilworth (Langham, 57–8). The story of the bat, the lion, and the eagle was too engaging to omit from The Art of English Poesy, especially when the bat went by its dialect name of “rattlemouse” (Puttenham, 219). Sophisticated transformations of the genre were designed for adult reading. Spenser links the fable tradition with the unassuming pastoral, where a low style embraces high matter, mimicking Aesop’s content, but not his manner, with “The Oak and the Briar” in the February eclogue of The Shepheardes Kalendar, as well as “The Fox and the Kid” in May. He moves closer to pure social satire in Mother Hubberds Tale of those confidence tricksters, the fox and the ape.



At the other end of the literary scale, Richard Lovelace appropriates Aesop for courtly lyric verse in “The Grasshopper.” But perhaps the most elaborate instance of the genre reinvented is Ben Jonson’s Volpone. There Celia and Bonario are lambs at the mercy of the hands of the fox and the fly, as well as the crow and the raven. While this comedy draws on the widely current tale of the fox who plays dead to catch birds, it alludes to several of Aesop’s fables, including “The Ass in the Lion-skin” (1.2.112–14), “The Fox and the Cheese” (1.2.95–7; 5.8.13–14), and “The Ant and the Fly” (5.9.1–2) (Jonson, 13–15). Moreover, it shares with Aesop a certain earthy pragmatism. While virtue wins the day, this owes nothing in either case to divine providence or human justice. The fox, victim of its own ingenuity, falls prey to a passing dog while, in the contest with Mosca, it is Volpone’s arrogance that betrays him. Heaven does not intervene and the law shows itself to be something of an ass.

Fiction What might a bright child stand to derive from a close acquaintance with Aesop’s fables? In the first place, a proverbial repertoire of animal-types with human characteristics: the foolish ass, the wily fox, the silly goose, the fearless lion. Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream has already become the first, when Peter Quince’s play of Pyramus and Thisbe offers scope for the on-stage audience to invoke others: “This lion is a very fox for his valour,” proposes Lysander. “True; and a goose for his discretion,” Theseus replies (5.1.227–8). In the second place, children were expected to internalize the morals. As spelt out on the page, these are often banal. But more generally, Aesop tends to side with the downtrodden. Our hearts go out to the man who took pity on the snake, not to mention the music-loving dolphin who rescues the singer Arion, the lambs threatened by wolves and the chickens conned by foxes. Often, the sad fact is that the wicked prevail, but in other instances virtue, resourcefulness and persistence outwit tyranny. Did Aesop help to inculcate a desire to act on behalf of social justice? Providence is not much in evidence: kindness pays. So, on the other hand, does flattery. Did he influence a generation of confidence tricksters? At the same time, the children might also absorb something about the nature of fiction. The young who begin with fables about talking animals have the opportunity to discover that, although not all tales are true, it does not follow that all fiction is frivolous. If understanding is not confined to what is explicitly spelt out, animal fables introduce quite compli-



cated ambiguities: on the one hand, this couldn’t happen, it’s a fable; on the other, this could happen—by analogy. The young reader is invited to understand the distinctiveness of fiction, which is not always the same as realism. Aesop’s antique fables invent a world that does not, and could not, exist outside the imagination; at the same time, they may draw a parallel between the events of the tale and the possibilities in real life. Human beings are soft-hearted, like the man with the snake, or deceptive like wolves in sheeps’ clothing; grapes we can’t reach are the ones we call sour. The paradox that fiction might resemble without simulating the world we take for actual formed the basis for a range of Tudor genres, including romance, comedy, tragedy, and histories that confidently rewrote the past for the present.

Ovid and Virgil When the ten-year-old Michael Drayton decided he wanted to be a poet, his tutor led him through the next stages of the grammar-school syllabus, Mantuan and Virgil’s Eclogues, as he records in a poem to Henery Reynolds designed to demonstrate the success of this strategy (lines 17–40). In due course, schoolboys would progress to Ovid, whose stories of magical transformations would go on to confirm the possibilities of fiction. Montaigne, who learned Latin in his infancy, confides that “The first taste or feeling I had of bookes, was of the pleasure I tooke in reading the fables of Ovids Metamorphosies.” At only seven or eight years old, he would steal away to read the stories (Montaigne, 187). Little Lucius is carrying the Metamorphoses among his other books when Lavinia, raped and mutilated, comes running after him in Titus Andronicus. She wants to find the passage that parallels her own plight, the story of Philomel, a favorite theme of Elizabethan poetry and Shakespeare’s Lucrece in particular. By 1598, only half way through the dramatist’s own career, Francis Meres recognized the “sweete wittie soule of Ovid” alive and well in “mellifluous & hony-tongued Shakespeare” (Blakemore Evans et  al., 1844). Ovid reinvented is everywhere in early modern writing, not only in Shakespeare’s Sonnets and his Venus and Adonis but also in Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, as well as John Marston’s sexy Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image. Daughters of the gentry would encounter tales from Ovid when they learned to play and sing to the lute (Williams, 79–81). Meanwhile, their brothers went on to read Virgil’s Aeneid, with its heroic exploits, perilous



voyages, and a visit to the underworld. The epic played a part in the composition of Spenser’s Faerie Queene and Milton’s Paradise Lost, while its tragic love story led directly to Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage and proved pervasive as a point of reference for Shakespeare.

Print Since these other classical influences are widely acknowledged, I have concentrated on Aesop, who has attracted less attention. Oddly enough, when Prince Edward dismisses these childhood tales, he does not link them with the schoolroom. Instead, “Let Aesop fable in a winter’s night,” he says. The implication must be that they were also seen as fireside entertainment for the family gathered on cold evenings, when there could be no question of either warfare in the Prince’s case or the cultivation of the soil in other people’s. Both warrior societies and agricultural communities tell stories in the long hours after sunset. Perhaps on winter nights the fables were recited aloud, with girls, as well as boys, among the listeners. It is also possible that they were read out in Caxton’s English translation, first published in 1484. We know that Shakespeare drew on the Latin from his schooldays, since Caxton’s tale of the man and the snake goes differently: he warms the snake by the fire; it tries to strangle its benefactor (Baldwin, 611). But that does not rule out the possibility that prosperous contemporary families owned the English version. Caxton knew his public. While they would not unduly tax the literacy of anyone who had attended petty school, these engaging tales of foxes and chickens, cats and rats, were guaranteed to resonate with what was still a predominantly farming nation. Children’s literature would wait another two hundred years to become an industry but Caxton’s folio volume, in big print, illustrated with 186 woodcuts, is surely the nearest thing the period offered to a book likely to appeal to the young of both sexes. At the very least, stories in English might help them learn to read. The Prologue to Caxton’s translation of Raoul le Fèvre’s history of Jason and the golden fleece (1477) offered the folio volume in large, clear black letter to the six-year-old Prince Edward with this object in view—not, Caxton insisted, for the elegance of his English but for the novelty of the stories. A new edition issued in Antwerp in 1492, now illustrated with woodcuts of battles against knights and dragons, may well have served the same purpose for the five-year-old Prince Arthur, as well as a wider public. And in due course, perhaps children themselves were the readers, demonstrating



their new-found skills. Recreational reading aloud was well established (Coleman, 144–7) and children evidently played an active part in the process. When Titus offers to read sad stories to his mutilated daughter, he urges his grandson to join them: “Come, boy, and go with me; thy sight is young, / And thou shalt read when mine begin to dazzle” (3.7.85–6). Possibly, in Tudor England the smaller children craned over the reader’s shoulder to see the pictures. At a time before copyright, Caxton acquired these for his Aesop by the simple expedient of drawing freehand from the French edition he was using, itself illustrated with versions traced from the German original. Caxton’s woodcuts are dismissed by the experts as crude and naïve but, to my mind, a certain innocence is the source of their appeal. According to one of the fables, an ass envied a puppy made much of by its master when it frisked and licked his face. Sadly, the donkey failed to elicit the same affection when it tried to emulate the favorite. In Caxton’s illustration, it is not clear whether the man or the dog is more alarmed by the ass’s effort to climb onto his master’s knee (Aesop, sig. e7r). Caxton’s Aesop was reprinted eight times in the course of the next hundred years. The early folio editions retained the illustrations, but later versions were smaller and cheaper, some very tiny indeed, and these left out the woodcuts. On the other hand, the illustrated editions would surely have outlasted their own moment: these large, expensive books were less likely to be used for firelighting or toilet paper. In the same year as he printed Aesop, Caxton also put out an illustrated version of The Canterbury Tales. His readers would have recognized The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of Chantecleer and the fox as Aesop elaborated. Chaucer was widely read in the sixteenth century—and widely reinvented in Shakespeare too, most evidently in Troilus and Cressida, which rewrites Troilus and Criseyde, Two Noble Kinsmen, which dramatizes The Knight’s Tale and also in our friend Duke Theseus, from the same source (Thompson). I have put the case that Chaucer’s wide-eyed narrator resurfaces in a range of Shakespearean Williams, good-natured but not the brightest candles in the tiring house (Belsey 2011). On the other hand, Chaucer was becoming hard to read. Not so Reynard the Fox, however, Caxton’s lively rendering of the popular Dutch story, first printed in 1481 and reissued at regular intervals throughout the period. Reynard is a cheat and a con-man, but disarming, even so, as he thrives by his wits, in the manner of Shakespeare’s Richard III or Iago. There is more than a trace of Reynard in Volpone.



Print also kept alive the popular romances. Alongside the story of the fall of Troy and Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, publishers put into wide circulation the stories of Sir Guy of Warwick, Valentine and Orson, Bevis of Hampton and many similar histories of fierce wars and faithful loves. These champions remained undeterred by adversity, false accusations, pagans or lions, dragons and giants, while their heroic exploits, abridged as chapbooks for a few pence, were increasingly seen as holiday reading, especially for children (Cooper, 177). Among the books said to be owned in 1575 by Captain Cox, the Coventry mason, were many more tales of role models for boys, including The Squire of Low Degree, The Knight of Courtesy, Sir Eglamour, Sir Tryamour, Sir Lamwell and Sir Isenbras, as well as Sir Gawain (Langham, 53). While the romances attracted the contempt of sophisticates, their part in the making of Spenser’s Faerie Queene is self-evident. In due course, The Faerie Queene itself would become reading material for the young. A portrait of Lady Anne Clifford as she was at the age of 15 in 1605 shows her books, including Chaucer’s Works, Sidney’s Arcadia, Don Quixote, Montaigne’s Essays and the Works of Spenser. The poet Cowley records that by the age of 12 he had read with delight all Spenser’s “Stories of Knights, and Giants, and Monsters” (Hackel, 226, 209).

Old Wives Tales Last but not least, the young must have been among the keenest listeners to the wealth of oral tales rehearsed by the fireside on long, cold evenings: stories of magical interventions, riddling tests, far-fetched events and long-­ delayed reunions. George Peele indicates as much in his own farrago of fairy stories, The Old Wives Tale (1595). This play begins in the approved manner with three lads lost in a wood. A kindly smith takes them home for the night and, after a simple supper, they discuss the question of entertainment. “A merry winter’s tale” told by his wife “would drive away the time trimly”, the boys think. “Look you, gammer, of the giant and the king’s daughter, and I know not what. I have seen the day, when I was a little one, you might have drawn me a mile after you with such a discourse” (lines 85–6, 90–3). It is never too soon for a winter’s tale—or too late either. The comment evokes, if in a different key, the observation in The Defence of Poesy that a good story “holdeth children from play, and old men from the chimney corner” (Sidney, 227). The narrator begins her tale, as she should, with the usual formula: “Once upon a time” (line 113) … a princess was stolen away. But as the



old wife begins to tangle the events, the characters come on to enact them for the audience. Peele’s play delightfully interweaves the quests and rescues, spells and gnomic utterances, sorcerers, potions and magical transformations that the folklorists have since unpicked with their lists of types and motifs. Doing full justice to its own absurdity, this indulgent parody testifies to the affection in which it was possible to hold the stories grown-­ ups remembered—or half-remembered—as enthralling. It also demonstrates the transforming power of adult irony. Shakespeare’s own Winter’s Tale bears witness to the familiarity of the fireside genre. “This news, which is called true, is so like an old tale that the verity of it is in strong suspicion”, observes a bystander, as he reports that the riddling oracle is fulfilled and the king’s long-lost heir has been found (5.2.28–30). While the play draws attention to its own improbability, it also alludes to another source of tall stories, the printed ballads sold by pedlars. Autolycus has one of a usurer’s wife who gave birth to twenty money bags, and had a craving for adder’s heads and toads carbonadoed (4.4.263–6). Captain Cox had seven named ballads and 100 more tied up in parchment (Langham, 54). In 1595 the Puritan Nicholas Bownde complained that such material was to be found in the cottages of poor husbandmen and “in every Fair and Market almost you shall have one or two singing and selling of ballades” (Spufford, 10–11). Printed broadsides, learned by heart, made their way into and out of the oral tradition (Walsham, 185–6). Winter’s tales are everywhere active components of Shakespeare’s plays. The Taming of the Shrew rewrites, perhaps ironically, the traditional story of a cursed daughter schooled by a husband who repeatedly contradicts the evidence of her senses and frustrates her expectations (Artese, 29–50). More generally, (relatively) poor boys win the hand of the princess in As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice; resourceful young women triumph over adversity in As You Like It, Twelfth Night and All’s Well that Ends Well; the youngest of three daughters is the one King Lear ought to trust. If Portia’s father sets her suitors the riddle of the three caskets, Portia herself sets a riddle for Shylock that he cannot solve when she challenges him to extract a pound of flesh without shedding blood. Imogen, driven out by her stepmother, the wicked queen who tries to poison her, takes shelter in the forest and keeps house for her hosts; she seems to die but revives, and is united with her lover. To take into account the facts, first, that Imogen is masquerading as a boy and, second, that her hosts are also, for good measure, her long-lost brothers, is to see that in Cymbeline



the dramatist did not feel under any obligation to adhere to any given motifs or structures of the Snow White story. Instead, he allowed his audiences—then and now—the pleasure of recognizing distinct pieces of fireside storytelling deftly stitched together (Belsey 2007). Inevitably, Peele’s Old Wives Tale includes a ghost story. Marlowe’s Barabas, hovering in darkness near his confiscated riches, remembers old women telling him “winter’s tales” “of spirits and ghosts that glide by night/About the place where treasure hath been hid” (The Jew of Malta, 2.1.24-7). Prince Mamillius, still in petticoats and therefore not more than five or six years old (The Winter’s Tale, 1.2.153-6), embarks on a story that he must have heard from his nursemaids, or perhaps the waiting-­women in whose care he still resides. “A sad tale’s best for winter”, he insists. “I have one/Of sprites and goblins” (2.1.25-6). While the boy’s innocence is palpable, the theme is not as cute as it sounds to modern ears, since “sprites” are ghosts and “goblins” demons. “There was a man”, he begins, “Dwelt by a churchyard” (2.1.25–30). The nameless anxiety that possesses the guards on the battlements at Elsinore, or Brutus at the apparition of the dead Caesar, goes back to childhood fears that must have lurked in dark corners lit only fitfully by a flickering grate. Macbeth’s terror at the return of Banquo “would well become/A woman’s story at a winter’s fire, / Authorized”, his wife sniffs, “by her grandam” (Macbeth, 3.4.61–3).

Translation It is worth reflecting how far this wealth of material available at school and at home, Ovid and fairy tale, Latin epic and heroic romance, stands to nourish creativity. But in addition, I want to put in an unexpected word in support of Tudor educational practice. The case has already been well made that the grammar-school curriculum, designed to produce lawyers and clerics, inadvertently offered an ideal preparation for the theater. The project was imitation of the best stylists: boys were taught to put forward the arguments on one side of a case or the other. They learned to speak in the voices of fictional figures—including women—from their own perspectives. Declaiming passages in class encouraged clear articulation, as well as appropriate deportment and gesture (Enterline). These rhetorical skills, inculcated in Latin, would be put to work in English in the law courts and the church—or on the stage. One of the high points of the school year might well have been the play performed by the pupils in Latin or in English (Hillebrand, 20–1). For all these reasons, “a two-word



explanation of why the late sixteenth century produced more great dramatists than any other period in English history would be ‘grammar schools’” (Burrow, 39). In addition, prior even to composition and performance, the discipline of translation instills a respect for the power of language itself. A child attentive to words would have that interest stretched to capacity by early modern education. For example, in the fable of the man and the snake the protagonist is called agricola, a farmer, or possibly a ploughman or a peasant. All these English equivalents have different resonances. I rejected my first translation, “farmer”, on the basis that it implied a certain competence, a familiarity with country lore: a farmer would know better than to put a snake inside his jacket. “Peasant” puts the emphasis on class, which is not the issue here, while suggesting a certain sturdy independence that has no part to play in the story. A bumpkin, then? But that suggests a simpleton. Our agricola, by contrast, is a kind of hero. I finally settled for “countryman” as allowing a kindness lost to city-dwellers, a pastoral innocence. Perhaps eight- or nine-year-old boys would not reflect so closely at this stage but six more years of consistent translation back and forth would certainly raise their awareness of nuance. Many school libraries possessed Latin dictionaries, giving access to the options available. And even at that age, the choice between snake and serpent as the English for anguis might well provoke thought. Schoolboys would already know about the role of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In this light, serpents are more insidious, more malign. The grown-up Shakespeare called Aesop’s reptile by both names, with a slight preference, as time went on, for serpent. If education is not just the transmission of knowledge but an incitement to think, it is what we cannot be sure of that provokes further reflection—in this instance on the difference a word can bring into being. There is some evidence that the armies of early modern translators who made foreign works available in English had internalized from their childhood the problems they faced in naturalizing works from another culture (Bennett, 95–101). Translate is a strong word in the period. To translate is not only to change from one language to another, but to move from one place to another, transport or transform. The capacity for heavy linguistic lifting was what Tudor schools undertook to inculcate in their charges. Its outcome among adult writers was an awareness of connotation that remains unsurpassed. In conjunction with storytelling, this linguistic facility produced works that would change the repertoire of writing in English beyond all recognition.



Bibliography Aesop. 1976. The History and Fables of Aesop. London: Scolar Press. Artese, Charlotte. 2015. Shakespeare’s Folktale Sources. Newark: University of Delaware Press. Baldwin, T.W. 1944. William Shakespeare’s Small Latine & Less Greeke. Vol. 1, 2 vols. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Belsey, Catherine. 2007. Why Shakespeare? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ———. 2011. “William and Geoffrey.” In Shakespeare Without Boundaries, ed. Christa Jansohn, Lena Cowen Orlin, and Stanley Wells, 175–188. Newark: University of Delaware Press. Bennett, H.S. 1965. English Books & Readers 1558–1603. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Blakemore Evans, G., et  al., eds. 1974. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Burrow, Colin. 2013. Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Caxton, William. 1477. The Histories of Jason. Westminster: W. Caxton. Coleman, Joyce. 1996. Public Reading and the Reading Public in Late Medieval England and France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cooper, Helen. 2010. Shakespeare and the Medieval World. London: Bloomsbury. Drayton, Michael. 1953. “To My Most Dearely-Loved Friend Henery Reynolds Esquire, of Poets and Poesie.” In Poems of Michael Drayton, ed. John Buxton. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Enterline, Lynn. 2012. Shakespeare’s Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hackel, Heidi Brayman. 2005. Reading Material in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hillebrand, H.N. 1926. The Child Actors: A Chapter in Elizabeth Stage History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Ingelend, Thomas. 1970. The Disobedient Child. New York: AMS Press. Jonson, Ben. 1999. Volpone. Edited by Brian Parker. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Langham, Robert. 1983. A Letter. Edited by R.J.P. Kuin. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Marlowe, Christopher. 1968. Dido, Queene of Carthage and The Massacre at Paris. Edited by H.J. Oliver. London: Methuen. Montaigne, Michel de. 1910. The Essayes of Michael Lord of Montaigne. Translated by John Florio. Vol. 1, 3 vols. London: J. M. Dent. Nice Wanton. English Moral Interludes. 1976. Edited by Glynne Wickham, 143–162. London: Dent. Peele, George. 1980. The Old Wives Tale. Edited by Patricia Binnie. Manchester: Manchester University Press.



Puttenham, George. 2007. The Art of English Poesy. Edited by Frank Whigham and Wayne A. Rebhorn. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Schell, Edgar T., and J.D. Shuchter, eds. 1969. English Morality Plays and Moral Interludes. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Shakespeare, William. 2011. The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works. Edited by Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson, and David Scott Kastan. London: Bloomsbury. Sidney, Philip. 1989. The Defence of Poesy. Sir Philip Sidney. Edited by Katherine Duncan-Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Spufford, Margaret. 1981. Small Books and Pleasant Histories. London: Methuen. Thompson, Ann. 1978. Shakespeare’s Chaucer: A Study in Literary Origins. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Tilley, Morris Palmer. 1950. A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Walsham, Alexandra. 2002. “Reformed Folklore? Cautionary Tales and Oral Tradition in Early Modern England.” In The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain, 1500–1850, ed. Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf, 173–195. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Williams, Deanne. 2014. Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Valuing New England Childhood Through the Joyful Deaths of Cotton Mather’s A Token for the Children of New England Ivy Linton Stabell

Frequently characterized by the name “joyful death” books, English minister James Janeway’s A Token for Children (published in two parts, 1671 and 1672) and Cotton Mather’s colonial counterpart, A Token for the Children of New England (1700), are peculiar to modern eyes. The two books, each a collection of short biographical sketches of seventeenth-­ century children in England and colonial New England respectively, describe brief and pious young lives composed of prayer, adherence to Biblical teachings, and obedience to parents and community elders. After chronicling such commendable existences, these narratives culminate in an adulatory rendering of the child’s death, each installment uniformly emphasizing their extraordinary willingness, even eagerness, to “di[e] sweetly in the face of Jesus” (Janeway, 40). All entries in the two Tokens follow a similar pattern through this climactic event: upon falling ill, the children begin to anticipate their reunion with Christ, make a full and public commitment to God, and die, admired and memorialized by friends and

I. L. Stabell (*) Iona College, New Rochelle, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




family for their preternatural virtue and resolute faith. To the Calvinist Puritan cultures Janeway and Mather wrote for, these deathbed proclamations of faith were a sign they hoped indicated the children had escaped a predetermined damnation and held a place amongst the divine elect. Published well before the invention of the Romantic child’s moral innocence and the protection it afforded well-to-do white youngsters, these works center upon children as influential cultural figures who bravely perform (and model for readers) one of the most significant acts of Puritan life during a time when nearly one in three New Englanders died before they turned twenty-one and eternal judgment was the subject of constant contemplation (Monaghan, 113). Janeway’s and Mather’s collected accounts of seventeenth- and eighteenth-­ century Puritan children’s religious conversion experiences and their subsequent deaths have long been read as a telling indication of the child’s place within the colonial world, and recognized as an important origin point for children’s literature in America. While these narratives differ sharply from those of today’s children’s literature, the two Tokens, as the first texts featuring child protagonists available to young colonial readers, are clear ancestors (Marcus, 4). Moreover, the books’ popularity throughout the colonial period signals their place in the beginnings of American children’s literature: English printings of Janeway’s work ranked only slightly below Pilgrim’s Progress and the Bible in their popularity with seventeenth-and eighteenth-century English children (Duane, 70), and editions printed in the colonies, which included Mather’s companion text, remained in print and were well loved by American audiences for well over one hundred years. However, Mather’s text is typically discussed as an extension of Janeway’s phenomenal work, rather than a work with a perspective and audience of its own. This essay will decouple the texts and argue that A Token for the Children of New England is important to the history of American children’s literature not simply as an expansion of Janeway’s project, but in Mather’s inclusion of the lives of pious young New Englanders, an act that initiated the now commonplace practice of delivering narratives about American children to American children. The power and influence these two texts allocated to children has dominated much of the scholarly conversation about these works. Given the significance of conversion in Puritan ideology, several critics have observed that the Tokens’ representations of these pious children mark them as remarkably empowered figures in the community. During the latter half of the seventeenth century, Puritan debates about the requirements of church



membership increasingly called for members to demonstrate their own commitment to the church, rather than relying upon the standard of infant baptism. Among seventeenth-century Protestants, “[i]t was customary to baptize infants on the first Sabbath of their life, but baptism was only a sign of the covenant, which was conditional upon faith and repentance. Only when they had experienced the reception of divine grace and were ‘savingly converted’ could they become full participants in the Covenant of Grace and partake of the Lord’s Supper” (Avery, 16). Yet despite the urgency of conversion in an era of high child mortality and when the rights and status associated with church membership required it, “it was unusual for a child to experience conversion, so Puritan parents might well have been haunted by the possibility of their children’s dying early and unconverted” (Monaghan, 113). The children in Janeway and Mather’s Tokens, then, are exemplary models, not typical figures. And while the works expressly urge child readers to “go and do as these good children” who actively confront their mortality and need for salvation (Janeway, n.pag.), in connecting youth with the important rite of conversion, the two Tokens depict childhood not only as a vulnerable period worthy of Puritan anxiety, but also as a significant stage of life and faith with great potential for virtue and influence. In Behold the Child, still the most comprehensive history of early American children’s literature, Gillian Avery writes that the Tokens’ content, “[f]ar from being chilling, […] is triumphant. These are good children, going to their heavenly reward, and it shows them enjoying the sort of dignity and esteem that few could have experienced in their lifetime, and all must envy” (Avery, 33). Patricia Crain observes the singular consideration the Tokens devote to the state of childhood: “Both their dark content and the very existence of these books signal shifts in the way children are regarded. For the first time it becomes possible for a child’s life and death to be ‘exemplary’—to have meaning, that is, separate from the meaning of the adult life it might have lived” (Crain, 61). This scholarly focus on the weight the two Tokens grant the beliefs and actions of childhood not only shows how important the stage was within Puritan life and ideology, but further points to how Janeway’s and Mather’s works anticipate the beliefs of those who wrote for children in the next century, who held that childhood was a time of specific experiences and challenges, requiring literature that speaks directly about those experiences, for those readers. Recently, other scholars have placed the two Tokens within a larger constellation of early American political rhetoric about youth, patriarchal



authority, agency, and rights. Much of the rhetoric of the American Revolution famously figured the colonies as an adolescent youth, on the precipice of independence and ready to shake off the authority of an autocratic parent; Thomas Paine figured youth as a time of potential, writing in Common Sense “Youth is the seed time of good habits, as well in nations as in individuals” (Paine, 47). Courtney Weikle-Mills points to Mather’s writings for children, particularly his circulation of and contribution to Janeway’s Token, as one early challenge to patriarchal authority structures: “While Mather challenged a strict patriarchal hierarchy by focusing on children as distinct believers capable of having their own relationship with God and his word, he nonetheless viewed language and its interpretation as largely controlled by patriarchal authority figures. In doing so, he failed to anticipate the radical consequences of imaginary membership” (Weikle-­ Mills, 35). Here, Weikle-Mills places Mather at the center of Protestant figures at the turn of the eighteenth century who increasingly called for children to read frequently and independently, a notably common practice in both Tokens that led child readers away from adult monitors. Such practices, Weikle-Mills contends, helped children, who held only partial church membership prior to conversion, imagine their way into full membership and inadvertently encouraged greater autonomy from authority figures and strictures. The results of these early departures from adult authority appear several times within the Tokens when featured child protagonists read the Bible and God’s terrestrial signs differently than their parents. Anna Mae Duane, on the other hand, sees the Tokens within an early American cultural tradition of using the images of suffering children both to justify political rebellion and to restrict the rights of those deemed “childlike.” Her description of the Token children’s trajectory from physical suffering to divine salvation highlights the utility and flexibility of this metaphor in other contexts: “In Janeway’s model, the bodies of exemplary children render suffering and godliness inextricable—Janeway’s tales describe scenarios where physical sickness and suffering actually validate the child’s interior state” (Duane, 70). Duane points to the pliancy of the suffering child image throughout the colonial and early republican periods, when the child could be used both to symbolize a new nation demanding its autonomy and as a label used to infantilize African Americans, Native Americans, and women, deny them their rights, and justify their hardship. While the critical approaches to Janeway and Mather’s works have varied, every Token scholar has studied the two works in tandem; however, A



Token for the Children of New England is not quite a twin text. As we will see, though Mather echoes Janeway in form and content, his preface to readers frames his work differently, and this divergent opening statement reimagines the function of the work. Where Janeway’s preface calls upon readers to “be one of those little ones which Christ will take into His arms and bless” (Janeway, n.pag.), Mather opens his Token by observing “there have been exemplary children in the midst of New England itself” (142). In this proclamation, Mather points to his devout child role models and to the New England community they live in as paragons of early piety. Moreover, in juxtaposing a set of colonial children with Janeway’s English youth, Mather’s work insists on the difference between English and colonial experience. Despite the clear similarities between the two texts, Mather’s conspicuous shift to a New England setting and subjects reflects his interest in recording colonial American life in text. Cotton Mather was an influential Puritan minister, well known in his time and remembered in American history for his religious writings and role in shaping faith and ideology at the turn of the eighteenth century. However, he also dedicated much of his life to documenting New England history. In his most famous work, the Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), finished three years prior to A Token for the Children of New England and published two years later, Mather collected the biographies of major colonial ministers and attested to the successes of the community founded upon Puritan religious devotion. With an eye on posterity and on European audiences, Mather depicts colonial America as a virtuous population just as worthy of study and emulation as any group of Old World ministers and martyrs. A Token for the Children of New England can be understood as a similar project, in which Mather memorializes the lives of New England children and uses their stories to represent New England religious and community success for future generations. If we think of Mather’s accounts of New England children not only as conversion narratives but as historical biographies as well, his Token becomes a public record of significant lives as well as a means of advising young Christians. Scholars have championed the fact that Janeway and Mather’s Tokens for Children portray childhood as meritorious and culturally significant, and have increasingly viewed their work in light of the political rhetoric that would help to distinguish the colonies from their parent country. Here, I extend those assessments to observe that Mather, in structuring his Token as an account of a community, places these children within a written historical record of the colonies at a time when their



lives would have had little other public resonance. Further, the origins of American children’s literature have long been marked by the influence of texts imported from London, yet in distinguishing the colonial experience from English childhood, Cotton Mather’s Token helped establish the idea of American children as a separate and distinct audience and subject matter.

Cotton Mather, Children, and History Cotton Mather was a prolific author, publishing nearly 450 books within his 65 years, and many of these were aimed at children to address their spiritual welfare (Monaghan, 123). Much of what is known about what Mather thought children needed from their reading material comes from his own publications for them and from the extensive diaries he kept throughout his life; E. Jennifer Monaghan’s comprehensive study of literacy education in colonial America traces Mather’s public and private efforts on this front. Like many of his Puritan contemporaries, Mather emphasized early literacy as an important component of a life of piety: “With a view to commencing their children’s spiritual training at the earliest possible moment, many Puritan families did not wait for school but taught their four- and five-year-olds to read at home” (Marcus, 1). As a minister and firm patriarchal head of his own household, Mather plotted extensive, individualized spiritual curricula for his three wives and fifteen children, which included early literacy education, reading Scripture aloud in the morning and evening, personalized reading assignments, one-on-­ one conversations about their meaning, and writing assignments prompting family members to answer “Have you used your Pen for any Good Purpose Today?” (Monaghan, 124–30, qtd 130). Though Weikle-Mills may be right that Mather underestimated his reader’s capacity to seek alternate interpretations of Scripture, in his own home, his opinions were omnipresent. In assignment and conversation, he pressed his children not to construct their own interpretations, but to study and accept his explanations (137). When his children challenged the pious and obedient path he laid out for them, Mather turned to literacy for the remedy. His son, Creasy (named for his famous grandfather, Increase Mather) eschewed the ministry profession his father preferred for a career in business. Disappointed, Mather tried to accept his son’s new path, but when Creasy impregnated a prostitute in Boston at the age of seventeen, Mather assigned him even more religious homework. Even for his adult son, “Yet again, Mather seized on literacy activities as a means of reformation….



A son who was poring over a book would not be able to engage in less ­desirable activities, and his reading aloud a Janeway book to the rest of the family, of an evening, would permit his father to monitor his activities satisfactorily” (134). It is also clear, however, that Mather prescribed religious readings not only to control his children, but also to comfort and advise them. Mather’s family was not exempt from the cruel mortality rates of the era; he was twice a widower, and of his fifteen children, only two outlived him. When his seventeen-year-old daughter Liza feared for her life during a smallpox epidemic, Mather wrote of a plan to give her “the little Book, which relates the Death of a young French lady” in his diary (Mather 2009, 134). Mather’s choice of this text indicates the value he assigned to narratives of the “good death,” among them, works like Janeway’s A Token for Children. Drew Gilpin Faust describes the history of such “Good Death” scenes, a practice she argues was deeply integrated in Western Christian culture, even predating the Protestant Reformation, which ascribed cultural power to those capable of dying bravely, and thereby evidencing their true faith in Heaven and salvation: The concept of the Good Death […] had long been at the core of Christian practice. Dying was an art, and the traditions of ars moriendi had provided rules of conduct for the moribund and their attendants since at least the fifteenth century: how to give up one’s soul ‘gladlye and wilfully’; how to meet the devil’s temptations of unbelief, despair, impatience, and worldly attachment; how to pattern one’s dying on that of Christ; how to pray. (Faust, 6)

Whether Mather gave his daughter this account of a French girl’s death to provide her solace through the images of a heroic death and the promise of an afterlife, or in an attempt to urge her toward a proactive piety, we cannot be sure. But this episode, in which he gives his young daughter a narrative about another young person facing similar fears, surely conveys an instinct to provide child readers with works that mirrored their lives. Mather’s use of biography as instruction and comfort also suggests the range of uses he saw in the genre. To deal with his own grief, he wrote biographies of his daughters Jerusha and Katy when they died prematurely. For Jerushua, who died at age two, Mather wrote a remembrance and shared it with other mourners (Monaghan, 131), but his publication of Katy’s life and death reached beyond the inner circle: “Katy had made a special request, before she died, for the topic of the sermon, and her father published this request together with his own memorial of her, titled



Victorina. Through this publication, he believed, she would ‘outlive her Death, and continue gloriously to do good among the living’” (133). While writing his daughter’s sermon and story may have been cathartic, the choice to make it public and his claim that through these words she would “outlive her death,” conveys an belief that biographies can preserve a life and render it into testimony that might serve a social good, in addition to providing the author a place for personal reflection and remembrance. Mather recorded his daughter’s life not just as a sad father, but as someone who saw her story as worthy of permanence and who hoped that by adding her story to the annals of Bostonian lives, it had the potential to improve the outlook of the living. This is a use of life writing that is as much about history as it is about discussing faith. This same combination of motivations marks Mather’s composition of colonial minister lives in the Magnalia Christi Americana. Mather is certainly not remembered as a neutral historian, but his efforts to establish a public record and written monument to the most esteemed members of the New England community reflect the role he knows history to play in the making of cultural identity and mythology. Mather writes for a community in its nascent stages, still seeking to establish its own cultural identity in texts that would be shared amongst themselves and with the world. Through the collection of biographies in the Magnalia Christi Americana, Mather could reinforce the idea that Puritan values were widespread amongst the colony: “[h]e wanted to exemplify the representativeness of New England history, to repeat its central themes over and over as demonstrated in multiple deliberately repetitious biographies” (Eberwein, 202). Mather’s investment in telling colonial American history is emblematic of the significant changes in colonial experience at the turn of the eighteenth century. Peter Charles Hoffer notes “By 1700, over half of the colonies’ free population was born in America,” a circumstance amplified in the older settlements of the New England colonies (294). Now, generations removed from the earliest settlers, New England colonists in 1700 benefited from more comfortably established communities, governments, and trades than had their forebears. In this new stage of settlement, they began to require not only infrastructure and subsistence, but cultural narratives that would record and celebrate their growing cultural independence from their parent country. With both the Magnalia Christi Americana and his Token for the Children of New England, Mather presents his colonial readers with hagiographic memorials of admirable New England lives, designed to “create culture heroes” in communities seek a distinct lore of their own (Baker, 4).



Mather’s array of motivations to write children’s biographies—to encourage literacy, to model early piety, and to testify to New England’s virtue—are all present in his only diary entry on A Token for the Children of New England. In an entry marked Thursday, August 24, 1700, he writes, “About this time, our Booksellers reprinting the Excellent Janewayes Token for Children, I was willing to charm the children of New England unto the Fear of God, with the Exemples of some Children that were exemplary for it, in this Countrey, and being furnished with six or seven remarkable Narratives, I putt them into shape, and gave the little Book unto the Booksellers. Tis Entituled, a token for the children of new england” (Mather 2009, 369). Here Mather identifies children as his audience and, extending the principles underpinning the spiritual education he sought to provide his own children, exhibits his belief that targeted reading material would promote the crucial development of their faith. However, he clearly already knew of texts that would serve this function; he gave such a work to Liza, and his stated admiration for Janeway’s Token indicates that his biographies, too, would suffice. In stating his desire to provide them with examples of “this Countrey,” Mather implies that his audience needs more than just spiritual guidance; they need cultural significance as well, and Mather’s Token entwines these two projects. Mather saw the New England community as his flock, and he channels both his minister and historian selves to provide them with A Token for the Children of New England, where he instructs them both to seek salvation and to commemorate their cultural environment, and further, he puts children at the center of both these projects.

A New England Token The colonial printing of the two Tokens at a time when book publishing was a costly and uncertain enterprise marks both books as significant to American literary culture and book history. Book publishing in the American colonies at the turn of the eighteenth century was a risky, expensive, and highly specialized business. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography details many of the inconveniences of starting and running a print shop in the colonies in 1728, even a few decades later than the first colonial Token printing in 1700; one must enlist investors and authors, manage competitors and appease regulators, keep paper and ink in constant supply, ­purchase and retrieve type from England, and maintain precise and industrious workers. Absent or restricting infrastructure meant even the most



successful printers, importers, and booksellers had access to only a limited geographical circumference of potential buyers. One printer, reflecting on even late eighteenth-century conditions observes, “For many years after the peace of 1783, books could be imported into the United States and sold cheaper than they could be printed here and indeed until 1793 nothing like a competition with English Printers and Booksellers could be maintained” (qtd in Raven, 195–6). A few iconic early children’s books were amongst the colonial printings that garnered enough of a profit to warrant the expense and trouble of colonial printing instead of importation, including The New England Primer and the two Tokens. Janeway’s Token (without the later Mather companion) was available in by London import from the 1680s (Marcus, 4), yet this too was difficult, and fluid book importation did not occur until the latter half of the eighteenth century when English publishers began to have confidence in American demand and ability to distribute their products. Stephen Botein describes English traders’ caution: “No one could fail to appreciate the general disadvantages of trying to sell any English product from afar to an overwhelmingly agricultural population, much of it scattered beyond the range of the most aggressive mercantile operator” (50). Books arrived on American shores in the colonial period, and native presses regularly produced print materials by the early eighteenth century, but the movement towards an efficient and highly profitable book trade in America was a development protracted through the length of the century. It was not until the mid-eighteenth century that colonial printers like Massachusetts’ Isaiah Thomas could turn a profit regularly producing texts specifically aimed at young readers. Nonetheless, popular interest in Janeway’s Token superseded publishing difficulties, likely because the text so neatly fit with late seventeenth-­century Puritan values and its frank confrontation with the fact of child mortality reflected reality. Janeway establishes community with his child readers on religious grounds, identifying this as their common bond and his interest in their conversion as the reason for authoring the work: “I am perswaded that God intends to do good to the [s]ouls of some little Children by these papers, because he hath laid it so much upon my heart to pray for them and over these papers, & through mercy I have already experienced, that something of this nature hath not been in vain. I shall give a word of direction, and so leave you” (Janeway, n.pag.). Janeway administers spiritual advice to child readers, in numbered directives over several pages, urging them to “[l]abor to get a dear love for Christ” (n.pag.). His overt aim, which he



declares in separate prefaces for adults and children, is to provide many “excellent examples … [t]hat the young generation may be far more excellent than this” (n.pag.). Janeway’s central focus is on Christian children’s faith, and therefore their salvation, a preoccupation that lines up directly with colonial Puritans’ attentions toward their own children. The content and purpose of Janeway’s Token struck a chord with colonial readers, and, as his diary entry indicates, Mather similarly sees himself as assisting in the devotions of young Christians. However, Mather’s own preface, like his diary entry, also stresses the important realignment of his work to showcase a place as well as people. Where Janeway’s preface for child readers lingers on behaviors they might imitate, Mather’s much shorter preface points to his own interest in representing and recording the colonial world: “It would be a very profitable thing to our Children, and highly acceptable to all the godly Parents of the Children, if in imitation of the excellent Janeway’s Token for Children, there were made a true collection of notable things exemplified in the Lives and Deaths of many among us whose Childhood has been Signalized for what is Virtuous and Laudable” (Mather 1700, n.pag.). Though Mather, too, calls for his child readers to imitate the lives the text details, Mather’s phrasing is slightly different in describing his work as a “true collection,” or history, of “notable things exemplified in the Lives and Deaths of many among us,” pointing toward location as the primary bond between author and reader. In his references to “our children” and the “many among us,” Mather defines his community as neighbors in a geographic location, rather than members of a common faith. While Mather’s decision to examine Christian values in his immediate community may seem an unremarkable act of localism, his context reveals the magnitude of his claims. His emphasis on the “profi[t]” his text might provide future generations, in a work where biography after biography features a protagonist declaring “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is best of all,” assigns measurable value to the terrestrial world in a culture extremely focused on the hereafter (22). Even as he writes the tales of children who announce their attention rests solely on the Christian afterlife, Mather directs his reader to consider the world around them. A Token for the Children of New England does more than swap children from London and Gravesend for children from Scituate and Salem, though for a Massachusetts child, hearing the names of familiar towns must have been exciting when so many colonial texts featured English, classical, or Biblical settings and characters. Janeway’s narratives focus on presenting



the pattern of childhood piety, and he includes four unnamed children of seven total biographies in the first half of his Token. More interested in their conversion to faith than their identities, Janeway refers to them with simple designations like “a little girl” or “a notorious wicked child.” Mather, on the other hand, uses as many specific details as possible in order to make a historical account of a much smaller community, where one’s family name and township would have been recognizable and thus mattered to readers. In this, Mather’s collection of child biographies conveys the importance of community memory alongside the necessity of salvation. One of most significant ways he makes this point is by including the story of his own brother, Nathanael Mather, who died at nineteen from post-surgical complications on a hip tumor, eleven years before the publication of Mather’s Token (Silverman, 77). In addition to providing an example from a recognizable New England family, Mather creates intimacy with his readers by sharing his own experiences of loss and recovery. Though Mather’s description of his brother’s life is matter-of-fact not sentimental (Mather praises him only with language typical of the good death form as “diligent in his efforts to become an experienced Christian” [Mather 1700, 15]), as in his later publications of his daughters’ lives, Mather here makes private faith and loss public. In doing so, Mather takes a far different attitude toward his readers than Janeway does. Where Janeway evokes a benevolently paternal authorial persona, Mather here shares in the experiences of his readers, an approach indicative of a tighter bond with his readers, founded in a shared New England experience of death and devotion and in his commitment, as a community and church leader, to them. Mather shows that he too has lost young family members and profited from examples of their early piety. If the Tokens are meant to provide practicable models for readers to imitate, Mather here establishes his own ability to follow the lessons of his text: Mather, a prominent and well-­respected minister, has learned by studying the lives and deaths of pious family members, thus, surely the model works. Moreover, by including his brother’s tale in a book Mather must have known would be popular amongst Puritan audiences already invested in his writings and Janeway’s, he memorializes his brother’s life within the collective memory of New England readers. In recording the story of the death so many years later, Mather asserts the idea that preserving such stories for subsequent reflection has value. In light of Mather’s interest in providing a collection of lives that reflects colonial virtues, his occasional choice to dwell on the world left



behind by the pious youth points toward his interest in depicting New England life and the effect of these dying children on their survivors. The story of Mr. John Baily, the last example included in the 1700 edition, focuses almost entirely on the father of the dying child, who “was a man of a very Licentious Conversation; a Gamester, a Dancer, a very Lewd Company-keeper” (Mather 1700, 28). Mather’s portrayal of Baily’s life is so focused on the father’s conversion that he does not even explicitly mention the child’s death. Yet the child retains the power in this example, as the catalyst of his father’s transformation: “His Father coming to understand, at what a rate the Child had Pray’d with his Family, it smote the Soul of him, with a great Conviction, & proved the Beginning of his Conversion unto God” (28). John Baily is an example of youthful piety in America, but, further, is evidence of the power of children to affect their community. In emphasizing the father’s conversion instead of the child’s death, Mather here suggests children can be even more than representative saints; their influence can ripple through the community. Leonard Marcus has pointed to Janeway’s use of children as model Christians as an assertion of the child’s power in the community: “What was more [than the fact of child protagonists], the boys and girls Janeway described were better Christians than the adults in their midst. Well before Wordsworth, the narratives seemed to suggest that in strength of religious conviction and sheer heroism, the child might indeed be the father of the man” (Marcus, 4). Mather’s Token does even more to represent this ability to impact the community. In demonstrating both his own response to the death of a child by including his brother’s story and in chronicling the response of other colonists like John Baily’s father, Mather assigns the children of his narrative a powerful position. Though none of the Token children may live to expand their social function, Mather’s text defines children as figures who can both enact and generate virtue in the wider New England community.

Conclusion Mather’s diary note about publishing A Token for the Children of New England, much like the understated title itself, reads as rather nonchalant, given that the work would go on to be such a successful publication. The two Tokens were staples amongst colonial and early republican children’s reading through the next century and into the nineteenth. In subsequent printings, later publishers incorporated additional stories of children who



lived and piously died after the initial publication of Mather’s work; the accumulation of these generations of children renders Mather’s Token an abbreviated, though remarkable, public record of the lives of New England children, a group usually unnoticed by grander histories of the period. Mather’s book depicted children’s lives as influential and important, and he preserved them with the same care he afforded the much more recognizable lives of colonial ministers of his Magnalia Christi Americana. Both Tokens reverberated through early American literary culture by asserting an early interest in child readers and subjects and prompting a legacy of imitators. Yet so much of early American children’s literary history is defined by popular English texts brought to the colonies. Mather’s Token for the Children of New England, as a specifically colonial production is a special text, one that not only stitches children into the fabric of New England history, but further because it begins efforts to see American childhood as a separate and significant experience. While it would be several generations before a robust children’s publishing industry emerged to speak to their experiences and needs, Mather’s Token, with its crucial differences from Janeway’s famous work, begins this important work of shaping a distinct children’s literature in America.

Bibliography Avery, Gillian. 1994. Behold the Child: American Children and Their Books 1621–1922. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Baker, Dorothy Zayatz. 2007. America’s Gothic Fiction: The Legacy of Magnalia Christi Americana. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. Botein, Stephen. 1983. “The Anglo-American Book Trade before 1776: Personnel and Strategies.” In Printing and Society in Early America, ed. William Joyce et al. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society. Crain, Patricia. 2000. The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from the New England Primer to the Scarlet Letter. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Duane, Anna Mae. 2010. Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. Eberwein, Jane Donahue. 1998. “‘Indistinct Lustre’: Biographical Miniatures in the Magnalia Christi Americana.” Biography 4 (3): 195–207. Faust, Drew Gilpin. 2008. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. New York: Vintage. Hoffer, Peter Charles. 2006. The Brave New World: A History of Early America. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Janeway, James. 1795. A Token for Children. Isaiah Thomas. Evans Early American Imprint Collection.



Marcus, Leonard. 2008. The Minders of Make-Believe. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Mather, Cotton. 2009. The Diary of Cotton Mather. Edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. Mather, Cotton. 1700. A Token for the Children of New England. Nicholas Boone. Evans Early American Imprint Collection. Monaghan, E. Jennifer. 2005. Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Paine, Thomas. 2003. Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine. New York: Signet. Raven, James. 2007. “The Importation of Books in the Eighteenth Century.” In The History of the Book in America, ed. Hugh Amory and David D. Hall, vol. 1, 183–198. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Silverman, Kenneth. 1984. The Life and Times of Cotton Mather. New York: Harper and Row. Weikle-Mills, Courtney. 2013. Imaginary Citizens: Child Readers and the Limits of American Independence: 1640–1868. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


Performing Childhood


Changeling Stories: The Child Substitution Motif in the Chester Mystery Cycle Rose A. Sawyer

This volume is testament that, in reaction to those that posited a “panhistorical and essentialist” concept of childhood, medieval childhood studies has entered a new phase (MacLehose, xiii). Scholars are now focused on uncovering historically specific attitudes to the figure of the child. The pendulum is currently swinging towards an understanding of the figure of the child as problematic, often contested, and variable across time, place, and cultural context. Concurrent with this development is a small but significant rise in analysis of the medieval concept of the changeling: that is, a child secretly substituted for another in infancy. A changeling is perhaps the ultimate “problem child” and a potent site on which negative constructions of childhood can be built. Research into the utilisation of changelings and the child substitution motif in literature can make a valuable contribution to the field of childhood studies. A miracle attributed to St Thomas Becket and recorded by William of Canterbury in 1172 contains the earliest reference to child substitution in England, with William noting that some people believe unhealthy children

R. A. Sawyer (*) University of Leeds, Leeds, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




to have been stolen or substituted.1 From this albeit isolated example, we can infer that there was a discourse of child substitution in England from at least the twelfth century.2 For the most part, scholars of medieval child substitution have drawn from a narrow corpus of Latin texts.3 If, however, like Richard Firth Green, we examine Middle English literary texts, we find much more evidence for contemporary concerns about the substituted child.4 The word changeling is first attested in English in 1534; however, both Richard Firth Green and myself understand the Middle English term cangun/conjeoun to have both originally denoted changeling and to have been used in Middle English literary sources by writers who were alive to the ways in which this connotation could be exploited for literary effect.5 The Middle English Dictionary does not include “changeling” in its list of definitions for the word cangun/conjeoun; however, both Diensberg and the Oxford English Dictionary trace how the Middle English term derived, through Anglo-Norman, from the Old French word changon, which was in turn formed from the rare Latin verb cambı̄re (to change) (Diensberg, 457). When cangun/conjeoun is used in Middle English texts to denote “a dwarf”, a “simpleton”, or as an insult, this is due to the popular associations of changelings with a lack of ­physical and intellectual development. Green demonstrates this connection at length; however, one of the clearest examples of the association between changeling and cangun/conjeoun is found in the Ancrene Wisse (Millett and Dobson). Writing in Latin, Jacques de Vitry refers to “puero quem Gallici chamium vocant” (“a child which the French call chamium”) and a number of scholars have seen the Middle English Ancrene Wisse’s description of the foolish daughter as a reference to de Vitry’s understanding of a changeling (Jacques de Vitry, 129). Just as the changeling’s lack of growth becomes more pronounced with age, she “þriueð as þe cangun, se lengre se wurse” (“thrives like the changeling: the longer, the worse”) (Millett and Dobson, 43).  Kuuliala; and James Craigie Robertson, 204.  Diensberg, 459 and Hutton, n. 48 question this; however, they appear to be unaware of the Becket miracle. 3  Goodey and Stainton; Kuuliala; Schmitt. 4  Unlike many previous studies—Haffter; Schmitt; Eberly; Ashliman;—this chapter examines discourses about child substitution rather than trying to uncover the ritual practices of those who believed in the reality of changelings or those supposed changelings exact state of health. 5  Green (2016) 122–5; and Green (2003). 1 2



In this chapter, I focus on “Magi, The Vinters Playe” and “Innocents, The Gouldsmythes Playe” from the sixteenth-century Chester Mystery Cycle, with comparative references to the romance Of Arthour and Merlin from the latter half of the thirteenth century.6 In these plays Herod learns of the infant Jesus and subsequently orders the slaughter of all the baby boys in Bethlehem as a pre-emptive strike against what he perceives as a rival for his throne. The nature of the plays’ Biblical source means that many of the adult characters construct young children in a negative light. Derogatory language is one of the main tactics used by Herod and his soldiers to establish the bodies of infants as appropriate objects of violence. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the Chester Mystery Cycle as a source where cangun/conjeoun is used as “a derisive or contemptuous term applied to a child”. While Herod is both “derisive” and “contemptuous” towards the infant Jesus, I would argue that in this context the child substitution connotations of the term come to the fore and allow the author to discuss fears of cuckoldery and other concerns related to concepts of substitution within a theological context. Thus, this chapter focuses on the way in which the use of cangun/conjeoun draws on ideas of changelings and child substitution. I examine the particular impact that this insult has when used against the figure of a child. In addition to presenting the body of the child as a site of violence, what wider implications do these references to child substitution have in the plays and cycles to which they belong? What cultural and theological concerns do these insults expose when used against male infants, and particularly the figure of Christ? Martin Stevens expects that the Chester Cycle began to be performed around 1375 (262). However, during the fifteenth century, the Cycle appears to have been largely a Passion play which was then expanded between 1505 and 1532 to include Old Testament and Nativity scenes (Clopper, 231). “Magi” and “Innocents” may have existed before 1505 in a shorter version, whether this earlier version contained language referring to the child substitution motif is unclear. While Stevens suggests that the Chester Cycle is “a ­medieval play in content and style”, more recent publications have emphasised the way in which it reflects the concerns of sixteenth-century Chester.7 It is possible that even if the references to child  All references to these texts from Lumiansky et al.; and Macrae-Gibson; all quotations from these plays will be cited by title and line # in the text. A discussion of the manuscript tradition is in Lumansky and Mills’ edition and in their companion text: Lumiansky, Mills, and Rastall (1983). 7  Stevens, 260; The Chester Cycle in Context (2016). 6



substitution were added during the sixteenth-century revisions, they reflected beliefs that had been established in the Chester area during the preceding centuries, but we should also be open to considering them in the light of later attitudes toward children and child substitution. Herod and his soldiers direct a wide variety of insults at the infant Christ. Discounting “boy” and “swayne”, which, although presumably intended to be delivered in a dismissive fashion, are more descriptive than rude, the most commonly used insult directed at Christ is “shrewe”, with seven attestations. The Middle English Dictionary ascribes a large number of denotations and connotations to this word, the most obvious in this context being “an unruly or ill-disciplined child”. However, it was also used to mean “devil” or “evil or injurious creature”. Thus, when the evilaligned Herod, his soldiers and, later in the cycle, the Antichrist use the insult against Jesus, a divine source of goodness, the word has an ironic edge. The second commonest insult is “conioun”, with Herod railing against “that elfe and vile [congion]” (Magi 328) and that “vyle [congion]” (Innocents 145).8 The king’s language is echoed by both soldiers, with Secundus Miles referring to Jesus as “a conjoyne” (Innocents 166) and Primus Miles using the plural form of the noun twice to describe the infants he intends to slaughter (Innocents 196 and 209). In one speech, Herod emphasises that Jesus is “yonge and tender of age” (Innocents 26). Since Herod’s insults generally serve to dehumanise Jesus, focusing on his opponent’s status as an infant might seem at first glance to be a self-defeating tactic, this and other references to Jesus and the Innocents as babies who are unable to control their own bodily functions—“swedlinge sweyne” (Magi 400), “dyrtie-arses” (Innocents 143)— simply reinforce the vulnerability of the children to the violence of both swords and words. As MacLehose explains, according to the new medical literature of the twelfth century, the infant’s body was “weak and not yet solid”. That meant that it was physically vulnerable to sickness, or in this case, the violence of men (MacLehose, 214). MacLehose also notes the “larger medieval concept of childhood as a metaphor for incompletion”, as the child cannot fend for itself: it must rely on positive adult influence to ensure its physical and moral safety (212). By employing the language of infant vulnerability, Herod is able to set up the bodies of Christ and the Innocents as fundamentally malleable. In doing so, Herod opens their 8  Lumiansky et al. use square brackets to indicate where they have used a manuscript source other than Huntington 2.



bodies up as a site on which he can exert his influence as an adult and reconstruct them through the force of his insults. As Heather Mitchell-Buck notes, the Chester Herod’s reaction to the news of the birth of Jesus distinguishes him from his “counterparts in Towneley and York”; unlike them “he does not simply react in rage or become petrified with fear” (Mitchell-Buck, 188). Indeed, his immediate response to the Magi might be characterised as incredulous disbelief at a challenge to the “kinge of all mankynde” (Magi 177). His first direct reference to the Christ child is relatively mild: “a boye, a growme of low degree” (Magi 202). Herod’s initial tactic is to attack Jesus on the grounds of low birth. However, after consulting the prophecies, he perceives the real threat that the child poses to his rule and changes his approach. In response to the Doctor’s statement that Jacob’s prophecy has been fulfilled, since Herod “is noe Jewe borne nor of that progenye, but a stranger by the Romans made there kinge” (Magi 278–9), Herod becomes more violent and threatens to decapitate anyone seeking his throne (Magi 288–9). With his own status as a foreign king with no ancestral right to the throne exposed, Herod describes Jesus as a “yonge godlinge”, “elvish godlinge”, “elfe and vile [congion]” in an attempt to construct his infant rival as a supernatural, inhuman creature and the ultimate outsider. Elves are strongly connected with changelings in nineteenth-century folklore, but this association is only expressed in very late medieval sources such as the mystery plays (Hall, 117). However, other supernatural creatures, such as demons and fauns, are attested in connection with the child substitution motif in a similar capacity to the later manifestation of elves from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries respectively. Thus, although the mystery plays are some of our earliest evidence for the link to elves, this may be more a variation in terminology than a functional difference. In addition to the Chester plays, the “Second Shepherds’ Play” in the Towneley Cycle (also known as the Wakefield Cycle) contains the assertion that a stolen sheep disguised as a baby is not the shepherds’ lost lamb but rather a child who “was taken with an elf […] When the clock struck twelf/Was he forshapen” (Simpson and David, ll.890–2). As the compilation of the drama as it comes down to us has been placed in the last third of the fifteenth century (and probably closer to the turn of the sixteenth), the mystery plays either provide evidence of a new development in the child substitution motif at the end of the fifteenth century or allow us to access a traditional stratum of English culture for the first time and bring to light



aspects of child substitution that had not previously been expressed in writing. Alaric Hall argues that within “Anglo-Saxon ideologies”, elves were perceived as being aligned with the human in-group, powerful “but dangerous only to members who transgress certain social norms” (Hall, 174). Unlike monsters, they were not perceived as a threat to the whole of society (Ibid.). According to Ronald Hutton’s analysis, between the AngloSaxon period and the fifteenth century, “an ill-defined or undefined parallel world of magical beings” developed into a fully-formed “literary construct of [a] fairy kingdom”, the reality of which was beginning to be incorporated into theological thought (1142–4). By labelling Jesus as an “elfe”, Herod is depicted as constructing the infant as an invader from another world. To an extent this strategy could be said to tap into the Chester plays’ “focus on Jesus’s divinity rather than his humanity” (Stevens, 272). As Kathleen Ashley notes “the Chester dramatist had little inclination to portray Jesus” human vulnerability” (391). The specific reference to child substitution in this context further acts to portray the body of the child as a site on which it is appropriate to do violence. Nineteenth-century folklore provides many examples of harsh treatment for changeling children, although, as Goodey and Stainton point out, there are also tales where kindly treatment of the changeling child is rewarded when the true parents of the child return to collect their offspring (Goodey and Stainton, 224). As for the medieval period, much has been made of the thirteenth-­century ritual recorded by Stephen of Bourbon, in which infants from an isolated French village were subjected to a series of potentially dangerous or life-threatening actions involving fire and water in the hope that the fauns, having exchanged their offspring for the human infants, would retrieve their children and return the human ones (Schmitt, 2–6). While this elaborate ritual has no known equivalent during the Middle Ages, a demonic changeling is depicted as being burned in Martino di Bartolomeo’s (1389–1434) altarpiece the Life of Saint Stephen.9 There is also written evidence of the use of fire against suspected changelings: a fourteenth-­century version of the Life of 9  The child substitution motif is an important element in several accounts of the early lives of three saints: Stephen, Bartholomew and Lawrence. While not found in The Golden Legend, the story was popular enough to be included in roughly ten surviving manuscripts, and visual references appear in many church wall paintings and altarpieces, particularly in Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth century, see: De Gaiffier and de Tervarent; and Kaftal.



Saint Stephen describes how the saint ordered a fire to be built and then threw the changeling into the fire where he combusted.10 Burning is not the only method whereby these demonic changelings are banished in the Stephen legend: in one variant Stephen binds the changeling to the portico of a house before flogging him. While these texts and images are from Italy, later English folklore also advises violent treatment of changelings, and it is possible that there was a similar tradition present in England at the time. Thus, Herod is presented as craftily neutralising the sympathy that a human infant might engender by constructing his enemy not as a human child but as a type of supernatural outsider that, having taken the form of a child, should be dealt with violently. The effectiveness of Herod’s strategy is demonstrated in the way in which the language Herod uses infects the speech of his soldiers. While both soldiers are initially hesitant to follow his orders, preferring to slay a “knight or champion” (Innocents 163), the language used by the king to describe Christ and the other infants is mirrored in the response of the soldiers. Thus, Primus Miles echoes Herod’s “dyrtie-arses” (Innocents 143) with his own “shitten-arsed shrowe” (Innocents 157), while Secundus Miles picks up on “that vyle [congeon]” (Innocents 145) and repeats the word in his own monologue (Innocents 166). They are already constructing the infants in the negative terms laid down by Herod; their reluctance appears to stem not from a moral objection to the killing of children, but from a concern for their knightly dignity: one “conjoyne” is after all not much of a challenge for “knights of such great degree” (Innocents 160). But the sheer numbers involved mitigate their concerns. Inspired by their king, they are able to see the babies that they kill as “many a smale congeon […] blake-lypped boyes” (Innocents 196–7). Their graphically violent language and actions are figured from their perspective as an appropriate response to an overwhelming, otherworldly threat. It is also notable that, while the mothers of the infants are fulsome in their abuse of the soldiers attacking their children, they make little to no attempt to challenge the soldiers” dark imagining of their infants. The mothers refer to their babies as “childe” or “sonne”, but only once is a descriptive term of endearment used, when Secundus Mulier refers to her “sonne that is so sweet” (Innocents 302). In an exchange, one of the women responds to the soldier’s threat to impale her charge by recreating the body of the boy as a girl: “Hit hath two holes under the tayle”  Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS Lat Z 158 (= 1779), fols. 327–8.




(Innocents 367). Thus, perversely, both soldier and woman figure the body of the child as a site fit for penetration. Furthermore, Jane Tolmie notes that, rather than engender sympathy, this instead serves to highlight the fact that the infant is a stage prop doll that can be re-gendered at will (Tolmie, 290). In performance, the absence of a true child could only have enhanced the malleability of the infant’s body; therefore, since the soldiers and Herod spend two plays constructing the infant bodies as supernatural, beastly and fit for slaughter, the mothers are unable to offer a compelling contrast and save their charges. Use of the child substitution motif is, of course, more than just Herod’s strategy. By invoking the child substitution motif, the play is able to open the audience’s eyes to the elements of substitution at work in the Herod plays and in the rest of the cycle. It thus grapples with a number of issues that appear to have been associated, if only on a metaphorical or literary level, with child substitution in the later Middle Ages. In the next section of this article, I examine how the child substitution motif was used to develop male concerns about the, inevitably somewhat uncertain, relationship between father and son as well as to engage with a discourse that demonstrated a concern with Christ’s status as both human and divine in the context of a human family. Middle English literature provides ample evidence for a contemporary preoccupation with cuckolded husbands, straying wives and children of uncertain parentage. This is, I would argue, a distinctly masculine concern; after all, women can at the very least be certain that the child that they have given birth to is theirs, whereas a man has only his wife’s word that he is the father of her child and thus may unwittingly nurture another man’s child as his son. In Arthour and Merlin, Merlin has the ability to detect and then reveal these cuckoos in the nest, which he does with some relish.11 He reveals that the justice accusing his mother of sex outside of marriage has no right to judge her since “Ich wot welle who mi fader is/Ac þou no knowest nouȝt þine ywis/Wharþurth y tel moder þine/Digner to be ded þan moder mine” (“I know who my father is and you don’t know who yours is; therefore, your mother deserves death more than mine”) (Auchinleck, 1063–6). In reaction to this accusation, the justice fires back at Merlin “Þou gabbest conioun!” (Auchinleck,  Full details of the manuscript versions in Macrae-Gibson eds. Auchinleck MS was probably produced in London, c. 1330 and is the oldest extant version. Lincoln’s Inn MS is from c. 1450 and the Much Wenlock region of Shropshire. All quotations from this source will be cited by manuscript name and line # in the text. 11



1071) or “Þow lyȝest þow blake conioun!” (Lincoln’s Inn, 1151). This attempt to deflect the truth is both ironic and short lived. The justice’s mother prevaricates and, in the Auchinleck manuscript version, argues that any man who believes Merlin’s accusation is a “conioun” (Auchinleck line, 1110). This line actually anticipates the moment at which the truth is confirmed, since, in believing Merlin, the justice knows himself to be a metaphorical changeling or “conioun”, an inferior substitute for the legitimate son that his father imagined he had. Herod too is concerned with securing the line of legitimate succession, stating: “I maynteane my realme amysse,/to lett a boye inherite my blys/ that never was of my blood” (Magi 387–90).12 This reminds the audience that Christ too is a changeling in the sense outlined above, since he is not the son of his mother’s husband Joseph but of God. The trope of Joseph as a cuckolded husband is common in medieval literary sources.13 The Chester plays focus on this characteristic less than the other four cycles, but he is still given space to advise that “lett never [an] ould man/take to wife a yonge woman/ney seet his harte her on,/lest bee beguyled bee” and to emphasise that the child that Mary carries is not his (Nativity 145–8). The Chester Joseph is, according to Hahn, “consistently drawn, solicitous and very compassionate”; thus his decision “to leave her privelye […] that noe man knowe this case” (Nativity 143–4) comes across as more worthy of sympathy than laughter.14 However, whether comic or straight-­faced, the inescapable connection between the cuckolded husband trope and St. Joseph reveals an anxiety, not just about the relationship between father and son, but also about the figure of Christ himself, the central mystery of the Christian faith. It is noteworthy that all of the Middle English texts that relate the child substitution motif to child characters also associate the child substitution motif with the Christ child, whether directly or indirectly. While Herod calling Jesus an “elfe and vile [congion]” (Magi 328) 12  Although Herod attempts to construct the infant Christ as the changeling in order to de-legitimize him, it is his own son that, along with the other boys in Bethlehem, takes the place of Jesus and receives the violent death intended for him. 13  Doucet; and Coletti. 14  This ties the Chester Joseph to the alternate portrayal of that saint as a “hard-working, vigorous provider” to his foster-son and wife. Cynthia Hahn relates that this “more dignified, yet still humble image” was initially popular with the mendicant Franciscans before becoming more widely popular in the fifteenth-century: Hahn.



makes the connection rather explicit in the Chester Cycle, it is also present in a slightly subtler fashion in the “Second Shepherds’ Play” from the Wakefield/Towneley Cycle. The first half of the play is devoted to the comic exploits of Mac and his wife as they attempt to conceal a stolen sheep from the shepherds, while the second half follows the shepherds as they encounter the traditional Nativity scene. As Stevens notes “there is an obvious situational and even verbal coherence between the parodic and the serious nativities” (Stevens, 175). The stolen sheep and Jesus are clearly connected as they are both referred to by the Shepherds by the affectionate term “lytyll day-starne” and although the presumed audience would be expected to relate this to Christ as the Lamb of God. Thus, when the sheep is said to be a changeling, as I described before, it is hard not to wonder whether this association reflects onto the figure of the infant Christ, what purpose it served and what anxieties it reveals. As I noted above, the Chester Cycle minimises the “problematic moments of the scriptural infancy narrative”; Joseph’s doubt in his wife is the subject of a mere forty-two lines while the N-Town Cycle (ca. 1463–75) includes a whole trial sequence where Mary’s virginity is proven in court (Coletti, 65 and 78–81). Earlier I noted that the Chester Cycle concentrates on the divinity of Jesus and as such the drama that the influence of the divine sparks off in the Holy Family is dealt with swiftly. Even so, the play does not entirely ignore either the ambivalence nor the “substantive conflicts” that Mary and Jesus’ ambiguous bodies appear to have engendered (Coletti, 65 and 70). I would argue that by allowing Herod to attempt to construct the infant Christ as a problematic child, either an otherworldly invader and a changeling, or, on the other hand, an illegitimate and base parody of a human child, the play relies on the audience’s antipathy to Jesus’s enemy to silence contemporary anxiety about the divine incarnate.15 Christ is connected to the child substitution motif in Arthour and Merlin much as the stolen sheep in the “Second Shepherds’ Play” mirrors Jesus. Merlin is fathered by the Devil on a human virgin in direct response 15  As my study has focused in large part on the text rather than the performance, I can only note that the playwright’s exploitation of the vulnerability of the infants may well have tapped into what MacLehose describes as “an almost obsessive concern for and high degree of emotion about children”; whether ridiculous or horrifying, the response must surely have been visceral. MacLehose, 213.



to Jesus and the miracle of the incarnation. Merlin is intended to be the Antichrist, a demonic changeling, created to take Christ’s place and to undo all of his good works: “Swiche schuld acomber also fele/So þat oþer brouȝt to wele” (Auchinleck, 673–4). The plan is “bygyled” by Merlin’s baptism, but nevertheless his status as intended Antichrist and dark mirror for Jesus highlights the way in which literature, and in particular literary bodies that imperfectly reflect the Christ child, could be a space in which writers could attempt to “tease out the implications of Christian theology and miracle” (Coletti, 65). This positioning of the Antichrist as a changeling can also be seen in the Chester Cycle; as in Arthour and Merlin, he is “insynne ingendered” (Antichrist 633) by a devil, but in this case the Devil chooses a mother of “cleane whooredome” (Antichrist 668). He is, as Stevens notes, “foremost, a parodist” with “the power to imitate the human form of Christ” (300). Within his own play, he is the “ultimate false imitation of God”; taking the high throne and giving his own rendition of God’s opening lines “I am the very God of might” (Antichrist 221, Stevens, 307). This throne is also occupied at one point or another by both Herod and the Devil. These three form “a ludicrous triangle of bombast and deceit within the play”, each a new spin on or aspect of the evil that would see itself in the high seat of power that is rightfully God’s (Martin, 169). The Chester playwright has a sophisticated grasp of dramatic irony and relies on it throughout the plays, most obviously in “Antichrist”, but the Herod plays prefigure the audience’s ironic perspective on the action on stage (Stevens, 313). While Herod’s construction of the infant Jesus as a changeling attempting to take his rightful place on the throne is effective on stage, the audience are aware that if anyone can be considered to be a changeling it is Herod, who was placed on the throne by a foreign power—and if Herod is a changeling then so is the Antichrist. It is clear that the use of the child substitution motif in Middle English literature was complex, multilayered, and usually implicit rather than explicit. Writers relied on their audience’s understanding of the multiple connotations of words such as “conioun” and particularly exploited its association with supernatural changelings to explore complex issues. I have focused on the theological anxieties inherent in the figure of the Christ child and how the child substitution motif, often either deployed by an enemy or embodied in a parodic figure, could allow writers to



either shut down or acknowledge these anxieties. The physical violence that is done to the bodies of infants in “Innocents” is enabled through the preceding derogatory language directed against them. Jesus is not a baby, the Innocents are not infants, they are all changelings and should be dealt with as if they are inhuman others. It is clear that the perceived vulnerability of the child was such that even language could be exploited to alter the way in which the body of the child was perceived. William MacLehose’s conception of the medieval child as a vulnerable and concerning figure, susceptible to adverse influences, can clearly be seen in these texts. However, there is a notable absence of true changelings. Rather than a negative construction of childhood being embodied in a malignant changeling, separate from the true infant, the idea of child substitution is instead applied like a template directly on to the infant’s form. Thus, the infant’s body contains the potential to be influenced or constructed as both good and evil.

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Inducting Childhood: The Scripted Spontaneity of Self-Referential Child Players Bethany Packard

“Step Forth Like One of the Children” The newly reconstituted Children of Paul’s likely reintroduced themselves to the theater-going public of London with the questions that begin the induction to John Marston’s Antonio and Mellida. The child players enter as though backstage and one asks his fellows if they are prepared for the performance: “Are ye ready? Are ye perfect?” The boy playing the villainous Piero replies: “Faith, we can say our parts. But we are ignorant in what mould we must cast our actors” (3–4). Overtly, this line references the style of their performance, and as the conversation continues the young actors describe how they will physically manifest their assigned characters. The actors mold themselves into their roles and are molded by Marston’s dialog. Further, as they create their characters and introduce the play’s content they mold the cultural identity of “child player.” Edel Lamb argues that early modern children’s companies “produce an institutional and cultural category of the child player” in which “children” are defined not necessarily by age but through economic and hierarchical structures that offer them no path from apprentice to adult status (Lamb, 12–16). B. Packard (*) Transylvania University, Lexington, KY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




Building on her articulation of this category, I argue that the inductions of children’s company plays, and additional metatheatrical moments, construct the cultural role of child player for audience consumption and that inductions make visible the role’s status as a fictional construct. Children’s company plays portray a literary and theatrical culture enmeshed with malleable child figures, and inductions spotlight individual boys manifesting multiple childhoods. The unstable identity of “child player” forecloses any sense of childhood as a discrete developmental stage and undercuts the inevitability of growing up into adulthood. Inductions highlight “child player” as dramatic performance and interweave fictional part and performer through their combination of scripted improvisation and self-referential metatheatricality. For Jane Freeman, scripted dialogue and improvisation are on a continuum and “scripted improvisation” describes moments that could leave early modern audiences in doubt of whether they were witnessing rehearsed or spontaneous performance (Freeman, 247, 255, 257). She stresses scripted dialog that seems improvised due to speakers’ swift and witty interplay, while Karen Kettnich includes portrayals of improvisation on stage even if they are recognizably scripted. As Kettnich notes, scripted improvisation is a prominent feature of children’s company plays and of inductions in particular; they “create fictions of actors speaking spontaneously before the play proper begins, ushering the audience into the world of the scripted fiction through questionably scripted dialogue” (Kettnich, 130). Such uncertainty about the nature of a performance contributes to the instability of the child player role. An example of scripted improvisation in Antonio and Mellida occurs in a misunderstanding between the children who will play Forobosco and Alberto. “Alberto” is something of a know-it-all with a propensity for telling others how to tackle their roles. After one such speech, “Forobosco” comments: “Ha, ha, ha! Tolerably good, good faith, sweet wag” (38). “Alberto” is initially offended by the pointed flattery, and “Forobosco,” in turn, seems surprised by his harsh response, protesting: “I but dispose my speech to the habit of my part” (41). After some further wrangling, “Alberto” finally understands: “O, doth he play Forobosco, the parasite?” (49). “Forobosco” seemingly overdid the flattery to verbally mold himself into his part. Marston scripts an exchange that confuses the process of getting into character with slights between actors. “Alberto” is confused about who speaks, Forobosco or the boy playing him, and the audience might be, too. Marston scripts these possibilities, but there remains room for



performance variation. For example, does “Forobosco” offend accidentally by speaking in character, or does he needle “Alberto” for his insistence on instructing others? In a 2008 Dulwich College production featuring modern boy actors, Paapa Mills-Bampoe, as “Alberto,” mimicked the tone and posture of Tolu Johnson’s “Forobosco” in his offended reaction, adding a further layer performance (Boys’ Companies Present Marston). For a moment, the actor playing a child player who would play Alberto performed Forobosco without realizing it. The overlapping uncertainties over who is speaking, character or actor, and whose words are spoken, playwright or boy, cast in relief the constructed nature of the “child player”; it is a role like “Alberto” and “Forobosco.” Multiple versions of childhood emerge and overlap in the figures of each young actor. Performances like this show that inductions enable audience discernment of children’s voices interacting with the adult voices managing the theatrical endeavor and its cultural constructs of childhood. Child actors in inductions often deliver lines referencing their physical characteristics and gesture toward their status as performers, drawing audience attention to the frequent disparity between the child player and his often adult parts. Scholars such as Michael Shapiro have noted the dual consciousness, tension, or irony produced through this self-referential language. Such tension is certainly at work in inductions, but these metatheatrical moments have often served as grist for claims about the performance styles of child players and have been used to label them parodic, burlesque, saturnalian, and hyperbolic. In light of these claims, inductions have also functioned as a means of comparing child and adult performance styles and of using these child figures to shed light on their elders more generally.1 Child players have been marginalized in their own genre, but attending to them reveals multifaceted figures with varied childhoods. Scholars including Lucy Munro, Claire Busse, and Edel Lamb emphasize the varied performance possibilities of children’s companies and note that child players’ physical appearance would likely have been accepted as a theatrical convention, like boys playing female roles (Munro 2005, 2–3, 42–3; Busse, 84–91; Lamb, 21). While agreeing with these arguments I stress that the trend favoring inductions early in the children’s companies’ revival, and the concomitant prevalence of self-referential language, offers more than a point of entry into debates on performance style. 1  Shapiro, 103–12; Caputi, 130; Foakes; Kirsch, 26–37; Berland; Ayers, 360; Levin; Weiss, 83–4.



Acknowledging that inductions help to craft the category of “child player” and teach audiences how to read those players helps to explain the popularity of inductions early in the life of the Children of the Chapel and the return of Paul’s Boys (Weiss, 82–4; Lamb, 24). This dramatic and literary trend is especially fruitful space for exploring the multiplicity of early modern childhoods. The self-referential and improvisational features of inductions help create the “child player” role and make its creation apparent, refracting the cultural category into a range of agental and passive child figures. The metatheatrical language of inductions not only plays with the dissonance of children in adult parts, it also overtly stresses that the children play versions of themselves. These childhoods are both individually and culturally constructed, scripted by adults but potentially improvised by players. The induction of Ben Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels opens with three child players fighting over the right to deliver the prologue, but as the fight resolves Player 3, in a prominent moment of scripted improvisation, takes on the roles of two different types of theater patron, embodying stereotypes of his elders and perhaps mimicking some of those in his audience. In response, Player 2 enacts a boy player: “I step forth like one of the children, and ask you, ‘Would you have a stool, sir?’” (125–6). In this reflexive metatheatrical moment Player 2 “steps” into a category of children to which he belongs and from which this line of dialogue also distinguishes him. Offering audience members stools on stage seems an indicator of the “child” role, as it appears in other children’s company plays.2 This moment both stresses that “child player” is a performed identity and underlines that the players on stage are already playing “like one of the children” and have been throughout the induction. Here a child player plays a child player playing a child player. The layers of fictionalized (self) performance underscore the created nature of the category and open it to scrutiny. Juxtaposing this performance of childhood, Player 3 transitions between different versions of adult spectatorship without costume changes. He highlights the performability of adulthood and produces a contrast between the young actor and the older figures into which he transforms. Their purportedly improvised interaction as “child” and “gallant” makes Player 2’s assumption of a boy player persona even more evident. At the same time, the hazy distinction between Player 2 and his “child” part undercuts the distinction between the adults Player 3 enacts and the actor, 2

 Beaumont, Knight of the Burning Pestle, Induction 55–6; Day, Isle of Gulls, A2r.



supposedly enforced by the performer’s small stature. The combination of self-referential language and scripted improvisation draws attention to the creation of the child player category and also obscures boundaries between player and part and between child and adult. This boyhood is not an incomplete state progressing toward a finished, adult masculinity; its multiplicity produces malleable childhoods and adulthoods and thus an unstable sense of child development. As Player 3’s performances of the gallants demonstrates, during inductions the mimetic ability often proverbial to early modern children stands out as more than a professional asset or practice for adulthood. Rather, it contributes to an unpredictable process of maturation. Instead of fixing player status as child, in contrast to the adult roles they play, and setting them on track to eventually become the men they often enact, the self-­ referential language of inductions highlights the created nature and plurality of adulthoods and childhoods. Children’s company plays offer access to child players performing fictional versions of themselves and their elders, unsettling the starting and concluding points of purportedly inevitable maturation. The scripted spontaneity of the inductions blends the contributions of adults, playwrights, and managers with that of the boys, and uncertainty about the nature of the performance and its components further destabilizes any sense of an essentialist child. If all these personas can be created so too can the purportedly natural life cycle of mankind. The boys on stage are not part of a developmental continuum inevitably stretching toward adulthood or cycling through fixed ages of man: infant, boy, youth, and so on. The childhoods manifested via the construction of the child player role offer versions of development beyond linear growing up. Child players’ centrality to their dramatic genre enables erratic agency within plays that contributes to the texts’ communication and formation of childhoods, even when the players seem most minimized.

“Like to Some Boy that Acts” The created nature of child players makes them potentially disruptive figures on multiple fronts. The scripted improvisation and self-referential language of inductions makes visible their fictional, in-process position and produces child players with the power to either further or disrupt the dramatic enterprise, in addition to unsettling assumptions about supposedly innate aspects of childhood, adulthood, and the process of traversing between them. Their volatility within the construct of dramatic and



c­ultural narratives is mutually reinforcing. This volatility both helps to make the fictional nature of the child player role visible and is fostered by that process of highlighted cultural construction. Writing about the induction to Cynthia’s Revels, Claire Busse asserts: “Rather than an empty vessel speaking others’ words, the child here acquires a power unavailable to the playwright—indeed a particular power over the playwright. For the playwright relies on the child to convey his intentions without distorting or undermining them … Jonson depicts child actors as independent and potentially disruptive forces” (Busse, 80). When he loses the right to speak the prologue, Player 3 stages a rebellion of scripted improvisation. His declared intention of spoiling the play by giving away the entire plot in fact insures the spectators are prepared for upcoming events. The acknowledgement of what Busse calls the child player’s “particular power” interweaves with acknowledgement of adult molding of the child player and the overt depiction, through Player 2, of “child” as a role to be assumed on stage. The various Boy parts in Francis Beaumont’s Knight of the Burning Pestle also make the creation of the child player role visible. While Rafe might seem the play’s most obvious example of a figure molded into a child player, the nameless Boys who cross from interludes into the acts and back again emphasize “child player” as a cultural category. Throughout the play the grocer, George, and his wife, Nell, try to impose their dramatic preferences on a reluctant Boy who both is and plays a member of the company. At the start of act 4 and in the interlude preceding it Beaumont groups this Boy with two other Boy parts, a juxtaposition that dramatizes the formation of the child player role. The parts could be doubled to further highlight their interconnections. During the interlude Nell directs the dance steps of a Boy and comments on his small frame. Although he cannot meet her demands for tumbling and fire eating, she tips him. As scene 1 begins, Beaumont follows this exchange with Jasper’s employment of a Boy in his scheme to fake his own death and eventually marry Luce. Jasper’s payment immediately echoes Nell’s. Jasper asks, recalling the induction of Antonio and Mellida, “And art thou perfect / In all thy business?” (4.1.3–4), and the Boy assents, an exchange that highlights his shift from page to child player in what virtually becomes another play-within-a-play. Nell’s demands of the dancing Boy and Jasper’s instructions to another Boy set out potential expectations for child players and highlight audience and master roles in constructing the category (Smith, 486–8; Weiss, 87). Beaumont combines self-referential



­ etatheatricality, noting both the physical appearance of the actors and m their ongoing theatrical endeavor, and scripted spontaneity in the faux offthe-­cuff exchanges between the Citizens and the Boys. To make the link between performing Boys in interlude and act unavoidable, Beaumont follows the exchange between Jasper and the Boy with Nell and George again calling over a Boy to demand Rafe’s return. The many counterarguments that Beaumont gives the Boy against the Citizens’ dramatic suggestions further construct the child player category. This player possesses significant knowledge about theatrical practices and other companies’ repertories, and he uses his “particular power” to further the theatrical enterprise rather than undermine it. The dancing Boy and the Citizen’s intermediary Boy are staged as players interrupted in the midst of performance, and their proximity makes it hard to avoid recognizing the Boy working for Jasper as a child player playing a Boy who is in turn playing a fictional version of “himself.” The juxtaposition of these Boys makes matryoshka doll layers of performance visible across the parts and reminds the audience that all of them are actors playing child players. The Boys of The Burning Pestle are not obedient puppets or clever mimics serving as the mode of transmission for adult creative and entrepreneurial aims. They are invested in the enterprise and knowledgeable about professional practices. In contrast, the children of John Day’s Isle of Gulls are ignorant innocents. Both plays make visible the formation of the child player category, reveal varied childhoods through individual figures, and undermine assumptions about innate childhood qualities. In Day’s induction, the child Prologue tries to appease three Gallants grilling him on stage and appeal to his audience by invoking pity for himself and the other child actors. Day again gives us audience members on stage making demands, and this time each gallant wants a different kind of play and threatens to leave unless he gets it. The child points out that the play cannot be a biting satire, and full of bawdy humor, and a declamatory Edward Alleyn-style tragedy. He foresees a potential domino effect of walkouts but appeals to the audience from a position of weakness: “tis growne into a custome at playes, if any one rise (especially of any fashionable sort) about what serious business soeuer, the rest thinking it in dislike of the play, tho he neuer thinks it, cry mew, by Jesus vilde; and leaue the poor hartlesse children to speake their Epilogue to the emptie seates” (A3r). These children are “heartless” in the sense that they may be cowardly, listless, even foolish, not cruel. The heart can be taken out of them by audience rejection. Indeed, when Day’s child player finally does deliver the prologue it



stresses that, given the contradictory demands of audiences, “we / That scarcely know the rules of Poetsie / Cannot scape check” (A3v). Day stresses child player ignorance and further amplifies the constructive authority of adults. However, this emphasis itself reveals the created nature of the “we” to which the Prologue refers, a “we” that fragments into plural childhoods. Performed six or seven years after the early inductions of Antonio and Mellida and Cynthia’s Revels, in 1606, the oldest players in The Isle of Gulls would be in their upper teens or even early twenties. While a young boy might have delivered the Prologue, the three Gallants could have been played by the oldest actors, who would be the same age as some of the actual gallant spectators. These figures demanding stools from the Prologue produce different versions of childhood than the interaction between Jonson’s Player 2 and Player 3. Later in Cynthia’s Revels Player 3, in his role within the play proper as Anaides, is described as having a creaky, breaking voice, so the original actor may have been one of the oldest Chapel Children, at 13 or 14 (4.1.52–3). Day’s older actors are encompassed by the Prologue’s ignorant “we” and are among the “heartlesse children” the audience ought to pity. These words convey diminutive weakness even as more experienced actors present a childhood perhaps visually indistinguishable from young adulthood. This simultaneous presentation of these incongruous childhoods highlights the formation of the child player category. Day introduces child players as puppets uttering an adult’s words while the scripted improvisation possibilities of the Gallant roles also make room for their own contributions to the performance, further undermining their supposed ignorance about “the rules of Poetsie.”3 This sort of productive contrast, which constructs the category of “child player” in conjunction with and against the actors on stage, also comes into play with the negative stereotypes of boy players as bad actors. Descriptions of child players as ranting over-actors and weak performers appear not infrequently within children’s company plays and have fueled scholarly arguments asserting overwhelmingly parodic boy acting styles. However, considering such descriptions of players unable to fill their characters’ shoes in context results in a different view. Contrast between the criticisms and the actors speaking the lines both underlines the fictive 3  Munro raises the possibility that child players were arrested due to the scandal surrounding the play, indicating they were not perceived as passive instruments (2005), 29.



nature of the child player category and produces a far more skilful version of the child player with the ability to disrupt or make the play. As children’s company plays delineate the category they reveal the varied childhoods within it. For example, in the induction to Cynthia’s Revels the first of Player 3’s “improvised” gallants condemns the children as “rascally tits” who “act like so many wrens, or pismires” (105, 106). These lines produce the humorous frisson of Player 3 condemning himself in the playwright’s words while in the pose of an audience member. The insults focus on the boys’ small size as well as their limited abilities. However, if the joke of Player 3 mocking tobacco-smoking gallants is going to fly, these insults cannot accurately depict their speaker. The lines stand in opposition to what must be happening on the stage: a child player transitioning effectively from one version of adult theatergoer to another. The pauses written into the speech give the actor an opportunity for stage business that would depend on comic timing and the ability to improvise with other actors or gallants actually sitting on stage. Jonson’s dependence on the child player to pull off this extended bit stands in opposition to the lines. Thus, by proffering a weak view of the child player, these lines in context underscore child player skill by contrast while also indicating the fictional nature of the category. While we cannot be certain about the effects of self-referential metatheatricality and scripted improvisation in early modern children’s company productions, contemporary boy player performances provide valuable evidence. The work of Edward’s Boys, the students of King Edward VI School under the direction of Perry Mills, demonstrates that negative stereotypes about child players can work dramatically in contrast to the production performance style. This productive opposition to the stereotype of bad child actors is evident in their 2011 production of Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge. Although the second Antonio play does not have an induction, there are many metatheatrical moments, and from the outset Marston attributes dismissive views of boy actors to the bereaved Pandulfo (1.2.312–15). In act 4, scene 2 Pandulfo rejects his previously Stoic outlook and instead vies with Antonio for the position of most histrionic revenger. His critique of his past behavior, through negative stereotypes about child actors, is strangely reversed. As Pandulfo mourns over his son’s corpse he condemns himself:           Why, all this while I ha’ but played a part           Like to some boy that acts a tragedy,



          Speaks burly words and raves out passion;           But when he thinks upon his infant weakness,           He droops his eye. I spake more than a god,           Yet am less than a man. (4.2.70–5)

These lines certainly draw attention to the actor who plays a part in the drama, but they also highlight performances that are not in the vein described. As Pandulfo embraces the role of revenger he does start to “rave,” but his earlier scenes don’t contain especially “burly words,” and this was borne out in the Edward’s Boys production. Although George Matts, as Antonio, was at times quite melodramatic and Jeremy Franklin’s Piero revelled gleefully in villainy, these lines did not directly target Ted Clarke’s Pandulfo or any of the other actors’ performance styles (Kirwan). This self-critique more accurately describes what the character is becoming, not what he has been, as was apparent in Clarke’s performance of this scene (Antonio’s Revenge 2011). While he did not become a raging tragedian caricature, he became increasingly intense, his voice louder, his movements more extreme as the speech continued and his composure fractured until he finally collapsed onto his knees at its end. Although Pandulfo experiences emotional weakness, the description of boy actor inadequacy in Marston’s lines was not reflected in the engaging, grim production. The mismatch between performance and embedded critique did not turn Pandulfo’s and other metatheatrical speeches into outliers or dramatically unworkable moments in the Edward’s Boys show. Rather, they underscored the strong performances of the cast in contrast to the dismissive lines. While Adrian Weiss asserts that Pandulfo’s speech “differentiates between this particular actor and the general class of boy actors,” (Weiss, 89) the contrast functions more broadly. Just as Pandulfo’s critique of himself is backward, not describing his early scenes but rather his embrace of revenge, so these self-referential lines do not describe the boy actors but rather underscore their strong performances. By articulating negative stereotypes about child actors and contrasting those stereotypes with plot and performance, playwrights like Jonson and Marston undermine the image of the weak, vaunting child player instead of reinforcing it. They prepare the audience to expect a different version of the child player, one who is skilled and entertaining. They highlight the constructed status of the child player by stressing one variation of childhood on the page and relying on another in performance.



When Pandulfo declares himself “less than a man” the reflexive emphasis on the young actor in the part is evident. Marston even stops the line of verse short. The line is “less than,” presumably like its performer. The silence and missing feet emphasize and embody the sentiment. This versification relies on the assumption that boys are less than men and also implies a continuum stretching from lacking child to complete adult. However, such assumptions about maturation are undermined by the very category of “child player” to which Marston contributes.

Unsettling Growth of “Heartless Children” In a moment of metatheatricality and scripted improvisation, the clown Balurdo enters in act 2, scene 1 of Antonio’s Revenge with a stage beard partially affixed to his face. He struggles to explain his sudden acquisition of a beard, having been previously beardless, and presents it, stumblingly, as a means of concealing “that my wit be bald” (2.1.24). He finally concedes, “the tiring-man hath not glued on my beard half fast enough” (30). Even as it highlights and pokes fun at the dramaturgical practices of a children’s company and their frequent use of false beards, in its ineffectuality this moment highlights the ease with which masculinity and adulthood can be assumed and performed. As Will Fisher argues, “if facial hair was thus ideologically central to the construction of masculinity, it was also crucially prosthetic” (Fisher, 167, 168). The beard that won’t stick indicates Balurdo’s intellectual shortcomings through his need for a visible supplement, and it implies that a lack of beard helps to categorize the players as children. They do not have beards to signal physical maturity. At the same time, the flimsiness of Balurdo’s beard barely clinging to his face indicates the flimsiness of the distinction between childhood and adulthood and the slightness of the signifying features needed on stage to change audience perceptions to signal child or adult. They do not indicate a natural progression toward adulthood and can be easily assumed with the aid of a good tiring-man. Whether conceived as a process of molding, acquisition of missing qualities, linear progression, or cyclical spin through the seven ages of man, assumptions about growing up carry with them an air of inevitability. Child players undermine such certainties through the light their construction shines on the performability of childhoods and adulthoods. For early moderns, child development could be inexorable but also malleable, as the opening lines of Antonio and Mellida indicate. Children were ripe for the



impression of their elders and with increasing age they were presumed to stiffen and retain those early influences. Children’s company plays offer a lens for approaching cultural commonplaces about childhood while also producing paradoxical variations. Child players take such varied impressions, are molded by so many different parts, that they produce very uncertain starting points for subsequent maturation into adult masculinity. Claire Busse notes that child players were necessarily an “ambivalent” medium for playwrights: “Neither fully subject nor fully object, commodity nor agent, the child actor presented authors with an indeterminate identity” (83). Such indeterminacy would be amplified as the players perform many versions of adulthood, male and female parts, and a range of ages, often within the same play. For example, in Thomas Middleton’s A Mad World, My Masters, Follywit, a beardless youth, performs convincingly as the bearded Lord Owemuch, the courtesan Frank Gullman, and a player. He not only becomes yet another child player acting a version of himself and gesturing toward the child player’s constructed status, his many parts also scramble assumptions about linear or cyclical maturation. The presumed endpoint or peak of maturation, adulthood, becomes uncertain in the face of its visibly fictive, performed constructs. In children’s company productions, differences between boy, man, and woman appear as differences of degree. As the child player identity complicates the start and end points of growing up, it also alters the temporality of child development, detaching it from age and appearance. This professional and cultural role encompasses many childhoods. Child players grow alarmingly quickly and remain boys eternal. On one hand, child players seem to grow too fast, their many opportunities to copy adults in performance and their mimetic and rhetorical skill leading to accelerated maturation. Perhaps the most famous example of a preternaturally adult child player is Ben Jonson’s iteration of Salomon Pavy, whose death results from his skill at playing his elders: “And did act (what now we moan) / Old men so duly, / As, sooth, the Parcae thought him one, / He played so truly” (“Epitaph on S.  P.” 11–14). In Jonson’s telling, Pavy’s acting skills are dangerous only to himself. However, as is evident in his and others’ children’s company plays, child players are not simply instruments; at their most passive they are also agental children who can help or hinder theatrical endeavors. While Jonson consigns Pavy to the contained innocence of heaven, child players’ speedy maturation over the course of their performances, skipping back and forth across the ages of man, unsettles all inexorable versions of growth.



Even as child players grow up swiftly before their audiences, they also remain children. Salomon Pavy is forever a child player, in heaven and in Jonson’s verse. Similarly, as the early cohorts of Paul’s Boys and the Chapel Children aged they remained child players, even into their twenties. Nathan Field and Thomas Jordan are prominent examples of this persistent child identity. As Edel Lamb has shown, the professional label “children” was enforced by structural hierarchy. Early modern children’s companies forestalled adulthood by offering child players no avenues out of subjection to managers and shareholders. Just as pre-teen child players could figure adulthood, so young men could be children; the cultural category “no longer relies on the actual bodily identity of the boy player” (Lamb, 41, 35–42; Munro 2012, 565–58). This emphasis on childishness regardless of age or appearance is visible in inductions like Day’s. The Isle of Gulls insists on innocent, ignorant child players too fragile to cope with audience rejection, despite the presence of older actors. The construction of the child player role is revealed through its incorporation of these disparate childhoods. The sense of eternal childhood, and indeed the myriad ways in which the child player obstructs and alters the temporality of growing up, can be productively considered through Kathryn Bond Stockton’s concept of “growing sideways,” which she opposes to the verticality of growing up and which may also indicate prolonged childhood. She deploys this terminology to explore multiple versions of the queer child, and given the strictures surrounding child players her framework is apt: “Children grow sideways as well as up … in part because they cannot, according to our concepts, advance to adulthood until we say it’s time” (Stockton, 6). The readiness of early moderns to view child players as such left them to grow sideways, even as their acceptance of small children in adult roles might produce a sense of accelerated development. Usefully, sideways growth makes room for development that does not press forward to inevitable adult masculinity: “ ‘growing sideways’ suggests that the width of a person’s experience or ideas, their motives or their motions, may pertain at any age, bringing ‘adults’ and ‘children’ into lateral contact of surprising sorts” (Stockton, 11). This certainly applies to child players who within their cultural category gain a breadth of experiences and play a variety of parts. These performances certainly bring “ ‘adults’ and ‘children’ into lateral contact” as the actors play adults and children and reveal the shared performability of those identities. The development of the child player through self-referential metatheatricality and scripted improvisation



scrambles the assumption that child becomes adult through linear or cyclical development. Instead, “adult” and “child” come into contact regularly, for instance with the application of Balurdo’s flimsy stage beard. Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s Woman Hater begins: “Gentlemen, Inductions are out of date, and a Prologue in Verse is as stale as a black velvet cloak and a bay garland; therefore you shall have it in plain prose” (1–3). Since The Isle of Gulls featured an induction at around the same time, perhaps inductions had not completely fallen from favor. In more recent times inductions continue to be viewed as “stale.” They have been interpreted as exposing performances by child players as stereotypical and overwrought as the dramaturgical use of “a black velvet cloak and a bay garland.” Or, as Edward’s Boys would have it in their 2016 production, as played out as wearing “a blue suit and brown shoes” (The Woman Hater 2016). However, inductions and other metatheatrical moments contribute to the cultural construction of the child player and make that constitutive process apparent on stage. The delineation of the child player category by playwrights, performers, managers, and audiences spotlights the varied childhoods it encompasses, while the contrast and overlap among those childhoods symbiotically further contributes to the cultural category. Child players convey unpredictable variations of child development; they leap purportedly discrete stages to play adults and may grow sideways instead of up. I maintain, although I write it in plain prose, that the unsettling yet foundational and always in-process child player role, and its literary and theatrical genre, offers a vital means of relocating marginalized early modern childhoods to center stage.

Bibliography Ayers, Philip J.  1972. “Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge: The Morality of the Revenging Hero.” Studies in English Literature, 1500–1800 12 (2): 359–374. Beaumont, Francis. 2004. The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Edited by Sheldon P. Zitner. The Revels Plays. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ———. 2016. The Woman Hater. DVD. Directed by Perry Mills, performed by Edward’s Boys. The RSC “The Other Place,” Stratford-upon-Avon Edward’s Boys: A Gavin Birkett Production for King Edward VI School. Beaumont, Francis, and John Fletcher. 1966. The Woman Hater. In The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon. Vol. 1. Edited by George Walton Williams, general editor Fredson Bowers. London: Cambridge University Press.



Berland, Ellen. 1969. “The Function of Irony in Marston’s Antonio & Mellida.” Studies in Philology 66: 739–755. Busse, Claire M. 2006. “‘Pretty Fictions’ and ‘Little Stories’: Child Actors on the Early Modern Stage.” In Childhood and Children’s Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550–1800, ed. Andrea Immel and Michael Witmore, 75–101. New York: Routledge. Caputi, Anthony. 1961. John Marston, Satirist. New York: Octagon Books. Day, John. 1606. The Isle of Gulls. London: [John Trundle] for John Hodgets. Fisher, Will. 2001. “The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England.” Renaissance Quarterly 54 (1): 155–187. Foakes, R.A. 1962. “John Marston’s Fantastical Plays: Antonio & Mellida and Antonio’s Revenge.” Philological Quarterly 41 (1): 220–239. Freeman, Jane. 2003. “Shakespeare’s Scripted Riffs.” In Improvisation in the Arts in the Medieval and Renaissance, ed. Timothy J. McGee, 247–272. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications. Jonson, Ben. 1981. Cynthia’s Revels. In The Complete Plays of Ben Jonson. Vol. II. Edited by G.A. Wilkes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 1996. The Complete Poems. Edited by George Parfitt. New York: Penguin. Kettnich, Karen. 2007. “Now Mark That Fellow; He Speaks Extempore’: Scripted Improvisation in The Antipodes.” Early Theatre 10 (2): 129–139. Kirsch, Arthur. 1972. Jacobean Dramatic Perspectives. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia. Kirwan, Peter. 2011. “Antonio’s Revenge (Edward’s Boys) @ King Edward IV Grammar School.” March 11. Lamb, Edel. 2009. Performing Childhood in the Early Modern Theatre: The Children’s Playing Companies (1599–1613). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Levin, Richard. 1974. “The Proof of the Parody.” Essays in Criticism 24: 312–317. Marston, John. 1997. The Malcontent and Other Plays. Edited by Keith Sturgess. Oxford University Press. ———. 2008. Boys’ Companies Present Marston. DVD. The History of Antonio & Mellida, directed by Matthew Edwards, performed by Students of Dulwich College. The Dutch Courtesan, directed by Perry Mills, performed by Students of King Edward VI School. Globe Education Centre, London: A Gavin Birkett Production. ———. 2011. Antonio’s Revenge. DVD. Directed by Perry Mills, performed by Edward’s Boys. Stratford-upon-Avon: A Gavin Birkett Production for King Edward VI School. Middleton, Thomas. 2010. A Mad World, My Masters. In The Collected Works. Edited by Peter Saccio, general editors Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Munro, Lucy. 2005. Children of the Queen’s Revels: A Jacobean Theatre Repertory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



———. 2012. “Infant Poets and Child Players: The Literary Performance of Childhood in Caroline England.” In The Child in British Literature: Literary Constructions of Childhood, Medieval to Contemporary, ed. Adrienne E. Gavin, 54–68. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Shapiro, Michael. 1977. Children of the Revels: The Boy Companies of Shakespeare’s Time and Their Plays. New York: Columbia University Press. Smith, Joshua. 2012. “Reading Between the Acts: Satire and the Interludes in The Knight of the Burning Pestle.” Studies in Philology 109 (4): 474–495. Stockton, Kathryn Bond. 2009. The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Weiss, Adrian. 1987. “A Pill to Purge Parody: Marston’s Manipulation of the Paul’s Environment in the Antonio Plays.” In The Theatrical Space, ed. James Redmond, 81–98. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


The Child on Display in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair Anna-Claire Simpson

In Act 1, Scene 5 of Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair (1614), John Littlewit and his wife Win craft a “dainty device” in order to convince Win’s widowed Puritan mother Dame Purecraft and her suitor, Zeal-of-the-landBusy, to agree to let them attend the titular fair. John has written a puppet play for the local “motion man” at the fair and wants his wife to see it, but worries that his mother-in-law will deem it too profane for her daughter’s sensibilities (1.5.150–1). The device is this: Win, who may or may not actually be pregnant, will perform symptoms of pregnancy (weakness, hunger, and an overwhelming longing to “eat of a pig”) in order to compel her family to visit the fair where she can revive herself at Ursula’s pig tent (1.5.158). While Dame Purecraft cautions her daughter to resist her cravings for the “unclean beast,” Busy (perhaps hungry for pork himself) deftly translates the sinful act of eating pig into an edifying performance of anti-Semitism, suggesting they all go to the fair to both indulge and demonstrate their disdain for Jews (1.6.8, 15). The crux of the Littlewits’ device—dramatizing pregnancy to manipulate a fanatical mother that fair-­ going indulgences can be curative and the resulting translation of that A.-C. Simpson (*) University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




indulgence by Busy into a symbol of religious devotion—serves Jonson’s merciless treatment of Puritan morality and the hypocrisies it produces, as Puritan attitudes toward childhood and childrearing tended toward intense spiritual education and parenting.1 However, on the level of metatheater, this scene arranges the family and the play’s audience around the idea of the child: a breeding thing, a nascent thing, a present thing, an abstract thing, and a performative thing (in this case, a thing that can be manifested through performance). While Jonson’s fictional world might take Win and her family as moral liabilities, her performance of “being with child” affords a minoritarian agency, both as unlikely catalyst for her family’s consumption of secular entertainment and as a plot device for Jonson, moving his characters from domestic space to fairground.2 Likewise, we are attuned to the possibility of unlicensed fun via such arrangements. Broadly speaking, “being with children” (taken loosely) and “being children” constitute much of what the play is concerned with, and more often than not, objects, attitudes, activities, and attributes associated with children have the power to attach themselves to characters across age, gender, and status. Half a century ago, Jonas A. Barish found this to be a remarkable feature of Bartholomew Fair, noting that “human littleness and childishness” constitute “trait[s] peculiar to the denizens of the world and the fair” (11). Such “littleness,” meaning that which is physically small and/or unimportant, echoes throughout the play’s lexicon and circulates with the fair’s commodities. The small playthings, like dolls and gingerbread men, as well as “play” things, like puppets, are part of the general ephemera that invite be-littling encounters to any and all. Resembling a toyshop and playground, Jonson’s fair functions as a kind of scriptive site, where interacting with the seemingly meaningless bears out meaningful

1  Margaret L.  King even conceptualizes Puritan parents as early “helicopter parents.” Dame Purecraft’s fretful response to her daughter’s cravings—“remember that your education has been with the purest”—echoes such obsessive preoccupation with protective parenting and anxieties about how the child reflects on parenting itself (1.6.6–7). King, 393. 2  Refining previous critiques on the grotesque and carnivalesque forces in Bartholomew Fair, Lori Schroeder Haslem points out that the ending, whereby authority fails and the materiality of the fair and its bodily pleasures and consumer-isms it indulges prevail, is ultimately a gendered triumph; that the “female grotesque” body, such as Win’s, is largely subdued and shamed. Haslem, 449.



behaviors and consequences.3 Money is lost, a marriage license is lost, moral authority is lost, and yet all these losses seem to have little consequence when all afflicted, free of care, trot offstage to dine together. Being little or becoming little, it would seem, realizes a communal dissonance with oppressive social order; an order that was, in early modern England, not only fundamentally patriarchal but gerontological too (Thomas, 207). When Win Littlewit performs “being with child,” she leans into a vulnerability that risks inviting more external authority over her body and desires. She subverts her role as dutiful daughter at the same time she intensifies her status as a child (with child) in need of care. Pregnancy at this time was itself suffused with the paradox of hierarchical distinctions. According to Gail Kern Paster, it was understood as “a state of being whereby the female reproducing body is not only different as usual from the male body but different from itself in a way that, at its most dangerous, threatened contamination of self and baby” (Paster, 173). Mothers embodied themselves and their embryonic children in confusing and perilous ways. Conventional wisdom about bodies and selfhood in the early seventeenth century followed the (at times inconsistent) logic of Galenic humoral theory, explaining bodies and experiences of the body by virtue of their fundamental fluidity and susceptibility to outside forces; bodies moving beneath the surface and the surface itself a porous boundary. The permeable body could never be expunged from the theater, and often undergirded anxieties about the ramifications of performance, performativity, and contact in theatrical and non-theatrical spaces alike. To perform as on the early modern stage was not severed from the possibility of becoming. My sense of “becoming” here straddles both the pre-Enlightenment humoral body and Gilles Deleuze’s theories of becoming, of which there is no single definition or interpretation, but for my purposes the following can be useful: “becoming is the unfolding of difference in time and as time,” where difference describes “instability and play rather than stability and sameness” (May, 147). This definition of becoming can, for Jonson’s theater, marry the device of metatheatricality (an aesthetic device) with the kinds of becomings a character-as-actor (or actor-as-character) engages. Metatheatricality, as a device that exposes the permeable spaces—or 3  Robin Bernstein defines a “scriptive thing” as an “item of material culture that prompts meaningful bodily behaviors.” I think it can be usefully applied to the “set of prompts” issued by a site such as a fair, where individuals must navigate how they respond to prompts to interact with and consume what is sold (Bernstein, 71).



manipulable distances—between actor, character, and spectator, had the potential to implicate theater bodies in becoming; in bringing in to the present and blurring the boundaries between the multiplicity of bodies which stretch from one side of the stage to the other. In the context of this “becoming” as a conceptual framework, which I elsewhere articulate with the more specific language typical of performance and theater studies, and those “peculiar traits” of littleness and childishness, I pursue how Bartholomew Fair produces those traits in ways which work with the acting company which premiered the play. To put it another way, I consider how the play makes use of the acting company Jonson wrote for to produce and comment on child bodies, becoming minor, and performance. For scaffolding, I bring together a brief discussion of child performers in early seventeenth century London and the “problem” of negotiating their legibility as such, alongside a short introduction to performance theory as a means to recognizing the complex work of bodies in the theater, and then I demonstrate how a child-ish device in Jonson’s earlier play Epicoene gets translated and diffused in Bartholomew Fair.

Mixed Company: Lady Elizabeth’s Men and Its Childish Associations The profitability of childishness on the early modern stage cannot be overstated, given England’s enthusiasm for child performers at court, the numerous iterations and revivals of children’s acting troupes, the near-­ celebrity attained by a few boy players such as Nathan Field and Salathiel Pavy, and the privileged place of children in church choirs. Bartholomew Fair self-referentially name drops Field in its final scene, when Bartholomew Cokes asks the puppeteer: “Which is your Burbage now? … Your best actor. Your Field.” (5.285–7). The ever-growing body of scholarship on the relationship between early modern drama and the child is a testament to increasing contemporary recognition that children deeply influenced the now vaunted “Age of Shakespeare.” To wit, the edited collection in which this essay appears makes it possible to take such a premise for granted. This essay, in seeking to demystify littleness and childishness as operative devices in the theater, takes as its premise the residual effect of children’s influence on drama of this period. In the theater, the effect of these aesthetics could simultaneously show off child actors as well as promote childish qualities as theatrically desirable. In her book on performing



childhood, Edel Lamb makes a similar argument: “the construction of the player as a child is crucial to the companies’ performances, commercial strategies and to the onstage and offstage identities of the players” (Lamb, 2). Bartholomew Fair proves a unique opportunity to explore the construction of the player as child because it displays an inveterately childish aesthetic when the troupe for which it was written apparently struggled to establish itself as a serious contender amongst adult troupes in a competitive theatrical market. What I mean by childish aesthetics are the traits or even performance techniques shared between plays which produce encounters with the child or childishness; encounters which do not always depend on “real” children but which nonetheless include and even borrow from them. As their name suggests, Lady Elizabeth’s Men did not describe or overtly index a troupe of children, but they were made up of a number of current and former boy players, and the ratio of boys to men was, it would appear, higher than most adult companies.4 A patent for the merger of Lady Elizabeth’s Men with the “remnants of the second Whitefriars boy company,” the Children of the Queens Revels, was “issued on 30 May 1613 and displayed at Coventry in March 1615” (Kathman, 12). Pointing to Bartholomew Fair’s parts and the “unusually large number of women,” it asks for, Suzanne Gossett looks to the “unusual size and composition of the combined company” as an explanation (Bartholomew Fair, 19). Lady Elizabeth’s Men were a feeder troupe for boy players, and the 1613 merger even suggests the possibility that they were overtaken by boys, at least in terms of numbers (Centerwall, 96). Kathleen McLuskie notes that while the troupe likely benefitted from this merger in the form of new actors and new repertoire, she attributes their struggles to the high rate of actor changeover and the oppressive machinations of their primary financial backer Philip Henslowe. She goes on to say that “none of this instability is evident from the content of the plays that are associated with their repertory,” and takes the plays’ “confident addresses to a putative audience” as evidence for how  Siobhan Keenan notes that, despite a somewhat limited surviving repertoire for Lady Elizabeth’s Men, “what we do know points to a company keen to distinguish itself and to capitalize on the traditions associated with the early seventeenth-century boy troupes from which its membership was partly drawn” and that the troupe’s “especially large casts of women was perhaps a way of taking advantage of the larger than usual number of youths in the troupe.” Keenan, 45. 4



the plays could “distance” the troupe “from the commercial activity that made them possible” (McLuskie, 433). Examining the play through the framework of its childishness does not in fact produce evidence of the troupe’s shaky status, but it can more subtly help us understand how a troupe needing or wanting to consolidate its own identity in the “highly volatile” theatrical marketplace of Jonson’s London might have benefited from repertoire which emphasized established successful aspects of its actor’s minor identities (McLuskie, 433). We see this kind of tactic deployed in the play’s Induction, where a scrivener remarks that the “author hath observed a special decorum” in the “dirty” and “stinking” conditions of the Hope Theatre (a sometimes bear-baiting theater where Bartholomew Fair was first performed), recuperating the presence of “other/animal actors” in capturing the scents of London’s actual fair (Induction, 161–3). To some degree, actors’ identities could be emphasized by the moniker of the company to which they belonged. While it is true that boy companies and adult companies were mixed in terms of the range of ages of their players, both company types nonetheless crafted a sense of age by virtue of company name—for example, the Blackfriars Children or the King’s Men. Because players advertised as “men” versus “children” or “boys” appear to have sometimes had flexible correlation to age depending on the troupe and the year, the boy player could be thought of as a “theatrical type”; they were  more a construct of childhood and childish status within the theater system and less an identity necessarily fixed to biological age (Lamb, 3). This is not to say that such a type was not connected to age at all. “Boy player” as a theatrical type seems to have been plastic specifically for those who had already been players as children, and in these cases stage histories carried forward. Whereas, by virtue of name and composition, children’s troupes could dependably contextualize their players as children, adult troupes featuring men and boys would need other strategies for upholding the boy player as theatrical type, particularly in the age spread where the optics of boy as opposed to man are not clear. Consisting of “two asymmetrical classes of performers,” adult troupes, it has been suggested, upheld this binary in performances through casting (Kathman, 220). Many concede that boy players were cast as women, girls, boys, pages, and sometimes young men (Orgel, 69). Adult troupes might have had good reason to exploit childishness specifically. For example, if they had a number of boy players at their disposal, a savvy playwright could design a play around the boy-to-



man ratio. Andrea Crow argues that the abundance of “waggish page” roles in Henry Porter’s The Pleasant Historie of the two angrie Women of Abington demonstrates how an adult company could show off the specific talents of its boy players and capitalize on the “resources the boys’ companies had accrued” through its actors and their past successes (Crow, 181). Keeping in mind the generative and profitable possibilities of childish aesthetics in Bartholomew Fair and those aesthetics as a broader collection of traits than I can compass here, I will continue to focus on these effects as they relate to bodies in particular, as they do with my previous examples. The actors charged with embodying these characters engage multiple onstage personas which in turn summon multiple bodies to go with those personas: the actor’s body, the character’s body, and the character’s performance of yet another body. On the other side of the stage, spectators participate in the generation of a spectator persona, and the symmetry of this equation represents the fundamental formulation of theater as social community, a formulation shared between theater studies and its twin, performance studies. Performance theorist Erika Fischer-Lichte describes the process of bodily multiplicity on stage in terms of the co-presence of the phenomenal body of the actor in relation to the semiotic body of the actor, the phenomenal body being the actor’s “bodily being in the world” versus their “representation of the dramatic character.”5 There can be something else too between the actor’s phenomenal body and the semiotic bodies signified within a play’s fiction: the stage figure. The stage figure mediates and is shaped by phenomenal bodies (the actor, the audience), representational ones, and theater histories. In Jonson’s day, actor persona or troupe identity could be cultivated from within the plays themselves, and metatheater was sometimes deployed just for the purpose of managing reception of stage figures. Some playwrights used inductions to characterize or advertise their actors.6 Rather than relying solely on its meta5  Erika Fischer-Lichte defines the whole theater experience in terms of the bodily co-presence of actors and spectators; each dependent on the presence and meaning-making of the other. Fischer-Lichte, 32, 76. 6  For example, the inductions to John Marston’s comedies for the Children of Paul’s and the Children of Blackfriars might reference specific actors’ names or dramatize the boys putting on their costumes and discussing how they will perform their roles. See Jack Drum’s Entertainment (1599), What You Will (1600), and Antonio and Mellida (1602). Likewise, the induction John Webster added to Marston’s play The Malcontent (1604), a play originally written for the Children of the Chapel and then transferred to the King’s Men, advertises the identities of the adult actors while subtly referencing the Children of the Chapel through a



theatrical induction to do that work, Bartholomew Fair repeatedly produces and accumulates the child, childishness and youth, as a distinguishing motif. The final scene overflows with random swarms of children and childlike spectators who argue with puppets as though they are ontologically equal. In this final overpopulated scene, the capacity for metatheater to leverage bodily presence facilitates that sense of becoming-little, and the stage is brimming with puppet-people. It is important to note that Bartholomew Fair is not the first time Jonson designs a play around the childish associations of a group of actors. Only a few years earlier his play Epicœne, or The Silent Woman (1609) figured greatly on the boy player to supply the comedy’s punchline.

Presenting…Epicœne! Written for the Children of the Blackfriars, Epicœne’s final revelation scene shows off the boy player as a uniquely valuable theatrical resource.7 Crucially, the revelation does not necessarily break the illusionary framework of the play.8 While the simple gesture of removing a wig seems to present the boy to the characters within the fictional framework and the boy player to the theater audience all at once, the simultaneity is not so clear in terms of illusion. Or rather, precisely what two things are happening simultaneously does not correspond neatly along a binary of “real” and “illusory.” When Epicoene’s wig comes off, the same feminine material signifier worn by all the women characters onstage would presumably be exposed as the prosthetic signs of femininity that they are, as would all

printing metaphor: the men larger and therefore in “folio” and the children smaller in “decimo sexto.” Webster’s induction also references what the play loses in its passage to the men’s company: the musical interludes that the boys (as singers and musicians) supplied. Prologues and epilogues similarly crafted identities for the audience, either by appealing to particular elite figures (such as monarchs) or by consolidating the individual entity of the spectator into the collective “audience.” In Francis Beaumont’s induction for Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607), boy players impersonate spectators who interrupt the “prologue,” join the gallants seated on stage, and continue “interrupting” until the play’s end. 7  The Children of the Blackfriars shared players with the Children of Her Majesties Revels, the Children of the Whitefriars, and the Children of the Queen’s Revels. For this reason, some scholars consider these alternate names for the same group of boy players (Greteman, 25). 8  Peter Hyland also uses the term “revelation” to describe moments when disguises are removed, whether or not the audience has been previously made aware of the disguise (Hyland).



gender signifiers.9 In the scene there are five other women on stage, thus Epicoene-as-boy reflects the constructedness of their gender in addition to his. However, Epicoene-as-boy highlights not just gender, but age as construct as well.10 As there are eight “men” on stage, the reveal gives away the fact that everyone onstage is playing at adulthood too. Epicœne’s audience likely expected their stage women were boys, but some plays from the period foreclose engagement with the metatheatrical potential inherent in that layer of performativity while others engage it to varying degrees. With Epicœne, Jonson manipulates the expectation that the illusion of women (and men) will hold out, saving the surprise until the end. Still, the characters remain in costume, in character, and the final scene continues with fifty more lines until the play’s end. The revelation of Epicoene’s “true identity” incorporates the identity of the boy player into the play’s fictional framework without actually breaking the fiction, ultimately keeping in tension the implications of that actor’s body as part of the overall aesthetic effect of live theater. As both a singular reveal and a multiple one, it will never totally uncover the identity of anyone but Epicoene but it will enable the audience to sense, imagine, or perceive the presence of boys and children more broadly. Epicœne’s sustained fiction survives the breaking point of illusion while evoking hitherto unreferenced aspects of the boy players’ identities into the representation.11 This evocation represents a kind of child-ish ­performance aesthetic that generates spectatorial attention to children’s presence as part of the theatrical event. When the Children of the Blackfriars performed Epicœne, many of them seem to have been youths 9  In his account of the prosthesis of gender on and off the early modern stage, Will Fisher argues that “when boy actors donned beards in order to play the parts of men, they would have been as much ‘in drag’ as when they played the parts of women” (84). 10  Marah Gubar usefully coins the term “age transvestism” to name and explore the function of “children impersonating adults and vice versa” as “theatrical practice”, (411). 11  While spectators would undoubtedly watch a performance knowing the actors were boys (or men), the question of their awareness of this fact during performances has been up for debate, in part due to the limited records of audience response. Anthony Dawson’s “simple answer” to this question as it pertains to boys playing women is that “the audience by convention simply ignored the gender of the actor, reading him as her.” I think this answer loses its viability when it comes to children’s companies and their plays, many of which contain numerous “reminders” about the juvenile status of their actors. Even John Lyly littered his plays for the Children of Paul’s with jokes about characters’ sizes, clearly establishing a pattern suggesting that audiences expected or wanted to be reminded or made aware of the childish status of the actors (Dawson, 40).



pushing adulthood. Though not necessarily a widely accepted position, there is a theory, and some evidence for it, that an ever-loosening connection between particularly young boys and boy player status defined the second wave of boy companies post-1600. Blaine Greteman notes “most ‘children’ on the English stage in this period [after 1600] were far from the diminutive boys we often imagine.” He goes on to identify some of the more famous members of the Children of the Blackfriars in 1609, most of whom were in their early twenties, the youngest member aged around seventeen (Greteman, 25). Supporting this theory of the increasing prevalence of the older boy player, David Kathman’s archival work has led him to make the claim that “until the early 1660s, female roles on the English stage (including the most demanding, complex parts) were played by adolescent boys, no younger than twelve and no older than twenty-one or twenty-two, with a median of around sixteen or seventeen” (Kathman, 220). By attending to childish aesthetics we might better understand how boy players, in a range of youthful years, might collectively evoke “children” in the theater.

Displaying the Child and Becoming-Little in Bartholomew Fair Building on the performance effect as childish aesthetic within Epicœne’s concluding scene, I turn back to Bartholomew Fair as an example of escalated and pervasive childish aesthetics and metatheatrical devices. Here, displays of childishness are dispersed amongst many characters, some of which, like Win, leverage it as a means of pursuing their motives. The play’s most obvious man-child, Bartholomew Cokes, turns up broke, wifeless and humiliated by Act 5, and yet he has contentedly chased after the fair’s pleasures and remains content, in the end, gawking at puppets. Jonson might have relished the opportunity to reflect the foibles of his audience, as gawkish theater-goers themselves, through these childish characters, and this would certainly support the idea that theater “holds the mirror up to nature” (Orgel, 153). But the theater’s capacity to generate meaning and experience (not merely reflect) should permit us to imagine the productive potential for Bartholomew Fair’s childishness. The play’s induction calls for a stage sweeper who directly addresses the audience. He apologizes for the players, who have been delayed by a costume mishap, and then gossips about the play’s weaker points. He says



it is a “conceited scurvy” play in “plain English,” and that the author has utterly failed to “hit the humours” of the titular fair, which is held every summer in the center of London at Smithfield. He then boasts that he “kept the stage in Master Tarlton’s time,” when a book keeper emerges, crying “Away, rogue! It’s come to a fine degree in these spectacles when such a youth as you pretend to a judgment” (Induction, 9–54). “Master Tarlton” was Richard Tarlton, a renowned comic actor who died in 1588, making the stage sweep no less than thirty or thirty-five years old. And yet the book-keeper takes aim at his judgment, claiming his youth precludes his judgment. The stage sweeper appears as a figure of contradiction, his age status within the fiction at odds with his claims to a past exceeding that of a youth. The play initiates the audience/actor encounter, an encounter that co-constitutes the very framework of performance, by inducting this age dissonance. In her gloss of the “Master Tarlton” line, Suzanne Gossett suggests the comic possibilities inherent in this contradiction, where the apparent age of the actor could reproduce the contradiction. If played by a boyish-looking actor, his speech about the “good old days” of comedy in the 1580s ironically mocks nostalgia. If played by a more mature-­looking actor, his status as a boy and his treatment at the hands of the book-holder confusingly contrasts his age and social standing. The effect of age dissonance here bespeaks the play’s tendency to interpolate the question of the age of the actor into its fictional framework. Age dissonance can also be performed through the addition or subtraction of commonly accepted signifiers of masculinity. For example, Bartholomew Fair’s wittiest denizen is the cynical gallant Quarlous, the one character who comes out ahead by the play’s end. He assembles a disguise in order to pass as the fair’s local mad man Trouble-All, a disguise that will win him a small fortune and establish him as the play’s masculine victor. In an aside to the audience, he confesses “I have a nest of beards in my trunk, one something like his” and, presumably, pulls the perfect prop beard from the “stuffed breeches” of his “trunk hose” (4.6.159–61). Here the character Quarlous effectively borrows from the actor’s stash of props, exposing the seam along which actor and character meet. Adam Zucker describes the production of the beard here as a “clattering clash of moment,” where the conventions of theatrical performance give way to the character that knows best how to manipulate them, reminding the audience that the demonstrations of wit and masculinity are, for Jonson, crucial tools of survival (Zucker, 97–8).



Yet, in an earlier scene, this same character already seems to have a beard. A bully tauntingly says to Quarlous “Your beard’s not well turned up, sir” and the two draw swords and fight over the insult (4.4.137–8). Quarlous’ beard-switching is more an historically-specific staging issue than a literary one. In Jonson’s day, beards were powerful visual signs of masculinity (Fisher). I propose the possibility that the scene played out like this: the actor playing Quarlous wears one prop beard in the fight scene and then swaps it out for the audience’s benefit. I read this as an intentional spectacle designed for the play’s most “masculine” character: the swapping of beards could expose the otherwise hairless chin of the actor, thus interpolating his youth into the multiple personas produced through his disguise. By presenting the actor as youthful precisely when the fictional world of the play establishes masculine mastery, the play collapses masculinity into the becoming-­ness of youth, pointing at the actor as not-yet-a-man. In the hands of the youthful but age-varied Lady Elizabeth’s Men, the role of the aging Quarlous seems an ideal conduit for negotiating the issue of age. In the play’s final scene where all the characters converge at a puppet show, the text indicates that Quarlous “unmasks” himself before the overbearing authority figure Justice Adam Overdo, gleefully exclaiming: “I am but mad from the gown outward!” Given that his disguise was only a prop beard and a tattered robe, he presumably removes the beard again when he pulls off the robe. He then boasts the gains he has made by virtue of disguise and wit: he tricks a widow into marrying him (she has a penchant for madmen, he the madman’s clothes) and slyly transfers the guardianship and fortune of the young ward Grace Wellborn to himself (by stealing a warrant and substituting his own name for another). Not content to walk away with his winnings, Quarlous then “outs” local cutpurse young Ezekial Edgworth to the local authority figure, Justice Overdo. Quarlous mocks Justice Overdo for concerning himself with the boy’s innocence and the corrupting influences of the fair: “Your ‘innocent young man’ you have ta’en such a care of all this day is a cutpurse” (5.6.78–9). This scene suggests that Quarlous sees the boy as one of his rivals, but whereas Quarlous has used the disguise of mad man to gull the other fairgoers, Edgworth uses his boyishness as a disguise for his criminal activities. Here, Quarlous points out the performativity of Edgworth’s childishness, which reflexively engages the phenomenal body of the boy player playing Edgworth. In the hands of the youthful but age-varied Lady Elizabeth’s Men, the roles of Quarlous and Edgworth, especially as foils for each



other, can serve as fruitful sites for creating or complicating the unique question of age for the company. As a city comedy with intertwining plots ensnaring a cast of thirty plus characters, the social and economic stakes in Bartholomew Fair ultimately rest a great deal on the two young figures who are to be married, Bartholomew Cokes and Grace Wellborn. Grace’s disempowered position as a ward ensures that her wealth and land remain the property of her uncle; to be transferred to a husband she would not choose. Quarlous and Winwife, seeking to marry and settle their estates, seize the opportunity to exploit Bartholomew’s childlike distractedness and Grace’s dissatisfaction with the match. In the end, Grace is betrothed to Winwife while her dowry goes to Quarlous. The play’s outcome essentially hinges on the advantages of Grace’s youthful status and Bartholomew’s youthful behavior. Her status limits her autonomy, rendering Winwife, whom she only randomly encounters at the fair, the most appealing escape from an unhappy marriage to a man-child. Likewise, the transfer of Grace’s person and property to the two gallants is only possible by virtue of Bartholomew’s regressive appetites and utter disinterest in his responsibilities as a burgeoning man. The plots around Bartholomew and Grace reflect the play’s basic investment in youth for overall comedic value. In an interesting twist, Cokes’ total relinquishment of social responsibility—his ultimate gesture to refuse growing up—diminishes, in a way, the victories of the clever gallants who swindle him. The play as a whole has its own tendency to become-little and move in minor flows, tending toward insignificance. The legibility of the child onstage can involve a range of childish performance aesthetics and tactics. The link between children and ­performance is critical to childhood studies, and Robin Bernstein articulates this link beautifully: Performance does not make children or childhood alone; rather, it is through performance that children and childhood coemerge and co-­ constitute each other. Acknowledgment of this configuration relieves the perceived opposition between historically located children and textually based childhood; thus performance theory seals a fissure within the foundation of childhood studies. (Bernstein, 211)

It is therefore important to recognize what Jonson’s theater inherits through its young actors and his own previous work them in the London theater scene. My theory for the practical application of childish aesthetics,



for the tendency toward littleness, childishness, and the becoming-ness of children in Bartholomew Fair, is that intensifying the audience’s sense of the child could hedge against Lady Elizabeth’s Men’s unstable and uncertain status in the theatrical marketplace. The child here can help establish the audience’s reception of a stably young troupe in order to mitigate their uncertain status in London’s theatrical economy.

Bibliography Bailey, Amanda. 2011. “‘Bought My Boye’: The Boy as Accessory on the Early Modern Stage.” In Ornamentalism: The Art of Renaissance Accessories, ed. M. Bella Mirabella, 308–328. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Barish, Jonas A. 1959. “Bartholomew Fair and Its Puppets.” Modern Language Quarterly 20 (1, Mar.): 3–17. Bernstein, Robin. 2011. Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood and Race from Slavery to Civil Rights. New York: New York University Press. Carlson, Marvin. 2001. The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Centerwall, Brandon. June 2006. “A Greatly Exaggerated Demise: The Remaking of the Children of Paul’s as the Duke of York’s Men (1608).” Early Theatre 9 (1): 85–107. Accessed October 16, 2016. Crow, Andrea. 2014. “Mediating Boys: Two Angry Women and the Boy Actor’s Shaping of 1590s Theatrical Culture.” Shakespeare Quarterly 65 (2, Summer): 180–198. Dawson, Anthony B. 1996. “Performance, and Participation: Desdemona, Foucault, and the Actor’s Body.” In Shakespeare, Theory, and Performance, ed. James C. Bulman, 31–47. London: Routledge. Fischer-Lichte, Erika. 2008. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge. Fisher, Will. 2006. Materializing Gender in Early Modern English Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greteman, Blaine. 2013. The Poetics and Politics of Youth in Milton’s England. New York: Cambridge University Press. Gubar, Marah. 2012. “Who Watched the Children’s Pinafore? Age Transvestism on the Nineteenth-Century Stage.” Victorian Studies 54 (3, Spring): 410–426. Haslem, Lori Schroeder. 1995. “‘Troubled with the Mother’: Longings, Purgings, and the Maternal Body in ‘Bartholomew Fair’ and ‘The Duchess of Malfi’.” Modern Philology 92 (4): 438–459. Hyland, Peter. 2011. Disguise on the Early Modern English Stage. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.



Jardine, Lisa. 1983. Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare. London: Harvester. Jonson, Ben. 1966. Epicoene or The Silent Woman. Edited by L.  A. Beaurline. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ———. 2000. Bartholomew Fair. Edited by Suzanne Gossett. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Kathman, David. 2004. “Grocers, Goldsmiths, and Drapers: Freemen and Apprentices in the Elizabethan Theater.” Shakespeare Quarterly 55 (1, Spring): 1–49. ———. 2005. “How Old Were Shakespeare’s Boy Actors?” Shakespeare Survey 58: 220–246. Keenan, Siobhan. 2014. Acting Companies and Their Plays in Shakespeare’s London. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Accessed October 16, 2016. King, Margaret L. 2007. “Concepts of Childhood: What We Know and Where We Might Go.” Renaissance Quarterly 60 (2): 371–407. Lamb, Edel. 2009. Performing Childhood in the Early Modern Theatre: The Children’s Playing Companies (1599–1613). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. May, Todd. 2003. “When Is a Deleuzian Becoming?” Continental Philosophy Review 36 (2, June): 139–153. McLuskie, Kathleen. 2009. “Materiality and the Market.” In The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theater, ed. Richard Dutton, 429–440. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Moncrief, Kathryn M., and Kathryn Read McPherson. 2007. Performing Maternity in Early Modern England. Aldershot: Ashgate. Orgel, Stephen. 1996. Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare’s England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Paster, Gail Kern. 1993. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. New York: Cornell University Press. Thomas, Keith. 1976. Age and Authority in Early Modern England. London: Oxford University Press. Zucker, Adam. 2011. The Places of Wit in Early Modern England. New  York: Cambridge University Press.


“The King shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found”: Child Loss, Grief, and Recovery in Shakespeare’s Late Romances Kathryn M. Moncrief In Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale, Leontes accuses his wife of infidelity and rejects his infant daughter, ordering her to be abandoned to “some remote and secret place” (2.3.176) to die. Soon after, Mamillius, the young son and heir of Leontes falls ill and dies. When his untimely death is announced, Hermione publicly faints; her death is also soon announced, leaving the king in a precarious state, without a wife or an heir. News from the oracle reinforces the gravity and magnitude of the situation for the King and kingdom, “The King shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found” (3.2.134–6). Too late, he recognizes his own errors and is left to mourn their deaths:         Prithee bring me       To the dead bodies of my queen and son.       One grave shall be for both; upon them shall

K. M. Moncrief (*) Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, USA

© The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




      The causes of their death appear (unto      Our shame perpetual). (3.2.234–8)1

While the play examines jealousy and marital disaster, it is keenly aware of both the suffering associated with and consequences of the death of children. In early modern England, the birth of a royal child was greeted with public celebration and the death of a royal child with public grieving. In fact, in 1612, just a year after The Winter’s Tale was first performed, Prince Henry, King James’s oldest son and heir to the throne died. Indeed, a father, or a King without an heir, had lost all. This scene highlights a prevalent issue in early modern England—the death of children. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, historians estimate child mortality for infants in the first year of life at approximately twenty percent. Patricia Crawford and Laura Gowing find that in the seventeenth century twenty-five percent of children died before age ten and Lawrence Stone notes one quarter to one third of all English children died before age fifteen.2 Given that women bore six to ten children, only half of whom survived to adulthood, few families would have escaped experiencing the death of children.3 Unsurprisingly, numerous print and manuscript sources (including mother’s elegies, diaries, and poetry) pay repeated attention to the subject of child-loss. One of Ben Jonson’s most famous poems, “On My First Son,” was written in 1603 after the death of his seven-year old child, Benjamin.                                                                        

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy; My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy. Seven years tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay, Exacted by thy fate, on the just day. O, could I lose all father now! For why Will man lament the state he should envy? To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage, And if no other misery, yet age? Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say, “Here doth lie Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.” For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such, As what he loves may never like too much. (Jonson, 1,542)

 All references to Shakespeare’s plays are from The Riverside Shakespeare.  See Crawford and Gowing, 3; and Stone, 55. 3  See Crawford, 71; and Crawford and Gowing, 3. 1 2



The poem begins physically and intimately, acknowledging how devastating a father’s loss is, by playing on the meaning of the name Benjamin (in Hebrew, “son of the right hand”).4 The loss of a child had both emotional and social/economic consequences for the family and for the parents. The boy’s lost future, along with a father’s loss of his heir, “his best piece of poetry,” is evident in Jonson’s pain at having endowed “too much hope” in him. The experience of child loss, “a common and daily Calamity” (Owen, B) is one recognized by preacher John Owen who dedicates Immoderate Mourning for the Dead, a text directed at parents who have lost their children, to Lady Jane Musters who lost her only son. He confides, “whilst I was studying for some Counsels that might be proper for one in your case, it was my misfortune to meet with the like sad Providence in the death of one of my own Children, which made me more sensible of the greatness of your loss” (Owen, A3). At the same time he acknowledges his own “misfortune,” he urges parents to realize that children who die “happily miss of those sore and grievous distempers which in running out the whole stage of life, do seize upon oftentimes, and render this present life extremely bitter and unacceptable” (Owen, 84). Those children are lucky to escape the miseries of life. Extreme mourning he concludes is “unreasonable and unchristian… because it gives occasion to people to suspect our belief of a Resurrection and a future Life” (Owen, 91) and parents should be urged to “endeavour to compose themselves to a quiet, and humble, and patient submission to the will of God” (Owen, 109). Owen’s counseling against excessive mourning, while at the same time pausing to mention is own “misfortune” in losing a child, seems to betray the difficulty inherent in implementing the advice he advocates. Recognizing how Christian doctrine should guide his interpretation of events, Jonson chastises himself for his own questioning: “why will man lament the state he should envy?” Yet, he struggles to find acceptance, as he explores the paradox of grieving for someone in heaven. The poem is primarily a deeply personal expression and analysis of a father’s grief over the death of his young child, his “joy,” and a “lov’d boy.”

4  In the Old Testament, Benjamin is the son of Jacob and Rachel. She names him Benoni (“son of my sorrow”) before she dies just after giving birth. His father re-names him Benjamin. Both names have resonance here.



That this was not his first loss may well have exacerbated these feelings. His infant daughter Mary, who he also commemorated with a poem, “On My First Daughter,” had died in 1594.       Here lies, to each her parents’ ruth,       Mary, the daughter of their youth;       Yet all heaven’s gifts being heaven’s due,       It makes the father less to rue.       At six months’ end, she parted hence      With safety of her innocence;       Whose soul heaven’s queen, whose name she bears,       In comfort of her mother’s tears,      Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:       Where, while that severed doth remain,       This grave partakes the fleshly birth;       Which cover lightly, gentle earth! (Jonson, 1,541)

In this poem, too, he explores parental grief. An intermittent Catholic, his belief that the Virgin Mary (whose name his daughter bears) has welcomed his child to her “virgin-train,” where she will be mothered and protected, provides consolation. While we are not privy to his wife’s thoughts and experience, Jonson records the “mother’s tears” and pain, as the child has been “severed” from her parents. The poem ends, however, with an unsettlingly physical reminder that the infant flesh, so recently birthed, is now entombed, however gently, in a grave that devours her. Like Jonson, Katherine Philips also describes, in two poems, the loss of her long-awaited infant son less than six weeks after his birth, and her own grief. In “On the Death of my First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips, born the 23rd of April, and died the 2nd of May 1655” she remembers her son’s too-short life and her own sorrow:                        

Twice forty months in wedlock I did stay, Then had my vows crowned with a lovely boy. And yet in forty days he dropped away; O swift vicissitude of human joy!


I did but see him, and he disappeared, I did but touch the rosebud, and it fell; A sorrow unforeseen and scarcely feared, So ill can mortals their afflictions spell.



And now (sweet babe) what can my trembling heart Suggest to right my doleful fate or thee? Tears are my muse, and sorrow all my art, So piercing groans must be thy elegy.


Thus whilst no eye is witness of my moan, I grieve thy loss (ah, boy too dear to live!) And let the unconcerned world alone, Who neither will, nor can refreshment give.


An offering too for thy sad tomb I have, Too just a tribute to thy early hearse; Receive these gasping numbers to thy grave, The last of thy unhappy mother’s verse. (Philips, 1788–9)


Her child’s life is fragile, quickly vanishing like a falling rosebud. She notes, “I did but see him, and he disappeared,” as if her gaze made him vanish. Her love for her “sweet babe” and her unremitting grief at his loss is the poem’s primary subject and her pain, as evidenced by a “trembling heart,” “tears,” “my moan,” and “piercing groans” is intense. For her, the world provides no comfort or understanding. The final image—a childless mother at her dead child’s tomb—is stark. The final line echoes Jonson but emphasizes the “last” rather than the “best” verse. And, unlike Jonson who finds some consolation in recognizing that his daughter is in heaven, she finds none. A second poem, “Epitaph: On Hector Philips. At St. Sith’s Church” (1654), begins bitterly, concentrating on her pain:       What on earth deserves our trust?       Youth and beauty both are dust.       Long we gathering are with pain,      What one moment calls again.

The rhymes here—“trust” and “dust,” “pain” and “again”—provide emphasis. She continues revealing a seven-year wait for a much-desired child. The next sentence begins with joy in her son’s birth and quickly turns, driving toward an end-stop that does not embellish the bluntly operative word—“dead”—with any comforting imagery:      Seven years childless, marriage past,       A son, a son is born at last;



     So exactly limbed and fair,       Full of good spirits, mien, and air,      As a long life promised;       Yet, in less than six weeks, dead.

Like Jonson, however, Philips finds some small consolation in the idea of heaven. She imagines her son too great to be confined to earth, unable to be restrained even by the alchemist’s powerful ability to create a supposedly unbreakable seal; the child is only “fit in Heaven to dwell.”5       Too promising, too great a mind       In so small room to be confined:       Therefore, fit in Heaven to dwell,      Quickly broke the prison shell.      So the subtle alchemist,      Can’t with Hermes’ seal resist      The powerful spirit’s subtler flight,       But ‘twill bid him long good night.       So the sun, if it arise       Half so glorious as his eyes,       Like this Infant, takes a shroud,       Buried in a morning cloud. Phillips (Poetry Foundation)

That consolation, however, is fleeting and conditional: “So the sun, if it arise” (emphasis mine). The final image is not a glorious, comforting heaven but rather a buried child. The “morning cloud” functions phonotextually as “morning” also sounds like “mourning”; the consolatory image simultaneously signals her sorrow. Diarists too document the deaths of their children. In 1625, Londoner Nehemiah Wallington recorded in his diary the fear in his household resulting from the mounting deaths from the plague in his Eastcheap neighborhood, “seeing of coffins going by almost every day, and hearing how God swept away whole families” (Houlbrooke, 141).6 He then describes, in an 8 October entry, the death of a beloved daughter and his grief at and difficulty coming to terms with losing her: For the very pangs of death seized upon her on the Sabbath day morning, and so she continued in great agonies (which was very grievous unto us the 5 6

 See Kathryn McPherson on women’s efforts to reconcile loss with faith.  Houlbrooke (1988), 141.



beholders) till Tuesday morning, and then my sweet child died at four a clock in the morning, being the eleventh day of October and was buried that day at night. The grief for this child was so great that I forgot myself so much that I did offend God in it; for I broke all my purposed, promises and covenants with my God, for I was much distracted in my mind, and could not be comforted, though my friends spake so comfortably to me.7

As in the poems, Wallington’s grief is overwhelming. His wife urges him to “consider… what a deal of trouble and sorrow she is gone out of; and what abundance of joy she is gone into” (Houlbrooke, 142), reminding him that their child is in heaven. This was not their only loss; the deaths of two more children followed in the next two years. Only one child survived to adulthood. The complicated emotions Jonson, Philips, and Wallington express (potent grief at odds with the moderation and acceptance expected of Christians), the descriptions of parents witnessing their children’s deaths and standing at their graves, and their not always successful attempts to find consolation in their understanding of a Christian heaven, would have been familiar to early modern English parents, including Shakespeare. Like his contemporary Ben Jonson, Shakespeare also lost a child; his only son, Hamnet, died in the summer of 1596, at the age of eleven. His reaction (and the reaction of his wife) to the personal tragedy, unlike Jonson’s, goes unrecorded but importance of children and the pain of child loss pervades the plays of Shakespeare, as it did the lives of early modern parents. Examples are plentiful: Lady Macbeth’s “I have given suck, and know/ How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me” (1.7.54–5); Macduff ’s despair in learning that his children, “All my pretty ones?” (4.3.216), have been murdered; Macbeth’s realization of the significance of his “fruitless crown” (3.1.60) and “barren sceptre” (3.1.61); Constance’s extended lament for her lost son in King John; King Lear’s wrenching “Howl, howl, howl!” (5.3.258) over the body of daughter Cordelia; the missing princes in Cymbeline; the lost infant daughters in both Pericles and The Winter’s Tale; and the death of a male heir in The Winter’s Tale.8 While the late romances Pericles and The Winter’s Tale focus on the dynastic consequences of the loss of an heir 7  Houlbrooke, 142. See also Houlbrooke for numerous diary accounts of the deaths of children, including infants and adolescents. 8  See Warren Chernaik.



they also, significantly, stage the ultimate fantasy: the return of a child believed to be dead. The plays must in some way respond to Shakespeare’s personal loss but, more than that, they rehearse responses to the experience of child loss that is so culturally ubiquitous. Catherine Goodland, in her study of female mourning and English tragedies, argues that post-reformation England had eliminated the idea of purgatory and also had less tolerance for grieving so the theatre functioned as “a kind of cultural Purgatory: a social space that preserves, interrogates, and transforms communal memory” (Goodland, 28). Building upon this understanding, I suggest that Shakespeare’s plays, particularly his late romances, Pericles and The Winter’s Tale, in imagining and rehearsing the recovery of lost children (children who were believed to be dead), work similarly as a site of memory and reconstruction. William Worthen identifies performance itself as “an act of memory and an act of creation” (Worthen, 64). As such, these plays serve as a space for the expression of parental grief and provide consolation for the loss of children through the act of imaging and performing the resurrection and recovery of those children. The wish-fulfilment fantasy of recovery and restoration in these plays suggests that the stage both practices mourning and, in staging the return of lost children, functions powerfully as place of recovery. While Christian parents were counseled to find comfort in their dead children’s eventual resurrection at the time of the second coming, many, as evidenced in poetry and diaries—found that this instruction offered incomplete solace. Pericles and The Winter’s Tale reconfigure the Christian idea of resurrection by staging the restoration of living children and reunions with joyful parents. Shakespeare’s Pericles (1607–08) features the Prince of Tyre who, returning home by ship with his pregnant wife, believes her to have died in childbirth amidst a storm at sea. To appease the superstitious fears of his crew, he casts her coffin overboard:       A terrible child-bed hast thou had, my dear,       No light, no fire. Th’ unfriendly elements       Forgot thee utterly, nor have I time       To give thee hallow’d to thy grave, but straight       Must cast thee, scarcely coffin’d, in [the ooze],       Where, for a monument upon thy bones,       And [e’er-]remaining lamps, the belching whale       And humming water must o’erwhelm thy corpse,      Lying with simple shells. (3.1.56–64)



In doing so, Pericles is forced to deny Thaisa a proper burial in a consecrated ground, a fate usually reserved for executed traitors and suicides (Schwyzer, 121). He then leaves his infant daughter in the care of Cleon and Dionyza. Returning for her years later, he is told she has died. The stage directions describe his physical reaction to the news: “Cleon shows Pericles the tomb; wheareat Pericles makes lamentation, puts on sackcloth, and in a mighty passion departs” (4.4.stage direction). His grief is also described:                                                            

See how belief may suffer by foul show! This borrow’d passion stands for true old woe; And Pericles, in sorrow all devour’d, With sighs shot through, and biggest tears o’er-shower’d, Leaves Tarsus and again embarks. He swears Never to wash his face, nor cut his hairs; He puts on sackcloth, and to sea. He bears A tempest, which his mortal vessel tears, And yet he rides it out. Now please you wit The epitaph is for Marina writ (4.4.23–33)

The passage emphasizes his overwhelming pain and distress as well as his reaction: copious tears and his own physical neglect. Further, he funnels his grief into creativity, composing Marina’s epitaph:                                          

The fairest, sweet’st, and best lies here, Who wither’d in her spring of year.9 She was of Tyrus the king’s daughter, On whom foul death hath made this slaughter. Marina was she call’d, and at her birth, Thetis, being proud, swallow’d some part a’ th’ earth. Therefore the earth, fearing to be o’erflowed,

9  The text of Pericles is deeply problematic. Probably first performed in late 1607/early 1608, and first published in quarto in 1609, it was not included in the First or Second Folio. While the precise nature and timing of the collaboration is unknown, many editors (including the Arden, Norton, and Oxford) now posit George Wilkins, who published a 1608 prose version of the story, The Painful Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre, as the likely co-author. Wilkins is thought to be responsible for the first two acts of the play with each author having some contributions in the other parts. For example, this passage is from Q1; the first two lines appear in PA, followed by “In Nature’s garden though by grown a Bud/Shee was the chiefest flower, she was good.” (See textual note in The Norton Shakespeare).



      Hath Thetis’ birth-child on the heavens bestow’d;       Wherefore she does, and swears she’ll never stint,       Make raging battery upon shores of flint. (4.4.34–43)

The epitaph bears the hallmarks of child-loss poetry from the same period: admiration for the beauty and purity of the child, the cruelty of death, the greedy grave, imagining the child living in heaven, and parental grief for the lost child, in this case a King’s daughter and heir. Unknown to Pericles, Thaisa is not dead but survives her burial at sea. In the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of Pericles, directed by Joseph Haj, Thaisa’s grief when she began to understand her situation and what she had lost was  palpable. Upon being awakened from her watery sleep-death, shrouded in white, Brooke Parks as Thaisa, asked “Where am I? Where is my lord” (3.2.104) before looking down at and touching her now-flat belly, her face contorted with anguish, as she continued, “What world is this?” (3.2.104). Her explicit hand-on-belly gesture, familiar from pregnancy portraits, and her immediate sorrow in the recognition of what was missing, wordlessly encapsulated maternal grief. The significance of the moment was further highlighted for the audience in placing Thaisa downstage center, while her maid Lychorida stood upstage right, a ghostly double, cradling the infant Marina. This staging of Thaisa’s discovery effectively emphasized what she has lost, both her daughter and the opportunity to mother her. Without her husband and child, she becomes a priestess at the temple of Diana. Pericles continues to wander and years later, during which time Marina grows to adulthood, Pericles encounters her, though he does not know her identity. Upon seeing her, Pericles returns to the subject of his grief which is inflected with images of childbirth: “I am great with woe, and shall deliver weeping” (5.1.106). As it becomes apparent who they are to each other, Marina declares herself not by her name but by her familial relationship: “I am the daughter to King Pericles/ If good King Pericles be” (5.1.178–9). Connecting her powerfully with her mother, the authenticity of her claim is cemented with her knowledge of her mother’s name: “Thaisa was my mother, who did end/ The minute I began” (51.211–12). Pericles’s response is joy: “Now a blessing on thee!” (5.1.213) and “I embrace you./ Give me my robes/ I am wild in my beholding. O heavens bless my girl” (5.1.221–3). The moment imagines the ultimate fantasy for a grieving parent—the unexpected discovery that one’s child is not dead.



After the goddess Diana appears to him in a dream, Pericles takes Marina to the temple where they are both reunited with Thaisa. The scene emphasizes her recovery from supposed death as Pericles exclaims, “The voice of dead Thaisa!” (5.3.34), and she responds “That Thaisa am I, supposed dead and drowned” (35–6). The reunion is only complete, however, when mother and daughter are reunited: Marina:               My heart      Leaps to be gone into my mother’s bosom Pericles:   Look who kneels here! Flesh of my flesh, Thaisa      Thy burden at sea, and call’d Marina      For she was yielded there. Thaisa:        Blest, and mine own! (5.3.44–9)

The final scene powerfully enacts the fantasy of recovery, a “dead” daughter returned to a grieving mother, an heir discovered, and a family (and its lineage) restored. So too The Winter’s Tale imagines the recovery of a child perceived to have died. As in Pericles, a king and father loses both his wife and daughter. In The Winter’s Tale this loss is compounded by the death of a son, who is his heir, as well. First performed at the Globe in May of 1611, and again at court in 1613 at the festivities preceding the wedding of King James’s daughter, the princess Elizabeth, and written at the end of Shakespeare’s career, this is a very late play; only The Tempest, Henry VIII and Two Noble Kinsmen (which is written in collaboration with John Fletcher) follow it. By the time he began The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare had twice visited this plot, the jealous husband or lover who accuses his chaste wife or fiancé of infidelity, first in Much Ado about Nothing, then in Othello. But, rather than the problems associated with courtship and new marriage, The Winter’s Tale begins with a marriage of some duration and a growing family. He and Hermione have a young son and she is in the late stages of pregnancy of with their second child. It opens with one of the play’s most perplexing problems—Leontes’s jealousy and subsequent behavior toward his wife. In Shakespeare’s source, Robert Greene’s 1588 novel Pandosto, the onset of jealousy is slow, but here, is sparks quickly and violently. Leontes’s cruel reaction to Hermione’s interaction with his friend Polixenes sets in motion a tragic chain of events that includes the death of his son as well as the subsequent loss of his wife and daughter, both of whom he believes are dead.



“Winter” evokes the season conventionally associated with hardship, decline, and death—the stuff of tragedy. As Mamilius had earlier recognized, “A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one of sprites and goblins” (2.1.25–6). And, in fact, the first three acts of the play look like a tragedy—full of suffering loss, and a shattered family, all of which King Leontes brings on himself. But like a fairy tale, the last two acts shift to the pastoral and it ends, like Shakespeare’s comedies, with marriages. The declaration of the shepherd who finds the abandoned baby Perdita—“Thou mett’st with things dying, I with things newborn,” (4.1.113–14)—signals the change, with the second part of the play allowing time, fortune, and the virtues of patience and faith to readjust the tragic course of events. From exit pursued by bear, to the personification of time, to the extraordinary statue scene, The Winter’s Tale takes greater risks with its audience than perhaps any other play by Shakespeare. And yet, the payoffs are great. Shakespeare makes a significant change to the story he found in his source material, which ends in tragedy. King Pandosto is reunited with his daughter, but not his wife. Overcome with lust for his daughter, he kills himself. Shakespeare reverses the tragic tale, substituting redemption and renewal for despair and suicide. Eliminating the incest plot enables Shakespeare to foreground passionate parental grief and to rehearse the fantasy of recovery. Over the course of sixteen years, Perdita grows up (like Marina) away from her father. At the same time Leontes is unaware that his daughter lives. Without a wife or children, he is, through Paulina’s instruction, re-­ educated, and re-prepared for marriage. With her help, Leontes re-­ interprets his understanding of Hermione and his role in her demise:            Whilest I remember         Her and her virtues, I cannot forget          My blemishes in them, and so still think of          The wrong I did myself; which was so much         That heirless it hath made my kingdom, and         Destroy’d the sweet’st companion that e’er man         Bred his hopes out of. (5.1.7–12)

Leontes recognizes the severity of the consequences of his actions; he is without a wife and mother for his children—devastating for a king and father—and without an heir. More than any other, however, this is a play about second chances. While The Tempest examines the recovery of a lost



throne and kingdom, this play is more intimate, more deeply personal, imagining an even more unlikely recovery: the resurrection of a dead wife and the recovery of a lost child. As the play moves from sorrow to joy, it rectifies terrible mistakes and misjudgements and grants longed-for second chances. Its conclusion is the unlikely recovery of a seemingly dead daughter and wife. The play seems to acknowledge that the events strain credulity when the gentlemen who discuss Perdita’s return recognize that “this news, which is call’d true, is so like an old tale, that the verity of it is in strong suspicion” (5.2.27–9) (See Fortier, 589). The second gentleman’s question, “Has the King found his heir?” (5.2.29), recognizes the significance and implications of her return; death is only avoidable via the incredible. Hermione’s reanimation/resurrection from a statue is one of the most moving and theatrically effective moments in Shakespeare’s plays as it invites viewers both to believe in and participate in the miraculous, in this case the recovery of a dead wife. Leontes reacts with incredulity: “O, she’s warm!” but Hermione, who embraces him, remains silent until she addresses her daughter. For her, the most significant reunion is the one she has with her daughter, not her husband. Like the wife Jonson describes in his poem, grieving for a dead daughter, one can imagine Hermione’s sorrow at having lost two children and her astonished joy at recovering one. She addresses her final words in the play, a quick stream of questions and a mother’s endearment of “mine own,” to Perdita:         You gods, look down       And from your sacred vials pour your graces       Upon my daughter’s head! Tell me, mine own,       Where hast though been preserv’d? Where liv’d? How found       Thy father’s court? For though shalt hear that I,       Knowing by Paulina that the oracle       Gave hope thou was in being, have preserv’d       Myself to see the issue. (5.2.122–9)

In staging Perdita’s recovery and her mother’s surprised delight, Shakespeare satisfyingly enacts for the audience, many of whom would know the pain of child loss, the impossible. The joy of familial reunion is, however, tempered. Their dead son, Mamillius, does not return to the couple. A recent adaption of the play as a ballet by the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, choreographed



by Christopher Wheelon, highlighted this loss by adding a statue of Mamillius to the final scene. Hermione was revealed embracing her young son and when she descended to rejoin her husband and daughter, Mamillius did not. His small, white figure remained a statue, thus effectively emphasizing and memorializing this loss. Neither can they reclaim 16 lost years. And, Paulina, too, has lost her husband; there is no miraculous recovery for a man mauled by a bear. And yet the play ends not with bitterness, but with extraordinary act of forgiveness on the part of Hermione whose losses at the hands of her husband have been immense, emphasizing instead the possibility of repentance and recovery. These two late plays, Pericles and The Winter’s Tale, may be understood as a response to lived experience and a reconfiguration of grief. In each, Shakespeare presents a miraculous, earthly reunion of the kind early modern parents were urged to hope for in heaven or, with Christ’s second coming, at the moment of resurrection. As Ben Jonson and Katherine Philips attempt to find consolation in their poetry by imagining their lost children in heaven, imagination and creation on stage also provides solace. In the theatre, the performance of grief and the fantasy of recovery is particularly potent. The early modern stage powerfully rehearsed this longing and may, in embodying grief and recovery, have provided a kind of consolation.

Bibliography Chernaik, Warren. 2013. “Dying Young: Shakespeare’s Children.” English 62 (237): 103–126. Crawford, Patricia. 1983. “For the Woman’s Point of View: Pre-Industrial England, 1500–1750.” In Exploring Women’s Past: Essays in Social History, ed. Patricia Crawford, 49–85. Sydney: George Allen & Unwin. Crawford, Patricia, and Laura Gowing. 2000. Women’s Worlds in Seventeenth Century England: A Sourcebook. London: Routledge. Cressy, David. 1997. Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-­ Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fortier, Mark. 1996. “Married with Children: The Winter’s Tale and Social History; or Infanticide in Earlier Seventeenth-Century England.” Modern Language Quarterly: A Journal of Literary History 57 (4): 579–603. Goodland, Catherine. 2005. Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama: From the Raising of Lazarus to King Lear. Aldershot: Ashgate. Houlbrooke, Ralph. 1988. English Family Life, 1576–1716: An Anthology from Diaries. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.



———. 1998. Death, Religion, and the Family in England 1480–1750. Oxford: Clarendon. Jonson, Ben. 2012. “On My First Daughter,” and “On My First Son.” In The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. McPherson, Kathryn R. 2000. “‘I Thought My All Was Given Before’: Configuring Maternal Grief in Seventeenth-Century England.” Ben Jonson Journal 7: 421–443. Owen, John. 1680. Immoderate Mourning for the Dead, Prov’d Unreasonable and Unchristian. Or, Some Considerations of General Use to Allay Our Sorrow for Deceased Friends and Relations But More Especially Intended for Comfort to Parents upon the Death of Their Children. London: J. Macock. Philips, Katherine. “Epitaph.” Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation. org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44860. ———. 2012. “On the Death of My First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips, Born the 23rd of April, and Died the 2nd of May 1655.” In The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Schwyzer, Philip. 2007. Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shakespeare, William. 2015. The Norton Shakespeare. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus, Gordon McMullan, and Suzanne Gossett. New York: W.W. Norton. ———. 1974. The Riverside Shakespeare. Edited by G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Stone, Lawrence. 1977. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500–1800. New York: Penguin. Worthen, William. 2003. Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Literatures of Childhood


Figural Agency: Reading the Child in Amis and Amiloun Julie Nelson Couch

In the popular medieval tale of Amis and Amiloun, two barons’ sons, born on the same day, given like names, and taken together into the service of a duke, pledge lifelong friendship (Leach). After their oath is greatly tested through a trial by combat, leprosy, and child sacrifice, the two men “Togeder ladde they her lyf,/ Tel God after her dide send” (2495–6).1 Because the trothplight of the two male protagonists steers them to deceive and kill, Leah Haught has recently read the Middle English romance version as a cautionary tale of obsessive loyalty. The love of the boys has also been read as homoerotic, homosocial, and, at the very least, “morally complex” (Delany; Pugh; Foster, 1). Indeed, their comprehensive I would like to thank Kimberly K. Bell for her reading of a late draft of this chapter; as always her feedback proved invaluable, lending clarity of thought and word. 1  All quotes from the poem are taken from Foster’s edition and line numbers will be given parenthetically in the essay.

J. N. Couch (*) Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




oath determines all subsequent action, ostensibly elevating the boys’ love for each other above moral edict. A crucial and often overlooked aspect of the oath, however, is its setting, in childhood: it is “children” who “trouth plyght.”2 In this exploration of the role of childhood in the Middle English Amis and Amiloun, I address how the representation of hero-as-child affects character function. The extreme and unorthodox influence childhood wields over the drive of the narrative ultimately enables a reading that is simultaneously a romance experience of hero veneration and a spiritual experience of God’s radical mercy. What I call the figural agency of the child protagonist opens a rhetorical space not comprised solely by naturalistic or figural literary functions of the child. These child protagonists serve both as agents who actively plight troth and adhere to their oath despite all obstacles and as figures who embody Christological suffering. Ultimately, the reader of Amis and Amiloun experiences a romance discourse that opposes adult and child, stringent legalism and excessive mercy, as inflected through the figural and agential use of childhood.

The Genre of Middle English Romance Recent readings of Amis and Amiloun account for its seeming approbation of deception and murder by analyzing it as a spiritual or didactic work that morally censures its protagonists (Haught; Eckert). But these readings do not account for genre. In fact, Haught dismisses genre altogether, claiming that “(re)assessing the poem’s generic status… tends to privilege the conventional and gloss over or ignore the poem’s many cruxes and inconsistencies” (244). I suggest the opposite: reading the poem within the distinctive Middle English rendition of medieval romance reveals and enriches the poem’s complexity. Granted, the medieval romance genre is a nebulous beast, but the fusion of “chivalric guise” with religious concerns in Middle English romance has been well-noted (Kratins, 347; Mehl, 15ff.; Crane, 92ff.; Saunders; Wogan-Browne).3 Amis and Amiloun epitomizes the distinctive fusing of inherited chivalric romance tropes—knights and fights, kingdoms and women—with religious concerns of devotional p ­ractices and 2  Lines 20–1. The exception is Nicole Clifton who recognizes the critical role of childhood in the Middle English version and contrasts its unique emphasis on children to the Old French and Anglo-Norman versions. 3  Heng aptly labels romance “a species of pure cannibalism,” 9.



institutions, sin and redemption. Amis and Amiloun gain requisite realms and women; at the same time, they receive angelic messages, undergo arduous suffering, pray intensely, experience miracles, build an abbey, and go to heaven. Inspired by saints’ lives, Middle English romances characteristically focus on the hyperbolic greatness of the hero-protagonist (Mehl, 16–17). These narratives often separate the hero from the rest of his world by the narrator’s expressed partiality for the hero and hatred of the hero’s enemies (Couch 2008a). In Amis and Amiloun for example, a biased narrator assures us repeatedly the steward is “fals” and “ful of felonie” (1106, 700) and that Amiloun’s wife is “wicked” cursing, “Wel ivel mot sche thrive!” (1561, 1752). In addition to a zealous narrator, the romance hero is elevated by marvelous attributes, such as extraordinary beauty or invincibility, or divine intercessory aid, such as the angelic instructions Amis receives.4 Amis and Amiloun, though unusual in presenting two protagonists (Pugh, 104), represents this Middle English hero matrix: a biased narrator, marvelous attributes, and spiritual allusion meld with a singular emphasis on childhood to glorify the protagonists.

Childhood in Middle English Romance In medieval literature, children are often represented in naturalistic and referential ways rather than as narrative agents. Critics have recognized features particular to child characters, including candor, emotionalism, amenability, playfulness, innocence, vulnerability, loyalty, pathos, helplessness, and stubbornness (Classen; Clifton; Dzon; Kline; Schultz). Additionally, I have found a marginal yet agential childhood functioning within these narratives as a distinct poetic space, one that operates by its own culture, its own rules, and its own irreversible influence on adult identity (Couch 2003, 2008b). In other words, childhood can function as a pre-identity state. Though a child may be the son of a king, his own status in relation to his father’s station is not yet fixed; as a child he lingers in a free space. Interestingly, Amis and Amiloun offers both a naturalistic representation of childhood as well as a striking instance of agency. Naturalistic representations of childhood reflect in part the observed lives of medieval children, consisting of play, education, and 4

 On the role of “divine favour” in Amis and Amiloun, see Djordjevic.



nurture (Orme; Hanawalt; Kline). Hence, Amis and Amiloun reflect the historical lives of barons’ sons who go into “servise” with their fathers’ superior who will, in turn, “susten” and knight them (116–20; Leach, 114, n. 115; Karras, 29–30). In narrative, even such naturalistic portrayals of children are not simply transparent reflections of “real life.” Appearing in generically-determined narratives, romance children also function figuratively or referentially as a sign or token of adult desire for posterity (Castañeda, 142, 167). What Geraldine Heng says about women in romance, that “they constitute a figural presence through which the concerns, ideas, pressures, and values of a culture can be expressed, can signify” can equally apply to children (192). A desire for children to serve as an unbroken continuation of adult selves often plays a key role in romance narratives, with children demarcating aristocratic parents’ identity, morality, or power. Initially, Amis and Amiloun mark the aspirations of aristocratic adults. The narrator tells:       Of two Barons of grete bounté       And men of grete honoure;       Her faders were barons hende,       Lordinges com of grete kynde        And pris men in toun and toure. (5–9, my emphasis)

The referent for lordings and pris men is not clear: these appellations could refer to the “Barons,” that is Amis and Amiloun, or their fathers, the “barons hende,” the noble sons thus perfectly mirroring their noble fathers. However, before the end of the first stanza, the protagonists of the story morph to “children two” for whom the audience will feel “doloure” (10–12). The redirection may seem insignificant, but the difference between these protagonists and adult expectations emerges soon enough. The story proper begins with the two boys fulfilling the ambitions of adults, who see in them assured continuation of noble identity and aristocratic order. In fact, the boys’ upbringing is constructed as a matter of being seen by adults, being gazed upon due to their beauty and nobility. Adults experience “Grete joy” in “behold[ing]” the boys’ demeanor and beauty at ages five, seven, and twelve (52–60). The act of gazing only



expands as the narrator follows them to the Duke’s feast: there everyone stares at the fairest children. Indeed, the “beholding” is the repeated (and only!) action of the feast:       Mony men gan hem byholde       Of lordynges that there were,        Of body how wel they were pyght,        And how feire they were of syght,       Of hyde and hew and here;       And al they seide without lesse       Fairer children than they wesse       Ne sey they never yere. (77–84)

The collective gaze of the court objectifies the “Fairer children” while validating aesthetically the aristocratic power structure. The boys appear as static deflections of adult desire, embodying, quite physically (hide and hue and hair), the hope for the continued glory of the duke’s realm.5 Though the boys are idealized as perfect noble sons through the adult gaze, the children, prior to their oath, already evade perception. Immediately, adult discernment of the children fails:        In al thing they were so lyche       Ther was neither pore ne ryche,       Who so beheld hem both,       Fader ne moder that couth say       Ne knew the hend children tway        But by the coloure of her cloth. (91–6)

No one, not even “Fader ne moder,” can tell them apart. This failure of perception anticipates how the child-protagonists in this narrative diverge from adult expectations as their agential space of childhood opens them up to adventure that is not tied to parental concerns with posterity. The children will ultimately assume agency as children, defying obligatory social relations to the court. Most importantly, the boys’ singular childhood act—their trothplight—exceeds and upends the adult aspirations the boys so sensuously embodied in the extended revel of gazing. 5

 See also Clifton, 50–1; and Pugh, 105–6.



The Childhood Marvel: The Trothplight Amis’ and Amiloun’s childhood bond (re)shapes their identities as adult heroes. Their space of childhood, continually rematerialized by the repeated vow, in private spaces and marginalized positions, continues as a potent presence even after they are technically adults. Their trothplight marks the defining moment of the romance. From the first stanza of their extended sojourn at the duke’s, the narrator relates their unmatched love for each other:        So wele tho children loved hem tho,       Nas never children loved hem so,       Noither in word no in dede;        Bituix hem tuai, of blod and bon,       Trewer love nas never non. (139–43)

This “Trewer love” leads in the next stanza to their propagative, agential action—their trothplight—that promises future action:        On a day the childer, war and wight,       Trewethes togider thai gun plight,       While thai might live and stond        That bothe bi day and bi night,        In wele and wo, in wrong and right,       That thai schuld frely fond       To hold togider at everi nede,        In word, in werk, in wille, in dede,       Where that thai were in lond,       Fro that day forward never mo       Failen other for wele no wo:        Therto thai held up her hond. (145–56)

In the coherent narratology of romance, the actions promised in their trothplight will come to fruition and will drive the plot: the boys do nobly assay (“frely fond”) to hold with each other night and day, in sickness and in health, in wrong and right. Hence, Amiloun disguises himself as Amis in a trial by combat to defeat the steward who had spied Amis in flagrante with the duke’s daughter (holding together in wrong); and, in turn, Amis kills his own two sons to cure Amiloun of leprosy (at night, in sickness). The trothplight itself is repeated by the boys throughout the poem, f­unctioning



as the raison d’être for all their actions. For example, when Amiloun must leave the duke’s court to return to his barony, he renews their vow:       Brother, as we er trewthe plight       Bothe with word and dede,       Fro this day forward never mo        To faile other for wele no wo,       To help him at his nede,       Brother, be now trewe to me,        And y schal ben as trewe to the. (293–9)

In his parting repetition, Amiloun also advises caution to Amis in regard to the duke and especially the steward, “‘Certes, he wil the schende!’” (312). In this way, the narrator is explicitly foreshadowing whence difficulties will arise, but is also contrasting their true love to others. Even before conflicts come to an unprotected Amis (and they come immediately), the boys’ childhood bond has been rhetorically set against angry, conspiring adults. No other love in the story, including the duke’s for the boys or his daughter Belisaunt’s for Amis, matches the boys’ pledged love in narrative priority, elaboration, or intensity. The oath’s absolute aspect is, in generic terms, a marvel, embodying at once the protagonists’ desires and goals; like heterosexual love or achieved quest in another romance, the boys’ bond “highlights a pattern of desire” (Heng, 5). Their marvelous childhood-forged love compares to Floris and Blancheflour’s youthful devotion, deemed a “wonder” (Kooper, 19, ll.27–8). The boys’ love grounds the locus of desire, and those who conspire against it—duke, steward, wife—are the antagonists. In Amis and Amiloun, the romance marvel then is not the angel-messengers, the miraculous healing of Amiloun through the sacrifice of Amis’ sons, nor even the children’s resurrection. Dreams, angels, miracles all operate in narratorial service to the core, generative marvel, Amis’ and Amiloun’s “Trewer love” (143). The secrecy of the vow further indicates its status as a romance marvel: it is repeated and recalled in private spaces. When Amiloun renews the vow at their parting, the repetition occurs “out of town” where they two alone have ridden, reconstructing the private space of childhood (282). Additionally, the plan for Amiloun to switch places with the accused Amis, like the fin amour in a conventional romance, is carried out secretly in the garden: Amis and Belisaunt hatch the plan “Under an orchard side” (927). Amis reunites with Amiloun “under a tre” in a “wilde forest” (998, 992).



For his part, Amiloun’s knowledge of Amis’ girl (and steward) trouble comes to him in a foreboding dream in his bedroom.6 These private acts in private spaces re-enact the childhood bond, made outside the public, ordered space of adults, yet a bond ultimately shaping their public identities. The vow’s comprehensiveness—encompassing a twelve-line stanza— also reveals its marvelous status. The children’s words echo a wedding vow, a confessional pledge, and a chastity statement. In addition to the familiar words of a wedding vow—wele no wo—the boys’ oath extends to their every thought, word, and action: “In word, in werk, in wille, in dede” (152; Ford). This particular collocation of terms is found in confessional manuals to express the totality of one’s penance as well as in contexts wherein a woman has or has not given herself sexually to a man, implying an ultimate surrender.7 The boys’ childhood vow demands commitment of body and soul as it invokes marriage vows and penitential devotions, while remaining outside the exigencies, delineations, and limitations of these adult discursive formations. This vow is made between two people who will not marry each other nor owe each other social or spiritual allegiance; nevertheless, their bond exceeds their duties to their wives, their duke, and even their God. As noted above, the vow (and the love it represents) becomes narrativized in the story that follows. When Amiloun has to leave the duke’s castle, he is despondent about leaving Amis. The juxtaposition is telling: when Amiloun tells the duke his news, the duke was “never so wo for frende” (233) and elaborates his continued support of him. Amiloun offers no response; instead he is “ferli wo/For to wende Sir Amis fro,/On him was al his thought” (241–3).8 Amiloun’s woe is ferli, defined as “wonderfully, marvelously, extraordinarily,” and in its original noun form, a “marvel, wonder.”9 Such an extraordinary sorrow recalls their true love and confirms their trothplight as a marvel, a union outside court hierarchy that lies in romance aventure. Amiloun dutifully takes up his adult ­responsibilities but not without first reinforcing his childhood bond: he repeats the vow, feels extraordinary sorrow, and makes their bond 6  Even Amis’ sacrifice of his two sons is an act kept secret, unlike its revelation in a public confession in the Old French version. Clifton, 45. 7  See “(Forma confitendi)” [Form of Confession] (Horstmann, 340) and wil(le) n., 5b.(f), Medieval English Dictionary. 8  In kind, Amis “was so ful of care” for three lines that he almost swoons and then begs the duke for leave to go with Amiloun (256–64). 9  ferly, adv., 3; adj. and noun, 3a and B, OED.



marvelously material by having identical gold cups made. Their bond, coupled with these golden tokens, ultimately shifts childhood into spiritual figuration.

The Figural Space of Childhood: Leprosy and Child Amoraunt Spiritual allusion infuses the narrative of Amis and Amiloun. The boys’ godliness, found in figurations of Christological penance and mercy, like that of other Middle English romance heroes, is not finally meant to lead the reader to God per se, but to lead the reader to veneration of the romance heroes themselves (Crane, 117–33; Couch 2008a). Blending marginal, figural childhood with religious allusion, Amis and Amiloun filters pious devotion through heroic friendship. Amis’ and Amiloun’s childhood vow leads to actions that do not accord with conventional moral strictures. However, narratorial sympathy for protagonists who deceive and kill does not mean that the romance is eschewing its own heroes, as Haught suggests. Rather, the infusion of spiritual aid and spiritual metaphor, centered in the figure of a child, validates the child protagonists in their space outside conventional parameters, social and moral. A supra-didactic, child-versus-adult paradigm helps make sense of the “moral complexity” of the poem, adding a richly symbolic, spiritual depth to the story  (Foster, 1). The poem elaborates this opposition by placing truth and love on the side of the childhood friends who run afoul of their “enemies,” mean-spirited adults with an inordinate attachment to the letter of the law (Le Saux, 7). As the narrator makes clear, religious legalism, depicted as harsh and unyielding, is not welcome in the romance world of the marvelous and miraculous. The romance serves up a theological conflict between a legalistic “Old Testament” morality, associated with (ironically, for a romance) aristocratic adult hierarchy, and a “New Testament” version of excessive (romance-style) love, penance, grace, and mercy, associated with the child. In other words, the characteristic excessiveness of the romance genre, evident in the boys’ love (Pugh, 181, n. 17), extends to dramatization of Christological and religious elements. In Amis and Amiloun, the protagonists’ manifestation of Christological mercy, suffering, and sacrifice becomes as heightened as the heroes’ beauty. And, in this romance, that excessiveness attaches to the poetic space of childhood.



The characters functioning solely as adults in the poem, namely the duke, the steward, and Amiloun’s wife, all adhere harshly to the letter of the law. The duke becomes enraged when he learns someone has mated with his daughter, and “with wrethe and wrake” he is willing to burn her and his own wife to avenge this breach of ownership and marriage laws (1213). He, like the steward, is identified in his reaction by repetition of the “sin” adjectives of wrath and madness: he is “egre of mode” and runs after Amis “as he were wode” (805–6). The steward is technically in the right in the trial by combat—Amis did have sex with Belisaunt as the steward insists—but he is adhering to this moral stricture for his own personal resentment and gain. In like manner, Amiloun’s wife is technically correct in stating that Amiloun’s deception and killing of the steward was wrong, and even her banishment of him when he has leprosy is legal, and as Françoise Le Saux points out, culturally correct (7–9). What I suggest is that this legalism, clearly frowned upon by the narrator, is also a characteristic that belongs to the adult world of delimited social identities. The steward’s and the wife’s scornful legalism is apparent (Le Saux, 7–8). The telling incident that limns the difference between the love and mercy of childhood versus the wrath and envy of adulthood is when Amis himself steps into the role of a short-sighted, legalistic adult. Although Amiloun enters adulthood before Amis, by way of marriage and taking possession of his land and fiefs, we do not really see him in his adult role. Instead, we only see him when he leaves his place of adulthood—his land and his lordship—to return to his childhood space, first to honor the troth by fighting in the stead of Amis, and later, as a leper, banished from his realm. Amis, who has continued to function as a child in the pre-identity, pre-marriage time before the trial by combat, becomes an adult upon his marrying Belisaunt and replacing the duke on his death.10 Notably, when these delineating events (marriage, peerage) circumscribe Amis as an adult, the narrator stops calling him by name, referring to him simply as the “riche douke,” the nomenclature used for the former duke (1888, 1903, 1937, et al.; Le Saux, 11). As the rich duke, Amis assumes the role of the harsh, legalistic adult. Even before Amis acts “as he were wode” (2074) about a leper possessing Amiloun’s gold cup, the poem has already shown Amis in his ­questionable adult role. Amis’ own gold cup, signifying his essential childhood bond, has all but vanished before the arrival of the leper: “That riche  See Karras on marriage as entry into adulthood, 13.




douke, withouten les,/As a prince served he wes/With riche coupes of gold” (1903–05). This surfeit of gold cups dilutes the symbolic value of the one and reveals Amis’ delimited, aristocratic, legalistic worldview. The myopic “riche douke” assumes a leper must be a criminal if he has his brother’s golden cup, saying, “‘It were ogaines the lawe!’” (2043). Amis, the one who allowed his brother to fight in disguise for him, is now concerned about the law as it relates to lepers and possession. The “rich duke” becomes, like the steward and the wife, an “adult” fixated on laws, status, and wealth. In this romance, strict adherence to the law materializes as ill will on the part of adults in power. Amis’ violence toward the leper marks his supreme failure in the Middle English poem, his near-breaking of his childhood bond.11 When Amis hears a leper possesses the cup, he proclaims “‘Y schal him sle me self this day,’” and “hent his swerd as a wode man/And drough it out with wrake” (2063, 2066–7). Amis’ mad violence toward his friend is instant and shocking: he seizes him and throws him in the lake (2071–3), calling him a “Traitour,” the very name hurled at Amis by the steward and the duke  (2077). After he asks about the cup and the leper answers with a resonant “‘y bought it dere’” (2087), duke Amis indulges his duke-anger for another stanza as he “egre of mod” kicks Amiloun and hits him “with his naked brond.” He drags the leper by the feet through the mud until finally Amoraunt (a child!) stops him (2089–2100, 2105–6). Like the steward’s and the duke’s anger, Amis’ wrath does not signal righteous, table-turning justice but rather legalistic, merciless, incriminatory wrath.12 Upon revelation of the leper’s identity, Amis embraces Amiloun in shame, before swooning and begging for forgiveness. Amiloun’s immediate mercy—“also a swithe” (2146)—restores simultaneously their bond and Amis’ non-adult identity, while also dramatizing Christ-like mercy. This scene of extreme violence and excessive mercy is not what usually draws the attention of critics. Rather, it is the child sacrifice, Amis killing his two sons to heal Amiloun’s leprosy, that, as Pugh explains, “troubles many readers” (115).13 Yet in the world of the poem, Amis’ violence toward 11  In the early Radulphus version, the leprous Amiloun simply knocks on Amis’ door as a leper and is immediately welcomed, and in the Old French version, Amis instantly recognizes his friend by the goblet (Leach). 12  In medieval society, lepers were incriminated: segregated by strict legislation and prohibited to marry and interact with others (Souvay and Donovan). 13  On the medieval perception that a child’s blood was a real cure for leprosy, see Crane, 124.



his betrothed friend is, as Crane calls it, the “central crisis of the poem” (122). Amis throwing the leper in the water is much worse than his killing his sons because it reveals his failure to recognize his friend and fulfill their bond, while Amis’ sacrifice of his children is an open-eyed fulfillment of that bond.14 Killing the children, like Amiloun’s deceptive killing of the steward, exists outside the bounds of earthly law, and like that incident, functions to preserve the bond by saving the brother. In the case of the child sacrifice, the act could also symbolize the killing of Amis’ adult self, the one who would require heirs for his dukedom and the one who could wreak violence on the unrecognized leprous Amiloun. Killing his sons “kills” his identity as the gazing adult who sees his own posterity in his children, the way that Amis’ and Amiloun’s parents saw their posterity in their beautiful sons. While the letter of the law is cast in this narrative as adults concerned with morality and power, the spirit of the law (the mercy of Christ) is cast in the image of a child, specifically as the loyal child, Amoraunt, and as the leper himself, Amiloun. The relation between the child as a figure of Christ and childhood agency is especially evident in the narration of Amiloun’s years as a leper when he is stripped of his social status and power, thus no longer an “adult” in the logic of the poem. Rather than a poem that is condemning Amiloun the leper, as some critics would suggest, Amiloun’s position of outcast sufferer is idealized, especially through a figurative and literal association with childhood.15 Child Amoraunt’s Christ-like attendance upon the leper marries the elements of Christ’s Passion—rejection and suffering—with the marginality of childhood that remains outside the power and status of society. Child Owaines is renamed Amoraunt when he joins with Amiloun. His new name relates sonorously to Amis and Amiloun, and its semantic relation to love echoes their love for each other (Ford). The child Amoraunt refracts Amiloun’s suffering into an image of a sacrificial Christ child figure in scenes where typological and spiritual valences come to the fore. No one will serve the leprous Amiloun except for this “gentil child” Amoraunt (1624) who, like Christ or Mary, “served his lord with milde mode” (1847).16 The poem emphasizes Amoraunt’s status as a child, naming him such multiple times and binding his childness  See also Crane, 127.  See Yoon for a critical survey and an alternative reading of leprosy as a “divine blessing” (33). 16  See also Eckert, 291. 14 15



to his empathy and goodness: for Amiloun, Amoraunt “wepe ful sare/ That child was trewe” (1626–7). As if Amoraunt is the boys’ vow made manifest, he lays with, serves, and feeds Amiloun night and day (1639–41), repeating to others his unwavering desire and intent never to forsake him “For al this worldes gode” (1654), thus caring for him in “wo,” with “word, in werk, in wille, in dede” (149, 152). The “child and that gentil knight” (1694) become a potent image of suffering and sacrifice; they become “like children” to enter the kingdom of heaven. Like children unanchored to identity, they become the ultimate outcasts as leper and beggar. The image of the child and his lord astride an ass (the only concession given by Amiloun’s hateful wife) begging in wind and rain appears explicitly as an image of the suffering humble Christ. The Middle English version takes full advantage of the symbolic figure of the child, replacing the less figurative serfs of the Old French version with a child who bodily reunites the oath-brothers (Clifton, 47). The moment Amoraunt reunites the friends, re-instigating the bond, he vanishes, reappearing only at the very end as Child Owaines to receive Amiloun’s dukedom. Thus, a child truly was their trothplight made manifest: he lived it day to day, year to year in the stead of Amis. Such a poignant, rich figure underscores the importance of the original childhood oath, conflating that selfless oath with the excessive love and grace of Christ. Such a resonant figure also sets up the final shocking scenes of Amis killing his sons as an act already set within excessiveness, a love that knows no bounds, a love incompatible with adult restrictions and laws. The glorification of the boys’ bond via spiritual analogy appropriates not only Christ’s suffering and Passion but also the Eucharist. Amiloun’s directive upon giving Amis the gold cup, “‘It tokneth our parting’” (324), superimposes their bond with Eucharistic sanctity: the cups serve, much like the bread and wine, as a stand-in, a memorial for the absent one. The absence creates a temporary death, making the one protagonist a Christ figure for the other, thereby underscoring the intensity of their love (Crane, 127). When leprous Amiloun is at his lowest point, he holds the “gold coupe an hond” as he prays to God (1617), figuratively clutching his absent friend/redeemer. Amiloun holds onto the cup even when he and child Amoraunt are destitute:        For we no have gode no mo,       Save mi riche coupe of gold,        Ac certes, that schal never be sold,       Thei hunger schuld me slo. (1809–12)



The Eucharistic allusion serves to sanctify the protagonists’ childhood bond, not vice versa: in other words, the cup is not meant to recall the actual Eucharist (though a recollection of that ritual is not opposed to the story) but rather to validate the heroes’ bond, their status as childhood friends. This method of spiritual allusion that reminds but does not halt nor critique the hero’s narrative is found in other Middle English romances as well. For example, with his twelve companions (of whom one is a traitor), the Middle English King Horn figures Christ, legitimizing his status as invincible hero. The Christological allusions reinforce the romance sympathies rather than working outside of them or against them (Crane, 127). The narrative dramatizes the boys’ bond as a Eucharistic ritual of absence and recognition that links their childhood bond to their adult selves. In Amis and Amiloun, the child protagonists finally represent the powerless status of childhood as a Christ-like lowliness, a redemptive position sanctioned by God. Like the marginal child who represents it, Christ-like love lies outside power structures. In Amis and Amiloun, childhood embodies the marvelous-miraculous of romance itself.

Conclusion In Amis and Amiloun the space of childhood enables a dramatic conflict between the letter and the spirit of the law. Associated with the lowly, the humble, the suffering, and ultimately with Christ, the child illuminates a God whose mercy exceeds the bounds of human laws, a God of potentia absoluta who allows murder, demands sacrifice, and renders miracle as He wills (Couch 2006). As romance knights, Amis and Amiloun do not follow the expected track of fighting for one’s love and thereby earning the lady and the kingdom. Instead Amiloun’s “adventure” (1256) is many  years (and 29 stanzas!) as a powerless leper, a second childhood as a marginalized outcast. And though Amis does marry the girl and get the kingdom, he, powerless as a vulnerable child against the truth of the accusation, does not fight for her (Amiloun does), and his greatest achievement is not any sort of chivalric battle, but rather a shocking act of devotion, killing his own infant heirs. In the Middle English poem, the unexpected non-­ chivalric actions—deception, murder, leprosy, sacrifice—all result from the protagonists’ strong childhood bond. Even the “happy” ending recalls their oath rather than following a chivalric script: Amiloun exiles his wife who (justifiably) criticized his murder and deception on behalf of Amis, and hands his kingdom over to Amoraunt/Owaines, his devoted vassal, the child who saved him. He relieves himself of his kingdom in order to



live “With his brother, Sir Amys” until their life’s end, “In muche joy without stryf” (2492, 2494). Their reward, the narrator assures us, is entry into heaven. In this Middle English romance, childhood is the narrative variable which shapes the adult identities and destinies of the protagonists, despite the adult strictures of status and gender. Childhood in Amis and Amiloun allows agency and figures God’s absolute, romance-­sized grace.

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Hanawalt, Barbara. 1993. Growing up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Haught, Leah. 2015. “In Pursuit of ‘Trewth’: Ambiguity and Meaning in Amis and Amiloun.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 114 (2): 240–260. Heng, Geraldine. 2003. Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy. New York: Columbia University Press. Horstmann, Carl, ed. 1896. Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole and His Followers. Vol. II. London: Sonnenschein. Karras, Ruth Mazo. 2003. From Boys to Men: Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Kline, Daniel T. 2012. “‘That child may doon to fadres reverence’: Children and Childhood in Middle English Literature.” In The Child in British Literature: Literary Constructions of Childhood, Medieval to Contemporary, ed. Adrienne E. Gavin, 21–37. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Kooper, Erik, ed. 2005. Sentimental and Humorous Romances. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications. Kratins, Ojars. 1966. “The Middle English Amis and Amiloun: Chivalric Romance or Secular Hagiography?” PMLA 81 (5): 347–354. Le Saux, Françoise, ed. 1993. Amys and Amylion. Exeter: University of Exeter Press. Leach, MacEdward, ed. 1937. Amis and Amiloun, vol. O.S. 203. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mehl, Dieter. 1968. The Middle English Romances of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Middle English Dictionary. 2000–2018. Online edition in Middle English Compendium, ed. Frances McSparran, et al. University of Michigan Library, Orme, Nicholas. 2001. Medieval Children. New Haven: Yale University Press. Pugh, Tison. 2008. “From Boys to Men to Hermaphrodites to Eunuchs: Queer Formations of Romance Masculinity and the Hagiographic Death Drive in Amis and Amiloun.” In Sexuality and Its Queer Discontents in Middle English Literature, 101–121. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Saunders, Corinne. 2004. “Introduction.” In A Companion to Romance from Classical to Contemporary, ed. Corinne Saunders, 1–9. Oxford: Blackwell. Schultz, James A. 1995. The Knowledge of Childhood in the German Middle Ages, 1100–1350. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Souvay, Charles, and Justin Donovan. 1910. “Leprosy.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www. Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn. 1994. “‘Bet…to…rede on holy seyntes lyves…’: Romance and Hagiography Again.” In Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale, 83–97. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Yoon, Ju Ok. 2010. “Leprosy, Miracles, and Morality in Amis and Amiloun.” Medieval And Early Modern English Studies 18 (1): 29–56.


Writing Girls in Early Modern England Jennifer Higginbotham

In 1993, Margaret Ezell challenged feminist scholars to examine the ideologies shaping the way women’s literary history had been written. Calling attention to the replication of traditional canonical values in the anthologization of women’s texts, Ezell asked us to rethink the hierarchy between print and manuscript culture as well as to expand the range of genres considered worthy of literary analysis. Inspired by her work, this essay explores the benefits of applying Ezell’s technique to girls as well as women. Early modern girls’ writing remains underrepresented in both women’s and children’s literature for many of the same reasons that Ezell cites; more of their work exists in manuscript than print sources, and reading their texts requires a more historically situated sense of the interrelation between various forms of material culture, including writing, dancing, singing, sewing, and painting. Just as the inclusion of women’s writing in the canon forces us to rethink traditional literary histories, so too does the inclusion of girls’ writing, which pushes back against established historical and aesthetic narratives based not just on male-authored texts, but primarily on adult male-authored texts.

J. Higginbotham (*) Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




If there is much we still do not know, and may never know, about the literacy levels of early modern female children, we can still use the writing of girls as a way to consider what purposes literacy served for them and how they used it to engage with the world around them. Just as Barbara Keifer Lewalski’s phrase “writing women” in her book Writing Women in Jacobean England insisted on the conceptual link between writing by women and writing about women (1993), so too my title, “Writing Girls,” implies a connection between writing by girls and writing about girls. When girls write as girls, they are in some sense writing authorial girlhood into existence. Therefore, for the purposes of this essay, I am taking a capacious view of who counts as a girl. In my past work, I have tended to be cautious about the dangers of mapping my contemporary definition of girlhood on to the past, choosing instead a Wittgensteinian nominalism that insisted on the linguistic and social instability of the category of the “girl” (Higginbotham, 7). Although helpful for historicizing the discourse of girlhood in which a “girl” could be anyone from the age of two to sixty-­ six, such a methodology does not adequately account for the material, poetic, social, and cultural connections between the early modern texts produced by young female writers. Writing girls, I argue here, did not just produce a literature about girlhood in the period; they also produced a girls’ literature. Children’s engagements with the literary cultures of childhood can help unmute their voices as long as we are willing to take seriously the texts where they speak. As this volume makes clear, early modern children were both consumers and producers of literary cultures, and gender factors into the way child writers negotiate their relationship with literacy and literature. Recognizing girls’ literature as a genre will help ensure that girls’ texts do not become invisible simply because they do not fit neatly into historical narratives based on adult men’s writing. One of the central questions when the literary canon first came up for debate was whether feminists were looking to argue that women belonged in the canon because they met existing criteria for canonization, or if we were looking to challenge the existing criteria as inherently excluding many women. To address these issues requires that we engage with what Lillian S. Robinson has called “the agony of feminist criticism, for it is the champions of women’s literature who are torn between defending the quality of their discoveries and radically redefining literary quality itself” (Robinson, 157). Robinson argues for a middle way, one in which feminist critics argue for the inclusion of a more diverse range of texts while also challenging the grounds upon which canonicity is founded. I argue we



need a similar middle way with regard to girls’ literature, which has been categorically marginalized even when it meets expectations for women’s writing and which in turn calls into question the criteria by which we deem texts central to the study of early modern literature. Girls played a far more active role in early modern literary culture than has been typically acknowledged. As Nigel Wheale notes, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the first time that what he calls a “significant number[] of women from diverse social ranks were able to read,” and as a result, a “small portion” of those went on to write and publish. He estimates the number of published early modern women to have been around three hundred, resulting in eight hundred first editions (Wheale, 105). Those women all learned to write, and that does not count those who left behind manuscript writings rather than printed texts. A few of those printed texts were written by girls and young women, perhaps the most famous of which is Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617), composed and printed when she was about 20. Speght calls attention to her youth in her dedicatory epistle, following the standard modesty topos employed by both male and female writers when she apologizes for her “insufficiency in literature and tenderness in age” (Speght, 5).1 Nonetheless, as critics such as Lewalski have pointed out, Speght demonstrates a high level of rhetorical skill in her proto-feminist critique of Joseph Swetnam’s misogynist pamphlet the Araignment of Lewde, idle, forward, and unconstant women (1615) (Lewalski, 56). When placed among the writings of other literary-minded young women, Speght is more exemplary than extraordinary in her verbal mastery;2 where she stands out as unusual is her entry into publication. Other learned girls, such as Jane Lumley and Princess Elizabeth in the sixteenth century and Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley in the seventeenth, circulate their compositions as manuscripts. But of course, it remains true today that a very small percentage of the population publishes a book, regardless of their reading or writing habits. Moreover, as Ezell importantly reminds us, manuscript circulation could be as prestigious as or even more prestigious than print publication. A coterie audience could be more tightly controlled than the audience of the print 1  On modesty as a trope rather than genuine expression of a woman writer’s sense of her own inferiority, see Pender. 2  I am indebted to Margaret Ezell and her 2013 Folger Faculty seminar on women’s education for the useful distinction between exemplary and extraordinary case studies.



marketplace, and publishing for profit was not universally regarded as an appropriate aspiration for literary elites, regardless of gender. If we expand our scope and consider more broadly the surviving texts by girls in both manuscript and print, it becomes clear that learning to write enabled female children both to acquire and exhibit knowledge in ways that helped them negotiate their social worlds. Investigations of girls’ literacy are often hampered by the absence of evidence of who taught them to write and when, but existing documents related to female education can also make a focus on written literacy feel overly narrow. For example, in 1632, Sir Thomas Pelham engaged a dancing master named Master Henley to teach his daughters Bess and Phillis for four weeks. Their instructional relationship probably continued for eight years, as Sir Thomas’s account book records another payment to the tutor for services rendered between March and June 1633. Subsequent entries indicate regular payments to a “dancing master” through 1640 (BL Additional Manuscript 33145, fo. 53v, 60v, 80r, 135v, Sussex: REED, 203). As members of one of the “leading Protestant families of Sussex,” Bess and Phillis received a class-specific education that would have prepared them for social success, including participation in courtly female communities, and the attraction of a future husband. Along with music, dance was an indispensable part of the education of girls and women of the Pelhams’ rank (Nelson 2015). Their father Thomas was the only son of Sir Thomas Pelham, who had been an MP and sherrif for Sussex and Surrey (Sussex: REED, lxxxi). The girls accordingly had private tutors for dancing (Master Henley) and music and singing (a Master Bitten, first named in an entry for 1634 and referred to for the next four years as “the lute master”). It can sometimes seem much easier to find evidence of elite girls’ education in such accomplishments than to discover how and to what purposes they acquired written literacy. Like boys, they would have learned to read and write separately, and the chances of being literate and the chances of having the evidence of their literacy survive were better the higher up the social scale we go (Cressey, 22).3 Non-aristocratic girls would have attended petty schools, but not grammar schools, and tutoring for aristocratic girls like the Pelhams was not stable across families. Dorothy 3  Cressey argues that reading and writing were not regarded as entirely separate, but the two processes were not as entwined as in today’s curriculum; learning to read did not in any way necessitate learning to write.



Gardiner and Laetitia Yeandle have identified several early seventeenth-­ century boarding schools for girls, but even in such cases, these ­institutions had a lower level of standardization compared to that which can be seen across boys’ grammar schools at the time (Gardiner; Yeandle, 272). The Pelham account book reveals yet another reason evidence of girls learning to write might be hard to find: writing instruction was sometimes carried out by tutors hired to teach them other skills as well. In the entry for June through September 1634, Sir Thomas notes that he paid 2 pounds and 18 shillings for “the danser and writing man” (BL Additional Manuscript 33145, fo. 60 v, qtd in Sussex: REED, 203). It may be that the payments were to two separate people, but that would be out of keeping with Sir Thomas’s recording practice elsewhere in the manuscript, where he customarily divides his entries by recipient as well as by date. The most likely scenario is that the dancing master is also the “writing man,” indicating that Bess and Phillis’s dancing master must have doubled as their teacher of writing. The suggestive traces of Bess and Phillis Pelham’s engagement with writing and dancing call attention to the way that dancing was interrelated to women’s and girls’ textual and dramatic productions. The obvious example is the masque, which featured noblewomen and noblegirls dancing, as Clare McManus, Caroline Bicks, and Deanne Williams have shown. Robert White’s masque Cupid’s Banishment, for example, featured a group of girl performers who danced and sang for Queen Anne in 1617, spelling out her initials through careful formations. Just as the links between the pen and the needle were closer than we initially imagined, so too it seems the link between dancing and written dramatic composition had a very important place in the early modern imagination. A similar emphasis on dancing can be found in the work of the girl playwright Rachel Fane, whose May Masque is receiving increasing amounts of scholarly attention. As the granddaughter of the well-­ known Lady Grace Mildmay and daughter of Sir Francis Fane and Lady Mary Mildmay, Rachel Fane grew up in a house with a library that included playbooks by Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and William Davenant (O’Connor, 93). We know she had a particular interest in drama thanks to the survival of her notebooks, which include a fairly complete masque and several entertainments written around the time when she was thirteen and living at her family’s home of Apethorpe. The volume includes a rich variety of materials dating to the period 1625–1630, including a cast list that makes it clear she wrote the pieces to be performed by her siblings and cousins



for an audience of her adult relations (Bowden).4 Not only does Fane’s May Masque include speaking roles for children of both genders, it ends with a carefully choreographed dance. The script includes detailed descriptions of costumes and stage directions, with nymphs dancing with Urania and the goddess Venus in one scene. Dancing is also central to a fragment of a play in the notebook, where she provides stage directions for a pastoral masque that has not survived. She notes that “for want of actors” she has decided to omit her original vision of including antic dancers with the character of Robin Goodfellow, following up that scene instead with one involving Daphne and Apollo whose speeches are in turn followed by eight little fairies and three “little children” who dance with the god and goddess. Though easy to read, the handwriting of the notebooks suggest that her manuscripts offer a working draft of her creative visions, particularly when compared with the presentation copies of other girls’ texts. The dance itself instead would have functioned as a fair copy of Fane’s choreography.5 As in Karen Nelson’s work on the connections between dancing manuals and Mary Wroth’s play Love’s Victory, Fane’s linking of dance with written composition was hardly unique (Nelson). Sometimes, as Elizabeth Patton once remarked to me, the dance is the document. Indeed, girls’ participation in needlework, music, dance, and writing all functioned as a performance of a skill through which girls solidified their roles in familial and social circles. A very beautiful letter written by an eight-year-old Anne Clifford to her father George in 1598 may have served the dual purpose of demonstrating her skill at writing as well as her artistic abilities. Her conventional expression of daughterly duty is written on beautifully decorated paper with a border of colorful flowers. It’s hard to tell whether she did the illustrations or not, but it would be in keeping with the idea that learning to write was on a continuum with the other accomplishments of aristocratic young ladies if she did (Clifford). Another letter that seems to have been written as a keepsake is one by Arbella Stuart addressed to her grandmother Bess of Hardwick (Huntington Library, MS HM 803; see Fig. 11.1). Lady Arbella indicates that she is enclosing a lock of her hair, and the careful italic script is in contrast to the much messier hand of Rachel Fane, whose notebooks suggest writing in process rather than a finished product. As such, I would suggest that this indicates Arbella  See also O’Connor, 93–4.  Fane (c. 1627). Quotations are my own diplomatic translations.

4 5



Fig. 11.1  Arbella Stuart, letter to Bess of Hardwick, 1587/88, February 8, MS HM 803. Courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Stuart’s letter, like Anne Clifford’s, was intended to be in and of itself a present for her grandmother. It was the kind of gift that both served as a token of affection and an illustration of her education. The same might also be said of Jane Lumley’s well-known translations of Greek and Latin texts, including Euripedes’ Iphigenia at Aulis. These translations were gifts and presentation volumes, but they were also exhibitions of her talent with languages. She wrote to concretize what she had learned from her tutors, and it is clear from the preservation of her writing that it was valued.6 As with the letters of Anne Clifford and Arbella Stuart, the careful presentation and neat handwriting indicate her framing of the book as a finished, polished product (Lumley 1553; see Fig. 11.2). We also have to take into account the many kinds of texts girls produced and consumed as part of their participation in various early modern literary cultures, which include engagements across a wide range of mediums. Roszika Parker’s book The Subversive Stitch has long since taught us that we should not discount needlework as a form of writing, and within early modern studies, the work of Anne Rosalind Jones and Susan Frye has shown that the needle and pen were not mutually exclusive; many girls and 6

 See Lumley (1998).



Fig. 11.2  Jane Lumley, Iphigenia at Aulis, MS Royal 15.A.IX, fo. 66r. Courtesy of the British Library

women could and did use both.7 Although we need to be cautious about using royal examples to generalize about female lives in general, Princess Elizabeth’s translations, particularly her translation of Katherine Parr’s The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, are oft-cited examples of the pen and needle going together. Most scholars who reference the work reproduce a picture of the beautiful binding, hand-stitched by the future queen as a New Year’s gift for her stepmother in 1544 when Elizabeth was fifteen. If we open the 7

 See Parker; Jones; and Frye.



Fig. 11.3  Princess Elizabeth Tudor, translation of The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, MS. Cherry 36, p. 5. Courtesy of the Bodleian Library of Oxford University

cover and examine the writing within, it resembles the script we have come to know as Queen Elizabeth’s writing, but it still bears some marks that code it as the work of a writer who is still a girl (Elizabeth I, fo. 2v.; see Fig. 11.3). It doesn’t have the same regularity and confidence as her later handwriting, and most importantly, the rules remain visible, one of the marks of children’s texts at the time. The rules likewise remain visible in a handwriting exercise begun by a merchant-class girl named Elisabeth Hickman, whose copy of her great-great-grandmother’s autobiography was undertaken as a handwriting exercise in 1667. Her manuscript survives



in the British Library, likely because it helped preserve a text with special meaning for her family, bound as it is along with another, fuller copy of the text. In addition to copying out the story of her relative’s life, Hickman used the paper as an opportunity to practice her signature, the kind of practice that arises repeatedly in girls’ texts, a sign of the critical place that signing their name had in their acquisition of literacy. It can be easy to dismiss calligraphic exercise books such as Mary Evelyn’s in the British Library as irrelevant to literary history, given their practical, material focus on handwriting (Evelyn, fo. 1), but such activities exist on a continuum with poetic and dramatic composition. The similarities between girls’ handwriting over the period and across classes are quite striking. In a well-known exchange with his children extant in the University of Nottingham’s library, William Cavendish invited them to respond to brief posies. To his daughter Jane, he wrote, “Sweet Jane, I know you are a rare inditer/And hath the pen of a most ready writer.” Her handwriting on the page, like the future Queen Elizabeth’s, clearly has elements in common with the aforementioned girls’ writing. Though written without rules, her writing is much larger than in other documents in the Portland collection that have survived from her adulthood, including her signature. On the document from her childhood, she writes: My Lord I know you doo but iest ^with^ mee & so in obedience I right this nothing     Iane Cavendysshe. (Cavendish; see Fig. 11.4)

Jane’s sisters Elizabeth and Frances did not respond to their father, and although Elizabeth would participate in some of Jane’s literary activities, it seems clear that Jane’s willingness to engage in small exercises like the one quoted above were a presage of future writing. Alexandra G. Bennett has convincingly argued that the poetry once thought to have been co-­ written by Jane and Elizabeth was in fact the work of Jane alone, and Don Foster has gone even further, arguing that the celebrated play The Concealed Fancies was also Jane’s and not Elizabeth’s (Bennet, paragraph 12; Foster, 253). Far from being unrelated to girls’ and women’s literary



Fig. 11.4  Jane Cavendish, childhood writing exercise, University of Nottingham MS Portland Collection Pw V 25/20, fo. 21r. Courtesy of manuscripts and special collections, The University of Nottingham



production, engagement with literary culture in their childhoods had a strong correlation to future textual creations. For every one of these texts that have survived, countless such engagements with literacy and literary culture have not. Given the incomplete nature of the archive, what can we learn about girls’ engagements with literary culture, and what kinds of written texts did they leave behind? Extant girls’ texts include needlework, letters, translations, poems, and masques. Even as a young child of six, Jane Cavendish had entered into a poetic social network, and it expanded beyond her immediate family circle. The young Jane was the recipient of a poem from a fellow girl named Frances Andrews, the daughter of Richard Andrews. Andrews’ poem appears alongside her father’s in the British Library’s Newcastle Manuscript. Hilton Kelliher has identified Andrews as the friend who borrowed one of Donne’s printed books and had to apologize after his children damaged it, so Frances may have the distinction of being one of the children who precipitated the writing of Donne’s Latin elegy, De Libro Cum Mutuaretur (Kelliher, 134). Kelliher believes that Richard Andrews likely wrote the poem on his daughter’s behalf, but I maintain an open mind about the poem’s authorship. Regardless of who composed it, the poem clearly establishes a gift-giving network between girls in which poetry appears as a viable currency. It reads:           Sweet Lady Iane              I must you thanke,           As long as ere my name is Francke,           Both for your Loue, and for your token,           With fauors more than can bee spoken.           Of which I many times doe thinke           Both when I wake, and when I winke.           Not knowing how to make amends           Both for selfe, and for my friends.            Now since my Father cometh downe,           and leaues all vs here in the Towne           I meane my self and Will: my Brother           Togeather with our Loueing Mother,           I could not but send you a letter,           Wishing that it had beene a better.           The fault was hers, I dare abide,           That wee togeather did not ride.           For shee’s so fond of little Will:



          That for his sake, shee will, and will           Not come; and come; now, I now, noe,           Both come and stay, both stay and goe.           But yet for all her fickellnes,           Shee is halfe come, or more I guess;           She is come halfe come, or come half rather           For the better halfe now is my Father.           And hee I hope is safely come,           Where I praesume hee is Welcome./            By him I send a token small,           But yet I send my Loue withall;           A bunche of grapes from my poore Vine,           Which will not yeild a dropp of wine;           You’l say they from Sainct Martins came,           And so they did (my sweet Madame)           But all the Soldiers went from hence,           Brought not so many grapes from thence.           But that I thinke was not their fault,           That they brought neither grapes nor salt;           But that (for which our Harts still burne)           They without Reason, from thence did turne.           But this ^is^ farr aboue my reach,           And therefore I no more will preach,           Of Warlike Soldiers, and their Roellew? rowtes           But meddle with my Babie—clowtes./           Now of the Grapes but one word more.           The which I had forgott before           They haue on them a frostie dew           For cold comes in with Bartholmew           And they will (if they be not Vext)           Serue to bee worne at Christmasse next.            Well to returne to you againe           I doe salute you Lady Iane           Hopeing one day God will mee bless,           To come and see your Noblenes;           Ile waite on you then at a becke           Either at Bolser or Welbecke,           Meane time I doe continue still-a           Your humble seruant           London August 14, 1629.   Franc: Andrilla8 8

 Andrews, fol. 86v–87r (my transcription).



Just as Arbella Stuart’s letter to her grandmother was part of a gift exchange, so too Frances Andrews’ poem accompanies a gift of grapes. The letter-poem implies it has been sent in exchange for a “token” Jane has already sent to her, whether of the literary variety or not is not clear. Frances apologizes for not accompanying her father on his visit, blaming her mother’s unwillingness to part from her younger brother Will. Her description of the gift of grapes acknowledges that they are not fit for turning into wine, but she gestures forward toward their appropriate use over Christmas, possibly employing the same allusion as George Herbert in “The Bunch of Grapes” whereby the grapes from the vine of Sion prefigure the wine or blood of Christ in the crucifixion.9 Such a sophisticated poetic deployment of Christian imagery contrasts with Frances’s own description of herself as “meddling” with her “Baby-clowtes,” likely a reference to the practice of children making dolls out of cloths. As a speaker, Frances exhibits an awareness of her youth as well as her lower social status compared to her addressee, even as the premise of the poem rests upon their shared girlhood. Jane Cavendish would go on to write a number of her own poems in which she addresses members of her own class as well as servants, a practice that was clearly an extension of the literary culture in which she participated as a very young girl. In cases like Jane Cavendish’s, Rachel Fane’s, and the Pelhams, their levels of education seem exemplary of girls in their class, while Cavendish’s and Fane’s ambitious literary texts mark them as extraordinary. Elizabeth Cary, on the other hand, seems both extraordinary in terms of her education and her literary goals for a woman of her class. Her childhood translation of Abraham Ortelius’s Le Miroir du Monde laid the groundwork for a much larger body of writing, and, at least in her daughters’ biography of her life, she seems invested in becoming a prodigy. In The Lady Falkland Her Life, her daughter reports that Cary “learnt to read very soon and loved it much. When she was but four or five year old they put her to learn French…without a teacher, whilst she was a child, she learnt French, Spanish, Italian, which she always understood very perfectly.” As her mother’s biographer and literary heir, the writer authorizes her place in the literary culture of childhood by making her own authorial presence wrapped up in the stories she can tell about her mother. The literary ­culture of childhood allows the daughter’s authorial identity to be mutu9

 See Wilcox.



ally constitutive with her mother’s engagement with literature as a child. The writer of the manuscript goes on to report her mother’s youthful translations of Seneca and Blosius, highlighting the self-taught nature of her accomplishments and the way her childhood efforts would pass on literacy to her children. Tellingly, the writer offers a parallel account of her mother’s “skillful and curious” needlework, with which Carey likewise supposedly never had been helped or formally taught (Lady Falkland, 186). Her voracious appetite for language and translation led to a lifetime of reading, according to her daughter, who also recounts attempts to bribe servants for candles for light to read by. When her mother-in-law took away her books, Cary “set herself to make verses” in their absence, going on to write “many things for her private recreation, on several subjects, and occasions, all in verse” (189). Renaissance theories of the role of writing included an internally contradictory ideology, wherein the teaching of handwriting to women was constructed as maintaining the status quo through occupying women’s minds and through getting them to copy improving literature. However, it was a task that also created anxiety because putting pens into female hands could, in Jonathan Goldberg’s words, “put power in anyone’s hands” (Goldberg, 146). In Reading and Writing Literacy in France from Calvin to Jules Ferry, François Furet and Jacques Ozouf argue that literacy “represented the key to entry to the cultural model of the upper class” (Furet and Ozouf, 4). Given the Cary family’s upwardly mobile ambitions—her father, after all, went on to receive a knighthood—her education was in part aspirational. Despite her mother-in-law’s supposed objections to Cary’s reading habits, the future playwright’s literary activities seem part and parcel of Cary’s trajectory from the daughter of an Oxfordshire lawyer to the wife of a future viscount. Her childhood literary activities create the conditions for her daughter’s. For all that I have spent more than a decade looking for girls in the literary and historical archives, I don’t feel like I have a definitive answer to the question of how girls learned to write in early modern England or how many of them learned to do so. It is so often hard to tell the difference between a woman who was exemplary and a woman who was extraordinary; that is, we do not always know when we should be using a particular woman or girl as evidence of female education and literary production as a whole and when she is an exception that proves the opposite was the norm. We also always have to be careful to pay attention to class when making such an evaluation, and indeed, much of early



modern girls’ surviving engagements with literary cultures come from members of the landed classes. In order to avoid collapsing differences between children’s multifaceted experiences, we must recognize that there is not just one literary culture of childhood, but many. Children’s writing reminds us in general that there never has been a single, unified literary tradition, but multiple and dynamic networks in which writers and readers participated according to their gender, class, age, and social circles. As such, I have been suggesting that writing was one of many methods through which female children engaged in cultural exchanges with each other and adults, and although limited, the archive of girls’ literature suggests that learning to write enabled female children both to acquire and exhibit knowledge and to begin to negotiate a sense of their place in the social world through harnessing access to various literary cultures. They certainly left us enough to incorporate them into literary history.

Bibliography Andrews, Frances. 1629. British Library Harley MS 4955, fol. 86v–87r. Bennett, Alexandra G. 2005. “‘Now Let My Language Speake’: The Authorship, Rewriting, and Audience(s) of Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley.” Early Modern Literary Studies 11 (2). benncav2.htm Bicks, Caroline. 2011. “Producing Girls in Mary Ward’s Convent Schools.” In Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood, ed. Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh, 139–153. Aldershot: Ashgate. Bowden, Caroline. 2004. “The Notebooks of Rachel Fane: Education for Authorship.” In Early Modern Women’s Manuscript Writing: Selected Papers from the Trinity/Trent Colloquium, ed. Victoria E. Burke and Jonathan Gibson, 157–180. Aldershot: Ashgate. British Library Additional Manuscript 33145. 2000. Quoted in Sussex: REED, 203–205. Cavendish, Jane. University of Nottingham MS Portland Collection Pw V 25/20. Fo. 21r. Clifford, Anne. 1598. Letter to Her Father. uploads/lady-anne-letter.jpg. Cressey, David. 1980. Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Elizabeth I. 1544/45. The Mirror of the Sinful Soul. Bodleian Library MS Cherry 36. Evelyn, Mary. 1649. Calligraphic Exercise Book. BL Additional MS 78437.



Ezell, Margaret. 1993. Writing Women’s Literary History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Fane, Rachel. 1627. Centre for Kentish Studies Sackville MS U269 F38/3. Foster, Donald. 2013. Women’s Works, Volume 4: 1625–1650. Edited by Tobian Banton. New York: Wicked Good Books. Frye, Susan. 2013. Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Furet, Francois, and Jacques Ozouf. 1983. Reading and Writing: Literacy in Frances from Calvin to Jules Ferry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gardiner, Dorothy. 1929. English Girlhood at School. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldberg, Jonathan. 1990. Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Hickman, Elisabeth. 1667. Certain Old Stories Recorded by an Aged Gentlewoman a Little Before Her Death to Be P[er]used by her Children and Posterity. British Library Additional Manuscript 43827 B. Higginbotham, Jennifer. 2013. The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Jones, Ann Rosalind, and Peter Stallybrass. 2000. Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kelliher, Hilton. 1993. “Donne, Jonson, Richard Andrews, and the Newcastle Manuscript.” English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700 (4): 134–173. The Lady Falkland Her Life. 1994. In The Tragedy of Mariam, The Fair Queen of Jewry. Edited by Barry Weller and Margaret W. Ferguson, 183–275. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. 1993. Writing Women in Jacobean England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lumley, Jane. 1998. “Iphigenia at Aulis.” In Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women. Edited by Diane Purkiss. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ———. 1553. British Library Royal MS 15.A.IX. McManus, Clare. 2003. Women and Culture at the Courts of the Stuart Queens. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Nelson, Karen L. 2015. “‘Change Partners and Dance’: Pastoral Virtuosity in Mary Wroth’s Love’s Victory.” In Re-reading Mary Wroth, ed. Katherine A.  Larson, Naomi J.  Miller, and Andrew Strycharski, 137–156. New  York: Palgrave Macmillan. O’Connor, Marion. 2006. “Rachel Fane’s May Masque at Apethorpe, 1627.” English Literary Renaissance 36 (1): 90–113. Parker, Rozsika. 1984. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: Women’s Press. Pender, Patricia. 2012. Early Modern Women’s Writing and the Rhetoric of Modesty. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.



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Other Maids: Religion, Race, and Relationships Between Girls in Early Modern London Kate Chedgzoy

At the age of eleven, Sarah Wight began suffering “violent Temptations” and the conviction “that she was shut out of Heaven and must be damn’d, damn’d, damn’d” (Jessey, 7). For four years, her despair kept her in violent, self-harming motion—“drowning, strangling, stabbing; seeking to beat out her eyes and braines; wretchedly bruising, and wounding her selfe” (ibid.). Then in April 1647, overcome with a “great trembling”, she retreated into a physical immobility, “strucke deafe, blind, and lame; and terrified beyond measure” (15). Taking only sips of water, she lay in bed in her mother’s house, “[h]er hands and her feet … clunched” and “her eyes … fast closed up” (14, 15), in silent compliance with early modern prescriptions that the female body be closed and impermeable. This crisis of bodily confinement opened Sarah to divine inspiration, however, and after four days she began to express “soule-satisfying comforts” (15). Soon, “neighbours and loving friends… which greatly desired to heare her speak” gathered around her bed (25), and for the next three months it

K. Chedgzoy (*) Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




became the location of a spontaneous, informal separating congregation with this fifteen-year-old girl at its head. One visitor, Baptist minister Henry Jessey, appointed himself an “eye and ear-witness” to Sarah’s experiences and utterances and “an instrument of Publishing [them] to the world” (prefatory letter, n.p.) as The Exceeding Riches of Grace, the text I examine in this essay. The authority of Jessey’s ministerial role and reputation legitimise the text, underpinning a structure which frames Sarah’s story within an extensive paratextual apparatus that includes writings by other men, such as John Saltmarsh, and tabulations of hundreds of Biblical citations. Fifty-three thousand words long, The Exceeding Riches of Grace is the work of a Protestant minister who published prolifically over several decades. But it is also a text which owes its existence to the words and actions of a girl of fifteen, and the most extensive single document of female adolescence to survive from early modern England. Attributing to Sarah a prophetic authority justified precisely by her lowly status as a female child, Jessey records her accounts of her own emotional, physical, and spiritual misery; the spiritual counsel she offered to both adults and other girls of her own age; and expositions of Scripture and doctrine that clearly owe a great deal to her wide knowledge of the Bible and deep familiarity with the genre of the sermon. As amanuensis and editor, he weaves her spoken words into the fabric of a text which was published under the adult male’s authorising signature, but emerged from a complex process involving creative labour by both adult and child. The largest single group among Sarah’s visitors consisted of her age-­ mates, identified by Jessey as “maids”, a term used more than a hundred times in The Exceeding Riches of Grace, seventy-six of them as speech prefixes framing and introducing what these girls come to say to Sarah. I explore the over-determinations of the word “maid” in terms of gender, status and power below: here I want to highlight how remarkable and unusual a text this is in devoting so much attention to eliciting and recording the speech of young girls. While scholars including Catharine Gray, Kathleen Lynch and Susan Wiseman have read it to illuminate women’s involvement in the radical cultures of Civil War London, my purpose here is to bring Jessey’s text into the frame of debate about literature and the child, mining its extensive and complex documentation of early modern girls’ interactions with each other for new insights into the emotional, spiritual, and social textualisation of early modern female adolescence. Juxtaposing Sarah’s conferences with anonymous maids to her r­ elationships



with the household maid, Hannah Guy, and a further help-seeking “maid” tentatively identified as “Dinah the Blackmore” (5), I argue that The Exceeding Riches of Grace bears witness to the historical formation and literary representation of girlhood through the intersections of religion, race, and status as well as age and gender. The Exceeding Riches of Grace anticipates James Janeway’s better-known A Token for Children (1671) as a Puritan minister’s appropriation of the death-bed words of children to produce a work of devotional literature in which their youthful vulnerability endows childhood speech with spiritual authority. Its extensive prefatory material highlights Sarah’s youth, and it is preoccupied throughout with the spiritual significance of childhood, using the word “child” and cognates more than thirty times. Carolyn Steedman’s assertion that “‘[c]hildhood’ was a category of dependence, a term that defined certain relationships of powerlessness, submission and bodily inferiority or weakness, before it became descriptive of chronological age” (7) highlights the capacity of Jessey’s and Janeway’s books to illuminate the construction and representation of childhood in pre-­modern texts. They are also pertinent to histories of children’s literature, in which A Token for Children is often given a privileged place because of its prefatory direct address to children as its imagined readers. Less familiar in the context of histories of childhood and children’s literature, The Exceeding Riches was a significant publication in early modern England, going through eight editions, the last in 1798. Jessey’s sustained interest in childhood spiritual experience is evidenced by the posthumous publication of Abraham Cheare’s A Looking-glass for children being a narrative of God’s gracious dealings with some little children recollected by Henry Jessey in his life time (1673), which compiles brief exemplary narratives “Of hopeful young Children… remembring their Creator in the dayes of their Youth; Being trained up in the Holy Scriptures from their Infancy” (7). This group of texts in which adults act as amanuenses and editors to youthful content creators represents something of a road not taken by commercial children’s literature as it would develop over the course of the eighteenth century, when it increasingly came to privilege texts created by adults for child readers rather than foregrounding children’s authorial agency. One reason why a study of The Exceeding Riches earns a place in this collection, then, is that as a rare published text recording at length the voice of a child, it extends and enriches the canon of early modern literatures of childhood. As a substantial textualisation of female childhood to which a girl’s own words and experiences are central, it also contributes to those



related scholarly projects which seek to  bring girlhood into play in our understanding of the gendering of Renaissance literary cultures, and to explore the gendered overdeterminations of the history of children’s literature (Chedgzoy; Miller and Yavneh; Williams). Incorporating sermons, biographical narratives, and quasi-dramatic dialogues between Sarah and her visitors, The Exceeding Riches of Grace is a generically and formally diverse text, but it is most closely related to the widely-read early modern genre of the conversion narrative. Most seventeenth-­ century Protestant conversion narratives treat childhood experience summarily, Katharine Hodgkin notes, not seeing it as explaining how the adult self was formed, but rather positing that “individuality and the true self are defined by one’s spiritual experiences” (25). For Sarah Wight, however, the defining transformation of the self, enacted through spiritual crisis and recorded in the form of the conversion narrative, is precisely co-extensive with the transition from childhood to the next stage of life, and it thus gives particular meaning to her childhood and adolescence. Indeed, her later publication under her own name of a substantial spiritual text reflecting on “the joy is to be had in GOD” and “the workings of God in her own heart” suggests that it would have a formative influence on her adult life too (Wight, title page). Sarah’s status as a female child is, then, at the heart of this text. Declaring himself “affected, even to admiration, in hearing a child so speak” (39), Jessey persistently foregrounds her youth, marvelling at “such unfoldings of Gospel-Mysteries by a child” (prefatory letter, n.p.). This apparently paradoxical association of wisdom with childhood has Biblical antecedents (Mark 10:15, 18:3), but Sarah’s crisis also needs to be understood in terms of the particular social relations of early modern childhood, as she acknowledges in tearfully attributing it to “murmurings and disobedience against [her] Mother”, and to childish transgressions: Her superiour bid her doe a small thing, judging it meet and lawfull: Shee did it, doubtingly, fearing it was unlawfull: and as shee did it, a great Trembling in her hands and body fell upon her: being condemned in her selfe… [Later] she had lost her hood, and knew shee had lost it. Her Mother asked her, for her hood. Shee suddenly answered, My Grand-mother hath it. Her heart condemned her instantly, and trembled againe exceedingly. And these were the first chiefe occasions of her deep despaire. (6–7)



Aspects of the child’s everyday life—an instruction to perform a task, the loss of a hood—trigger physical and emotional manifestations of spiritual despair, disrupting relationships at once intimate and hierarchical with adults to whom Wight owes obedience. In the language of the text, too, the childlike physical dimensions of Sarah’s body are emphasised. Her own reported speech and Jessey’s editorialising depict her on seven occasions as an “earthen vessel,” diminutive and fragile as the “little white drinking cup, an earthen cup” (11) that she persistently tries to smash, a metaphor for her repeated attempts “wickedly to destroy her selfe” (7). The Biblical trope of the female as the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7) was ubiquitous in early modern England, but the white cup’s breakable littleness signifies that her body carries meanings associated with age as well as gender; and, as I will argue further below, with race and virtue too. Status, duty, spirituality, embodiment: all aspects of Sarah’s crisis are inflected by her position as a girl-child. Youth, gender and vulnerability were precisely what positioned her within her radical Protestant community as a suitable vessel for divine inspiration. The portrayal of girlhood in this text is highly specific to the time, place, and particular religio-political community Wight inhabited, a specificity embedded in the text’s designation of girls and young women who have not yet reached adulthood as “maids”. This is not a word these girls use of themselves: it is persistently employed by Henry Jessey, assigning them to a social category located precisely within the liminal zone between childhood and adulthood. “Maid” had two primary meanings in early modern culture, both situating girlhood in gendered dynamics of dependence and subordination which were near-universal in the phase of the female life-course that immediately followed childhood: an assumption of availability to be married, and employment in domestic service (Higginbotham, 25–30). That the maids occupy this liminal and subordinate social position is, along with such details of their spiritual suffering as Jessey records, all we know of them, because he conceals the “Names, and dwelling places” of these “despairing soules” out of “tender respect to themselves, and their friends” (4). Losing their names constructs the maids within the text as interchangeable figures of subordinated youthful femininity, but also as far as readers are concerned affords them a certain freedom from the particular age- and gender-inflected relationships of dependence and subservience they inhabited in daily life. Sarah Wight’s unique experience and words are framed by and nuance the category of “maid”. She is aligned with her peers by being referred to



as such, but also distinguished from them by being identified thirteen times with the specific label “handmaid”. She brings out the significance of this term herself on three occasions when she uses the Biblical language of the Magnificat to identify herself as God’s handmaid, called on precisely by virtue of her subordinate status to serve a special purpose: “He hath regarded the low estate, [Note: Luk. 1.48.] the base [Note: Luk. 1.48.] estate of his hand-maid.” (36; see also 53, 54). When Sarah quotes the Bible to assert that she is the handmaid of divine purpose, she opens up an understanding of girlhood that both acknowledges and transcends the perception of “maids” as young women destined only for lives of domestic subordination, within or without marriage. By uttering prophecy and spiritual counsel that summer Sarah herself exemplified an alternative possibility which was taken up by other young women such as Anna Trapnel, a visitor to her bedside, who recounts her own experiences of spiritual crisis and teaching in The Cry of a Stone (1654). This is a characteristic textual strategy for Wight, whose language is saturated with Biblical citation throughout Exceeding Riches. Jessey explains that while isolated by temporary deafness, she was inspired to draw on inner resources which included memorised Bible passages: “This good Spirit brought to her remembrances now… what shee had read and heard formerly, and opened her heart to understand them: and opened her mouth to utter them in an humble, melting manner” (Postscript to the Reader, n.p.). Reading, memorising, and reflecting on Biblical and devotional writings was at the heart of girls’ education in early modern England, providing a deep well of verbal resources for female speech and textual production. “[W]ell trained up in the Scriptures, by her godly faithfull Grand-mother” since she was seven years old (5), and “wont to read above twenty Chapters” of the Bible every morning (60), Sarah knew her Bible very well indeed, as Jessey’s copious annotation and tabulation of Biblical citations attest. Her revisionary appropriation of Scripture to claim an empowered identity as a “handmaid” both intervenes in the textualisation of girlhood, and demonstrates the huge influence of the Bible on the verbal cultures—written, oral, devotional and pedagogic—of early modern radical Protestantism. Sarah’s work as a “handmaid” is enacted in her dyadic “conferences” with the anonymous maids who come to disclose their spiritual suffering and seek counsel. The intimacy of these conversations must be read with awareness both of the occasionally interjecting audience, and of Henry Jessey’s witnessing, editorialising presence. Jessey’s interest in depicting moments of relationship between girls at a transitional moment in the



female life-cycle is shared with the authors of many more familiarly literary texts of the period. For Sidney and Shakespeare, such relationships precede and give way to the adult achievement of heterosexuality, while Rachael Fane and the Cavendish sisters nuance and question their place in the trajectory from girlhood to adulthood (Miller and Yavneh, Higginbotham, Williams). Jessey records a series of transient encounters between Sarah and the maids which are marked by considerable emotional intimacy and intensity, but do not quite fit into the category of friendship. Charting the moment-by-moment flows of speech and feeling in these “relational acts of sociability” (Herbert, 13), Jessey’s text depicts more fluid and multi-­directional forms of interaction and affiliation, decentering the couple as the locus of female amity, and opening up a more inclusive approach that may be particularly appropriate to the study of girls’ relationships with each other. Wight had engaged in such interactions before the crisis of April 1647. Jessey records “a former Conference” with “another young Gentlewoman, Mris A.”, perhaps Anna Trapnel (Lynch, 82): They met in Lawrence Pountney, to hear the Lecture, before it began, Mris Sarah saw one walk about and about in a sad habit, and went to her, and asked her how shee did, shee answered; In as sad a condition as ever was any. Mris Sarah, None is in a Condition like to mine. So they sate together; and after that, they went together, and spake further of their sad conditions: each counting their own state the worse. (44)

Emphasising recognition, reciprocity and shared experience, but also displaying a curiously rivalrous perspective on distress, this first dialogue sets the pattern for the conferences at Wight’s bedside. Taking place at church before a service, it shows her accessing a wider world than her mother’s house. In early modern England, non-aristocratic women had more mobility and autonomy in their teens and early twenties than at other times in their life (Ben-Amos, 135), and participation in the collective life of dissenting communities enabled young girls like Wight and her interlocutors to occupy public spaces shared with adults; and indeed her quasi-public speaking, facilitated by Jessey, remakes her bedroom in her mother’s house as such a space. The interplay of affirmation, empathy and contest evident in the encounter with Mrs. A. typically shapes Wight’s conversations with the maids who come to visit her at home too, as evidenced by the fact that half



of her responses to her first visitor’s ten utterances begin “So it was with me”, or words to that effect. This is a characteristic rhetorical pattern in almost all the conferences: geared to persuasion, it also pays a quality of attention to shared experience and collective aspects of girlhood that is rare in literature before the advent of the girls’ school story centuries later. As conversations unfold, Wight’s persuasive tactics add elements of challenge to this reassuring emphasis on recognition, using Biblical allusions to try to help each maid. She does not speak from a position of detached authority, but draws reflectively on her own shifting self-understanding, remarking to one maid who cannot believe Christ has mercy for her, “Had you seen my condition that I was in, as I saw it, you would believ, he may as soon shew mercy on you, as shew mercy to me” (79). Repetitive and formulaic, these conversations restage the drama of conversion in abstracted form, emphasising what these young women share with each other as sinners seeking redemption rather than characterising them as distinctive individuals. The content, framing and interpretation of the conferences are all saturated with Biblical allusions, in both Sarah’s contributions and those of the maids: these are highly literate girls, and Jessey’s documentation of their conversations can serve to expand our sense of the place of literacy and textuality in early modern girlhoods. Biblical literacy plays a particularly important role in Sarah’s relationship with Hannah Guy, the only maid other than Sarah herself who is explicitly named and located within a specific social context, and the only one identified as a maid in the sense of domestic servant. Hannah and Sarah collaborate to stage the latter’s recovery as a performance of Biblical imitation. One night, Sarah experiences a visionary episode which brings a series of Biblical passages to her attention, in particular the story of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5), who is raised by Jesus from what appeared to be her deathbed. Greeting the household on the morning after this transformative night, Sarah “desir[es] the Maid that tended her, to turne to the Scriptures, one by one; which shee did; and read them, to the last: Shee declaring what power came with the words into her” (138). Sarah accesses the life-giving power of the Bible when the maid who tends to her bodily needs also ministers to her spiritually by reading aloud to her the Scriptural account of the “Eating, Arising, & Walking” of Jairus’ daughter (ibid.). Sarah immediately emulates this Biblical resurrection by asking for some broiled fish and getting out of bed for the first time in eleven weeks: “Thus by faith shee did Eat, and Arise; and beleeved she should Walk also” (139).



Hannah Guy had joined Sarah as a subordinate member of the Wight household when Mrs. Mary Wight sought “a maid that feared God” to help look after her daughter (13). Early on in the text, anxiously seeking to verify the spiritual authenticity of Wight’s food refusal, Jessey aligns Guy with Mrs. Wight as trustworthy witnesses to Sarah’s experience, remarking that “[t]he Testimony of these two, the Mother and this Maid, of her drinking so little, & not eating at all, for so long … both these being of approved faithfulnesse, may be sufficient” (prefatory letter, n.p.). As the text unfolds, Hannah’s role as Wight’s witness becomes charged with further significance, in ways highlighted by Jessey’s account of their first meeting: “When the maid beforesaid [Hannah] came to [Sarah], she found her weeping most bitterly, & wringing her hands grievously, saying I am a Reprobate, a Castaway … I have been under sinne ever since I can remember, when I was but a childe” (13). Uttered at the moment when although the “night was darkest of all”, nonetheless “the joyfull time of her deliverance was neer at hand” (14) and delivered to another young woman, whose arrival has shifted the balance of age relations within the household, Wight’s acknowledgement that since childhood she has been traumatically alienated from a godly sense of self is the pivotal moment of her conversion experience. Hannah’s presence to receive this acknowledgement is crucial to the inauguration of “the time of love”, and it is also vital to Sarah’s restoration, echoing that of Jairus’ daughter, at the end of this transformative period in her life: Jessey relates that “desiring her Mother” and Hannah Guy “to call on the Lord… shee got up immediately, and stood on her feet, and WALKED, Praising the Lord” (143). Here again, mother and fellow maid are paired, perhaps thereby opening up to Sarah a new sense of the possibility of moving forward through the female life cycle: from child, to “handmaid”, to young woman. These two intimate relationships, with her mother and a peer, frame the essentially therapeutic process by which Sarah’s conferences with maids enable her reiteratively to articulate her traumatic experience, draw wider meanings from it by juxtaposing it with other girls’ misery, locate it in a field of reference provided by the Bible, and re-engage with the world. And Sarah’s awareness of the particular debt she owes to Hannah for her intimate care is keen enough to be articulated in a rare moment of direct emotional expression: “To Hannah Guy that looked to her, and watched with her, shee said; The Lord will reward all your labour of love. So shee lay down and spake no more till the next day at night” (35). Blessing Hannah before lapsing back into



one of the prolonged silences that endow her speaking with such exceptional authority, Sarah acknowledges loving care offered and accepted. The role that Guy and Wight’s shared engagement with the Bible plays in the latter’s recovery is foregrounded when Hannah and Sarah join in a process of textual co-creation to produce and circulate a record of a dream charged with emotional intensity and prophetic significance. “I was in a Dream”, Sarah relates, “in great terror, and so quaked, that the bed did shake under me. I so wept, that my face was wet, when I awoke” (148). Hurried down a hill to apparently certain destruction among a herd of stampeding horses, Sarah calls on the Lord for help: “And instantly, one like the appearance of a man, (but the Glory of him was so great, I cannot express it; he) came, and took me in his armes” (149), carrying her to safety and assuring her that the dream signifies her triumph over her spiritual enemies. In early modern life-writings and literary texts, dreams were often ambiguous, over-determined sites of meaning, “simultaneously eloquent expressions of dreamers’ anxieties”—and, I would add, dreamers’ desires—“and the object of struggles to define their political meaning” (Plane and Tuttle, 926). Sarah’s dream has been read in politico-religious terms as claiming prophetic authority (Lynch, 78), but it also dramatizes her status as a maid. Biblical allusions in the text secure the divine identity of her rescuer, but for this fatherless girl, growing up in a society where marriage was the presumptive outcome of the achievement of adult womanhood, this depiction of protective, comforting intimacy with the male body is surely over-­ determined. In relating her dream, Sarah reiterates tropes of tearfulness and inexpressibility that recur throughout the text and Jessey editorially confirms this sublimity, echoing her own quoted words, when he remarks “The Glory of this was so great, she could not tell how to set it forth” (150). But she finds a way, overcoming the inarticulacy entailed by this revelatory dream and securing its meaning with reference to Biblical allusions, calling on Guy to assist her in tracking them by reading aloud the relevant passages (ibid.). Guy is positioned here as a co-fashioner of Wight’s project to communicate the meanings of her personal experience, using Biblical intertextuality to shape a readable account of the child self in transition that can be shared with their radical Protestant community. The importance of Guy’s witnessing role for Wight’s apprehension of her own experience is repeatedly affirmed in the text, but she also contributes to its representation to a public beyond the household, for example by acting at Sarah’s request as a messenger to influential figures in the London godly community (26). When a sizable group of people ­gathers



at Wight’s bedside to listen to her speak, Hannah alerts her to Jessey’s presence and prompts her to address him, signalling her awareness of the work he is doing to record Sarah’s utterances and bring them to the attention of a reading public beyond the household (36). However, Hannah’s own voice goes unheard, unlike those of the other maids, and we witness her relationship with Sarah only through Jessey’s comments on their interactions. She also differs from the other maids in that we glimpse her existence beyond her proximity to Sarah: her “faithfulnesse” is “approved” by ties of family and friendship to men of repute in dissenting circles in Ireland and Wales. Hannah’s connections thus locate Wight’s social world not only in radical London, but in a larger archipelagic cultural geography. Connections to the geography of a wider social world are also visible in the instance of a maid, one of Sarah’s afflicted visitors, who is uniquely identified by her geographical origins: she “was not born in England” (65). This maid’s side of the conversation follows the pattern set by previous conferences: oscillating between voicing her “long[ing]” for Christ, and her fear of God’s anger, she confesses “I am sore assaulted by Satan” (122). But instead of reassuringly sharing her own experience as a suffering maid, Sarah relies even more heavily than usual on Biblical citations, deployed to move the focus away from personal experience, effacing commonalities between her and this suicidally self-loathing maid in a refusal of identification unique to this conference. Why does Sarah respond differently? The explanation can, I propose, be found in the maid’s own distressed assertion of a difference fundamental to her sense of self: “I am not as others are: I do not look so as others do” (123). Linking this self-­ presentation to her foreign birthplace, Imtiaz Habib hypothesises that this maid’s difference of appearance is racially coded and identifies her with one of Wight’s visitors, “Dinah the Blackmore” (5) as probably an Africanborn enslaved person (Habib, 209–14). The uneasy interplay of resemblance and difference in Dinah’s encounter with Sarah show, I argue in this final section, how race was coming into play alongside gender, age, and class, to shape the meanings of girlhood and the possibilities for girls’ interactions in early modern England. The text does not state explicitly that this maid’s visible difference inheres in her skin colour, but it is strongly implied in Wight’s responses to Dinah, which employ moralised rhetorics associating blackness with sin and fairness with virtue absent from the other conferences. This language was widely used in religious writing in early modern England: indeed, John Saltmarsh describes Wight’s own misery thus in his prefatory letter:



“shee is in bondage, in blackness, and darkness, and tempest; in much distresse, and shadow of death (Psal. 88.3.7.)” (n.p.). Here, though, blackness designates not the person but her temporary state of bondage to sin: the troping of Sarah Wight as a “little white earthen cup” combines with the accidental pun embedded in her name to evoke her fundamental spiritual fairness. Katharine Gillespie construes this as a Biblical discourse of racial and spiritual equality, in which all souls are black with sin and equally in need of Christ’s cleansing salvation (189), and Dinah appears in The Exceeding Riches of Grace as not only a racialized other but also a respected member of the London dissenting community, being listed among those visitors who were “of esteeme amongst many that feare the Lord in London” (5). Sarah Wight gives this language a less egalitarian and more racially charged inflection, however, when, responding to the maid’s lament about her appearance, she uses a Biblical intertext to identify the soul itself as black, and in need of Christ’s redemptive cleansing: When Christ comes and manifests himselfe to the soul, it is black in it selfe, and uncomely [Note: Cant. 1.5.]: but He is fair and ruddy, and he cloaths the soul with his comeliness

The Biblical allusion here is to Canticles, also known as the Song of Songs/Solomon, widely read in early modern England as staging an encounter (allegorised in numerous different ways) between divine love (the male lover, here the “fair and ruddy” Christ figure) and sinful humanity, embodied by the black figure of the Bride or Beloved. Equating blackness with sin, Sarah thus ignores the personal suffering of the distressed young woman before her in favour of objectifying her as a figure for the sinful soul in need of salvation. In doing so she contributes to the development of protoracialised rhetorics of embodied difference, a process traced by Kim Hall when she locates the black Beloved of the Song of Songs among a company of Biblical black women whose “blackness” at first bore a purely symbolic cultural function, but became “increasingly racialized” under growing pressure from “colonial interests” in early modern Europe (359). Serving to connect race with gender and sexuality, the imagery of intimate encounter between a dark, sinful feminine form and a white, light-filled, divinely virtuous masculine one does complex ideological work in early modern textual appropriations of the Song of Songs, centring on the representation of the potentially marriageable pre-adult girl



who speaks in that text, and who occupies the same position in the life-­ course and social order as the “maids” who are the subject of this essay. Bible translations vary as to whether the youthful female speaker in the Song of Songs describes herself as “black and comely” or—as in the Geneva Bible and the AV, the versions likely to have been familiar to Wight—“black but comely” (Iyengar, 49–50). Appropriating the voice of the maid but recasting the crucial phrase as “black and uncomely”, Wight’s utterance is significantly more negative than her Biblical intertext in its portrayal of blackness. Consequently, the comfort Sarah purports to offer when she insists “in him the soul is all fair… because he hath clensed it by his bloud, from all sinne” actually exacerbates the maid’s distress by confirming that her “black and uncomely” condition requires transformation by divine fairness. So perhaps it is not surprising that “Dinah” is reluctant to concede that Christ has salvation for her: “He may do this for some few”, she says, “but not to me” (66). Sarah counters her recalcitrance by insisting that “He doth not this to me onely, nor to our Nation onely, for, many Nations must be blessed in him”. Employing a Biblical reference to the Genesis account of God’s promise to make a great nation of the descendants of Abraham and Hagar, the enslaved maid forced to bear him a son, Wight insists on the inclusiveness of divine blessing in a way that further reconfirms Dinah’s otherness even as it tacitly acknowledges the heterosexual teleology assumed to shape the lives of all those who temporarily inhabited the social category of “maid”. Emphasising that what Sarah and Dinah have in common in terms of age, gender and social status as maids is cut across by their racial difference, this reading of their encounter complicated the desire to identify community and friendship among girls that I initially brought to The Exceeding Riches of Grace and its representations of maids’ interactions. Part of its importance for me now lies precisely in that challenge, that provocation. But Jessey’s representation of their conversations also matters because of the rare and important opportunities it offers to hear the voice of a young black woman, and to glimpse the formation and textualisation of early modern girlhood through a complex interplay of racial and cultural difference, religious experience, status, gender, and age. Reading of the encounters between Sarah and Dinah, Hannah Guy, and all those anonymous maids, we are confronted with questions about the relationship between writing and life, textual form and experience, the individual life and issues of representativeness and exemplarity. These questions provide us with critical tools for making sense of early modern literature’s



“highly generic” depiction of children’s experience and tendency to represent the child’s “successful assimilation of cultural and ideological norms” as proleptic of their eventual accession to normative adulthood (Clarke, 321). What is remarkable about The Exceeding Riches of Grace is that it depicts—at length in the case of the central figure of Sarah Wight, reiteratively for the maids she interacts with—girls struggling with this process. Reading it against the grain of Jessey’s affirmative spiritual and political project enables us to see that to be a maid—to be in transition from female childhood to womanhood—is always to inhabit asymmetrical relationships of power. Recording and publishing the words of a maid of fifteen years old, The Exceeding Riches of Grace offers unique insights into the gendered, embodied dynamics of agency and dependence, authority and submission, which resonate through early modern literature’s interests in representing children and childhood. It provides a child-centred perspective that can illuminate contemporary adult-authored representations of children and childhood, and a reminder that it was not inevitable that children’s literature as a cultural phenomenon should come to be associated with children as consumers rather than producers of texts.

Bibliography Ben-Amos, Ilana Krausman. 1994. Adolescence and Youth in Early Modern England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Cheare, Abraham. 1673. A Looking-Glass for Children Being a Narrative of God’s Gracious Dealings with Some Little Children Recollected by Henry Jessey in His Life Time. London. Chedgzoy, Kate. 2013. “Did Children have a Renaissance?” Early Modern Women 8: 261–274. Clarke, Danielle. 2009. “Untitled Review Essay.” Textual Practice 23 (2): 321–325. Gillespie, Katharine. 2004. Domesticity and Dissent in the Seventeenth Century: English Women Writers and the Public Sphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gray, Catharine. 2007. Women Writers and Public Debate in Seventeenth-Century Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Habib, Imtiaz H. 2008. Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500–1677: Imprints of the Invisible. Aldershot: Ashgate. Hall, Kim F. 2000. “Object into Object? Some Thoughts on the Presence of Black Women in Early Modern Europe.” In Early Modern Visual Culture: Representation, Race, and Empire in Renaissance England, ed. Peter Erickson and Clark Hulse, 346–379. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.



Herbert, Amanda. 2013. Female Alliances: Gender, Identity and Friendship in Early Modern Britain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Higginbotham, Jennifer. 2013. The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Hodgkin, Katharine. 2007. Madness in Seventeenth-Century Autobiography. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Iyengar, Sujata. 2005. Shades of Difference: Mythologies of Skin Color in Early Modern England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Janeway, James. 1671. A Token for Children. London. Jessey, Henry. 1647. The Exceeding Riches of Grace Advanced by the Spirit of Grace, in an Empty Nothing Creature, viz. Mris. Sarah Wight. London. Lynch, Kathleen. 2012. Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth-Century Anglophone World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Miller, Naomi, and Naomi Yavneh, eds. 2011. Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood. Aldershot: Ashgate. Plane, Ann Marie, and Leslie Tuttle. 2014. “Dreams and Dreaming in the Early Modern World.” Renaissance Quarterly 67 (3, Fall): 917–931. Steedman, Carolyn. 1995. Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780–1930. London: Virago. Wight, Sarah. 1656. A Wonderful Pleasant and Profitable Letter. London. Williams, Deanne. 2014. Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Wiseman, Susan. 2006. Conspiracy and Virtue: Women, Writing, and Politics in Seventeenth Century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The Philosophy and Literature of Childhood Cognition: John Milton and Margaret Cavendish Lisa Walters

Controversial and influential philosophical debates during the seventeenth century centred on the nature of the mind. Such debates held significance for wider society since theories of human cognition could often shape and influence perceptions of metaphysics, education and social hierarchy. Although most early modern philosophers such as Descartes and Hobbes did not specifically focus their theories of cognition upon childhood development, nonetheless, the manner in which children’s minds acquire knowledge and how children’s minds differ from adult cognition were often addressed. Susan M. Turner and Gareth B. Matthews, for example, contend that “[r]emarks concerning the metaphysical, epistemological, and moral status of children, as well as the social and political status that should be accorded them, are scattered throughout [philosophers’] works” (Turner and Matthews, 1). This chapter will examine how the construction of childhood was a contested territory insofar as there was not one prevailing view of childhood in seventeenth century philosophy.

L. Walters (*) Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




Indeed, the most influential philosophers of the mind, Descartes and Hobbes, provide opposing and contradictory depictions of childhood cognition. Such debates overlap into literature from the period as literary authors such as John Milton and Margaret Cavendish build upon such influential philosophical debates, demonstrating that childhood was also a politically charged concept insofar as it served as an epistemological base for their views of gender difference, education and obedience to authority. Stephen M. Fallon details how Milton engages with early modern philosophical ideas in his literature, and how Milton had several close friendships with men who were keenly interested in philosophy, including John Dury, who had met and conversed with Descartes (Fallon, 9). Similarly, Cavendish was keenly interested in philosophy insofar as she wrote extensively about contemporaries such as Descartes, Hobbes and Henry More. Descartes, who was at the centre of philosophical debates about the mind, believed that epistemological errors and cognitive deficiencies ultimately stem from the condition of childhood. Descartes explains that I was struck by the large number of falsehoods that I had accepted as true in my childhood, and by the highly doubtful nature of the whole edifice that I had subsequently based on them. I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last. (Descartes 1996, 12)

Like a faulty house or edifice, individuals must entirely destroy the epistemological edifice of their childhood knowledge in order to obtain correct judgements and insight. As Anthony Krupp notes, Descartes agrees with Church fathers such as French cleric Pierre de Bérulle who believed that childhood is “the most vile and abject state of human nature” but “Descartes’s focus is epistemological rather than moral” (Krupp, 25). While recent research has demonstrated that parental affection and love often trumped strict theology, Allison P.  Coudert contends that during the early modern period the “emphasis on the inherently evil nature of children reflected the increased emphasis on human depravity,” which stemmed from the “ ­negative view of human nature promulgated by Protestants but shared to a large extent by Catholics” (Coudert, 390). While Descartes’ view of childhood did not directly draw from religious doctrine, he asserts that “error … has gripped all of us since our childhood” (Descartes 1985, 85). Yet, he nonetheless argues that infants have



the capacity to think since “the mind begins to think as soon as it is implanted in the body of an infant, and that it is immediately aware of its thoughts” (Descartes 1996, 74). In a letter of 1641, Descartes explains that an infant “has in itself the ideas of God, of itself, and of all such truths as are called self-­evident, in the same way as adult human beings have these ideas … I have no doubt that if it were released from the prison of the body, it would find them within itself ” (Descartes 1991, 190). Rather than understanding genuine knowledge as derived from experience, Descartes’ view of infant knowledge somewhat resembles Plato’s belief that humans are born with innate knowledge.1 According to Descartes, the infant is overwhelmed with their new corporeality, which interferes with the true knowledge that is already within them. Krupp contends that Descartes in the Fifth Meditation “blame[s] the ‘tool,’ i.e., the body, for deficient cognition, while exonerating the ‘craftsman,’ i.e. the mind.”2 Descartes explains that at that age the mind employed the bodily organs less correctly than it now does, and was more firmly attached to them; hence it had no thoughts apart from them and perceived things only in a confused manner. Although it was aware of its own nature and had within itself an idea of thought …, it never exercised its intellect on anything without at the same time picturing something in the imagination. (Descartes 1996, 113)

Children rely on sensory perceptions and their imaginations in a way which interferes with their ability to think of God, themselves and other abstract forms of knowledge that lead to a correct epistemology. While Descartes’ theory of the mind was prominent, Thomas Hobbes also articulated an influential understanding of knowledge that entirely contradicted Descartes’ thinking about childhood development. Influenced by experimental sciences during the scientific revolution, Hobbes denied the possibility of innate ideas existing in infants. Experimental scientists argued that true knowledge is not innate, nor is it derived from ancient authorities such as Aristotle, but instead is derived from observation and experiments. Hobbes applies this methodology to the development of the mind as he asserts in Leviathan that there “is no 1  Plato debates how humans have acquired “knowledge before we were born, and were born having” ideas of “beauty, goodness, justice, holiness.” Plato, 184. 2  Krupp, 38–9. The sixth reply indicates instead that “the tool is in good working order. Rather, the intellect is not operating correctly with the tools.” Krupp, 39.



other act of man’s mind … naturally planted in him,” and instead contends that the origin of thought and cognition derives from our sensory perceptions insofar as “there is no conception in a mans mind, which hath not at first, totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of Sense” (Hobbes, 23, 13). Hence, sense perception eventually leads to complex thoughts and the development of language. In contrast to Hobbes’ understanding of the mind, John Milton, in Paradise Lost, builds from Descartes’ understanding of cognitive development since he represents cognitive functions as developing from innate knowledge rather than sensory data. Although in Paradise Lost Adam and Eve are physically adults and “lords of all,” they engage in “youthful dalliance” (Milton 2008, IV.290 and IV.338). More importantly, both provide a detailed account of their first moments of cognition, thus providing an explanation of how the mind initially experiences consciousness as well as how it develops and learns. Blaine Greteman documents how there had been a “long theological tradition,” as well as seventeenth century thinkers who described and understood Adam and Eve as children or adolescents (Greteman, 162–4). The fact that Milton spends much detail describing the first moments of cognition suggests that he was interested in considering how young minds operate. Indeed, Adam and Eve can be understood as the first children and a model for understanding all children after them. As Eve recalls her first moment of cognitive awareness she describes that: “when from sleep/I first awaked, and found myself reposed/Under a shade of flowers, much wondering where/And what I was” (Milton 2008, IV, 449–52). Eve’s first thoughts do not resemble Hobbesian understandings of the mind, since they do not develop from sense perception: Eve has an innate understanding of selfhood insofar as she “wond[ers]” “what [she] was.” This resembles Descartes’ contention that the only facet of reality that is certain is being aware that one is a thinking being with a mind or that one has cognitive awareness (Descartes 1996, “Second Meditation.”). As Eve continues to experience consciousness, sensory perceptions do not contribute to her knowledge. Indeed, like Descartes’ infant, sensory perceptions, such as sound and vision, interfere with cognitive development and do not provide Eve with genuine knowledge. Although Descartes believed that such immersion with the corporeal world makes the infant forget initial memories, Eve nonetheless first remembers “a murmuring sound/Of waters” which led her to a pool of water (Milton 2008, IV, 453–4). Eve explains that,



I thither went With unexperienced thought, and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the clear Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look, just opposite, A shape within the watery gleam appeared Bending to look on me, I started back, It started back, but pleased I soon returned, Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks Of sympathy and love; there I had fixed Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire, Had not a voice thus warned me, What thou seest, What there thou seest fair creature is thyself. (IV, 456–68)

Eve’s “unexperienced thought” leads her to the water where her first instinct is to look down so that the “Smooth lake” appeared like “another sky,” whereas Adam’s first movement is “Strait toward Heaven my wondering eyes I turned” (VIII, 257). Eve cannot ascertain a proper judgment insofar as she falls in love with her own image unaware that the image is herself. Eve’s false knowledge is corrected by God, the “voice” who “warned” and instructed her that what she saw “fair Creature is thyself.” Although Eve resembles aspects of Descartes’ theory of early cognition, Milton veers from Descartes’ philosophy by representing Adam’s development as distinctly different from Eve’s. Adam awakens initially aware of his senses of touch, sight, sound and smell as well as his body.3 Although Adam’s first moments of consciousness are focused upon sensory perceptions, whereby “with joy [his] heart oreflowed,” his senses do not interfere with innate knowledge as they did with Eve (VIII, 271–3). The text suggests that Adam is less similar to Descartes’ infant as Eve insofar as he is more capable of ascertaining true knowledge in spite of being newly immersed with the sensory world. This view of Adam resembles Milton’s earlier educational tract titled Of Education (1644), where he argues that “because our understanding cannot in this body found it selfe but on sensible things, not arrive so cleerly to the knowledge of God and things invisible, as by orderly conning over the visible and inferior 3  He registers the feel of his “balmy sweat.” He then “saw hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny planes,” he heard “murmuring streams” and noticed “fragrance.” Afterwards, “limb by limb [he] surveyed.” VIII, 255, 262–3, and 266–7.



creature, the same method is necessarily to be follow’d in all discreet teaching” (Milton 1644, 2). While Milton does not discuss an agenda for girls’ education, here he contends that education should first focus upon the material, sensory world before knowledge of God. Adam seems to follow this trajectory of education. After becoming aware of sensory perception, he wonders “who I was, or where, or from what cause,” thus moving from knowledge of the sensory world to his “cause” (Milton 2008, VIII, 270). Adam develops a clearer sense of knowledge beyond the body and sensory input. In contrast, Eve requires more direct guidance to make sense of herself and the world around her. Thus, Milton expands Descartes’ theory of cognition by demonstrating how male and female children experience their first immersion into the sensory world differently. Eve’s inability to ascertain and process the sensory world is perhaps influenced by early modern beliefs that held women to be more carnal and less intellectual than men; thus women required patriarchal guidance and authority. Unlike Descartes’ view of infancy, Adam has a clearer sense of the distinction between himself and his sensory perception; he also independently discovers that he has an inner knowledge of language. Although Hobbes argued that human knowledge is only derived from slowly processing sensory data, Adam immediately has linguistic skills: “to speak I tried, and forthwith spake/My tongue obeyed and readily could name/ Whate’er I saw” (VIII, 271–3). Similarly, Eve understood Adam’s first words to her. While Descartes argued that children have innate knowledge, which becomes clouded by new sensory perceptions that surround them, Adam’s initial processing of his sense of touch, sight, hearing and smell does not seem to interfere with the inner knowledge that God has implanted in him. Not only is he aware of language, but he also contains an idea of the divine. Adam speaks to the Sun and Earth, inquiring about “some great maker” who “In goodness and in power pre-eminent;/Tell me, how may I know him, how adore” (VIII, 278, 279–80). This resembles Descartes’ contention that infants and children have an inner sense of self and God. While Adam seems to embody many aspects of Descartes’ theory of child development, he ultimately is not overwhelmed with the senses. In contrast, Eve, like Descartes’ infant, is confused and overwhelmed by her sensory perceptions, which deceive her and divert her from true knowledge. It is also significant that Adam immediately has a deeper sense of selfhood and subjectivity than Eve since he wonders “who” rather than



“what” he is. Indeed, Eve confuses herself with Nature when she falls in love with her own image in the “watery gleam.” Perhaps Eve does not immediately register sensory data like Adam because she is less able to distinguish herself from the natural environs she is immersed within. Certainly Milton’s detailed documentation of first consciousness represents man and woman experiencing cognition differently. In Samson Agonistes, the Chorus wonders whether women’s “inward gifts/Were left for haste unfinish’t, judgment scant,/Capacity not rais’d to apprehend/ Or value what is best/In choice, but oftest to affect the wrong?” (Milton 1671, 1026–30). Like Eve, women have less capacity for judgment and apprehension. Indeed, there was an early modern assumption that women inherited the characteristics of Eve, the ancestor of all women. Thus, Milton is depicting the development of child cognition as distinctly gendered with both Adam and Eve developing differently and requiring different educations. Unlike Adam, Eve does not have a clear sense of selfhood, God or the need to “adore” God, and she needs Adam’s instruction and guidance. The text demonstrates the distance between woman and the divine, as God and the Angels frequently converse with Adam, but rarely have direct interactions with Eve. Significantly, Eve does not initially have a sense of obedience or gratitude to God, perhaps suggesting the need to teach girls’ obedience, which does not come naturally to them; an idea that conforms to the early modern belief that women were naturally unruly. Although Eve clearly has free-will in the text, suggesting her capacity for rational thought, she nonetheless refers to Adam as “My author and disposer, what thou bidst/Unargued I obey; so God ordains,/God is thy Law, thou mine: to know no more/Is woman’s happiest knowledge and her praise” (Milton 2008, IV, 635–8). Eve’s “happiest knowledge” is to “obey” the law of Adam and God. Milton had argued in Of Education that the “end … of Learning is to repair the ruins of our first Parents by regaining to know God aright” (Milton 1644, 2). While it is true that in Book 4 Adam teaches Eve about the moon, stars and Angels, the text’s gendered representation of minds and moral capacity nonetheless indicates that girls would not need so rigorous an education. Such a representation of female cognition and competence resembles the ideas of Johann Bugenhagen, who worked with Luther and Melanchthon to ascertain the type of education suitable for children, and argued that girls only need up to two years of education, learning one or two hours a day, mostly so that they can read some parts of scripture (Coudert, 406–7).



As Milton demonstrates, theories of cognition and childhood development carried implications for education as well as cultural politics, and this was the case for philosophers as well. Hobbes, for example, held that children’s thoughts had not developed the capacity for complex thought. While later romantics elevated children’s imagination, for Hobbes the imagination “is nothing but decaying sense; and is found in men and many other living Creatures” (Hobbes, 15). Hobbes explains that “Children therefore are not endued with Reason at all, till they have attained the use of Speech” (36). Accordingly, young children are not reasonable enough to have natural rights or to be granted rights by social contracts or by governments, because “Over naturall fooles, children, or mad-men there is no Law, no more than over brute beasts … because they had never power to make any covenant, or to understand the consequences thereof ” (187). Like animals and people who suffer from mental illness, children are not subject to laws, nor can they establish contracts, since they are unable to understand the consequences of social covenants. Peter King contends that “for Hobbes, childhood is a period of servitude we would call slavery” (King, 65–83). It is perhaps not surprising that Milton the republican would veer from the authoritarian implications of Hobbes’ theory of child development. In order “to justify the ways of God to men,” and show that Adam and Eve had free-will, they need to be endowed with the capacity to reason (Milton 2008, I, 26). They are not irrational like Hobbes’ understanding of children. Although Eve possesses less judgment or clarity of thought than Adam, unlike Hobbes’ depiction of childhood, she immediately wonders “what” she is and can understand Adam’s language, demonstrating her capacity for rational thought. While scholars might debate to what extent Hobbes advocates a form of child slavery, he nonetheless contends that “the Father of every man was also his Soveraign Lord, with power over him of life and death” (Hobbes, 235). Hobbes was not the only early modern political philosopher to hold this view. Robert Filmer, author of Patriarcha, makes the case that laws should not interfere with fathers’ absolute right over their children’s lives (Hobbes, 18). Filmer’s rationale differs from Hobbes’ understanding of children insofar as it is based upon the notion that all authority is fatherly in origin. For Hobbes, children not only lack rights in civil society, but also in the state of nature: where “there be no Contract, the Dominion is in the Mother” who can determine whether to “nourish, or expose it [and] if she nourish it, it … is therefore obliged to obey her, rather than any other”



(140). Whether in nature or civil society, children can expect no rights, but are completely subjected to the will of their parents. While Hobbes was one of the most influential philosophers of the seventeenth century, Margaret Cavendish in her scientific treatises Philosophical Letters (1664) argues against his views about childhood: “Wherefore I cannot consent to what [Hobbes] says, That Children are not endued with Reason at all, till they have attained to the use of Speech; for Reason is in those Creatures which have not Speech, witness Horses” (Cavendish 1664, 41). For Cavendish, reason is not a function restricted to humans, nor does the capacity for speech determine one’s ability to reason. The implication is that children’s rights do not depend upon their ability to speak. Children’s cognitive development poses an interesting challenge for Cavendish’s philosophy, which held that matter and corporeality were alive, conscious and endowed with reason. In some respects, her theory of matter resembles modern animism. However, if all matter contains reason, how does one explain how children seem less reasonable than adults? No other early modern philosopher believed that matter itself, without the aid of spirit, was alive and conscious. Nonetheless, Cavendish contends that “there is life and knowledg[e] in all parts of nature” (99). Unlike Descartes, who believed that only humans are endowed at birth with knowledge and reason, Cavendish provides an unorthodox epistemology that indicates that all of the natural world has reason. In Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1663) she explains that “as Children get Strength by Food, so they get Knowledge by Experience” (Cavendish 1663, 33). In some respects this resembles Hobbes since she suggests that the mind develops through experience rather than through innate and eternal truths. Rather than the sensory world inhibiting genuine knowledge as argued by Descartes, Cavendish indicates that matter not only contributes to the physical state of the child, but to its cognitive functions as well. While Descartes believed the immaterial mind contained innate knowledge at birth, which was hampered by the child’s exposure to the physical world, Cavendish believes that physicality itself constitutes the building blocks of a child’s knowledge and reason. It is the food and nourishment that develops the child’s mind. While Descartes and Milton suggested that the mind was an immaterial entity endowed with true knowledge at birth, for Cavendish the mind is not immaterial, but rather matter itself contains knowledge and reason. Therefore a child’s mind is not necessarily a blank slate. She compares the development of animals, including humans, like a “House that is a build-



ing, the Materials are brought from Several places, and not only so, but those materials must be Cut, Carved, Fitted, Placed orderly and properly; so for the Animal House must Materials be brought, as Food, and that Food ordered properly for Nourishment, which is the natural Building” (30). Hence, unlike Hobbes, Cavendish suggests that human children are born with reason, but their minds slowly develop to ascertain knowledge that is necessary for their species or type. Accordingly, children have reason, as all matter has, but it needs time before it can have “a perfect Shape, Strength, and Knowledge proper to the Nature or Kind of its Figure” (32). Children have reason, but through experience they can obtain a clearer type of knowledge that is suitable to their species. By portraying children as having reason, Cavendish portrays a much more positive view of children opposed to Descartes and Hobbes. Like Milton, Cavendish’s understanding of child cognition has implications for education. She uses the metaphor of a building to describe education in Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666): a child’s mind is like a “House [that] is not finished, until it be throughly [sic] built, … so learning requires practice” (Cavendish 1666, “An Argumental Discourse”). Children’s brains are homes that need to be completed with education. Whilst Eve’s cognitive development in Paradise Lost indicates that female education should be centred on obedience and patriarchal guidance since “to know no more [than Adam’s law]/Is woman’s happiest knowledge and her praise”(Milton 2008, IV, 637–8), Cavendish in The Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1653) articulated a passionate defence for girls’ education and intellectual capacities like none of her contemporaries as she explained that men thinking it impossible we should have either learning or understanding, wit or judgement, as if we had not rational souls as well as men, and we out of a custom of dejectednesse think so too, which makes us quit all all [sic] industry towards profitable knowledge being imployed onely in [low], and pettie imployments, which takes away not onely our abilities towards arts, but higher capacities in speculations, so as we are become like worms that onely live in the dull earth of ignorance, winding our selves sometimes out, by the help of some refreshing rain of good educations which seldom is given us; for we are kept like birds in cages to hop up and down in our houses not sufferd to fly abroad to see the several changes of fortune, and the various humors, ordained and created by nature; thus wanting the experiences of nature, we must needs want the understanding and knowledge and so consequently prudence, and invention of men: thus by an opinion,



which I hope is but an erronious one in men, we are shut out of all power, and Authority by reason we are never imployed either in civil nor marshall affaires (Cavendish 1655, “To the Two Universities”).

Rather than demonstrating a concern with women’s need for obedience and chastity Cavendish instead argues that through a cycle of ignorance and lack of sufficient education, women internalize inferiority and do not realize their intellectual and artistic capacities, which are equal to men’s. Unlike Milton who indicated that Eve’s mind was naturally less capable than Adam’s at discerning selfhood, God and the material world, suggesting that Eve should not be in authority over Adam, Cavendish argues that without experience and learning, girls do not realize their intellectual potential and “are shut out of all power.” Cavendish’s argument here suggests that gender difference is culturally constructed. Following Cavendish’s metaphor of a house, this would mean that women’s brains, and others who are marginalised, are not completed because of constraints placed upon them in society. In her play The Female Academy, the women, who are taught by older matrons rather than men, ironically argue that women are less capable of wisdom even though they are portrayed as apt rhetoricians and philosophers while their male counterparts only seem concerned with women and sex (Cavendish 1662, 652–79). Hence, the play highlights Cavendish’s earlier contention that women “out of a custom of dejectednesse” are educated to believe “it impossible [they] should have either learning or understanding, wit or judgement” even when evidence proves the contrary. In Natures Pictures (1656), Cavendish continues her interest in female education. In the short story “The Contract,” the protagonist, Deletia, is doted upon by her uncle and guardian. Far from treating her “like birds in cages” he takes great pains to educate her. He ensures that she moves to “the Metropolitan City for [her] better Education; for here thou art bred obscurely, and canst learn little, because thou hearest and seest little” (Cavendish 1671c, 328). In addition, she studies History, and from the age of seven “Moral Philosophy was the first of her Studies, to lay a Ground and Foundation of Virtue and to teach her to moderate her Passions, and to rule her Affections” (325). It is significant that Deletia is taught moral philosophy in order to improve her virtue. Coudert argues that constraints upon female education were premised upon female chastity “for Catholic and Protestant authorities alike, female chastity could only be assured if women were barred from studying and



learning anything that might encourage them to think independently” (Coudert, 403). Juan Luis Vives, for example, in his The Instruction of a Christian Woman (1524), which “enjoyed enormous popularity in England” (Fantazzi, 33) argues that For many things are required of a man: wisdom, eloquence, knowledge of political affairs, talent, memory, some trade to live by, justice, liberality, magnanimity and other qualities …. But in a woman, no one requires eloquence or talent or wisdom or professional skills or administration of the republic or justice or generosity; no one asks anything of her but chastity. (Vives, 85)

While Vives recommends that women only learn to read scripture, the writings of church fathers and selected classic authors, some of which required the supervision of men (78), in Cavendish’s story the “She Anchoret” in Natures Pictures men travel far to be educated by a young, wise woman who grew famous as “all sorts of people resorted to her, to hear her speak; and not only to hear her speak, but to get knowledg[e], and to learn wisdom: for she argued rationally, instructed judiciously” (Cavendish 1671b, 547–8). Turning notions of early modern education upside down, the young woman not only is capable of arguing rationally, but she proves to be skilful educator. Although early modern English women were not allowed to enrol in universities, the SheAnchoret becomes a famous teacher for natural philosophers, physicians, moral philosophers, theologians, fathers of the church, judges, barristers and orators, statesmen, tradesmen and historians. Her capacity to teach men benefits larger society as they seek her advice. This sits in stark contrast to Johann Bugenhagen, who had argued that girls only need a limited education to ensure that they can read some parts of scripture (Coudert, 407). For Cavendish, who argues that children develop through experience, such an education would indicate that girls will “be like worms that onely live in the dull earth of ignorance” rather than fulfilling their potential. In her preface to The Philosophical and Physical Opinions she explains that she has presented “the sum of my works, not that I think wise School-men, and industrious, laborious students should value my book for any worth, but to receive it without a scorn, for the good ­incouragement of our sex, lest in time we should grow irrational as idiots” (Cavendish 1655, “To the Two Universities”). Cavendish’s



suggestion that children develop by experience can also be seen in “Assaulted and Pursued Chastity,” where a young woman successfully defends her chastity by ironically cross-dressing as a boy and performing male roles, such as a priest, a vice-regent and a military general; roles that early modern women generally did not perform. As the story begins, the protagonist, rejects “Natural Philosophy,” “Moral Philosophy,” “Logick,” “History,” “Divine books,” and instead “the young Lady [said], Pray give me Play-Books, or Mathematical ones” (Cavendish 1671a, 407–8). The text suggests that her interest in reading plays might have helped her ability to successfully role-play masculine roles since a play “discovers and expresses the Humours and Manners of Men, by which I shall know my self and others the better, and in shorter time than Experience can teach me” (408). While plays provided the protagonist with a richer understanding of the human condition, enabling her to perform various roles, mathematics taught her to “demonstrate Truth, by Reason; and to measure out my Life by the Rule of good Actions” (408). Cavendish’s young female protagonists may experience different types of education, but they tend to immerse themselves in subjects that were not typically taught to women, thus allowing them to obtain accomplishments that few women could in Cavendish’s own lifetime. While female chastity and virtue were often an obstacle or justification for limiting girls’ education, in “The Contract” Deletia falls in love with a married man whom she was engaged to as a child, and successfully argues in court to his delight that her contract is legal and binding. The text implies that Deletia’s rigorous education helped secure her husband as well as keep her chaste through her ability to maintain her original marital contract. The reader learns that Deletia not only studied traditionally masculine subjects, but also her Uncle “taught her to understand what she read, by explaining that which was hard and obscure. Thus she was always busily employed; for she had little time allowed her for Childish Recreations” (Cavendish 1671c, 325). Here Cavendish seems sceptical of children’s play. Perhaps Cavendish’s argument that children require experience to fully develop their minds leads her to believe that play hinders child development ­insofar as play is not a legitimate method for children to develop to their full potential. This utterly contradicts Milton in Paradise Lost. As Greteman notes, Milton’s God “spends the balance of the epic educating them” and such education often takes the form of play



and allows Adam and Eve the freedom to err.4 Both Cavendish’s and Milton’s portrayal of child cognition leads them to very different conclusions about the nature and purpose of education as well as the role of men and women in society. Deletia’s lack of “Childish Recreations” might suggest that creativity and the imagination are not important components of child development. As previously mentioned, such an argument would be in line with Descartes and Hobbes. However, the imagination is crucial to Deletia’s education in “The Contract” as she studies “Poets, to delight in their Fancies, and in their Wit; and this she did not only read, but repeat what she had read every Evening before she went to Bed” (Cavendish 1671c, 325). Her Uncle not only believed that Deletia should read poetry in order to obtain pleasure from their “Phancies”, but also that she should imitate or “recreate” their wit. In other words, she should attempt to be imaginative like the poets. Indeed, this component of her education is depicted as important enough that Deletia repeated her daily poetic education every night before she went to sleep. Similarly, the protagonist of “Assaulted and Pursued Chastity” reads plays. Although Descartes argued that the imagination and the senses hindered children from experiencing true knowledge, for Cavendish imaginative thinking is important, indeed crucial, to a child’s development. Cavendish’s understanding of cognition and children’s development, in its engagement with and challenge to Descartes’ and Hobbes’ theories, demonstrates that early modern thinkers were grappling with several distinct and significantly influential theories of the mind, and their implications in the domain of children’s education and the social order. As the world was turned upside down by the civil war’s interrogation of social hierarchy, childhood also became a contested epistemological space. Milton highlights a supposed natural gender hierarchy based upon his assumption that Adam and Eve’s brains functioned differently, which would prescribe different educational agendas for boys and girls. In ­contrast to Milton and his contemporaries, Cavendish’s philosophy of the mind, as well as her revolutionary representation of girls’ education, indicates her underlying view that girls’ education should not focus upon obedience and chastity, but instead should be as rigorous and imaginative as possible to prevent women from “grow[ing] irrational as idiots” (Cavendish 1655, “To the Two Universities”). 4  Greteman, 167. Greteman argues, for example, that when Adam requests a partner, he engages in a playful mock debate with God that “is clearly meant to be fun.” (170).



Bibliography Cavendish, Margaret. 1655. The Philosophical and Physical Opinions. London. ———. 1662. “The Female Academy.” Playes, 652–679. London. ———. 1663. Philosophical and Physical Opinions. London. ———. 1664. Philosophical Letters. London. ———. 1666. Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy. London. ———. 1671a. “Assaulted and Pursued Chastity.” Natures Pictures, 394–514. London. ———. 1671b. “The She-Anchoret.” Natures Pictures, 544–706. London. ———. 1671c. “The Contract.” Natures Pictures, 321–389. London. Coudert, Allison P. 2005. “Educating Girls in Early Modern Europe and America.” In Childhood in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: The Results of a Paradigm Shift in the History of Mentality, ed. Albrecht Classen, 389–414. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Descartes, René. 1985. “The World.” In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Edited by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch, vol. 1, 81–98. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1991. “To Hyperaspistes; August 1641.” In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, ed. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch, vol. 3, 188–197. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1996. Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies. Translated and Edited by John Cottingham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fallon, Stephen M. 1991. Milton Among the Philosophers: Poetry and Materialism in Seventeenth-Century England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Fantazzi, Charles. 2000. “Introduction.”  The Education of a Christian Woman. Edited and Translated by Charles Fantazzi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Filmer, Robert. 1991. “Patriarcha.” In Patriarcha and Other Writings. Edited by Johann P. Sommerville, 1–68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greteman, Blaine. 2013. The Poetics and Politics of Youth in Milton’s England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hobbes, Thomas. 1996. Leviathan. Edited by Richard Tuck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. King, Peter. 1998. “Thomas Hobbes’s Children.” In The Philosopher’s Child: Critical Perspectives in the Western Tradition, ed. Susan Turner and Gareth Matthews, 65–83. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Krupp, Anthony. 2009. Reason’s Children: Childhood in Early Modern Philosophy. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press. Milton, John. 1644. Of Education. London. ———. 1671. Paradise Regain’d […] To Which Is Added Samson Agonistes. London.



———. 2008. Paradise Lost. Edited by Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Plato. 2010. “Phaedo.” In Dialogues of Plato, trans. Benjamin Jowett and intro. Cory Reed, 151–256. New York: Simon & Schuster. Turner, Susan M., and Gareth B.  Matthews. 1998. The Philosopher’s Child: Critical Perspectives in the Western Tradition. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Vives, Juan Luis. 2000. The Education of a Christian Woman. Edited and Translated by Charles Fantazzi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Children’s Literary Cultures in Early Modern England (1500–1740) Margaret Reeves

The most influential story told about the history of children’s literature has its beginnings in Harvey Darton’s Children’s Books in England, published in 1932. Darton, who himself had strong connections to the publishing industry, argues in this study that children’s literature began in the 1740s with the entry into the book market of an enterprising publisher by the name of John Newbery.1 In tracing the history of the publication of children’s books, Darton does not ignore the literature that children read prior to the 1740s, but he argues that something new and important happened when Newbery published A Little Pretty Pocket-book in 1744. Small enough to be held easily by a child, with 52 descriptions of games, two for each letter of the alphabet, each 1  Darton (1932, 3rd ed. rev. by Alderson 1982), 1; Newbery (1744, 10th ed. 1760). All images accompanying this essay are reproduced by permission of The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library. I am grateful to Leslie McGrath and staff at the library for their assistance in accessing the books discussed below, and to Jennifer Gustar, Sean Lawrence, Naomi J. Miller, and Diane Purkiss for their comments on an earlier draft of this essay.

M. Reeves (*) University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




illustrated by a woodcut, Newbery’s text is widely acknowledged by children’s literary historians as a “landmark” publication, accorded pride of place as an inaugural text in children’s literary history by blending delight with instruction (Demers, 144). The Latin phrase “delectando monemus” appears with its English translation of “instruction with delight” on the text’s frontispiece. What Newbery did was fairly straightforward: he adapted a well-known literary precept, Horace’s notion that literature should be both useful, utile, and dulce, sweet, and reframed it in fresh terms for child readers. Many histories of children’s literature written since 1932 accept Darton’s argument that children’s literature began in the mid-eighteenth century.2 Some offer variations to the story, but John Rowe Townsend’s approach is typical: he frames the story as a struggle between those who thought books should instruct children, and those who wanted books to entertain them (18). Newbery is positioned at the point of origin—at the birth of this metanarrative—because the Pocket-book claims to combine instruction with delight. Numerous former students in my children’s literature courses would no doubt readily agree that Newbery’s claim to provide instruction here is genuine, but the delight element is from their point of view overstated. On the other hand, I rarely have difficulty convincing students of the entertainment value of the fairy tales told by Newbery’s predecessor, Charles Perrault, whose tales were published in English in 1729, fifteen years before the Pocket-book’s publication. The decisiveness with which literary historians mark the origins of children’s literature begs the question, however, as to what children read prior to 1744. In this essay I examine works that were read by young readers prior to this originary moment in order to understand children’s literary cultures, if these can be said to exist, during the early modern period. Are all of the materials read by early modern children to be dismissed as educational reading?3 2  Numerous historical accounts of children’s literary history mirror this formulation of an evolutionary narrative inaugurated by Newbery. Notable examples include Thwaite; Townsend; Jackson; and Zipes et  al., xxviii. See also Demers, 142–6; Demers’ anthology, with historical coverage dating from Aelfric’s Colloquy c. 1000, has strongly shaped my own thinking about early modern children’s literary culture. 3  Immel’s discussion of works published between 1695 and 1833 persuasively nuances the overly “sharp distinction between literary and educational texts” made by Darton. See Immel, 736. For other discussions of works prior to 1744, see the essays in Avery and Briggs, ed., especially those by Thomas, 45–77; Avery, 95–118; and Zipes, 119–34.



The Road to Wonderland Darton proposes that the category of “children’s literature” refers to works designed primarily “to give children spontaneous pleasure” (1). This argument privileges the nineteenth-century children’s book market, thought to have reached the pinnacle of delight with the shift to children’s fantasy when Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—the “spiritual volcano of children’s books” according to Darton—was published in 1865 (260). Resisting this evolutionary approach, Mathew Grenby, in The Child Reader: 1700–1840 (2011), suggests this historical formulation encodes an outdated metanarrative, “that children’s literature gradually evolved from books of instruction to books that delighted” (1, 286). Grenby’s study of child readers demonstrates the ways they valued and enjoyed reading didactic works before the mid-nineteenth century. Although Grenby seeks to avoid rather than follow the conventional path to wonderland, he nevertheless resists incorporating didactic as well as non-didactic books aimed at young readers prior to 1744. Children’s literature has been conventionally defined by its readership, with its readers forming a distinct demographic from its authors. However, Grenby proposes that children’s literature became a distinct genre during the 1740s, defined not only by its audience, but also by its status as a commodity, a “new commercial product” for the children’s book trade (3, 10, 102). Grenby insists that the category of children’s literature could not exist until the children’s book market appears in the 1740s (60). It would be anachronistic, he proposes, to refer to earlier publications by Puritans as “children’s literature” because this category was not used by late seventeenth-­century booksellers. Even Perrault’s fairy tales are not accorded novelty, but rather, the “new children’s literature” consists of the “products”—a term Grenby uses—of the first contingent of printers and booksellers who sold books written for children during the 1740s (60, 128). Resisting the teleology implied in the progression towards delight emphasized by other children’s literary historians, Grenby nevertheless updates Darton’s metanarrative by emphasizing children’s books as material goods for sale, and excluding books read by children prior to the 1740s. This new formulation extends and intensifies the book trade aspect of Darton’s narrative of children’s literary history.



The rise of the children’s book trade is linked, Townsend observes, to the rise of the middle class and proliferation of a reading public during the mid-eighteenth century (28). Such an approach has its counterpart in another oft-challenged metanarrative that has shaped our understanding of literary history—Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel.4 Watt’s thesis, similarly teleological, also locates the “birth” of the novel in the 1740s, emphasizing its repudiation of the “traditional beliefs” associated with Renaissance culture (34, 12). Parallels between these literary historical metanarratives illustrate what is at stake in discussions of the history of children’s literature. Locating its origins in the mid-eighteenth century incorporates the child reader into the age of enlightenment, a formulation confirming Locke’s vision in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) of a culture enlightened by the education of child readers through pleasurably instructive reading that furthers the moral, social, and intellectual development of its future citizenry. I contend that one way to resist the exclusionary force of such metanarratives is to examine the evidence of children’s interactions with books prior to the 1740s. It has been tried before: Warren Wooden’s Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance (1986) was not well received. Numerous reviews criticized its inadequate definition of children’s literature, and its inclusion of works not primarily aimed at children, or having only minor elements that could appeal to child readers, such as Foxe’s Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Dayes (1563).5 An additional challenge lies in defining a field in the absence of large numbers of publications marketed to a youthful reading audience. But is a book market necessary to discuss what people, young or adult, actually read? After all, neither the category of English literature nor literary history is coterminous with “books in print.” Especially in the early modern period, when scribal circulation of manuscripts competed with print as the mode through which texts were disseminated (Ezell, 12), we can derive alternative methods to address the question as to what constitutes children’s literary cultures by considering both circumstantial and material evidence of children’s reading practices.

4  I address the shape and exclusionary force of Watt’s literary history at greater length in Reeves. 5  See Frey; Hollindale; and Waller.



Circumstantial Evidence We know something of attitudes towards children’s reading habits from circumstantial evidence in biographical writings and in dramatizations of child readers. The biography of Elizabeth Cary (b. 1585) refers to her obsessive childhood reading, “to which she gave herself so much that she frequently redd all night [sic].” Although Cary’s father “much loved to have her read,” her mother attempted to limit such nocturnal pleasures by withholding access to candles (Cary, 108). This difference of opinion in parental attitudes to reading is echoed in Margaret Cavendish’s closet drama, “Youth’s Glory and Death’s Banquet.” As with Cary, the youthful Lady Sanspareille’s father supplies her with books, but her mother worries she has become “a slave to her book” (Cavendish, 123). He replies: Good wife be content, doth not she play when she reads books of Poetry, and can there be nobler, amiabler, finer, usefuller, and wiser companions than the Sciences, or pleasanter Play-fellows than the Muses; can she have freer conversation, than with wit, or more various recreations than Scenes, Sonets and Poems … Or have prettier toyes to sport withall, than fancie, and hath not the liberty so many hours in the day, as children have to play in. (123)

This dramatized response recognizes the importance of play for children and links reading to childhood play, associating both play and pleasure with conceptions of childhood and its literary cultures three decades before Locke articulated these connections in Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Anne Clifford (b. 1590) too portrays herself as an avid reader during her adolescent years, and like Cary, the books she reads are those of a well educated, privileged daughter. The Great Picture (1646), a work commissioned by Clifford at age 56, encodes a statement about her relationship to elite print culture.6 She is portrayed in the triptych’s left panel at age fifteen standing next to a variety of secular and religious books by such authors as Agrippa, Boethius, Camden, Ortelius, Ovid, Chaucer, Cervantes, Daniel, Sidney, Montaigne, Augustine, and of course, a Bible. She stands with her hand resting on the page of an open text, depicting her not merely as owner, but also reader of her books. A more popular literary culture is reflected in the regrets that the adult John Bunyan expresses in A Few Sighs from Hell regarding his former reading habits: 6

 Belcamp. See Crawford, 105, for a complete list of books included in the triptych.



“Give me a ballad, a news-book, George on horseback, or Bevis of Southampton; give me some book that teaches curious arts, that tells of old fables.” Bunyan acknowledges the exclusively secular nature of his childhood reading habits, but now feels he should have been reading the Scriptures (Bunyan 1658, 40). It must be acknowledged, however, that the authenticity of these reconstructed book lists is worth questioning. Clifford’s triptych was created at age 56, and the books depict her as suitably well-educated for her rank at an age that would prove crucial for her subsequent legal battle to inherit her father’s estate.7 Bunyan’s sentiments are also motivated, because his repudiation of previous reading habits is the ground upon which he demonstrates his spiritual transformation. Nevertheless, such retrospective statements affirm connections between reading and pleasure as a customary aspect of children’s experiences with books during the seventeenth century.

Material Evidence Besides circumstantial evidence, there is the material evidence found in the books themselves, such as those in the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books. A catalogue search of this collection produced results of 239 books printed before 1740. I examined several dozen of these books to develop some identifying criteria that would serve as a guideline for outlining children’s literary cultures prior to the mid-eighteenth century. I included didactic and religious works in my research in order to resist imposing retroactively a modern idea of childhood of little relevance to the early modern period, given that many readers, both adult and child, were deeply religious. Instead, I considered the way a book’s design and content might encourage a youthful reading audience, and in addition, I looked for material evidence of children’s active engagement with these publications. I assessed each book’s imaginative content, ages of protagonists and intended readers, the presence of illustrations, and material evidence of children’s interactions with their books, as in the case of juvenile marginalia.

7  Clifford was age fifteen when her father died, and as Katherine O. Acheson explains, The Great Picture represents Clifford as she saw herself in retrospect after she finally won a decades’ long legal battle to secure her inheritance. See Acheson, 10.



Imaginative Content Given the emphasis on delight in critical and historical perspectives on children’s literature, a book’s imaginative content has emerged as a paramount criterion. Indeed, it is the perceived lack of this element of entertainment that prompted Locke’s dismay at the paucity of available books that both pleased and instructed child readers, and to identify Aesop’s Fables and Reynard the Fox as the best available, because they were “apt to delight and entertain a Child” (Locke 1693, 183–4). The Osborne Collection includes seventeen editions of Aesop’s Fables published prior to 1740 (thirteen printed before 1700), including several in Latin, Greek, or even both languages, such as a four-by-six inch 1672 octavo edition with Latin and Greek versions in parallel columns, indicating its utility for language instruction. Woodcuts accompanying each fable enhance its entertainment value, although the book would certainly be limited to readers with sufficient knowledge of Latin to enable them to profit from its format. The second work recommended by Locke is Reynard the Fox. Locke’s influence is evident in a 1701 edition of Reynard that is, according to its title page, “Newly Corrected and Purged, from all grossness in Phrase and Matter … Augmented and Enlarged with sundry Excellent Morals and Expositions.” By comparison, the title page of a 1681 version of Reynard bound with this 1701 edition instead emphasizes its entertainment appeal as “[c]ontaining much matter of pleasure and content” (n.p.), so that the movement here is from an emphasis on entertainment in 1681 to the blending of delight with instruction by 1701. When Locke states his preference for beast fables like those in Aesop’s and Reynard, he seeks to “cozen” the child into learning to read, as he puts it, preferring the “sort of useful Books” he finds these fables to be (Locke 1693, 178, 185). Given this limited range, most scholars assume that Locke is unfamiliar with other books children read for pleasure, but he briefly alludes, if only to dismiss, less literary publications, counting them “amongst the number of silly ones that are of all sorts” (Locke 1693, 185–6). He could be referencing the numerous chapbooks that reprinted popular tales of the kind read by Bunyan, which recounted the adventures of folk heroes such as Robin Hood. Nicholas Orme indicates that Robin Hood tales were available in print from 1500 (58). As Orme observes, children must have been reading these stories, because they are condemned by William Tyndale “as filthy as heart can think to corrupt the minds of youth” (qtd. in Orme, 58). An edition of the Mother Shipton tales includes an advertisement of



numerous print publications, mostly chapbooks, dating from before 1744. The list includes tales associated with children, such as Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (1715); Children in the Wood, a ballad recounting the exploitation and deaths of two orphaned children extant from the early seventeenth century8; a number of fairy and folk tales, such as Tom Thumb, that later became associated with child readers; a book aimed at adolescents and young adults, Delights for Young Men and Maids (1725); chapbook editions of Aesop’s Fables and Reynard the Fox; and a sixteenth-century verse, The Frier [sic] and the Boy, that Orme shows could certainly amuse child readers without attempting any form of instruction (59, 72–83). Other much longer texts in the Osborne collection with significant imaginative content include Richard Johnson’s 1687 edition of The Famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom, which includes stories of heroic “combats with gyants, monsters, and dragons” (title page), and a 1698 translation into English of François Pomey’s The Pantheon, a detailed account, albeit from a Christian monotheistic perspective, of the major figures in Roman mythology presented in dialogue form. Age of the Protagonist Several of the above mentioned works include child protagonists, such as the diminutive figure of Tom Thumb, the two young victims of their murderous uncle in Children in the Wood, and the avenging child in Frier and the Boy. The latter text appeals to a juvenile sensibility through its blending of scatological humour with carnivalesque delight. Its protagonist, a boy “but tender of age,” acquires power over adults by playing a magical pipe that forces listeners to dance uncontrollably; he takes more specific revenge on his abusive stepmother with the help of a magical spell that causes voluble flatulence to plague her whenever she looks at him (73). These secular dramatizations of childhood appeal to children’s subjective perspectives by exploring their relative powerlessness in relation to those adults who control, neglect, and abuse them. Youthful protagonists also populate the works in Puritan children’s literary culture. Bunyan’s verses dramatize the conflict between a child’s pious yearnings and impious desires, as in “The Awakened Child’s Lamentation” and “Of the Boy 8  The earliest version of this ballad available through Early English Books Online is a second edition printed in 1635 under the title The Norfolke Gentleman.



and Butter Fly” (Bunyan 1686, 2–7, 28–9). A series of hagiographical narratives celebrating the piety and “joyful deaths” of a collection of exemplary children in Janeway’s A Token for Children (1676) acknowledges through proscription the association of childhood and play. Janeway gently encourages “my dear Lambs” to read their book rather than spending time “in play and Idleness, and with wicked Children,” who presumably do play (A6r–A7r). Janeway positions reading (of pious works such as his) as the more instructive alternative. Puritan books appeal to their young readers by offering delight via the blessing of salvation, whereas secular literature celebrates pleasures that are within a child’s immediate, more material frame of reference. However, both the religious and secular works mentioned here frame their appeal to youthful readers by situating a child’s perspective and experience at the dramatic centre of these narratives. Children as Intended Readers As noted above with respect to Bunyan, Janeway, and Watts, Puritan writers identify their intended audience in titles or direct addresses to their child readers. Other even more intensely didactic works do the same. Jean Crespin’s English translation of Calvin’s catechism specifies its intended readership in its title, The catechisme, or, Manner to teach children the Christian religion (1556). In this text, the child’s answers are more fulsome as well as being more sophisticated, both philosophically and intellectually, than in Cotton’s thirteen-page catechism published almost a century later, Milk for Babes Drawn out the Breasts of Both Testaments (1646), although the child speaker in Cotton’s text still embraces the notion of self as sinner. Another catechism by Robert Abbot published the same year competes directly with Cotton’s in its content and title, Milk for babes, or, A mothers catechism for her children. Abbot’s catechism is an imposing work, with 269 pages of exposition expressed in familiar terms to the reader as “My good child” (Abbot, passim). Such works, although targeting children, are best defined as dual audience works for parents to read with their children. A few secular works, also with significant didactic content, explicitly situate reading as a family activity. Thomas White’s Little Book for Little Children (1660) is indeed child-sized, measuring approximately 2.5 by 5  inches. However, it incorporates a parental reader by being bound with White’s Manual for Parents. Another work aimed at the reading



family is James Kirkwood’s New Family Book (1693), which includes a frontispiece with two woodcuts contrasting happy with unhappy families. Its preface recommends St. Jerome’s advice for daughters: “Use her to reading” in order to “keep her from running into Company light and vain” (A8r–A11v). Two sections of this text consist of “Advice to parents,” augmented by a third providing “Advice to children” that includes age appropriate prayers for children ages four to five and youths ages twelve to fourteen. The edition of Aesop’s Fables in the Osborne collection that most directly targets a child audience was published by Roger L’Estrange in 1692. Previous editions of Aesop’s Fables enhance their entertainment value to varying degrees by including illustrations or by associating pleasure with the reader’s moral improvement, but L’Estrange links these features directly to intended child readers. His preface proposes that “the Delight and Genius of Children, lies much toward the Hearing, Learning, and Telling of Little Stories” (A1v–A2r). Connecting children to the pleasure of story anticipates Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education, published soon after this edition. L’Estrange is doing in 1692 what Newbery did in 1744 when the latter created A Little Pretty Pocket-book as an exemplar of Lockean educational theories, urging instruction blended with delight as an ideal pedagogical method as well as paradigm for children’s books. In an obvious paraphrase of Lockean theories of the mind and childhood, L’Estrange contends that “Children are but Blank Paper, ready Indifferently for any Impression” (A1v), taking up the theory Locke had advanced two years earlier in An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding that we are born without innate ideas. Locke proposes that the mind is “as we say, white Paper, void of all Characters, without any Ideas” (Locke 1690, 37). L’Estrange directly links Lockean epistemology to children’s literature, arguing that the Foundations of Knowledge and Vertue are laid in our Childhood; when Nothing goes Kindly down with us, that is not Season’d and Adapted to the Palate and Capacity of those Tender Years. ’Tis in the very Nature of us, first, to be Inquisitive, and Hankering after New and New Sights and Stories. (A1v)

Applying Lockean theories to his target audience, L’Estrange anticipates Newbery, yet both L’Estrange and Locke are working within an established tradition that links pleasure to the moral benefits of



­literature.9 L’Estrange’s preface shows how readily child readers are incorporated into this paradigm. Illustrations Locke argues in Some Thoughts Concerning Education that illustrations appeal to child readers, suggesting that if “his Aesop has pictures in it, it will entertain him much the better” (184). In modern illustrated books, the relative space devoted to text versus image determines the presumed age of the reader, and certainly, the numerous woodcuts in Newbery’s Pocket-Book have contributed to its status as a book deemed eminently suited to children. Hans Holbein’s Images of the Old Testament (1549) includes children in its intended readership of “Grandz & petis, les ieunes & les vieulx.” In a perfect balance of text and image, each page includes two brief texts of one to two sentences in English above a woodcut and four lines of verse in French underneath, with the bilingual text framing a centred illustration of selected chapters from the Bible (Fig. 14.1). The precision of the woodcuts, despite their small size, and brevity of the accompanying text exemplify the theme expressed at the beginning and end of the book, “plus que moins,” a theme eminently suited to a text designed for both large and small, young and old readers. An edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1591) takes a similar approach, epitomizing the Roman poet’s much lengthier work through a balance of text and image. An image appears on each odd numbered page of this book, with a brief Latin text on the facing page, amounting to 127 illustrations of the content. A 1672 translation of Johann Amos Comenius’ Orbis sensualium pictus (Visible World) captures more than any other early modern children’s text the link between illustrations and its youthful readership, asserting on its title page that it is “most suitable to Childrens capacities,” although here the illustrations function more as pedagogical aid rather than being designed primarily for pleasure. As these examples, show, the connection between children and illustrations is axiomatic long before Newbery designs his Pocket-book for young readers.

9  In his preface to Erasmus’ Colloquies, Craig R. Thompson claims the book “absorbed, entertained, instructed, or challenged” its readers, thereby establishing it as a “legacy of an epoch” (xvii).



Fig. 14.1  Genesis II. & III. from Hans Holbein, Images of the Old Testament, Lately Expressed, Set forthe in Ynglishe and Frenche, vuith a Playn and Brief Exposition, 1549, sig. A4v. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library

Juvenile Marginalia The most persuasive evidence that a child reader has at least handled a book consists of what I call juvenile marginalia, that being various forms of random or practice writing that is often not directly linked to the book’s content. A 1668 edition of Aesop’s Fables was evidently owned by more



than one juvenile reader, one of whom, “IAMES,” inscribes his name on the page facing the frontispiece. He or another child reader has recreated the frontispiece illustration by tracing the lines that “bleed through” from the other side of the page (Fig.  14.2). At least two readers could have produced these outlines, the first being James, who signs his name “James Brusle” on the first leaf of the book, followed by the date “1733,” and underneath, inscribes two lines of practice writing in English, “I have

Fig. 14.2  Facing front endpapers from Æsop’s Fables, with Their Moralls: In Prose and Verse, Grammatically Translated; Illustrated with Pictures and Emblems, 1668. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library



received your letter …,” as well as in French “Je vous prie Le fleur,” the first three words of which are crossed out. Other doodles and strike-overs, perhaps by the same reader, appear at the top of that page. An earlier youthful reader takes advantage of a blank page at the end of the book, turning it upside down, inserting the date, 1672, and his name, John B[our], several times with intriguing variations in spelling (Fig. 14.3). In the first inscription of his name, the letter “x” replaces the letter “o” to produce “Jxhn Bxuxr His Bxxke,” a game repeated further down the page using numerical codes instead, as “J4hn B4w2r his b44k2,” the numerals Fig. 14.3  Inverted rear endpaper from Æsop’s Fables, with Their Moralls: In Prose and Verse, Grammatically Translated; Illustrated with Pictures and Emblems, 1668. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library



“4” and “2” standing for the corresponding letters “o” and “e.” Clearly, this juvenile reader plays with the book as an object of possession. There is internal evidence to suggest that James Brusle has viewed the woodcuts and possibly read the text too, because a small plus sign in the same ink as the 1733 inscription is inserted between each fable’s title and the woodcut beneath it, a pattern that is repeated throughout the book except at the last chapter, consisting of the life of Aesop, perhaps signalling disinterest in the book’s biographical segment. Several other texts illustrate how juvenile readers toyed with their books. A reader of White’s 1660 Manual for Parents scribbles in the dedication’s margins, and a reader of Udall’s 1560 edition of Floures for Latin Speaking sketches two conjoined circles in the margins of the page containing John Leland’s dedication (Aiir, Fig. 14.4). An uneven italic hand has also written “Vritus cor mihi” beside the sketch, producing this apprentice lover’s translation of the Latin as “my harte burneth” (Aiir), an activity that echoes the book’s pedagogical purpose.10 A reader of Janeway’s 1672 Token for Children takes advantage of a blank page to practice single letters and words, and a series of at least four owners of a 1655 Latin edition of Aesop’s Fables insert their names along with various marginalia on the page facing the first page of text (A1v), both horizontally and vertically, these inscriptions demonstrating some competition among a series of owners to assert possession, and possibly pride in ownership. One reader writes the phrase “John Fox his booke god give him guard on it to look,” occasionally adding the date, 1684, in the margins of several pages throughout the book. Repetition of individual letters of the alphabet in the margins of numerous other pages in this book suggest that he or other readers found secondary uses for the text in addition to, or perhaps instead of, reading it. Other young readers of H. Robinson’s 1661 Scholae Wintoniensis scribbled and doodled their way through the book, practising phrases and individual letters, and creating artful sketches along the way (Figs. 14.5 and 14.6). These readers clearly spent time with their books, often writing and doodling with abandon, indicating how books can become objects of pleasure, even when the content is instructive.

10  In her discussion of Udall’s translations and annotations of Latin phrases from the Roman playwright Terence, Ágnes Juhász-Ormsby points out that Erasmus recommended that children read Terence to learn their Latin (146).



Fig. 14.4  Nicholas Udall, Floures for Latine Spekynge. London, 1560, sig. Aii. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library

Conclusion I contend that the assumption that children’s books should be defined first as commodities—products that populate the stalls of booksellers who market them as children’s literature—distorts the history of children’s literature. Even historians of the book do not equate the concept of “literature” with a notion of the book as product. Just as we do not define



Fig. 14.5  Rear endpaper from H.  Robinson, Scholæ Wintoniensis Phrases Latinæ  =  The Latine Phrases of Winchester-school, 3rd ed. London, 1661. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library

English literary history merely from the time of Caxton, but rather take a longer, historically inclusive view that embraces medieval literature, so it seems odd to foreshorten children’s literary history by tying its definition so decidedly to the book trade, and discounting those works actually intended for and/or read by young readers before 1740. Moreover, the



Fig. 14.6  Title leaf verso and “De Copia” from H. Robinson, Scholæ Wintoniensis Phrases Latinæ = The Latine Phrases of Winchester-school, 3rd ed. London, 1661. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library

use of criteria such as instruction and delight to determine inclusion constitutes a limiting paradigm. Horatian precepts do not limit analysis of the impact of literary works on adult readers. To privilege delight as the primary affective goal of literature assumes children’s inability to respond in more complex ways to the works they encounter, nor does it acknowledge that readers also receive instruction, via ideological interpellation, from literature deemed entertaining. Such careful distinctions suggest an anxiety around defining children’s literary history, as if it is governed by an ideology of innocence that situates the vulnerable yet playful innocent child at its centre—a child who needs instruction but seeks pleasure. As with adult literary history, a more complete history of children’s literature is possible, and would enable more nuanced, in-depth understanding of



pre-1740 children’s literary cultures, notwithstanding the profit-oriented activities of booksellers. What remains is to explore further the scope and parameters of these literary cultures. Our understanding of scope would be enhanced by more precise definitions of children’s genres, such as fantastic stories (with elements of magic or fantasy) or the family reader as a distinct form, and by study of the relations between gender and genre. In addition, comparisons of manuscript versus printed texts, of elite versus popular works, and of juvenile to adult marginalia would enrich knowledge of this important dimension of early modern childhood.

Bibliography Primary Sources Abbot, Robert. 1646. Milk for Babes: A Mother’s Catechism for Her Children. London. Aesop. 1655. Æsopi Phrygis Fabulæ: Jam Recenter ex Collatione Optimorum Exemplarium Emendatiùs Excusæ. ———. 1668. Æsop’s Fables, with Their Moralls: In Prose and Verse, Grammatically Translated; Illustrated with Pictures and Emblems, 7th ed. London. ———. 1672. Fabulae Aesopi Graecè & Latinè. Anon. 1589. Heer Beginneth a Mery Iest of the Frier and the Boy. London. ———. 1630. Tom Thumbe, His Life and Death Wherein Is Declared Many Maruailous Acts of Manhood, Full of Wonder, and Strange Merriments. London. ———. 1635. The Norfolke Gentleman His Last Will and Testament: And How Hee Committed the Keeping of His Children to His Owne Brother. London. ———. 1701. The Most Delectable History of Reynard the Fox: Newly Corrected and Purged, from All Grossness in Phrase and Matter?: Augmented and Enlarged with Sundry Excellent Morals and Expositions Upon Every Several Chapter. ———. 1725. Delights for Young Men and Maids. London. ———. n.d. The Strange and Wonderful History and Prophecies of Mother Shipton. London. Belcamp, Jan van, attrib. 1646. The Great Picture. Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Accessed October 30, 2016. Bunyan, John. 1658. A Few Sighs from Hell, or the Groans of the Damned Soul. London. ———. 1686. A Book for Boys and Girls, or, Country Rhimes for Children. London. Calvin, Jean. 1556. The Catechisme, or, Manner to Teache Children the Christian Religion: Wherein the Minister Demandeth the Question, and the Childe Maketh Answere. Translated by Jean Crespin. Geneva. Carroll, Lewis. 1865. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London.



Cary, [Lucy]. 2001. “The Lady Faulkland Her Life.” In Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters, ed. Heather Wolfe, vol. 230, 101–22. MRTS. Cambridge, UK: RTM Publications. Cavendish, Margaret. 1662. “Youth’s Glory and Death’s Banquet.” In Playes, Written by the Thrice Noble, Illustrious and Excellent Princess, the Lady Marchioness of Newcastle, 122–52. London. Comenius, Johann Amos. 1672. Joh. Amos Commenii Orbis Sensualium Pictus … Joh. Amos Commenius’s Visible World. London. Cotton, John. 1646. Milk for Babes, Drawn Out of the Breasts of Both Testaments … of Like Use for Any Children. London. Foxe, John. 1563. Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Dayes. Holbein, Hans. 1549. Images of the Old Testament, Lately Expressed, Set Forthe in Ynglishe and Frenche, Vuith a Playn and Brief Exposition. Lyons. Janeway, James. 1676. A Token for Children Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children. London. Johnson, Richard. 1687. The Famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom. 2 vols. London. Kirkwood, James. 1693. A New Family-Book, or, The True Interest of Families: Being Directions to Parents and Children. London. L’Estrange, Roger. 1692. Fables of Æsop. London. Locke, John. 1690. An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. London. ———. 1693. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. London. Newbery, John. 1760. A Little Pretty Pocket-book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy, and Pretty Miss Polly, 10th ed. London. Ovid. 1591. P. Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoses. Antwerp. Perrault, Charles. 1729. Histories, or Tales of Past Times. London. Pomey, François. 1698. The Pantheon: Representing the Fabulous Histories of the Heathen Gods and Most Illustrious Heroes, 2nd ed. London. Robinson, H. 1661. Scholæ Wintoniensis Phrases Latinæ = The Latine Phrases of Winchester-school, 3rd ed. London. Udall, Nicholas. 1560. Floures for Latine Spekynge. London. Watts, Isaac. 1715. Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children. London. White, Thomas. 1660. A Manual for Parents … to Which Is Added A Little Book for Little Children. London.

Secondary Sources Acheson, Katherine O. 2006. Introduction to The Memoir of 1603 and the Diary of 1616–1619. By Anne Clifford. Peterborough, ON: Broadview. Avery, Gillian. 1989. “The Puritans and Their Heirs.” Avery and Briggs, 95–118.



Avery, Gillian, and Julia Briggs, eds. 1989. Children and Their Books. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Crawford, Julie. 2016. “Lady Anne Clifford and the Uses of Christian Warfare.” In English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500–1625, ed. Micheline White. New York: Routledge. Darton, F.J. Harvey, and Brian Alderson. 1982. Children’s Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. 3rd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Demers, Patricia, ed. 2015. From Instruction to Delight: An Anthology of Children’s Literature to 1850. 4th ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. Ezell, Margaret J.M. 1999. Social Authorship and the Advent of Print. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Frey, Charles. 1987. “Warren W.  Wooden. Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance. Ed. Jeanie Watson.” Renaissance Quarterly 40 (4): 808–10. Grenby, M.O. 2011. The Child Reader, 1700–1840. New  York: Cambridge University Press. Hollindale, Peter. 1998. “Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance by Warren W. Wooden; Jeanie Watson.” The Review of English Studies. New Series 39 (155): 428–29. Immel, Andrea. 2009. “Children’s Books and School-books.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. V: 1695–1830, ed. Michael F. Suarez, S.J., and Michael L.  Turner, 736–749. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Jackson, Mary V. 1989. Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Magic: Children’s Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Juhász-Ormsby, Ágnes. 2003. “Nicholas Udall’s ‘Floures for Latine Spekynge’: An Erasmian Textbook.” Humanistica Lovaniensia 52: 137–58. Orme, Nicholas, ed. 2011. Fleas, Flies, and Friars: Children’s Poetry from the Middle Ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Reeves, Margaret. 2000. “Telling the Tale of The Rise of the Novel.” Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 30 (1, Fall): 25–49. Thomas, Keith. 1989. “Children in Early Modern England.” Avery and Briggs, 45–77. Thompson, Craig R. 1974. Introduction to Colloquies by Erasmus. In The Collected Works of Erasmus, xvii–xlix. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Thwaite, Mary F. 1963. From Primer to Pleasure: An Introduction to the History of Children’s Books in England. London: Library Association. Townsend, John Rowe. 1974. Written for Children: An Outline of English-­ Language Children’s Literature. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Waller, Gary. 1987. “Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance by Warren W.  Wooden; Jeanie Watson.”  Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies 19 (3): 404–05.



Watt, Ian. 1957. The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. London: Hogarth. Wooden, Warren, W. 2015. Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance. Edited by Jeannie Watson. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. Zipes, Jack. 1989. “The Origins of the Fairy Tale for Children.” Avery and Briggs, 119–34. Zipes, Jack, Lissa Paul, Lynne Vallone, Gillian Avery, and Peter Hunt. 2005. The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature: The Traditions in English. New York: Norton.


Legacies of Childhood


Without a Trace? Archaeology, Literature, and the Life and Death of Children in Fifth to Eleventh Century England Kirsty Squires

Introduction Studies that explore childhood in the past typically focus on one specific period and geographical location. This is incredibly valuable as it provides an in-depth exploration of the treatment and attitudes towards infants and children in life and death. However, there is little research that addresses how these attitudes and treatments changed over time. This issue is pertinent to all aspects of literary cultures and childhoods and is a central theme throughout this volume. One way of identifying shifting behaviours is by adopting a multi-period and multi-disciplinary approach to this area of research. Anglo-Saxon England has been studied extensively by archaeologists since the early twentieth century (Leeds). The date range in question ranges from the fifth century A.D. through to the mid eleventh century A.D., though the period can be subdivided further due to the arrival of Christianity. The early Anglo-Saxon period spans from the

K. Squires (*) Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




fifth century, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the midseventh century. During this period, richly furnished inhumation burials can be found throughout England, whilst the cremation rite was chiefly practiced in eastern England. It is important to note that there are no surviving written records from the early Anglo-Saxon period. Without ample literary evidence, we are essentially forced to rely upon material remains. Archaeologists must thus “read” this evidence which can be detrimental to our understanding of children from this period. Yet, later Anglo-Saxon law codes, epigraphic, and hagiographic sources are frequently used to provide a glimpse into early Anglo-Saxon life and death. The seventh century Kentish laws of Æthelbert (c. 595–616 A.D.) and Hlothhere and Eadric (c. 616–686 A.D.) and the Wessex law of Ine (c. 686–726 A.D.) are the earliest written sources from the period (Crawford 1999). There are then no written codes until Alfred’s rule in the late ninth century meaning that scholars must once again rely on the archaeological record (ibid.). Christianity was (re-)introduced into England in the seventh century. Consequently, funerary rituals employed from the mid-seventh through to the early eighth centuries started to change (Geake; Welch). It was during this period that the use of grave provisions decreased and the types of objects afforded to the dead were more restricted than the preceding period. Children buried in so-called “Final Phase” cemeteries (sites dating to the aforementioned period) were offered artefacts commonly associated with females, such as jewellery and amulets (Crawford 1999, 80; 2011). The cremation rite also ceased in the early seventh century due to incoming Christian beliefs. Chamber graves, ship burials, and barrow burials, which contained artefacts displaying pagan and Christian symbolism, also appear in “Final Phase” cemeteries (Hoggett 2010). Hoggett (2007) has identified that objects possessing mixed ideological symbolism demonstrate the gradual acceptance of Christian beliefs. The later AngloSaxon period spans from the eighth to mid-eleventh century. Inhumations during this period conformed to Christian beliefs, in that bodies were laid in a supine pose, oriented west-east, and largely unaccompanied by grave goods (Hadley and Buckberry). However, these burials were not homogenous. The burial containers used and the placement of graves in the landscape varied significantly (Hadley). Documentary sources are more abundant in the later period which can be used alongside the physical evidence to facilitate our understanding of the late Anglo-Saxons.



Over the past forty years the development of osteological methodologies and artefact studies has allowed archaeologists to gain a greater insight into Anglo-Saxon society. The study of children and childhood during the early Anglo-Saxon period has advanced significantly over the past two decades and is largely attributable to the ground-breaking work of Sally Crawford (1999, 2000, 2004, 2007). Despite the great strides that have been made in this field of research, the majority of studies focus on either the early or late Anglo-Saxon period which, in turn, hinders our insight into how attitudes and treatments of children changed over the period as a whole. This chapter aims to provide an up-to-date exploration of the lives and deaths of children from the fifth to eleventh century. There are conspicuous issues with both documentary and archaeological evidence when examined in isolation. For example, archaeological remains may not survive in the burial record, hence evidence is lost, whilst documentary sources may have once served as propaganda for ideological or political causes. However, the simultaneous use of both literary and archaeological evidence will provide a more rounded understanding of Anglo-Saxon childhood. Therefore, this chapter will focus upon the transition from childhood to adulthood through an investigation of the demographic profile of cemetery sites, the artefactual assemblages associated with the youngest members of society, the placement of children in the funerary landscape, and literary sources from the period. It is hoped that this chapter will highlight the value and importance of adopting a holistic, multi-­ disciplinary approach to research that will, in turn, further our knowledge of childhood and multiple constructions of the child in the medieval period.

The Demographic Nature of Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries The mortality rates of a population can be affected by many factors, such as famine and disease. Documentary and environmental evidence suggests a downturn in climatic conditions from the fifth to seventh century A.D., in that it became much wetter and colder (Brooks; Carver; Dark; Hooke; Lamb). These conditions would have resulted in decreased agricultural output and made food storage extremely difficult (Koepke and Baten, 147). Consequently, seasonal scarcities and, in the most severe of cases, famine would have ensued, leading to increased mortality rates. In the early eighth century, the Venerable Bede recorded numerous episodes of pestilence and famine which were caused by drought (Hines, 424), whilst The Peterborough Manuscript chronicles an episode of the “great plague”



in 664 A.D. (Swanton). Such events have the biggest effect on the youngest and oldest members of society. Based on epigraphic records and model life tables, it has been estimated that infant mortality rates in early AngloSaxon England lie within the region of 40–50% (Buckberry; Squires 2014). This figure would have been attained by famine and disease, lack of healthcare, insanitary living conditions, and even infanticide (Molleson). Yet the data under investigation paints a different picture and shows that the number of infants and children buried in communal cemeteries was low. Squires (2016) examined the demographic profiles of 1356 inhumations and 4536 cremation burials from early Anglo-Saxon England. The frequency of individuals under 13 years old from early Anglo-Saxon cremations and inhumations totalled 19.6% and 23.2%, respectively (Figs.  15.1 and 15.2). Demographic variability is seen throughout England, though the inhumation cemetery at Great Chesterford (Essex,

Fig. 15.1  Demographic profile of a sample of early Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries. The age categories employed in this paper are based on those initially employed by McKinley (19). Foetus: 8 weeks–39 weeks in utero; infant: 0–4 years; child: 5–12 years; adolescent: 13–18 years; adult: 19+ years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents and adults have been examined together



Fig. 15.2  Demographic profile of a sample of early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries. The age categories employed in this paper are based on those initially employed by McKinley (19). Foetus: 8 weeks–39 weeks in utero; infant: 0–4 years; child: 5–12 years; adolescent: 13–18 years; adult: 19+ years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents and adults have been examined together

49%) and the cremation cemetery at Caistor-by-Norwich (Norfolk, 46%) are the only known sites to contain over 40% of individuals under the age of 13 years (Squires 2014). This in part can be explained by the excavation strategy of archaeologists. For example, at Caistor-by-Norwich, archaeologists were actively seeking the skeletal remains of young individuals (Squires 2011). This will consequently make archaeologists more vigilant of smaller bones and teeth that once belonged to infants and children which can, in turn, skew the demographic profile of a site. The under-representation of infants and children from these sites has been discussed at length by archaeologists (Buckberry; Lucy 2000; Squires 2012, 2014; Stoodley 2000). Scholars have attributed the low number of individuals to a variety of factors, including local funerary customs, poor preservation of remains, the fragility of juvenile remains, and excavation and recovery strategies adopted by archaeologists (Squires 2014). Interestingly, infants and children are found in higher numbers in cemeteries dating to the late Anglo-Saxon period (Lucy 1994), thus quashing the theory that poor preservation was the ultimate cause of low frequencies in early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries.



Fig. 15.3  Demographic profile of a sample of later Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries. The age categories employed in this paper are based on those initially employed by McKinley (19). Foetus: 8 weeks–39 weeks in utero; infant: 0–4 years; child: 5–12 years; adolescent: 13–18 years; adult: 19+ years. For the purpose of this paper, adolescents and adults have been examined together

The increased representation of infants and children from the late AngloSaxon period cannot be attributed to higher mortality rates but, instead, changing funerary rites (Dapling). An examination of 4109 late AngloSaxon inhumation burials shows that the number of individuals under 13 years of age totalled 30% (Fig. 15.3). Again, there is inter-site variability in terms of the number of infants and children interred in each cemetery. In some cases, low numbers can be explained in part by poor preservation, for example at North Elmham (Norfolk) (Wells and Cayton). Ultimately, the introduction of Christianity and burial within consecrated ground is the primary reason for increased numbers of infants and children at these sites. This subject will be revisited at a later stage in this chapter.

Artefacts Associated with Children Despite the dearth of written sources from the early Anglo-Saxon period, burial evidence can provide an exceptional insight into the social transition from childhood to adulthood. In early Anglo-Saxon England, infants and



children were typically afforded gender neutral objects (i.e. items found with adult males and females), such as knives and pottery, or provisions more commonly associated with adult females, for example combs, beads, spindle whorls, brooches, and rings (Crawford 1999; Lucy 2000; Squires 2014). The nature of these artefacts emphasises the close association of infants and children with adult females, perhaps because they had yet to adopt full adult status within society, and the limited gender distinctions between boys and girls (Squires 2014). Even though these young individuals had yet to achieve this status, they were still valued members of society as illustrated by the wergild values attached to foetuses, infants, and children. Law 9 of Alfred the Great (871–899 A.D.) states that “If anyone kills a pregnant woman, while the child is in her womb, he shall pay the full compensation for the woman, and half the compensation for the child, in accordance with the wergild of the father’s kindred” (Dapling). Interestingly, there is no distinction between the wergild value of boys and girls in the Anglo-Saxon period, rather their value was dependent on the status of their mother (Oliver). The lack of distinction between girls and boys is notable in other lawcodes. For example, Law 25 of Æthelbert of Kent (595–616 A.D.) stipulates that “If any one slay a ceorl’s half-aeta [bread eater or dependant], let him make bot with 6 shillings” (Reilly). On a similar line, sons and daughters appear to have possessed a similar social status and treatment in life. Roberts, Roberts and Bisson examined 39 Anglo-Saxon wills and identified that there is no evidence to show that sons were more likely to inherit estates over daughters. The archaeological and literary evidence illustrates that the differential treatment of children in life and death was not related to their sex or gender, but the social standing of their kin group. A recurring trend identified from early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries is the burial of older individuals in taller cinerary urns (Squires 2013). This evidence suggests that as individuals passed through different age thresholds they were bestowed taller pots which may have served as a visual demarcation of their newly assigned social roles (ibid.). Härke has similarly found that the length of knives buried with individuals from inhumation burials is closely associated with age, that is, the length of knives increases with age. The provision of longer knives and taller pots at the funeral is an interesting parallel. These objects may have initially served as a visual means of distinguishing age during life, whereby individuals received a taller pot or longer knife at important “milestones” in the lifecycle. When an individual died these highly-personalised objects fell out of



use and were consequently interred with the deceased, which further emphasised the differences between individuals based on their age at the funeral. In the seventh century, there was a decline in the display of age and gender at the funeral. However, Craig-Atkins (2012) has identified that chest burials, which were primarily employed from the seventh to ninth century, were rarely afforded to infants and children. These findings imply that the age-related identity of infants and children continued into the afterlife as did the constant distinction between the young and old within Anglo-Saxon society. Furthermore, we can see that infants and children were marked apart from the adult populace based on the objects they were buried with throughout the period in question. Yet, the archaeological remains offer no explanation for the differential treatment of juveniles and the absence of literary sources evidently limits our comprehension of these mortuary practices. Animal offerings formed an integral part of the early Anglo-Saxon cremation rite and, to a lesser extent, the inhumation rite. Regardless of funerary tradition, individuals under 13 years of age were less likely to be afforded animal funerary offerings than older members of the community (Squires 2014). At Castledyke South (Lincolnshire) only 9% of inhumation burials belonging to infants and children contained faunal offerings whilst animal remains were recovered in slightly higher numbers from the cremation cemeteries at Elsham (13%) and Cleatham (32%) (both located in Lincolnshire) (Squires 2013). The lesser provision of animal offerings may relate to restrictions placed on the economic investment of children’s funerals, e.g. the cost of slaughtering an animal or the expenditure required to build a larger pyre to accommodate faunal offerings. Nonetheless, this does not provide a satisfactory explanation for the lack of animal offerings found with infants and children. Although a larger pyre would have been needed for numerous faunal offerings or the provision of a large animal, smaller animals or cuts of meat could have been positioned alongside the deceased on a smaller pyre (Squires 2016). Therefore, the absence of faunal gifts appears to have been a social rather than a practical choice. The association between animal offerings and age suggests that adolescence was considered a key transitional stage in the lifecycle amongst early Anglo-Saxon groups. It is during this stage of the lifecycle that individuals would have adopted new responsibilities in their immediate household and wider kin group which would have ultimately led to the formation of a new social identity, namely adulthood. Their involvement in economic activities, such as craft production and livestock management, would have



resulted in increased interaction with animals and their produce (Richards). The participation of adolescents in these activities and their ­contribution to the livelihood of their kin group are factors that would have justified the provision of faunal offerings at their funeral (Squires 2014). Therefore, it appears that many children were not provided animal products at the funeral on the grounds of their social responsibilities. Adolescence appears to be a fixed transitional stage in the lifecycle in Anglo-Saxon England, which is in stark contrast to documentary evidence from the Continent. Tacitus, who chronicled the lives of the Germanic people on the Continent in the late first century A.D., noted that boys of the Chatti tribe were emancipated when they were physically mature (i.e. able to grow a beard) and capable of bearing arms, specifically when they had killed an enemy (Birley, Germany, 31). Males were prohibited from cutting their hair or beard until they had slayed an opponent. This indicates that there was no fixed age when males reached adulthood; instead the transition to adulthood was based on an individual’s ability to fight. It is plausible that children in Anglo-Saxon England did undertake more labour-intensive work from a younger age than the physical evidence suggests. However, this aspect of social age is difficult to detect in the surviving archaeological and written records. In the first century A.D. Pliny noted that cremation was the norm once teething had commenced due to the belief that these individuals were still “wet” (i.e. they had yet to develop into a separate person with their own identity and adopt full societal roles) (Beagon). Similarly, the importance placed on age thresholds during infancy, childhood, and adolescence persisted throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. The artefactual evidence examined in this chapter illustrates that adolescence was a key phase in the lifecycle as individuals were assigned new roles, responsibilities, and social identities. Interestingly, this largely corresponds to historical sources. Law 6 of Hlothere and Eadric, both of whom were Kentish Kings in the seventh century, indicates that once children reached ten years of age they were old enough to manage their family’s property and land (Kuefler). By the eleventh century, the age of responsibility increased to 12 years old (Canute 21, Crawford 1999) though it is not entirely clear when this was initially actioned. Some still felt 12 years of age was too young to assign adult responsibilities to individuals. For example, in the tenth century King Æthelstan attempted to increase the age of criminal liability and adult responsibilities to 15  years old (Æthelstan 12, Orme). Crawford (1999, 42) notes that this law was short-lived and was likely to reflect an



ideal as opposed to a custom, by which 15 years was seen as the age of legal maturity and not the traditional age of maturity. By the reign of King Henry I (twelfth century) the legal age was increased to 15 years old at which point an individual could be prosecuted for criminal behaviour or sit on a jury (Orme). The written and archaeological evidence implies that the point at which a child became an adult changed over the course of the Anglo-Saxon period. This would have influenced their roles within the household and variable attitudes and treatment of children depending on their legal status.

Placement of Infants and Children in the Landscape Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries ranged significantly in size, for example only two dozen individuals were recorded from the inhumation cemetery at Tittleshall (Norfolk) (Walton Rogers) whereas over 2500 individuals were identified at the cremation cemetery at Spong Hill (Norfolk) (McKinley). During this period, infants and children were not segregated from the adult populace at cemetery sites (Squires 2013). It is widely held that the lack of zoning indicates the use of large household burial plots, which themselves contained internal social divisions (Hirst; Sayer; Sayer and Wienhold; Squires 2013; Stoodley 1999). Early Anglo-Saxon households were not solely comprised of immediate blood relations but rather, a variety of kin associations. Kinship systems are outlined in various law codes, wills, and ecclesiastical texts. For example, Ine 38 stipulates that “If a man and his wife have a child between them, and the man dies, the mother will keep and rear the child: she will be given 6 shillings to maintain it, a cow in the summer and an ox in winter. The kinsman will look after the property until it comes of age” (Crawford 1999, 176). This illustrates the expectations placed upon extended kin to support this individual family unit during a period of hardship. Fostering, wet nursing, and the general care of infants and children also seem to have played an integral role in early Anglo-Saxon society and would have created artificial kin associations (Goody; Sayer). The lack of segregated groupings in early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries implies that kin members, regardless of their biological relationship, shared common attributes, for instance, ethnicity and ideological beliefs (Squires 2013). These characteristics appear to have held greater importance than the age of the deceased. Even though children had yet to take on their full social roles, the common identity they shared with the



rest of their household made them valued members of their kin group, which warranted their inclusion in these plots. With the introduction of Christianity and increased stability of social hierarchies the funerary treatment of infants and children started to change in the seventh century. In the late Anglo-Saxon period, there is greater emphasis on the nuclear family (i.e. husband, wife, and children) as well as the increased use of the multiple burial rite (Stoodley 2002). Ine 63 implies that families of a higher social standing were still likely to have large households in the late seventh to early eighth century. This law states that “If a thane travels, he may take with him his reeve, his smith and his children’s nurse” (Crawford 1999). However, attitudes towards certain roles carried out by extended kin started to change during this period. There is evidence to suggest that the use of wet nurses was frowned upon by the Church. This in itself would have consequently changed the structure of a household. Bede’s narrative of the Libellus responsionum, which details letter correspondence between Bishop Augustine and Pope Saint Gregory I (596–601 A.D.), addresses issues concerning baptism and other matters surrounding the conversion of the English to Christianity. In this letter, Augustine asks Gregory several questions, the eighth of which focuses on wet nursing. Gregory’s response to this question is direct and considers the practice to be an “evil custom” (McClure and Collins 2008). This custom was condemned as the cessation of breastfeeding by the mother related to the resumption of sexual relations, which the Church prohibited during lactation (Kuefler). The Church aspired to control all aspects of reproduction but wet nursing allowed mothers to overcome this restriction meaning they could procreate shortly after giving birth (Goody). Thus, the sanction on wet nursing was intended as an additional contraceptive practice (ibid.). If wet nursing was a common practice in the earlier period it may have been abandoned by later households. This in turn would have reduced the number of extended kin within a household unit. Segregation of infants and young children in cemeteries, particularly near the walls of churches, in late Anglo-Saxon England was a relatively common practice. So-called “eaves-drip” burials have been identified at numerous cemeteries and date from the eighth century through to the eleventh century (Craig-Atkins 2014). Scholars have traditionally believed that posthumous baptism was the primary reason for burying infants and children next to the eaves of churches (Boddington; Crawford 1999; Craig-Atkins 2014). The importance of baptism is highlighted in docu-



mentary sources from the late seventh century. Ine 2 states that: “A child must be baptised within thirty days: if this is not done, 30 shillings to be paid in compensation. If, however, it dies without being baptised, he shall pay as compensation all he possesses” (Cunningham). Crawford (1999, 42) believes that King Ine of Wessex introduced this law in an attempt to be viewed as a Christian ruler. It is also postulated that Ine wrote this law as he feared that unbaptised youngsters would incur the wrath of God (ibid.). The reasons for Ine’s decision to implement this law are two-fold. In the first instance, it would have punished non-believers or careless parents if they had not baptised their child (Lee). Additionally, it ensured the laity entered (and was initiated into) the Church from a young age meaning they were tied to the institution throughout the course of their life. The implementation of this law could be partly responsible for the increased frequency of infants and children in late Anglo-­Saxon cemeteries. There are two possible reasons for this. Firstly, parents would not have wanted to pay significant fines if their unbaptised child was to die. Furthermore, baptism would have ensured their burial in consecrated ground. Secondly, as Crawford (1999, 42) notes, families may have feared the spiritual consequences of not baptising their babies. Thus, a greater number of juveniles were baptised and subsequently interred in community cemeteries. Political and ideological changes influenced the treatment of infants and children at the funeral in Anglo-Saxon England. However, the tradition of burying infants and children in dwellings, settlements, and liminal spaces persisted from the fifth to ninth century (Sofield). It is unclear why this custom continued as there are no surviving historical sources that refer to this practice. Several archaeologists have suggested that burials located in close proximity to the living held ideological or ritualistic significance (Sofaer Derevenski; Kamp; Hamerow). The close association between the home, women, and the youngest members of society is illuminated by funerary assemblages found with infants and children from these contexts. Pottery sherds, combs, spindle whorls, pins, and animal bone are the most commonly identified artefacts recovered from these burials, all of which are closely connected to female-oriented tasks that would have been carried out in the home and around the settlement (Crawford 2008, 173). Tacitus identified that tasks in the household were conducted by women and children (Birley, Germany, 25). Juveniles would have been assigned basic tasks around the settlement, such as collecting wood for the hearth or gathering food (Squires 2016). It could be speculated that children were most commonly afforded female-oriented grave



goods as a means of reinforcing the link between the household and their female carers. These findings also indicate that children, regardless of sex, adopted a feminised identity until the moment they were recognised as adult (Squires 2014). As previously noted, the wergild value of both girls and boys was dependent on the social standing of their mother which, again, further emphasised the strong links between children, female kin, and the home (Oliver). Crawford (2008) has identified that this funerary practice came to an end upon the creation of parish churches and associated cemeteries. However, the rite did continue into the ninth century. Indeed, there is the possibility that unbaptised infants and children were interred in these spheres to avoid paying fines, as outlined in Ine 2.

Conclusion The main aim of this chapter was to explore the lives and deaths of children living in the Anglo-Saxon period through documentary and archaeological evidence. The information presented in this paper has demonstrated that the use of both the literary and physical evidence is complementary, especially when examining the lifecycle and transition to adulthood. In the early Anglo-Saxon period, younger individuals were afforded shorter funerary vessels and knives. Similarly, at some later sites adults were more likely to be associated with chest burials. This corroborates with the law codes when considering ages of responsibility. The introduction of Christianity and the importance placed on baptism can account for increasing numbers of children in cemeteries over time though some were still buried in settlements up until the ninth century. Fines imposed on parents that failed to baptise their offspring and persistent beliefs surrounding the connection between children and their female carers within the household may account for this practice. Greater segregation of children in cemeteries was also witnessed in the later period, whereby they were frequently interred next to the eaves of churches. Again, this can be attributable to shifting ideological beliefs and attitudes towards children. It is clear that documentary and archaeological evidence can be concurrently used to enhance our understanding of childhood in the Anglo-Saxon period. Over the past ten years the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past has encouraged and promoted greater multi-disciplinary research in this field. Indeed, collaborations between archaeologists, osteologists, historians, and literary experts are needed if we are to truly appreciate the lives and deaths of children in the medieval, post-medieval, and modern periods.



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A Mother’s Guilt: Female Responses to Child Death in High and Late Medieval England Danielle Griego

In July of 1307, Katerina of London heard a noise coming from inside the home of her neighbor, Alice. Katerina found Alice weeping bitter tears (amare lacrimentem) and holding the body of her eighteen-month-old son, Gilbert. Alice later told papal commissioners that, while the women of the household were doing chores, Gilbert had wandered off and drowned in a container used to collect rainwater from the eaves.1 Accounts of child death and maternal grief such as this one shed light onto expectations about childrearing and the emotional lives of women of the past. French medievalist Philippe Ariès famously argued that children younger than the age of seven “did not count” as members of a community because it was uncertain whether they would survive childhood (Ariès, 128). Although medievalists no longer accept this theory, they have not yet systematically analyzed the emotional responses of parents to the death of young children, nor have they looked at the prescriptive literature of the time. In this essay, I consider maternal reactions to child death in didactic 1

 As translated by Finucane (1997), 104, 236; MS Vat. Lat. 4015, fols. 51v–54v.

D. Griego (*) University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




texts aimed at mothers living in England between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. I argue that religious writers set high expectations for mothers regarding the wellbeing of their children. Authors invariably employed the emotion of powerful and public grief to highlight not only the idea that medieval women were expected to have compassionate relationships with children, but also that they had a responsibility to protect children from life-threatening injuries within the domestic realm and community. In England, both fathers and mothers were considered liable for a child’s safety, especially during the fragile moments leading up to baptism and until the child could avoid accidents on their own. Church authorities encouraged parents to keep children away from animals, water, and fire until about the age of seven. This concern is represented in illuminated manuscripts that convey infants in barred walkers or cradles, which were used to stop them from falling victim to these types of hazards (Orme, 66–7). The sentiment that it was mainly the mother’s responsibility to protect children from accidents, however, was prescribed by English clergymen. Bartholomew, the Bishop of Exeter (d. 1184), stressed in his Penitential, which served as a catalogue of sins and punishments for confessors, that a mother was to blame if a child died when a pot of water overflowed by the hearth, even if the father of the child was the one to place the water into the pot by the fire. Bartholomew’s reasoning was that, because the mother left the child unattended in a dangerous area, she should be held accountable and perform penance for the death (Exeter, 164–8, 224). Mothers could even be accused of neglect or foul play if children died under their care, especially if they did not follow legal protocol after their offspring perished. In the medieval period, if any death occurred, people were expected to immediately “raise the hue and cry” and report news of the crime to the local sheriff or coroner. In addition to alerting local authorities, witnesses were required to tell the four closest neighbors about a death and guard a body until the coroner arrived and held an inquest. If someone did not report a crime, they could be fined or even become a suspect (Hunnisett, 10–13; Orme, 99). Authors of miracula and medieval lyrics emphasize the mother’s responsibility to protect her offspring, and in some cases, point out the legal consequences of not performing parental duties. Before looking at examples of child death and maternal grief, I will give a brief overview of the sources under examination. The miracle stories of three holy men, Thomas Becket, Thomas of Cantilupe, and King Henry



VI, will be analyzed. The miracle collection of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his martyrdom in 1170, contains poignant imagery of mothers grieving when children fall victim to illnesses and accidental deaths. Thomas Becket’s cult gained widespread popularity shortly after his death, and William of Canterbury and Benedict of Peterborough composed narratives of his miracles between 1170 and 1184. Miracula attributed to Thomas of Cantilupe, the Bishop of Hereford, who was canonized in 1320, also contain portrayals of maternal grief and child death. His miracles were written from testimonies given to papal commissioners under Pope Clement V. While sainthood was never achieved for Henry VI, regardless of King Henry VII’s efforts to begin the canonization process in 1494, his miracle collection offers valuable information about medieval thoughts on childcare and emotion. This study also includes Nativity lullabies and Passion lyrics. Lullabies about the Nativity became popular in England in the fourteenth century and offer imagery about the Virgin Mary’s reaction to the prophecy of the Christ child’s death, while Passion lyrics focus upon her maternal grief as Christ’s death occurs. Mary’s grief was a central theme of medieval religious verse and became more popular in lyrics with the introduction of the planctus and the emphasis on Christ’s humanity in the later eleventh century (Davies, 40). Originally, lyrics about the Passion were intended to be used for liturgical purposes, but were sometimes incorporated into mystery plays (Woolfe, 19–23). While the main purpose of miracle stories and medieval lyrics was to honor Christ and other holy figures, they also illuminate what medieval religious men thought about mothers. Therefore, although we do not know the exact veracity of each account in terms of spoken words and actions in the sources considered here, they help us understand parental duties and maternal grief as they were supposed to be performed, even if not necessarily as they actually happened. Medieval miracula are rich with examples of child death and reflect the grim reality that the rate of child mortality was high in England, especially during waves of famine and with the onset of the Black Death in 1348. Debates about mortality rates are ongoing, but historians estimate that they are similar to late-Tudor death counts, with approximately 400–500 children out of every thousand dying before the age of ten (Orme, 113). Those who did survive birth and disease could perish from infortunia, or accidents, within the household and community. Accidental deaths happened when children were left unsupervised, when they were performing chores alongside their siblings and parents, or while they were playing.



When their children died from accidents, women are described as experiencing episodes of deep public sorrow. Compilers of posthumous miracle stories portray mothers as weeping excessively, screaming, or even blaming themselves for their offspring’s death in front of relatives and fellow community members. The emotional discourse and imagery presented in Thomas Becket miracles verifies that religious men expected women to have special mother-child relationships. In one miracle account about the saint, William of Canterbury described a lamenting mother, asking Thomas Becket to help her three-year-old son, who appeared to be dead in her Northamptonshire home (Canterbury, 540). He also recounts a miracle about an eight-year-old boy named Philip, who drowned in a lake in Cheshire. Upon hearing the news that her child was dead, Philip’s mother indulged in tears and wailed (lacrymis indulget plactui) in the streets (Canterbury, 201). In another account, Benedict of Peterborough wrote about how a mother in Rochester cried out in distress as she ran towards her son, Robert, who drowned in the Medway (Peterborough, 226). The mothers from Cheshire, Northamptonshire, and Rochester do not mourn quietly over their sons. Instead, the love and concern that they have for their children is emphasized through their public grief. Public female grief is also a common theme in Thomas of Cantilupe’s miracles. As we saw in the case of Alice in the introduction, the author provides a description of a mother crying so loudly over the death of her son that neighbors can hear her sobs. In another story, an eighteen-­ month-­old boy from Little Marcle drowned in a watering bin for livestock, causing his mother, Edith Drake, who was cleaning her house while the accident occurred, to wail so loudly that it attracted not only the attention of her husband but also twenty villagers and two knights traveling on the main road of the village.2 Similar to Thomas Becket’s miracles, the women in these stories formed strong bonds with their offspring and experienced deep sorrow when the fear of losing them became a reality. But did medieval authors pay particular attention to the detail of motherly grief only to underscore the bond between mother and child? A close look at a miracle attributed to Thomas Becket regarding a fiveyear-old daughter of a weaver, who drowned in a pool of water, can help us better understand why women are portrayed with the features of overwhelming, public grief. In this twelfth-century account, a child from 2

 Finucane (1997), 108–9, 237; MS Vat. Lat. 4015, fols. 140r–146r.



Northwood was helping her father slaughter a pig, when she became stained with blood. Her father instructed her to wash off the blood in a nearby water pit, and while doing so unsupervised, she fell in and drowned (Canterbury, 366). Coroners’ rolls reveal that water-related accidents were the leading cause of child death in England. Barbara Hanawalt explains that wells were particularly dangerous, for adults and children, because they were often open pits in the ground (Hanawalt, 41). In the case of the girl from Northwood, her father extracted her corpse from the water pit and the girl’s mother, along with a female neighbor, rushed to the scene of the accident and began weeping and praying (flens et orans). The mother (materfamilias) called upon Thomas Becket for help: Return to me, Martyr Thomas, my daughter. If anyone is to be blamed for this incident, her mother alone must bear the crime, because it is I who did not delegate anyone to protect her from the errors of childhood. I should have, (but I was blind,) given the girl supervision. Return to me, Martyr, my daughter. Woe is me! Before God a crime of negligence has happened, and I cannot escape the infamous note before men. Return to me, Saint, my daughter.3

Anne Bailey argues that depictions of female mourning such as this are not an act exclusive to the Middle Ages, but rather represent a characteristic of the trope of ritual lamentation that can be observed in sources dating back to ancient Greece. She adds that medieval hagiography is “full of suppliants appealing to a saint through the ritual language of lament…the most vociferous of these lamenters are women” and that the connection between lamentation and women was prevalent because women usually held “custody of the dead” (Bailey, 530). On the other hand, Ronald Finucane, when discussing the mother from Northwood, proposes that the woman’s excessive remorse stems from the guilt that she feels for not being able to prevent her daughter’s misadventure (Finucane 1997, 135). I agree with Finucane’s stance and argue that the story about the girl from Northwood not only represents a common type of water fatality, but also showcases maternal affection and a confession of guilt regarding paren3  Canterbury, 366. “Redde mihi, martyr Thoma, filiam meam. Si cui casus hic imputandus est, mater sola crimen habet, quæ vagabundæ pueritiæ custodian non delegavit. Debui (sed cæca fui,) puero dedisse pædagogum. Redde mihi, martyr, filiam meam. Væ mihi! Coram Deo negligentiæ crimen incurro, et coram hominibus infamiæ notam non effugio. Redde mihi, sancte, filiam meam.”



tal duties. In this account, it is the grief of the girl’s mother—not the father—that is brought to the forefront of the miracle by William of Canterbury. The mother hurries to her daughter’s corpse when she hears about the accident and immediately begins to weep at the scene. Her public grief completely overshadows the emotional response of the weaver, who initially finds the child’s body floating in the water. In fact, once the mother enters the story and begins grieving, the father’s actions are not noted by the author, highlighting the mother’s role in the emotional scene even more. Furthermore, the woman from Northwood assumes most, if not all, of the blame for her daughter’s death and her guilt is shown through her public grieving process as the story progresses. William of Canterbury highlights the communal idea that it was the mother’s responsibility—not the father’s—to watch over or delegate a custodian to supervise her child. Because she neglects to do either of these things, the mother grieves in front of witnesses and openly chastises herself within the story’s dialogue, calling herself a disgrace and stating that the child’s death is a crime of neglect in the eyes of both God and the community. What is more, she is the one to offer a poignant plea to Thomas Becket for help, not the father. She assumes responsibility for her child’s death and is the one to negotiate for the girl’s recovery. The detail that the father is the one who tells the girl to wash off in the water pit is not brought up at all after it is first mentioned and appears to serve merely as context for the larger story at hand. Similar to the mother from Northwood, mothers in other miracle stories apply blame to themselves both when they are directly the cause of a child’s death, such as in cases of overlaying, and when their children die from health complications that they cannot control. For instance, Bailey points out that, in a Thomas Becket miracle, the Countess of Clare blames her son’s succumbing to hernia on her own sins (Canterbury, 229). It is important to note that the feeling of guilt is also implied when women grieve heavily for children who die because of a lack of supervision. Including the drowning in Northwood, four out of the five child deaths in the aforementioned miracles happen when the female head of household is not monitoring a child. Alice whose child dies in the container of water and Edith whose child drowns in the livestock watering bin are performing chores when misadventures occur, and while the author does not disclose the location of the woman by the Medway River, it is suggested that she is not near her son when he drowns because she has to run towards his body. In portraying mothers in this way, religious writers used miracula as a medium to emphasize the expectations that they had for women in reality.



Thus far, we have focused on accounts where the compilers of miracle stories have expressed maternal grief and guilt through the lens of the mothers involved in the accounts. For example, the woman from Northwood vocalizes negative feelings about the performance of her parental duties through prayers and tears. She assuages her guilt and the negative impact on her reputation by negotiating with Thomas Becket for the recovery of her daughter. One miracle dating to 1490 attributed to King Henry VI deviates from this model in that the narrator overtly states his opinions about motherly responsibilities. Rather than simply portraying a mother as lamenting and expressing her guilt through speech and wild gestures when a child dies, the author condemns a mother from Brackley, Northamptonshire. This miracle story can be divided into two main parts. In the first half, the narrator prefaces the account of child death with two pieces of advice for parents, the first addressed specifically to mothers. He asserts that infants ought to be in the care of their mothers (debet esse cura matrum in proprios fetus), lest anything bad happen while they are unsupervised. Then he warns both parents that “For where something negligent is done to infants, much adverse fortune follows; permitting an infant to have its pleasure so often turns laughter into tears, joy into mourning, clapping into beating [the chest], joking into weeping.”4 By beginning the text with these two warnings, we learn the narrator’s stance on who is to blame if a child sustains injuries or dies: the parents, especially mothers who do not vigilantly attend to their young children. In the second part, the actual miracle story, the author explains that a six-month-old named George dies because he was not swaddled correctly by his mother, Olivia. Instead of wrapping him as is customary (ut solito), Olivia rolls George up in cloth, ties it loosely with a linen belt, and puts him into his cradle for the night. Upon waking to nurse George, Olivia reaches for his little body (corpusculum) and finds him hanging by the belt from his cradle, which was suspended above the floor. As she unties the belt around his neck, George falls to the ground like a mass of clay (veluti massa luti) and Olivia spirals into despair. She is described as experiencing anguish (dolore), sighing and continually lamenting (gemitibus ­incessabilibus lamentando), erupting into sobs (erumpentes singultus), and crying so much that her face is drenched in tears (lacrimis ora perfudit). The narra4  Grosjean, 260. “Nam ubi negligencius aliquid geritur in infantes, adversa plerumque fortuna insequitur, que dum libitum suum habere permittitur, quamsepe in lacrimas risus, in luctus gaudia vertit, in planctum plausus, in lacrimosa iocos.”



tor interjects to remind his readers that Olivia is at fault for the infant’s death. He writes that grief-stricken, and tempted by the devil (corruptore), she thought about throwing the child to the side and fleeing the scene, but neighbors heard her cries and came to console her in the moment of distress (Grosjean, 261–2). Swaddling deaths were so frequent in England that an early fourteenth-century handbook called the Oculus Sacerdotis gave priests tips to teach parents how to swaddle their children safely. Babies were to be wrapped tightly in swaddling cloths and bands in order to ensure that they would not move around and fall out of their cradles, like George did in the miracle story. Engravings of swaddled children can be seen on late-medieval chrisom brasses, which were brasses that indicated that a child had died young. These types of memorials depict infants in baptismal garb with swaddling bands wrapped around their bodies (Oosterwijk, 48). The author of Olivia’s story turns the tragedy of child death into a didactic admonishment. He does not simply hint at the mother’s role in the death of her child, but rather tells his audience that she is to blame by adding his own voice to the story, beginning with his advice to parents in the introduction. When he starts to narrate the events that occur in Brackley, he immediately mentions that George is not wrapped in the traditional swaddling method, pointing the finger at Olivia once again. He even stresses that Olivia experiences guilt because she is tempted by the devil to hide the body and run away from the death scene. Some parents in miracle stories did actually follow through with hiding a child’s body. When a child is crushed by his father’s ox-cart in a Thomas of Cantilupe miracle, his parents hide his body in their bed because they are terrified of being investigated for neglect by the king’s officers (Flint, 345). Olivia does not follow proper legal protocol when her son dies, making this part of the story into a confession of her guilt. In fact, it is not until her neighbors arrive at her house that she decides, or feels obligated, to stay. By including these details in the story, the author amplifies his presentation of Olivia’s culpability and demonstrates the legal consequences of not performing, in his eyes, her most basic parental duties. In addition to miracle story accounts, which are difficult to verify, some legal records reinforce the idea that mothers were expected to protect children from harm. Adam de Spalding reported in an Oxfordshire coroners’ inquest for the year 1298 that Alice Trivaler lit a candle by some straw in a shop where her family resided and the straw caught on fire. Realizing that her twenty-week-old son, Roger, was trapped in the fire,



Alice jumped back into the shop to save him, but they both perished in the flames (Salter, 7–8). This report suggests that female responses to child death in miracle stories may have been descriptions of the actual reactions of women to the death of their children. Whether miracle stories depict actual events, however, they would have served as didactic literature for parents. Hearing reports about child death and maternal grief would have not only encouraged women to venerate Thomas Becket, Thomas of Cantilupe, and Henry VI, but also would have instructed them about or confirmed expectations for motherly love and parental care. Maternal grief and guilt are not exclusive to miracle stories. Medieval lyrics, particularly those found within Middle English lullabies, are another source that illustrate the relationship between women and their children and the guilt that they endured when they could not protect them from harm. While the word “lullaby” originates from the Latin lallare, meaning “to sing a soothing song,” medieval lullabies ironically did not always conjure comforting scenes (Vines, 212). Hanawalt explains, “Traditionally, we think lullabies are supposed to reassure the baby, singing of good things that will happen and protective people and surroundings; but not so the medieval versions” (Hanawalt, 179). Mothers would sing about “Deth” coming for their children, or of the Virgin Mary mourning the crucifixion of Christ (Davies, 107). Mary was a key figure in medieval Christianity because of her role as mediator between God and mankind. By the early Middle Ages, the Church had devoted Saturdays and several feast days to the Holy Mother and in 1215, the Lateran Council agreed that the laity should be required to learn the Ave Maria. Because of her popularity, she was a familiar subject in medieval lyrics, the oldest of which are rhymed translations of the Ave Maria found in learning materials alongside the Pater Noster and Creed (Saupe, 7–8). Nativity lullabies do not specifically contain imagery of medieval women and their children; however, the authors of these lyrics undoubtedly expected women to follow the model of the Holy Mother. While reading, hearing, or singing Marian lyrics, medieval women would have drawn parallels between their own experiences and those of Mary; Mary was not only the Queen of Heaven, but also a religious figure with whom women could identify as mother. Because Mary was the mother through which God was born man, women could turn to Marian lyrics for guidance in parenting and solace in the face of child death (Saupe, 10). Lullabies about the Nativity convey the deep love between Mary and her child and the grief that Mary experiences upon learning the prophecy



of his death. One anonymous Nativity lullaby composed sometime between the fourteenth and fifteenth century, describes a private conversation between Mary and the Christ child. The tone of the lullaby gradually shifts from joy, as Mary recalls the celebration surrounding Christ’s birth, to sadness, as she hears the details of his future death. The child warns his mother of her future mourning caused by his grim fate in lines 117–118, “Mother, you shall make much mourning/And see me die painfully.”5 Christ acknowledges that his mother’s love for him is strong, so strong that she will endure much anguish when he dies. The Gospel of Luke contains a similar prophecy of grief over Christ’s death within the scene of Mary presenting Christ at the temple where Simeon announces that her soul will be pierced with a sword when Christ dies for the salvation of men.6 The narrator of the lullaby evokes a sense of pathos with Mary’s reaction in the next couple of lines: “‘Allas Son,’ said that maiden,/‘Since that it is so,/Why must I live to see that day,/To bear you for this woe?’”7 Mary’s distress is the central topic of her dialogue within the lyrics. She questions why she must live to see her son perish and why she gave birth to Christ, only to have him suffer. Amy Vines asserts that Marian lyrics such as these “transform the emotional intimacy of the first interaction between mother and child into a lesson in parental mourning” (Vines, 202). Since the Nativity scene is the most “human” of Mary’s five joys, it allows the reader to learn from Mary’s mourning process and reflect on and understand the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice more fully (Vines, 203, 206–7). As Vines states, Nativity lyrics allowed medieval women to learn from Mary’s emotions, but more than that, the lyrics speak to the love between a mother and child, that of Mary and Christ. Additionally, they display the sense of guilt that Mary feels when she learns that she will not be able to save him from a premature death, a reaction that lines up with the mothers in the miracle stories. Lyrics about the actual Crucifixion paint a similar picture of Mary and Christ. In Passion lyrics, Mary is often depicted, alongside the disciple John, as standing and sometimes “wepyng” for her child at the foot of the Cross, while either Christ or the narrator elaborate on why he must be sacrificed for the sins of mankind (Stevick, 22–3, 29). Some Passion lyrics  Saupe, 87. “Moder, thu salt maken michil mon/And seen me deyye sore.”  “Gospel According to Luke 2. 35.” Douay-Rheims, 7  Saupe, 87. “‘Allas Sone,’ seyde that may,/‘Sithen that it is so,/Worto sal I biden that day,/To beren thee to this wo?’” 5 6



contain more detail about the grief that Mary experiences over the loss of her child on the Cross. A mid-fourteenth-century lyricist brings Mary’s sorrow to the foreground in an eight-line lament over her dying child. Mary exclaims, “Why have you no pity on my child?/Have you pity on me, full of mourning./Take my worthy child down from the Cross,/Or impale me on the Cross with my darling./More pain may never be done to me/Than to let me live in sorrow and shame./All my love is bound to my son,/So let us die both the same.”8 Like Nativity lullabies, Passion lyrics depict the bond between mother and child and the guilt that Mary experiences over her inability to protect her son, but this time while his death is actually taking place. Parallels can also be drawn between these Passion lyrics and the miracle stories mentioned in this essay. Mary, like the mothers in miracula, negotiates for the safety of her son, not with a saint, but with her child’s executioners. Furthermore, she grieves in front of people, not a community, but the crowd that is watching her son’s suffering. Instead of grieving quietly by the Cross, Mary plays an active role in the Passion scene. She assumes the role of Christ’s protector, calls out to his persecutors, and begs them to take pity on her, a grieving mother, and her dying child. If they will not take him down from the rood, she wants them to impale her on the cross with him. Mary’s love for her child binds her to him and makes her an extension of him. If Christ is in pain, Mary feels as though she should endure the same type of pain. In other words, Mary’s grief highlights not only the love that she has for her son, but also the idea that she must suffer with her child if she cannot save him, since she, as his mother, is responsible for his fate. While it is true that child mortality was high in medieval England, especially considering the dangers of childbirth, perils of health complications, and the prevalence of accidental deaths, Ariès’s argument that children were social “others” until a certain age does not ring true when looking at the sources, especially reports of grieving mothers. Authors highlight maternal grief associated with child death in miracula and lyrics dating between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. Although these documents differ in time and purpose, the authors of these records consistently employ the emotion of grief to underscore mother-child relationships and 8  Davies, 119. “Why have ye no reuthe on my child?/Have you reuthe on me, full of murning./Taket down on Rode my derworthy child,/Or prek me on Rode with my derling./More pine ne may me ben don/Than laten me liven in sorwe and shame./Als love me bindet to my sone,/So lat us deiyen bothen isame.”



gendered expectations for childrearing. In miracula, religious men describe mothers as loving children of all ages and as being public about their grief because of the guilt that they endure when they die; they weep, scream, act frantically in front of relatives and neighbors, and sometimes insist that they are to blame for their child’s fatality, even if they are not present during the actual death of their child. Mothers, in the midst of extreme anguish, attempt to assuage their guilt by negotiating with saints for their children’s lives. This is not to say that men did not care about children or that fathers are never shown mourning for their offspring in medieval sources. However, women are more commonly depicted in these public-grieving roles, especially in miracle stories. Similarly, the paragon of motherhood, the Virgin Mary, is portrayed in medieval lyrics as having a strong bond with the infant, Christ, and mourning publicly when she realizes that she will not be able to protect him from his death on the Cross. When reading or hearing about maternal grief and child death in lyrics or miracle stories, women would have absorbed the idea that they were largely responsible for the state of the domestic sphere, especially for the safety of children. Therefore, when we read about Alice clutching her infant in London or the mother in Northwood pleading with Saint Thomas Becket to revive her daughter, we must understand that authors of medieval sources put forth the idea that maternal grief stemmed not only from women loving their children, but also from the sense of guilt that they were expected to have when they failed in their obligation to protect them from the outside world.9

Bibliography Printed Primary Sources Canterbury, William. 1875. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Canonized by Pope Alexander III, A. D. 1173. Edited by James Craigie Robertson. Vol. 1. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. Davies, Thorne Reginald, ed. 1964. Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Exeter, Bartholomew. 1937. Bartholomew of Exeter, Bishop and Canonist: A Study in the Twelfth Century with the Text of Bartholomew’s Penitential from the Cotton

9  I would like to thank the Medieval Academy of America and Richard III Society for granting me the Schallek Award, which helped fund travel for the research leading to this article.



MS.  Vitellius A.  XII. Edited by Dom Arian Morey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Gospel According to Luke 2. 35.” Douay-Rheims, Grosjean, Paul, ed. 1935. Henrici VI Angliae Regis Miracula Postuma. Brussels: Société des Bollandistes. Gross, Charles, ed. 1896. Select Cases from the Coroners Rolls A.  D. 1265–1413 with a Brief Account of the History of the Office of Coroner. London: The Selden Society. Peterborough, Benedict. 1867. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Canonized by Pope Alexander III, A. D. 1173. Edited by James Craigie Robertson. Vol. 2. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. Salter, Herbert, ed. 1912. Records of Medieval Oxford: Coroners’ Inquests, the Walls of Oxford, Etc. Oxford: The Oxford Chronicle Company, LTD. Saupe, Karen, ed. 1996. Middle English Marian Lyrics. PhD diss., University of Rochester. Sharpe, Reginald. 1913. Calendar of Coroners Rolls of the City of London A. D. 1300–1378. London: Richard Clay and Sons, Limited. Stevick, Robert, ed. 1964. One Hundred Middle English Lyrics. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.

Printed Secondary Sources Ariès, Philippe. 1962. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. Translated by Robert Baldick. New York: Random House. Bailey, Anne. 2013. “Lamentation Motifs in Medieval Hagiography.” Gender and History 25 (3): 529–544. Butler, Sara. 2007. “A Case of Indifference: Child Murder in Later Medieval England.” Journal of Women’s History 19 (4): 59–82. Finucane, Ronald. 1977. Miracles and Pilgrims: Popular Beliefs in Medieval England. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield. ———. 1997. The Rescue of the Innocents: Endangered Children in Medieval Miracles. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Flint, Valerie. 2001. “The Saint and the Operation of the Law: Reflections upon the Miracles of St. Thomas Cantilupe.” In Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting, ed. Richard Gameson and Henrietta Leyser, 342–357. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gordon, Eleanora. 1991. “Accidents Among Medieval Children as Seen from the Miracles of Six English Saints and Martyrs.” Medical History 35 (2): 145–163. Hanawalt, Barbara. 1986. The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hunnisett, Roy. 1961. The Medieval Coroner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Oosterwijk, Sophie. 2000. “Chrysoms, Shrouds and Infants on English Tomb Monuments: A Question of Terminology?” Church Monuments 15: 44–64. Orme, Nicholas. 2001. Medieval Children. New Haven: Yale University Press. Schaus, Margaret, ed. 2006. Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge. Shahar, Shulamith. 1990. Childhood in the Middle Ages. London: Routledge. Vines, Amy. 2010. “Lullaby as Lament: Learning to Mourn in Middle English Nativity Lyrics.” In Laments for the Lost in Medieval Literature, ed. J. Tolmie and M.J. Toswell, 201–224. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. Woolfe, Rosemary. 1986. The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


“How fair, how beautiful and great a prince”: Royal Children in the Tudor Chronicles Carole Levin and Andrea Nichols

In the historical literature of the Tudor and early Stuart period, though there are a number of references to children, these are usually brief, even including royal children. Histories of England, whether long and expensive or brief and cheaper, were popular and people of a range of backgrounds frequently read them during this period. These histories of England provide insight into how contemporary Englishmen and women learned about their nation’s past, and in how the information changed over time, particularly the (re)shaping of the national narrative, in which, despite their political importance, royal children were often marginalized. While many studies of English history focus on Holinshed’s Chronicles, we choose to explore the depictions of Tudor royal children in many different English histories printed between 1540 and 1650, arguing that this provides a more complete picture of contemporary interpretation and historical depiction of Tudor royal children. English histories during this period were printed in vernacular, and a few in Italian and Latin, such as the work by the Italian Protestant Sir

C. Levin (*) • A. Nichols University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




Giovanni Francesco Biondi and Polydore Vergil’s Anglica Historia, respectively. Biondi spent much of his adult life in England employed by the Stuart monarchs, and Henry Cary, Earl of Monmouth, later translated Biondi’s History of the Civil Wars into English. We also examine the popular and influential John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments—though not a chronicle history but a history of the English church—as he was using these chronicles for information, and later authors in turn drew upon his book for adding information to their histories. The authors of these histories were all educated, but came from a variety of backgrounds. Several were churchmen, including bishops such as Thomas Cooper and Francis Goodwin. Some were described as gentlemen or came from wealth and served as members of Parliament, while others such as Robert Fabyan moved from a mercantile background into the post of Sheriff of London. Still others, such Ralph Brooke, a herald, came from very modest backgrounds. While a number of them went to Oxford or trained at the Middle Temple, some, such as John Stow, appear to have been self-educated, and Stow was the only member of the Society of Antiquaries who was not a gentleman. Thomas Milles was both a customs official and an antiquary, while Henry Parker was more of a political radical who also wrote pamphlets and was forthright in his egalitarian politics. Richard Baker lost his wealth and offices, so turned to scholarship for consolation while he was in prison. Yet even with this variety, there was much overlap in their discussions—or lack of them—of royal Tudor children. For hereditary monarchy, the royal heir is always important, but it was an even more compelling issue in the age of the Tudors, given that the previous century had seen disputed succession, change of monarchs, and much bloodshed in the War of the Roses. But even with the collective anticipation and celebration of male heirs, there appears less discussion of royal childhood in English histories than one might have expected, and, not surprisingly, far more about royal “men-children” than “women-­ children,” as John Foxe put it (800). The amount written, and more importantly what was emphasized, says much about both attitudes toward children and gender, for, as we see in other cases in this volume, while female children had great significance, they were seemingly unimportant when recording the national past.



Establishing a Dynasty: Heirs of Henry VII The Tudor dynasty began when Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. In January 1486, Henry fulfilled the pledge he had made to join the warring factions of York and Lancaster by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, several months after his own coronation as king. While Henry wanted his right to the throne to be based on his own family connections and his victory in battle, many histories noted the importance of both Henry and Elizabeth, for, as Raphael Holinshed claimed, “By reason of which marriage, peace was thought to descend out of heauen into England, considering that the lines of Lancaster and Yorke were now brought into one knot … of whose two bodies one heire might succeed to rule and inioie the whole monarchie and realme of England” (Holinshed, 763). This potential heir was critical to the health of the country, “which before was rent and diuided into factions & partakings, whereby manie a mans life was lost, great spoiles made of peoples goods, wast of wealth, worship, and honor, all which ended in this blessed and gratious connexion, authorised by God” (ibid.). As Holinshed emphasized, the most important duty of the new queen was to produce heirs that would fully cement the two blood lines, and establish the House of Tudor. Henry and Elizabeth ensured the new dynasty with the birth of a son, for, as Stow explained, “In the moneth of September [1486] Quéene Elizabeth was deliuered of hir first son, named Arthur, at Winchester” (Stow 1580, 861). This choice of name brought, as Grafton remarked, “great reiosyng of all true English hartes” (Grafton 1572, f.132) and, moreover, Hall claimed all “outwarde nacions & foreyne prynces trymbled and quaked, so muche was that name to all nacions terrible & formidable.”1 Moreover, Biondi, in the seventeenth century, wrote that Henry VII “named him Arthur, in memory of the ancient Britons, from whom he descended;… so as Henry to revive his memory, called his Son after His name” (Biondi, 162). The importance of the birth of the first Tudor heir can be seen in that even the shorter “summary” or “brief ” narrative histories still mentioned Arthur’s birth, betrothal, m ­ arriage, and death, which is much more information than the actual surviving heir, Henry, received. 1

 Hall, f.v. This is very similar to Grafton (1569), 860.



For instance, as with the other histories, Fabyan and Cooper did mention Arthur’s betrothal and marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Foxe also discussed the brief marriage of Arthur and Katherine and her widowhood, and Henry’s decision to marry Katherine when he became king, as this was important given the later question of the legality of Henry and Katherine’s marriage (Foxe, 800). In Hall and Holinshed’s texts, there was a more detailed explanation of Katherine’s arrival and the marriage festivities, with Hall providing the most information, ranging from the costly spectacles, the preparations of St. Paul’s for the ceremony, the attendees at the wedding, and the feasting and jousting afterwards at Baynard’s Castle and Westminster Palace (Holinshed, 789; Hall, f.lii(v)–liiii). Vergil, Baker, and Martyn provided a briefer overview of the activities from her arrival in England, until she and her husband were sent to Wales (Martyn, 350; Baker, 153; Vergil, Book XXVI, paragraphs 43–4). Only Baker, Hall, and Holinshed described the consummation of the marriage, presenting the famous statement claimed to have been made by Arthur to his manservant: “I haue thys nyght bene in the middest of Spayne, whiche is a hote region, & that iourney maketh me so drye, and if thou haddest bene vnder that hote clymate, thou wouldest haue bene dryer then I” (Baker, 153; Hall, f.liii(v); Holinshed, 789). Hall and Biondi stated that his brother Henry was delayed in taking up the title of Prince of Wales, to see if Katherine was pregnant (Biondi, 226; Hall, Arthur’s death was noted explicitly by most of the histories, or simply implied by omission given his brother Henry acceded to the throne. In comparison, there is less about the second son, even though he survived to become Henry VIII, a highly significant king. A number of chronicles, including those by Grafton, Holinshed, Stow, Brooke, and Baker, mentioned his birth. Milles only listed him among the bracketed set of children Elizabeth had given birth to—“Henry, Duke of Yorke, and Earl Marshall of England, after[wards] King” (Milles, 221). Slatyer and Biondi included Prince Henry briefly as the surviving son, or, as Thomas Talbot said, the “second son (Talbot, [20(v)]; Slatyer, 269). John Hardyng and Vergil, using similar wording, only noted Prince Henry at the end of his father’s reign, among the three surviving children, “Henry Prince of Wales, Margaret, and Mary” (Vergil, Book XXVI, paragraph 50; Hardyng, f.Cxlv). Other than his birth, or place as the new heir, there is not much else about Henry’s early life. For instance, Fabyan included for 1495, that “Henry Duke of Yorke, a childe aboute fower yeres of age, [went] towarde



Westminster, ridyng upon a courser, with many goodly gentle menne to conveigh hym” (Fabyan, 530). Hall and Grafton remarked that Katherine of Aragon “was led homeward to ye Bishops palace, by ye duke of Yorke, beyng then a goodly you[n]ge prince” after her wedding at St. Paul’s to Arthur (Hall, f.liii(v); Grafton 1569, 936). Finally, Holinshed and Martyn describe Henry being “created Earle of Chester b[y] his Father”, along with being invested as Prince of Wales, in 1503, the year after his brother died (Martyn, 351; Holinshed, 790–1). Holinshed and Stow listed a third son Edward, whom Milles and Baker called Edmund, born February 24, 1499 (Holinshed, 787–8; Baker, 161; Stow 1580, 873; Milles, 221). He was Duke of Somerset, and according to Baker, “dyed at five yeares of age, at Bishops Hatfield” (Baker, 161). There was also a short-lived son only mentioned in general terms in Polydore Vergil, Holinshed, and Grafton’s Chronicle at Large, who stated Elizabeth gave birth to “four male and four female” children (Vergil, Book XXVI, paragraph 50; Grafton 1569, 948; Holinshed, 797). Thus Elizabeth gave birth to another son, who did not live long enough to be named in any of these histories.2 On the other hand, the four female offspring, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth, and Katherine, all received short shrift, not having their births noted, unless, as in the case of Katherine, it was a cause of greater woe— her mother’s death. Even then, Katherine has her name only included in a small portion of the texts—Grafton’s Chronicle at Large, Holinshed, Hall, Baker, Milles and Brooke (Grafton 1569, 940; Hall,; Holinshed, 790; Milles, 221; Brooke, [21(v)]; Baker, 161). Furthermore, in Hardyng and Vergil, she was unnamed and merely called “a daughter (Hardyng, f.Cxli(v); Vergil, Book XXVI, paragraph 45). However, most reports excluded her gender entirely, noting only that her mother “died in childbed” (A Short Cronycle, [16(v)]; A Chronicle of Yeres, quire Bii(v); Fabyan, 534; A Brief Chronicle, quire Kiiii(v); Lanquet and Cooper, f.272(v); Grafton 1565, f.lxxviii; 1572, f.137; Stow 1604, 188; Biondi, 226). Just as with the fourth male child, there was a fourth female child, that too was not discussed much. This child, Elizabeth, was only mentioned by name in the lists of offspring in Milles and Baker, who said “King Henries second Daughter the Lady Eliz[a]beth was borne in the 2  Okerlund states that they had eight children, including a son named Edward but that virtually nothing is known about him, even when he was born—and presumably died immediately (page xix).



yeere 1492. at three yeers of age, died; and was buried at Westminster” (Baker, 161; Milles, 221). John Foxe discussed the children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York at the beginning of the section on Henry VIII: “This King Henry VII … had by Elizabeth his wife above named, foure men children, and of women children as many. Of whome 3 only survived: to wit, prince Henry, Lady Margarete, and Lady Mary. Of whome King Henry the eight after his father succeeded. Lady Margaret was married to James the fourth king of Scottes. Ladie Mary was affied to Charles king of Castile” (Foxe, 800). Margaret—the namesake of her paternal grandmother Margaret Beaufort—and Mary’s importance to the English historical narrative came from surviving to adulthood and becoming politically valuable as marriage partners to foreign princes in order to cement peace treaties and further establish the Tudor dynasty.3 While male children were not mentioned frequently either—except for Prince Arthur, for whom childhood was the most significant period of activity—royal princes would become important players upon reaching adulthood and reigning, achieving inclusion in the histories by fact of gender and primogeniture. For female children, though, their lives and purposes were subsumed during both childhood and adulthood, which is proof that royal women were reduced by these early historians to a single facet of reproductive capacity. As a result, girls were not narratively significant given they had not yet matured biologically, and thus lacked political importance. For example, Elizabeth of York was normally mentioned only in her capacity as a wife or mother, not as an independent political, diplomatic, or martial agent. The only way to become included as a key narrative figure was to break the mold of good queenship, such as Isabella of France, or Henry I’s daughter Matilda. Of Henry VII’s daughters, Margaret was betrothed and married in 1503 at age 14 to James IV of Scotland, as part of the Anglo-Scottish attempt at peace, giving birth to her first child at age 17. As a widow she remarried twice. Her younger sister, Mary, followed a similar path of political marriage followed by a choice based on personal attraction. The narratives mention her as a child, but only because of her use as a marriage pawn. She was betrothed during her father Henry VII’s reign in 1507 to Charles, the new king of Castile and later Holy Roman Emperor, “being about the age 3  For the most detailed discussion of their lives, including elaborate detail on their betrothals and marriage festivities, see Grafton (1569), Holinshed, and Hall.



of ten yeares” (Holinshed, 795). That betrothal would end after her brother worked to effect “the performance of the mariage of the yong Prince of Castell and the fayre Ladye Marie his sister,” given “[t]he counsayle of Flaunders aunswered that they would not receyue her that yere, with many subtill argumentes, by reason whereof the perfite loue betwene Englande and the lowe countries was much slaked” (Grafton 1569, 1008). Instead, shortly afterwards in 1514, Mary became the third wife of Louis XII of France. After that brief marriage, she became the wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

The Tudors On Repeat?: Children of Henry VIII Despite all of Henry VIII’s efforts to secure a male heir by remarrying five times after divorcing his brother Arthur’s wife, he only left behind three surviving children: one male and two female, just like his own father. Family history echoed in the choices he made for his children’s names, and names are important, as Biondi and Hall had recognized when they analyzed the importance and impact of Prince Arthur’s name. His son Edward may have harkened back to Henry’s short-lived brother and his maternal uncle, the young probably-murdered Edward V, but certainly referred to his grandfather, Edward IV, and Edward III with his early victories in the Hundred Years’ War. His daughters’ names echoed his younger sister the French queen (Mary), and Elizabeth was the namesake of his short-lived sister, and more importantly his mother and grandmother. Nevertheless, regardless of Henry’s strong desires to pay homage to the new dynasty’s family names, he broke with the Catholic Church and remade England, all in his desire for a male heir. Henry sought to establish the Tudors into the next generation by marrying his brother’s widow, Katherine of Aragon (Hall, f.ii; Grafton 1569, 953; Baker, 1; Vergil, Book XXVII, paragraph 1; Slatyer, 271; Stow 1580, 876; 1604, 194; Brooke, [22]; Lanquet and Cooper, f.273(v); Godwin, 4; Martyn, 355). His wife suffered through several short-lived infants, stillbirths, or miscarriages. Many of the histories that narrated each English monarch’s life noted Mary’s birth in February 1516 at Greenwich Palace, but Katherine’s first surviving child was the short-lived Prince Henry, born New Year’s Day 1511. As the male heir to the throne, despite his short life span, Hardyng, Hall, and Holinshed even described the jousts that celebrated the new Prince of Wales, and that upon the little prince’s death nearly two months later, “the Quene lyke a naturall woman, made much lamentacion, how be



it, by the kynges good persuasion and behauior, her sorowe was mitigated” (Hall, f.ix–xi). Holinshed, Brooke, and Baker mention another short-lived son in November 1513 (Holinshed, 834; Baker, 67). According to Brooke, this son, “whose name is not well knowne, borne of Queene Katherine his first Wife, in the sixt yeare of his Reigne, who dyed very young. The death of these two Princes. King Henry tooke as a punishment from God, for begetting them of his Brothers Wife” (Brooke, [22(v)]). In most histories, Mary’s birth was mentioned, as were such details as the jousts, christening, godparents, or her parents’ reactions. Her birth, unlike her aunts Margaret and Mary whose births were not included, was important to mention as she later became a queen regnant, breaking the traditional formula for English queens. However, like earlier royal women, the remaining mentions of Mary were related to the possible marriages for her, even more important given that she was increasingly seen as her father’s heir apparent. As a child, Mary was promised at two years of age in 1518 to the Dauphin of France as part of the efforts by the French to recover Tournai (Vergil, Book XXVII, paragraph 25; Holinshed, 848–9; Baker, 17; Godwin, 37). Later, in 1522 she was contracted to marry her cousin Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was 22 at the time, and who later broke it off (Vergil, Book XXVII, paragraph 31; Holinshed, 856, 884, 893; Baker, 29–30). Also, in 1523, England and Scotland “were entertaining hopes that the two kingdoms might be conjoined into one” single and very powerful one, if Henry’s heir Mary were to be married to her young cousin James V of Scotland, but this fell apart (Vergil, Book XXVII, paragraph 51. See also Holinshed, 882, 889). In the later 1520s, there was the possibility of a marriage between Mary and Henry, Duke of Orleans, but that came to naught too, compounded by the fact Henry was beginning to want his first marriage dissolved, which led to Mary being declared a bastard (Holinshed, 894, 898; Martyn, 375; Godwin, 72; Baker, 32–3). The histories themselves are less clear on the reason for each betrothal failing, only sometimes hinting towards a longstanding grudge between French and English, and the Scots and their southern neighbors, or personal dislikes among the monarchs themselves. While Foxe did not mention Mary’s birth, he wrote in some detail about two of her potential marriages in her father’s reign: the 1523 negotiation with her cousin the Emperor Charles and the 1527 negotiations with the French. For Foxe, as with the later English histories mentioning Mary’s bastardy, this was a way to introduce the question of the legality of her parents’ marriage, as he claimed “the Spaniards themselves were not well contented, objecting this



among many other causes, that the saide Ladie Marie was begotten of the king of England by his brothers wife,” and that four years later the French negotiations ended as they had the same doubts (Foxe, 1049). Mary’s bastardization only made marriage offers more difficult, and certainly from those of lower status than ones with which she had been previously paired. Despite these marriage possibilities, Mary did not actually get a husband until she herself was queen. Mary’s illegitimacy and her mother’s new status as Dowager Princess of Wales came in 1533 due to the pregnancy of Anne Boleyn. As Henry attempted to have his first marriage declared illegal, he was also courting Anne, with whom he was in love, and after a number of years, she agreed to become his lover. Henry, with the support of Parliament and his new archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, broke with the Catholic Church to ensure that his first marriage was annulled, and his second marriage formalized. Anne was crowned before the longed-for male heir arrived in September 1533. Although the child was not male, but female, given Elizabeth’s place as a future Protestant queen regnant, her birth and baptism were described in more detail. It is certainly understandable why chronicles published during Elizabeth’s reign contained this detail. Nevertheless, why Hall’s Chronicle, published in 1548 and again in 1550, had so much more information about Elizabeth’s baptism than Edward’s is an interesting question. At the time of Elizabeth’s birth, Hall was a Member of Parliament and a moderate Protestant, and thus a willing participant in the Henrician Reformation and excited to see the first of many offspring cementing a newly Protestant England. While Hall died in 1547, the same year as Henry VIII, he had been collecting information about all the important events of the time, including the first royal birth occurring while he was writing. Richard Grafton used Hall’s papers, drafts, and notes to complete the Chronicle and publish it. One of the most elaborate descriptions of Elizabeth’s baptism was in Foxe’s Acts and Monuments. After a lengthy description of the decorations and attendees, Foxe explained that the Archbishop of Canterbury was the baby’s godfather, and two powerful widows, Agnes Howard, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and Gertrude Blount, Dowager Marchioness of Dorset and Exeter were her godmothers, and the Child was named Elizabeth. After all things were done at the Church-door, the Child was brought to the Font and Christened. This done, Garter, the Chief King at Armes, cried aloud, God of his infinite



goodness, send prosperous life and long, to the High and Mighty Princess of England, ELIZABETH.  Then the Trumpets blew, and the Child was brought up to the Altar, and immediately confirmed by the Archbishop.

Foxe also carefully described the beautiful and valuable gifts that the godparents gave. Elizabeth is mentioned again at the time of Anne Boleyn’s execution. Foxe explains that “through crafty setters on, [Henry] seemed to be sore bent both against the Queene, and to the disheriting of his owne daughter.” But Foxe also emphasized that Henry’s later will put Elizabeth back in the succession (Foxe, 1082–3, 1259). In the other chronicles, Elizabeth was rarely mentioned after her birth and baptism (Baker, 77). Moreover, given that she was so quickly declared illegitimate in 1536, she did not have as many childhood betrothal offers as Mary had. All of these extreme efforts and years of waiting by Henry to have a legitimate male heir came to fruition with his third wife, Jane Seymour. It was a difficult labor that lasted several days, but on October 12, 1537 at Hampton Court Palace, she gave birth to Edward. Edward’s inclusion in the narratives was a mix of the patterns seen with his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. First, in many histories, there was not any extensive discussion of Edward’s birth, echoing the bare minimum place and date information for Mary. The reason for such a brief mention could be related to how his birth caused the death of his mother twelve days later, as many of the texts mention Jane’s death in the same sentence, or paragraph, as his birth. Her death literally and figuratively cut short any celebrations that may have happened. In the seventeenth century, Brooke, Baker, and Godwin added the erroneous statement that Edward was cut out of Jane’s womb using the cesarean method. This not only made the narration far more dramatic, with Henry in a sense choosing child over mother, but also related Edward to Julius Caesar, whom it was said was born in that fashion (Brooke, [23]; Baker, 48). For example, Godwin described it as the “Queene having long suffered the throwes of a most difficult travaile, and such a one, wherein either the Mother or the Infant must necessarily perish, out of her wombe was ripped Prince EDWARD” (Godwin, 157). Much like with Elizabeth of York dying after giving birth to Katherine, the death of Jane appeared equal in importance to her son’s birth, but unlike with Elizabeth, the queen’s death did not overshadow nor erase the gender of her child, as Edward was the legitimate male heir, and he survived, unlike the infant Katherine. There were



some adequate descriptions of the christening, godparents, and pageants celebrating the heir’s birth, and even how his older (now bastardized) sister Mary stood as godmother (Holinshed, 944; Grafton 1569, 1236; Brooke, [23]; Hall, f.CCxxxii; Baker, 48). Stow and Baker reported that less than a week after his birth, Edward was made Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester (Stow 1580, 1011; Baker, 48). Also, Vergil commented, “This is a young man assuredly born to govern, born to virtue and prudence, who is endowed with an excellent character and wonderfully excites all peoples to good hopes” (Vergil, Book XXVII, paragraph 62). Also discussing the celebrations, Hall and Grafton stated that “At the birth of this noble prince [were] great fiers made through the whole realme, and great ioye made with thankes geuing to almightie God which had sent so noble a prince to succede in ye crowne of this realme” (Grafton 1569, 1236; Hall, f.CCxxxii). This sounded like Brooke, Baker, Biondi, and Hall describing the happiness of Englishmen at the birth of Prince Arthur. Foxe again had the most to say about the child Edward, king when he was only nine years old. In writing a Protestant church history, Foxe emphasized Henry VIII’s two Protestant children. At the time of Edward’s birth, Foxe stated that right after Anne’s execution, Henry had married Jane Seymour “of whom came King Edward, as great an enemy to Gods enemy the Pope, as ever his father was, and greater too.” When Edward became king, Foxe described him as “a Prince although but tender in years, yet for his sage and mature ripeness in wit and all princely Ornaments.” Moreover, he described Edward as loving his subjects and being loved by them: “Such were the hearts of all English people toward this King inclined, and so toward him still continued, as never came Prince in this Realm more highly esteemed, more amply magnified, or more dearly and tenderly beloved of all his Subjects…. And as he was intirely of his Subjects beloved, so with no less good will he loved them again; of nature and disposition meek, and much inclined to clemency” (Foxe, 1294–5). Although in June 1536 Mary and Elizabeth were declared illegitimate, each had been considered legitimate at the time of their births. Furthermore, there was no question about Edward’s legitimacy, yet, Henry did have an illegitimate son born in June 1519 to his mistress Elizabeth Blount. Hall described the situation as “the kyng in his freshe youth, was in the cheynes of loue, with a faire damosell called Elizabeth Blount,… whiche damosell in syngyng, daunsyng, and in all goodly



pastymes, exceded all other, by the whiche goodly pastymes, she wan the kynges harte: and she again shewed hym suche fauour, that by hym she bare a goodly manne child, of beautie like to the father and mother. This child was well brought vp, like a Princes child” (Hall, f.Cxliii(v); Grafton 1569, 1136). Martyn was less kind, describing it as “The King (who for a long time had wantonly conversed with a beautifull, and a lasciuious Gentlewoman of his Court, named Elizabeth Blunt) begate on her a sonne” (Martyn, 400). This commentary on Fitzroy was an aside in the narrative for when Fitzroy was made Earl of Nottingham and the Duke of Richmond and Somerset on June 18, 1525, in a rare showing of an illegitimate royal son being raised to the peerage (Hall, f.Cxliii(v); Grafton 1569, 1136; Stow 1580, 940; Holinshed, 892; Godwin, 66; Baker, 67). Holinshed and Stow did note when Fitzroy died, Brooke was the only one who narrated when and where he was born, and Baker pointed out that he married Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, the uncle of Anne Boleyn (Holinshed, 941, 1237; Stow 1580, 1008; 1618, 225; Martyn, [quire Xx5(v)], quire Yy1(v); Brooke, [23]; Baker, 67).

The Phantom Pregnancies of Mary (Levin) In 1553, Henry’s oldest surviving child, his daughter Mary, came to the throne after Edward died. In July 1554, she was married to Philip of Spain, son of her cousin Emperor Charles V. Her desire to have a child, and keep England officially Catholic, was very strong, as her Protestant sister Elizabeth was next in line if she died without heirs. As Baker said, “Queenes are never old, so long as they are within yeers of bearing children” (Baker, 94). The texts stated that by November 1554, the Queen reported that she was pregnant.4 Some also mentioned that the Bishop of London led St. Paul’s Church in prayers for the queen’s safe delivery, which were copied in full in Holinshed’s text, along with three other prayers.5 Parliament and the clergy prayed for the “certeine succession in the blood roiall” through “the fruit of hir bodie well brought forth, liue and able to gouerne” (Holinshed, 1124). They sought comfort from 4  Grafton (1565, f.xcv; 1569, 1347); Stow (1580, 1094; 1618, 271); Godwin 311; Baker, 100, which notes it as October. 5  Stow (1604), 259. Interestingly, all of Stow’s Summaries noted her pregnancy except for the 1565 edition. Holinshed, 1123–6.



Biblical examples of how God “diddest worke in Sara of the age of fourescore and ten yeares, and in Elisabeth the barren, and also farre striken in age,” with all benedictions desiring “male issue, which maie sit in the seat of thy kingdome. Giue vnto our quéene thy seruant, a little infant in fashion and bodie comelie and beautifull, in pregnant wit notable and excellent” (Holinshed, 1126). At the end of April, London was in great celebration and rejoicing with bell ringing and bonfires upon the news that Mary had safely delivered a boy. One preacher reported “How fair, how beautiful and great a prince it was as the like had not been seen” (Foxe, 1596). Rumors continued into June that the queen had delivered a son (Fabyan, 563; Godwin, 311; Baker, 101). However, when it was proved false, “the people spake diuersly: Some sayde that the rumor of the Queenes conception was spred for a pollecy. Some affirmed that she was with childe, but it miscaried: Some other sayde that she was deceaued by a Timpanye or other like disease, whereby she thought she was with child and was not: But what the truth was I referre the report therof to other that knoweth more.”6 Particularly odd were the stories that instead of a baby, the Queen’s child was a pet monkey or lapdog. But more wondered if Mary had never been pregnant at all “but that a suppositious child is going to be presented as hers” (Calendar of Patent Rolles, 278; Foxe, 1620–1). So to the English histories, the only possible “child” of Mary was not her child at all. Moreover, John Foxe wrote about speaking with a woman named Isabell Malt in 1568. She told Foxe that she had given birth to a boy June 11, 1555. Soon after Edward, first Baron North and another lord from Mary’s court came to Isabell “demanding of her if she would part with her child,” and that she must promise to say that she had never had a child. If she agreed, it would be the best for her son. When Malt said no, some women, one “of whom one she sayd should have bene the Rocker” for Mary’s child, came and again asked Isobell to give up her boy. But Isobell would not give up her son (Foxe, 1597). This story was repeated in the 1587 edition of Holinshed (Holinshed, 1131). Since his mother would not give him up, Mary never had an heir to show to the world and raise to be her successor.

6  Grafton (1569), 1350. Very similar to Grafton (1572), f.186–186(v) and Lanquet and Cooper, f.368(v)–369.



Conclusion The depiction of Tudor children in chronicles in the period between 1540 and 1650 was all too often briefer than what we in the twentyfirst century might desire. It is clear how very important the Tudor children were, especially the sons who might become kings, such as Arthur, who did not succeed his father, and Edward, who did. Also significant were the p ­ roblems if there was not an appropriate heir, and chronicles frequently dealt with this subject in great detail as we can see with both Henry VIII’s wives Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and Mary I’s phantom pregnancy. As for the children themselves, we know a great deal about some of their christenings, especially Elizabeth’s. We know something about the various marriage negotiations for the children and how Henry VIII declared his declared his daughters illegitimate. And we see how intertwined politics and religion really were in Tudor England, especially in the lengthy description of Elizabeth’s baptism and Foxe’s praise of the boy-­king Edward VI. But what this study has most shown is that while we know of the children’s public and implied political importance; the chronicles tell us nothing about the personal. Even the childhoods of the Tudor royal family were not significant enough to have their emotional experiences expressed in the historical literature of early modern England.

Bibliography Anonymous. 1540. A Short Cronycle. London. ———. 1552. A Chronicle of Yeres. London. ———. 1560. A Brief Chronicle. London. Baker, Sir Richard. 1643. The Chronicle of the Kings of England. London. Biondi, Giovanni Francesco. 1641. An History of the Civill Vvares of England Betweene the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke. Translated by Henry, Earl of Monmouth. London. Brooke, Ralph. 1619. A Catalogue and Succession of the Kings. London. Calendar of Patent Rolles, Mary, III. 2009. In Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, by Anna Whitelock. New York: Random House. Fabyan, Robert. 1559. The Chronicle of Fabyan. London. Foxe, John. 1583. Actes and Monuments. London. Godwin, Francis. 1630. Annales of England. London. Grafton, Richard. 1565. A Manuell of the Chronicles of Englande. London.



———. 1569. Chronicle at Large. London. ———. 1572. Abridgement of the Chronicles of Englande. London. Hall, Edward. 1548. The Vnion of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre [and] Yorke. London. Hardyng, John. 1543. The Chronicle of Ihon Hardyng. London. Holinshed, Raphael. 1587. Chronicle of England, Scotland, and Ireland. London. Lanquet, Thomas, and Thomas Cooper. 1565. Cooper’s Chronicle. London. Levin, Carole. 2016. “Pregnancy, False Pregnancy, and Questionable Heirs: Mary I and Her Echoes.” In The Birth of a Queen: Essays on the Quincentenary of Mary I, ed. Sarah Duncan and Valerie Schutte, 179–193. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Martyn, William. 1615. The Historie, and Liues, of the Kings of England. London. Milles, Thomas. 1610. “A Catalogue of the Kings of England.” In The Catalogue of Honor. London. Okerlund, Arene Naylor. 2009. Elizabeth of York. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Slatyer, William. 1621. The History of Great Britanie. London. Stow, John. 1580. The Chronicles of England. London. ———. 1604. A Summarie of the Chronicles of England. London. ———. 1618. The Abridgement of the English Chronicle. London. Talbot, Thomas. 1597. A Booke, Containing the True Portraiture of the Countenances and Attires of the Kings of England. London. Vergil, Polydore. 1555. Anglica Historia. Basel. Translated and edited by Dana F.  Sutton. The Philological Museum. Last modified May 25, 2010. http://


“My Absent Child”: Ageless and Missing Offspring in Early Modern Literature Sheila T. Cavanagh

After Antigonus’s infamous pursuit by a bear in The Winter’s Tale, the abandoned infant Perdita is soon discovered. Finding the baby is unexpected and leads to predictable astonishment. The amazed shepherd who happens upon the baby then introduces some intriguing speculation, trying to determine whether the lost infant is a “boy or a child, I wonder?” (Winter’s Tale, III.iii). This statement, which seems to differentiate between the categories (or species) appropriate for offspring, depending on whether or not they are male, introduces the concept underlying this essay; namely, that “childhood” in early modern literature is frequently conceived according to a structuralist model that consistently prioritizes qualities important to inheritance over other characteristics. While emotional interactions and other facets of human life play roles in the relationships presented, patrilineal considerations commonly dominate. Whether an infant is a “boy or a child” matters profoundly in this environment where individual behaviors are generally subservient to structural expectations. As John Boswell notes, there is a lengthy history of girls not “counting” as children in ancient and medieval eras (34, n82). From this S. T. Cavanagh (*) Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




perspective, the life experience of any child matters far less than that ­individual’s lineal or economic status. Childhood, therefore, is often not a period that receives significant or nuanced literary time or attention. In The Winter’s Tale, the shepherd immediately decides that the foundling is “pretty,” after trying to determine whether it is a “boy or a child.” In the childhood generally imagined in these texts, however, “pretty” proves to be a less durable characteristic than where one falls within the genealogical structures built and supported throughout this period. Remarkably, age is also not a predominant marker of childhood. The term “child” frequently denotes a parental relationship rather than a distinct segment of an individual’s life. As Boswell details, “‘Child’ is itself not an uncomplicated term” (26): Two sets of problems overlap: the semantic variability of terms for children and childhood, and historical changes in social structures and expectations regarding both. Each deserves a separate study, although they cannot be treated adequately in isolation. They are often inseparable. Terms for “child,” “boy,” and “girl,” for example are regularly employed to mean “slave” or “servant” in Greek, Latin, Arabic, Syriac, and many Medieval languages. This is both a philological subtlety and a social one. (27)

Boswell’s historical study of abandoned children makes it clear that the category of “child” has a long and fraught history that reflects upon the shepherd’s question about Perdita’s status. Emphasis upon children’s “place” rather than their age or experience directly contributes to the circumstances that lead a significant number of fictive children to spend their formative years outside of typical family structures. Since their daily lives do not really “matter” in the larger situations under consideration, the children and their quotidial experiences largely recede from view. Accordingly, as Barbara L. Estrin details, there is a well-noted preponderance of foundlings in this literature. This group spends their youth in some kind of alien environment, commonly with no knowledge of their true identity. Typically, they remain absent until they are ready for marriage. These young people, who often later discover their (typically highly placed) parents, generally fit within the distinctive configuration Estrin describes: The lost-child plot begins with an exposed aristocrat who is saved by peasants, raised in primitive surroundings, discovered through a talisman or birthmark, and returned (usually at the moment he is about to marry) to his



biological parents. He thereby restores a royal dynasty severed by his absence. The stories of most lost children follow the rituals closely in every detail. (Estrin 1985, 13)

Within this structural formation, emotional ties typically pale in importance next to the centrality of lineal needs and competitions, despite some key expressions of familial affection, such as those Leontes discusses with Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale: LEONTES: My brother, Are you so fond of your young prince as we do seem to be of ours? POLIXENES: If at home, sir, He’s all my exercise, my mirth, my matter, now my sworn friend and then mine enemy, my parasite, my soldier, statesman, all: He makes a July’s day short as December, and with his varying childness cures in me thoughts that would thick my blood. (I.ii)

These detailed remarks about paternal love and attention could suggest narrative attention to the lives of children, but they shortly precede one father’s rage that will lead to the end of his son Mamillius’s life. Florizel, the other youngster referenced, here labeled as his father’s “sworn friend,” has retreated from his family a few years later by the time he falls in love with Perdita (Winter’s Tale, IV). In a similar instance, Lady Macduff engages in affectionate banter with her young son shortly before the entire household is slaughtered: “Poor prattler, how thou talk’st!” (Macbeth, IV. ii). In each case, familial joy soon dissipates and the narrative reverts to the more familiar pattern Estrin locates across early modern literature. The stories of Mamillius and Perdita—The Winter’s Tale siblings who experience quite different life trajectories—represent the divergent paths that children in these tales can follow, while simultaneously indicating the overwhelming significance of lineage over childhood. As Estrin comments: The foundling theme is a mini-genre; its variations provide the same insights into a work as variations in comedy, tragedy, or pastoral convey. Moreover, it is a mini-genre connected to the maxi-genres. Its formulaic closure may involve the comedy of As You Like It or the romance of Pericles: its failure to be completed becomes one way of defining, for example, Lear’s tragedy. (Estrin 1985, 17)

Mamillius, heir to his father’s throne, reflects the tragedy inculcated by this drama’s scenes of disruption. Clearly a beloved member of his household,



not simply due to his eventual inheritance, Mamillius’s death shatters his father’s patrilineal aspirations and marks an end to the lively domestic setting that preceded Leontes’s jealous outrage. That loss can never be repaired. While Perdita’s eventual return brings a new hope for a brighter domestic future, her absence during childhood makes it clear that her ability to redeem this family’s fortunes emanates not from parental participation in her childhood, but rather in the kingdom’s ability to keep its genealogical imperatives on track. The royal family can never reclaim its place as a source of domestic harmony, at least during this generation, but Perdita’s rediscovery fulfills a more important function within this narratorial configuration, just as it expands the generic scope of this complicated play. Frequently, the simple existence of a child, even when that child is “lost,” holds more narrative weight than the actual presence of that child in the text. In fact, the narrative functions fulfilled by children often correspond with details supplied through the familiar schematic known as the “family tree,” that genealogical tool which attempts to map familial relationships between those linked by blood ties. Like these children, who have real or fictive lives that do not figure prominently in these texts, notations on genealogical charts generally denote existence and familial placement, but no more. Depending on the goal of individual “trees,” these diagrams extend over multiple generations, branching out as far as possible within the constraints offered by space and available information. Those relevant to the early modern period obviously predate the expanded information made available through DNA testing and other modern scientific investigative tools. Depending on their societal or other function, they may or may not include children born outside of legal marriage or others violating particular notions of propriety. They also may or may not represent reality, as François Weil remarks, although any purported relationship to “truth” may not be of paramount importance: Whether authentic or fictional, origins mattered. Time and antiquity strengthened contemporary pretensions and ambitions. Thus many royal and princely courts throughout Europe claimed Trojan origins…Genealogy provided legitimacy to kings and princes, higher and lesser nobles. The recording of a pedigree was a political act and a testimony to the genealogist’s obedient creativity. (Weil, 11)

Like the clearly fictive narratives they resemble, family genealogies fulfill a number of complicated societal functions for those families prosperous or



significant enough to warrant such attention. Commonly used by historians, independent genealogists, religious investigators, theatrical dramaturgs, educators, and others, these schematics endeavor to place order upon unwieldy sets of interrelated individuals, establish lines of inheritance, differentiate between relatives sharing similar or identical names, and otherwise provide some semblance of cohesion upon potentially endless series of complex and ambiguous relationships. While the stories leading to these individuals’ inclusion in (or absence from) a particular chart may be striking, such relevant details are not recorded in this format. Instead, many family trees endeavor to place a useful, somewhat manicured and sanitized, order upon the often messy tales characterizing family histories. As Weil notes, “The rise of critical genealogy was no guarantee of authenticity. The late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are famous for the fabrications produced by officers of arms and genealogists throughout Europe” (14). Surprisingly, however, the equally complicated history behind the development of such genealogical charts has not been as widely discussed by professional historians as one might expect. Weil comments that when he recognized this historiographical lacuna, he determined to create his own historical account of genealogy in America, which also contains information about similar endeavors in early modern Europe: “When I discovered, much to my surprise, that few historians had paid attention to genealogy, I decided to write this book [Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America]” (286). While the fascinating history of genealogical creation is only occasionally relevant to this current discussion, the endeavors of Weil and others make it clear that the structure and history of genealogies offer substantial insight into the ways that childhood is constructed, valued, and contorted in the literature of the early modern period. Although genealogical schematics are widely familiar, their metaphoric significance within early modern literature’s conceptualization of the ­representation of childhood and their intersection with structuralist literary analysis may not be as immediately apparent. The shepherd’s strikingly structuralist question asking whether Perdita is a “boy or a child” helps illuminate this correspondence, however. Like genealogical charts, structuralism largely focuses on relationships, as Terence Hawkes suggests: This new concept, that the world is made up of relationships rather than things, constitutes the first principle of that way of thinking which can properly be called ‘structuralist.’ At its simplest, it claims that the nature of every



element in any given situation has no significance by itself, and in fact is determined by its relationship to all other elements involved in that situation. In short, the full significance of any entity or experience cannot be perceived unless and until it is integrated into the structure of which it forms a part. (7)

A conventional structuralist formulation suggests that a “cat” can linguistically be identified as such because it is not a “bat.” This kind of differentiation may help explain why the shepherd who stumbles upon Perdita wonders initially if she is a “boy or a child.” Only after this speculation do his questions turn to broader concerns about her heritage. When he first discovers her, the shepherd is convinced that the infant was abandoned due to illicit sexual hijinks: “though I am not bookish, yet I can read waiting-gentlewoman in the ‘scape. This has been some stairwork, some trunk-work, some behind-door-work: they were warmer that got this than the poor thing is here” (III.iii). Obviously, in this case, the shepherd is mistaken. The discovery of the gold accompanying the baby (III.iii) undoubtedly offers the most immediate significance in this particular instance, but determining the infant’s true status require the shepherd and audience members to find a place for Perdita in recognizable social schemas. The abundance of “lost” children presented in early modern literature means that such questions arise frequently, although the number of these fictive children resulting from hidden royal parentage implausibly exceeds the number likely to be conceived through “some behind-door-­work” in more realistic environments. Noble lost children are the norm, however, in works by Shakespeare, Spenser, Wroth, and others who wrote in popular literary genres during the early modern period. From Wroth’s Urania to Spenser’s Amoret and Belphoebe to the loquacious, doomed orphans found in the sixteenth century ballad “Babes in the Wood,” (Hahn, 45) Perdita has many imaginative siblings in this context. Numerous writers provide an abundance of children who have been separated from their natural parents, by accident or design. Perdita’s fate, therefore, matches an extremely conventional pattern in these narratives. The kinds of concerns associated with the growth of genealogy during the early modern period often correlate with the range of issues leading to the proliferation of lost children in literature from this era. Notably, as Weil suggests, these children often appear in texts penned by the same



authors who displayed interest in their society’s increasing levels of genealogical mapping: During the first half of the seventeenth century, the combination of antiquarianism, the visitations the heralds were instructed to conduct on a regular basis to certify or disprove the pedigree rolls of the gentry, and the need to establish land titles sparked a remarkable proliferation of gentleman genealogists and antiquaries in England. The gentry needed pedigrees to confirm their claim, and the visiting herald empowered local deputies to paint arms, thus helping spread heraldry and genealogy outside the College of arms into English culture, from Ben Johnson (sic) and William Shakespeare to Andrew Marvell. (14)

As Boswell indicates, real and fictive child abandonment has a lengthy history, so the seemingly high number of early modern narratives on this topic should come as no surprise: “Abandonment by free parents is very common in classical literature” (39). Boswell’s study suggests, in fact, that “Children were abandoned throughout Europe from Hellenistic antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages in great numbers by parents of every social standing, in a great variety of circumstances” (428). Shulamith Shahar makes a similar argument, indicating that while social standing correlates with differences in birthrates, abandonment among all groups was still common throughout the Middle Ages in Europe (121). The preponderance of lost children, whether fictive or real, partially explains the Shepherd’s exposition during his discovery of the young abandoned Princess: I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting—Hark you now! Would any but these boiled brains of nineteen and two-andtwenty hunt in this weather? (Winter’s Tale III.iii)

As he notes, what we now call adolescence or young adulthood can become a period ripe for disreputable activity. This age span, particularly in the early modern world, often does not facilitate “productive” activities as readily as it encourages less desirable pursuits. In eras with limited possibilities for wide-ranging educational or entrepreneurial opportunities, the ages between sexual maturation and the time when marriage is financially feasible raise multiple issues. The number of “foundlings” or displaced



offspring existing in early modern literature correlates with the preponderance of children needing productive opportunities during the time when they cannot afford families and lack the skills, age, or status necessary to participate actively in the limited professional or personal pathways awaiting them upon maturity. Sending these children away, whether accidentally or by design, provides a potentially fortuitous remedy to a vexing issue. As Estrin suggests, moreover, such solutions can be supportive of broader communal goals as well as provide relief to the problems facing individual families: Because each creates a system dependent on a hierarchical gender structure and an essentialist mandate of bloodline dynastic supremacy, the Petrarchan and foundling plots respectively contribute to the cultural milieu that fed into the early modern rise of the nation-state. (Estrin 2012, 7)

At the same time, as Boswell notes, the rising importance of genealogy made such plots (and realities) more complicated: “the increasing social significance of lineage and birth in the Middle Ages gradually rendered adoption an inherently troubling and risky concept” (431). Nevertheless, the social situations that led to child abandonment did not disappear. Instead, Boswell argues, “there was a general pretense that all children were born into their families” (431). The circumstances necessitating alternate childrearing arrangements did not change, therefore, but the narratives constructed to explain them shifted in accordance with evolving societal needs. As Smith notes, “in legends about Christian parents who take in a foundling, they conceal the fact that the child is adopted and pretend that it is their own child, as in reality did those who purchased a child as a means of qualifying for a legacy” (124). Throughout this era prior to genetic testing, alternative narratives could support desired familial outcomes. Medical studies from the early twentieth century may also help illuminate part of the reason that children were often separated from their parents in literature from the early modern period. P. Lecomte du Noüy’s work on “Biological Time,” for instance, explores the premise that people from discrete generations age at different rates. In the introduction to Lecomte du Noüy’s volume, Alexis Carrel of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, makes the following claim: “When compared with physiological time, physical time loses it uniform value. Parents and children live in different temporal worlds. They are separated by a gap that



often is too large to be bridged, even by illusions” (viii). The Winter’s Tale shepherd’s comments may correlate with a similar early modern notion that disparate age groups live according to distinctive temporal circumstances. The concept that adults and children experience time differently could correspond to the radically diverse environments audiences encounter in the two major segments of The Winter’s Tale. Although Perdita does not appear to display the behavior expected from those of her age in the shepherd’s formulation, the realm she oversees contrasts sharply with that created by her irate father in the scenes leading up to her departure from the kingdom. In Shakespeare’s play, the Oracle determines that Perdita needs to be found in order for order to be restored: “the king shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found” (Winter’s Tale III.ii). Estrin takes this formulation a step further, proclaiming “The mere naming of genealogies establishes a sense of well-being; knowing a background is equivalent to having a future” (Estrin 1985, 14). Whether finding a lost child resuscitates familial balance, overcomes disparities between generational experiences of biological time, or provides a renewed hope in the future, locating the children who are lost and still alive plays a vital role in the development of these narratives. At the same time, this preponderance of literary “lost” children underscores the importance of parents being able to identify their offspring, whether or not they have experienced significant separations. Determining parenthood is required in order for genealogical identifications to be made accurately. The instability of paternity in particular emerges regularly in these texts, however. As Prospero’s response to Miranda’s query about her background suggests, ultimate determination of fatherhood often depends upon everyone’s belief that a particular mother is “extremely virtuous” (Tempest I.ii). The range of difficulties attendant upon determining the validity of such an important relationship without definitive evidence emerges frequently. In Lady Mary Wroth’s wickedly humorous Urania, for example, one father, the Knight Polarchos, is reduced to asking rather pathetically, “how com you to bee my son?” (2.289). Childhood, therefore, is challenged by a wide range of impediments that thwart those wishing for more conventional relationships between parents and their offspring. Oswald Barron, FSA, Honorable Genealogist to Standing Council of the Honourable Society of the Barnetage and author of the iconic eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s section on genealogy, offers a number of important guides to the ways that genealogical markers developed during this period. The inevitable measure of indeterminacy included in genealogi-



cal explorations is acknowledged, whether such ambiguities arise from parental ignorance or genealogical chicanery. Barron notes, for example, “The interpretation of ethnological or statistical genealogies may easily be pushed too far. Every case has to be judged upon its own merits, and due allowance must be made both for the ambition of the weaker to claim or to strengthen an alliance with the stronger, and for the not unnatural desire of clans or individuals to magnify the greatness of their ancestry” (573–574). Barron also recognizes the realistic corollaries to this literature’s genealogical concerns: “Two forces have combined to give genealogy its importance during the period of modern history: the laws of inheritance, particularly those which govern the descent of real estate, and the desire to assert the privileges of a hereditary aristocracy” (575). Not surprisingly, however, such genealogical imperatives quickly impaired these documents as soon as they started to be created. Whether or not mothers could be counted “extremely virtuous,” genealogists remained suspect, as Barron confirms: “From the first the genealogist in England had that taint of inaccuracy tempered with forgery from which it has not yet been cleansed. The medieval kings, like the Welsh gentry of later ages, traced their lines to the household of Eden garden, while lesser men, even as early as the 14th century, eagerly asserted their descent from a companion of the Conquerer” (576). The forces generating genealogical interest clearly also undermined its integrity. The questions raised by the expansion of genealogical studies emerging in the early modern period correspond with the issues and queries associated with the significant, but often ambiguous, status of offspring in much of this literature. These characters are frequently most valued—or feared— for the places they hold within their families’ current genealogical tables. As Estrin notes, during this time: “Every child becomes a piece of property, a way of holding the already acquired—and extending the still coveted—family realm” (Estrin 1985, 19). While such characters are poised in the liminal period between birth and adulthood, their fates are less prominent, however, at least within broad boundaries. They only truly gain importance again when they become able to assume their significant functions within their familial structures. Moreover, like the boys in the Tower in Richard III learn, childhood is a prime time when future inheritances can be diverted (IV.iii), although shady genealogists could be as helpful as murderers in such regards: By the twelfth century the growth of an ideology of lineage induced lesser nobles to set down their pedigrees in order to lay claim to land and establish political authority. At first, medieval genealogists were monks working in



monasteries to compose the charters that established their aristocratic benefactors’ right to land; later the high nobility used the services of secular clergy to produce the pedigrees they needed. (Weil, 11)

In Shakespeare, this kind of genealogical machination appears in dealings with adults, as the opening scenes of Henry V indicate, but they also play prominent roles in cases where age is irrelevant to the status of “children.” Lear, for instance, disowns his “thankless child” (I.iv) even though Cordelia and her sisters have all reached ages where matrimony is expected. Modern literary criticism also illuminates the construction of childhood through genealogy during this time. Correspondences between structuralist principles and genealogical tables reflect the significance of familial positions and expectations within the early modern romance version of what Vladimir Propp famously termed the “Morphology of the Folktale.” Propp’s schematization of common narrative tropes within one category of literature has remained prominent in modern histories of narratology and offers insights into the ongoing significance of genealogical tables in early modern literature. In Propp’s chapter on “The Distribution of Functions Among Dramatis Personae,” for instance, he discusses the ways that “many functions logically join together into certain spheres” (79). He then details some of these “spheres,” including several with direct correlations to the early modern representations currently under discussion, including for example, the “princess” and her “father”: The sphere or action of a princess (a sought for person) and of her father. Constituents: the assignment of difficult tasks (M); branding (J): exposure (Ex): recognition (Q); punishment of a second villain (U); marriage (W). The princess and her father cannot be exactly delineated from each other according to functions. Most often it is the father who assigns difficult tasks due to hostile feeling toward the suitor. (79–80)

These “spheres” look familiar to audiences of plays such as The Tempest where Miranda discovers her hidden societal role shortly before her new beloved is forced into labor by a father who is anxious to preserve her “virgin knot” (Tempest IV.i). While Shakespeare, Spenser, Wroth and others do not follow such narrative schematics without differentiation, they often incorporate characters and situations reminiscent of those appearing in Propp’s folktales into their literary creations. The generic category of romance, in particular, relies upon these kinds of iconic stories and relationships in order to build narratives that are simultaneously familiar



and original. As Propp notes, however, “The study of characters according to their functions, their distribution into categories, and their forms of appearance inevitably leads us to the problem of tale characters in general” (87). In particular, Propp here refers to “The nomenclature and attributes of characters [which are] variable quantities of the tale. By attributes we mean the totality of all the external qualities of the characters: their age, sex, status, external appearance, peculiarities of this appearance, and so forth. These attributes provide the tale with its brilliance, charm, and beauty” (87). Propp’s qualifications here conform with qualities found within many early modern romances that readers still find compelling. Although there are common characteristics, such as lost children and jealous fathers, in many of these texts, their structural elements do not diminish their narrative interest. Instead, these structures can enhance literary exegesis when they are recognized and analyzed appropriately. From Propp’s perspective: “Analysis is possible. The constancy of functions endures, permitting us to also introduce into our system those elements which become grouped around the functions. How does one create this system? The best method is to make up tables” (88). In the current context, such tables help organize the characters according to their congruent functions in different narrative contexts, as Propp indicates: “If a character is defined from the viewpoint of his functions, for example, as a donor, helper, etc., and the heading in the table includes everything mentioned about him, then an exceedingly interesting picture is obtained” (88). Although personages in well crafted tales cannot be reduced solely to their “functions,” these kind of structural interrogations can illuminate narrative qualities that might otherwise retreat from view. Structural analysis can be perceived as dry and reductive, but the organizational principles devoted to mapping recurrent tropes and characters can also fruitfully be combined with the richer narratorial details that enliven these early modern poems, plays, and works of prose fiction. The stories may follow familiar structural patterns, but they are not identical. Similar to family trees, lost child stories may look alike when placed into charts, but the tales they emit far surpass such structural similarities. Like the genealogical tables they resemble, however, this brand of fiction focuses attention on aspects of these texts’ representation of characters that emphasize common conceptualizations of childhood during this era. Both Propp’s “morphology,” and Barron’s discussion of genealogy in the 11th Britannica reinforce the importance of schematic description and



analysis as key components in interpreting families in history, culture, and literature. Weil’s exposition about the rise of genealogical exploration during this period demonstrates the ways that these kinds of schematic accounts of family history were gaining prominence in fiction and reality, regardless if they were created from factual or manufactured materials: “Whether authentic or fictional, origins mattered. Time and antiquity strengthened contemporary pretensions and ambitions. Thus many royal and princely courts throughout Europe claimed Trojan origins … Genealogy provided legitimacy to kings and princes, higher and lesser nobles. The recording of a pedigree was a political act and a testimony to the genealogist’s obedient creativity” (Weil, 11). Genealogical stakes were high during this period, where financial and political capitol was linked to patrilineal claims that were often in fierce competition with each other. In such a world, children could provide a tangible route to secure long-lasting status and power. Such an outcome required the children to reach maturity and to produce their own offspring, however. As Camillo suggests at the start of the Winter’s Tale, the court’s fondness for the boy Mamillius does not override their desire for him to reach adulthood: “they that went on crutches ere he was born desire yet they live to see him a man” (Winter’s Tale I.i). Similar desires fueled the increase in genealogical tables created during this era. As Barron notes “Genealogies in great plenty are found in manuscripts and printed volumes from the 16th century onward” (576). These documents helped cement the ability of these relationships to determine significant transfers of property and influence. The existence of children supplied a potential avenue for continuity, but smooth transitions required that such descendants survive until a succeeding generation has been established and accepted as legitimate. Determining whether an unexpected infant is a “boy or a child” is just the first step in this process. Any given child’s significance is also linked to his or her placement in the structures society deems to be important. As the prominence of genealogies in Spenser’s Faerie Queene suggests, an individual’s placement in the patrilineal hierarchies of the early modern period was supremely significant. Neither age nor experience could displace the importance of where one was listed in the genealogical charts delineating one’s family structure. As David Cressey suggests, “A dense and extended kindred was a store of wealth, like a reserve account to be drawn upon as need arose” (69). Genealogies, no matter how fictively constructed, provided “proof” that could create dynasties, if the children included could survive long enough.



Bibliography Barron, Oswald. 1911. “Genealogy.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 575–577. Boswell, John. 1988. The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance. New  York: Pantheon Books. Cressey, David. 1986. “Kinship and Kin Interaction in Early Modern England.” Past and Present 113: 38–69. Estrin, Barbara L. 1985. The Raven and the Lark: Lost Children of the English Renaissance. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press. ———. 2012. Shakespeare and Contemporary Fiction: Theorizing Foundling and Lyric Plots. Newark: University of Delaware Press. Hahn, Daniel. 2017. Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hawkes, Terence. 2003. Structuralism and Semiotics. New York: Methuen. Lecomte du Noüy, P. 1937. Biological Time. New York: Macmillan. Propp, V. 1968. Morphology of the Folktale. Bloomington: Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore and Linguistics. Shahar, Shulamith. 1990. Childhood in the Middle Ages. New York: Routledge. Shakespeare, William. 1997. The Norton Shakespeare. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E.  Howard, and Katharine Eisaman Maus. New York: W. W. Norton. Spenser, Edmund. 1979. The Faerie Queene. Edited by Thomas P.  Roche. New York: Penguin. Weil, François. 2013. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wroth, Lady Mary. 1995. The First Part of the Countess of Montgomery’s Urania. Edited by Josephine A. Roberts. Binghampton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. Wroth, Mary, and Josephine A. Roberts; Completed by Suzanne Gossett and Janel Mueller. 1999. The Second Part of the Countess of Montgomery’s Urania. Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies. Vol. 211, Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.


Literary Legacies: Children’s Reading and Writing in the Montagu Archive Patricia Phillippy

A Book of Gold On her death in 1618, Elizabeth Harington Montagu, bequeathed “to my sonne Sir Henry Capell the Book of goulde which I [meante] to my daughter his wife, prayinge him to bestowe it uppon his daughter Besse”1 Lady Montagu’s gift was a deeply personal artifact: a book of devotions mounted in gold which she wore on a gold chain from her girdle. The book had been intended for her youngest daughter, Theodosia, but it passed instead to Lady Montagu’s namesake after Theodosia’s death at the age of 37. Bess was six years old when her mother died, and no more than ten when she received her grandmother’s girdle book. The token thus memorialized Bess’s mother and grandmother in a textual artifact that conveyed personal, literary, and religious legacies across generations of Montagu women.


 TNA PROB 11/131/760, fol. 426r; hereafter cited parenthetically by folio.

P. Phillippy (*) Kingston University London, London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




This book is one of many that passed from Elizabeth Montagu’s hands to those of her descendants, volumes inflected by the same complex blend of personal, commemorative, sacred, and secular discourses. Elizabeth Harington was the daughter of James Harington of Exton and Lucy Sidney, and the Montagus were actively engaged in the exchange of manuscripts with these literary families (Lamb, 194–226; Hughey 1934/5, 1960; Woodhuysen, 356–65). These exchanges were one means by which closely imbricated social and religious identities were forged: their purpose, in part, was pedagogical. While the Montagu manuscripts are invaluable sources of literary works by Sidney, Wyatt, Surrey, and others, they also form part of a body of texts and practices through which the moderate Puritanism embraced by the family passed from parents to children (Cope; Lake; Lake and Stephens). As Ann Montagu puts it, “My deare children, religion in all ages hath been ever helde to be the trewest honour. O how much more honour will it bee to you, my deare[s], if you will give god your hart now in your youth.”2 This chapter explores the reading and writing of three generations of Montagu children who were molded by the Puritan pedagogy of their parents. Studying manuscripts and material legacies created for and by these children, I explore the use to which texts and artifacts were put to induct children into a common devotional and dynastic culture. Collectively, the Montagus exploit material legacies, including manuscripts, to convey ancestral beliefs and values to posterity. In this chapter, I focus on the literate practices of Montagu women—Elizabeth Harington Montagu, her daughter-in-law Ann Montagu, and her grand-nieces, Ellina and Frances Harington—to argue that the pedagogical potential of material forms, including the material practices of reading and writing, illuminate distinctly gendered approaches to literary cultures and childhoods. I begin  by reading two letters by Elizabeth Harington Montagu’s adult son, Edward, in which nostalgia for maternal instruction leads him to associate this teaching with the maternal body. This “embodied” pedagogy (Hodgson, 176) unfolds in a number of maternal surrogates that convey Lady Montagu’s memory and meanings to her descendants. Next, I explore two manuscripts created for Edward Montagu’s children, one offering “directions” from a father to his son and heir, and the other a mother’s “guide and rule.” While Edward Montagu trains his son in Christian magistracy, Ann Montagu embodies in the material text 2

 NRO Montagu MS 3, 235, hereafter cited parenthetically by page number.



the Puritan practices of study and self-study that her work intends to teach. Finally, I uncover the gendered traces of children’s reading and writing in three manuscripts that circulated among members of the Montagu-­Sidney-­Harington circle. Setting the literate practices of Sir John Harington’s two daughters within the legacy of embodiment that attends maternal teaching, I work to uncover the occluded contributions of women’s reading, writing, and self-writing to the creation and maintenance of the Montagu society of saints.

Fromenty and Cheesecakes On July 11, 1616, in Edward Montagu’s fifty-fourth year, his second wife gave birth to a son and heir who shared his father’s name: as Montagu would write later, “My Sonne, God of his grace gave me you in myne old age when others thought to have possessed myne estate.”3 Several weeks after the birth, Montagu composed a letter to his brother James that is framed by his perceptions of paternal duty, and his recollection of the extraordinary domestic skill and nurture provided by his own mother. He baptized his son on July 25, Montagu states, “[choosing] that day rather than the Sabbath” to accommodate the imminent arrival of King James’s summer progress. “I had above half an hour’s speech with [the king], hand to hand,” Montagu reports, “wherein he entered into discourse of my mother and all us brethren too long to write of.” When James “wondered at … my mother’s working, being stone blind,” Montagu presented him with “a fine handkerchief of my mother’s hemming,” a token that prompted the monarch to recall “another wonder I had told him of, that one nurse with one milk did suckle the six of us” (NRO Montagu MS 3, fols. 180v-1r).4 As James’s associative tale-telling suggests, the “wonder” of Elizabeth Montagu’s maternal care is intertwined with her wondrous skill at embroidery. While her sewing inexplicably defies the blindness that befell her in her old age, her extraordinary foresight in providing a single nurse for her six sons is a complementary virtue. Both establish Lady Montagu as an exemplum of maternal care; a “palimpsistic” figure, in Elizabeth Hodgson’s phrase (165), enabling us to glimpse the pattern of maternal teaching  NRO Montagu MS 186, article 13, fol. 1r, hereafter cited parenthetically by folio.  Six sons and three daughters of Elizabeth Montagu lived to adulthood; two children died young. See Cope. 3 4



through the maternal body. Although it was a commonplace in the period that children imbibed the mother tongue and nascent moral virtues with mother’s milk, Elizabeth Montagu’s exemplarity depends not on her body per se, but on her care to employ and retain one wet-nurse (despite the vagaries of early modern life and death), a provision that is seen as binding her sons to her and to each other throughout their lives (see Trubowitz, 34–65). While the duties of the father—to his male child, to his monarch, to church and country—seem to take precedence over those of the mother in Montagu’s letter, Elizabeth Montagu’s prophetic young motherhood and prodigious old age predicate and permeate the patriarchal relations imagined here. The letter juxtaposes alternative, gendered pedagogies. Paternal and maternal instruction both prepare (particularly male) children to take part in the politico-religious networks comprising the early modern state. They work, however, by different means. While Edward Montagu exploits public ceremonies, from baptism to the royal progress, to forge political ties for himself and his newborn, Elizabeth Montagu’s teaching is tied to her body and its surrogates. Her tutelage proceeds by and is preserved in material, embodied practices and domestic commodities. In an earlier letter to his mother, the thirty-eight-year-old Edward reverts to his childhood to describe a similarly gendered division of labor and instruction in the parental home. “I hope you will not be weary of my company in the country,” he writes in advance of the wedding of Lady Montagu’s youngest daughter, “for when my sister Theodosia is gone from you, you will not be well pleased unless you have some of your children with you.” He invokes the domestic pastimes of his youth as those he will pursue once again: I may at my father’s hands earn my victuals, for which I may keep him company at chess, and if need be I may take his part at double hand Irish, and if there be occasion of weightier matters, as punishing of rogues and such like, if it please him to employ me [it] may ease him. And to do you some service I may in the summer-time [gather aprico]ts and peaches or some like work … And if [none] of all these pains do deserve my meat and drink, yet truly they would be well bestowed of me … if I may have fromenty and cheesecakes. (NRO Montagu MS 3, fols. 73r-v)

The letter describes different gendered childhoods—not for girls as opposed to boys, but differently gendered experiences of boyhood. The



cerebral, authoritarian activities associated with Montagu’s father—games of chess and Irish switch, themselves rehearsals of the disciplinary rule of the household—contrast sharply with the fecund occupations and commodities related to his mother. Like the wet-nurse employed by Lady Montagu, frumenty and cheesecake are surrogates for the maternal body. They embody and prolong the nourishment of mother’s milk and the moral instruction conveyed with it.5 If Elizabeth Montagu’s maternal pedagogy is a matter of the body, hers is a profoundly social body; an acculturated feminine body whose practices and commodities perpetuate the dynastic and religious identities of her children and household. Her bequests at her death are themselves material surrogates for the lost maternal body. Texts in their own right, these tokens bear an intimacy to the body that conveys her presence to posterity. To her eldest son, Edward, she leaves “a great goulde ringe with a blonde stone in it desiring it to be as an heirloome to the house” (425r). The ring passed to Edward’s eldest son in 1644 (TNA PROB 11/196/404, fol. 367r). To each of her sons, “as a mothers remembrance,” Lady Montagu bequeaths “a guilte standinge cup … desiring that this posie maye be engraven about every of them, Lorde give mee of that water, that I never more thirst. John 4” (425r). When Sidney Montagu memorialized his three-year-old son, Henry, he remembered his mother’s gift and incorporated her “word” (425v) into her grandson’s monument (see Fig. 19.1). Like the book of gold given to the child Bess, these objects are devotional and dynastic scripts. The maternal body, its example, and its lessons live on in the tokens and texts that pass from mother to child.

Religious and Civill Carriage The younger Edward Montagu and his three siblings, the grandchildren of Elizabeth Harington Montagu, were the recipients of a surprising number of manuscripts and printed books during their childhood and young adulthood. Collectively, these works reflect the centrality of devotional study to “the maintenance of godly sociability” (Cambers, 815). Edward Montagu’s “Directions ffor his Sonne” offers fatherly advice toward crafting a Christian steward:

5  Frumenty is a dish of hulled wheat boiled in milk sweetened with sugar and cinnamon (OED).



Fig. 19.1  William Wright (attrib.), Monument for Henry Montagu (detail). Barnwell All Saints, Northamptonshire (1626). Author’s photograph You are discended of worthy auncestors. I accounted them allways my greatest Glory. So do you. And as you possesse their lands, so Imitate there vertues, and you shall be the crowne of them. (1r)

Montagu’s Puritanism permeates the guidance he offers his son, dramatically departing from the political self-interest conventional in the genre (Stone, 221–2). “Travayle not too much to be Rich,” he tells his son; “in your marriage, looke after goodnes Rather than goodes” (1v). “Lett Equity, the Rule of our Saviour Jeshus Christe (Matt. 7, 12) be your



Rule, knowing that with what measure soever you shall meete the same shall be measured to you agayne” (1r). The foremost authority in his son’s tutelage is Solomon: thus Montagu recommends the judicious treatment of tenants, quoting Ecclesiastes’ advice to “Shun altogether oppression: that maketh a wise man mad (Eccles. 7, 9)” (1r). Even at the age of four, the boy has been made familiar with Solomon’s teachings. “For your Religious and Civill carriage,” his father writes, “Study well Salomons workes wherein in your youth you have been well Instructed” (1v). Throughout his “Directions,” Montagu rests his advice on a combination of reading and practice, a conjunction of literary culture and paternal rule: “Read Cursorilye as many bookes as you will, but spend your Study uppon Few,” he advises, while urging his son to attend “the charge [laid] uppon you, [since] it was my Father’s to me” (1v). The Christian stewardship he imagines for his son would imitate his own example and those of his ancestors, guided by scriptural touchstones. When Puritan minister Joseph Bentham dedicates his Societie of the Saints to the younger Montagu and his three siblings a decade later, he likewise encourages the children “to imitate your virtuous Parents in their many pious and praise-worthy practices,” and to join practice with knowledge: “By studious reading of this Booke, thou maist know thy selfe, and understand of what company thou art” (sig. ¶4v). Seven years later, Ann Montagu addressed her manuscript, “Letters, Prayers, and Poems,” to the same four children, whom she had raised since her marriage to their father in 1625. Now entering young adulthood, the children were the recipients of a composite work that instructed them in the tenets of moderate Puritanism to build a society of saints in the family and to confirm their enrolment in the fellowship of the godly. Presenting the work as a mother’s legacy, Ann Montagu’s dedication calls upon the power of that genre to lend weight to maternal teaching, and privileges the intimate association between mother and children to support the lessons the book affords: My deare children I have often tymes had a desier in my harte and thoughts to write som what to you which might bee som guide or rule to walke in a holy and Christian lyfe as may bee pleasing to god and everlasting comfort to your owne soules. I heare dedicate these few words to you all as a testemony of my trew love and desier I have of your spirituall and eternall good and welfare. (235)



Adapting the example of the biblical father and son, David and Solomon, to her maternal guide, she urges her children: “O Let that exortation of david to his sonne sallomon bee ever in your minds. and thou sallomon my sonne know thou the god of thy father and serve him with a perfect hart and with a willing minde” (235). She ends her epistle with a mother’s blessing and prayer, signing it “your loveing mother/Ann Mountagu” (236). While the main portion of “Letters, Prayers, and Poems,” 160 quatrains of original verse, teaches her children “a direct way to leade your life” (235), the poem is accompanied by passages copied or adapted from printed works by Puritan writers. Her “Cattychisme,” for example, borrows verbatim Joseph Hall’s widely-used tool for teaching the basic tenets of Christian faith in both households and churches (McQuade; and Green).6 As Ann Montagu’s voice blends with those of her sources, the manuscript embodies and enacts the literate and meditative practices, the requirements to “reed” and “practis” (236), which create the godly self. The central idea of the work is summarized in the answer to the first question posed in Hall’s catechism (799): to the question, “How many things are required of a christian?” the answer is, simply, “too knowlidg and practis” (248). While “practis” is key to cementing the fellowship of the elect and confirming the predestined salvation of each member, “knowlidg” underscores the crucial role in self-examination of reading and hearing the word. Ransacking the scripture requires us, in turn, to ransack our souls. When Ann Montagu encourages her children to “pray, reade, lament thy sinnes” (247), the point is not to earn salvation, but to reach assurance of election and to recognize the company of the elect (see Lake, 151–68). It is, moreover, not only the individual worshipper who confirms her godliness in solitude: “masters of families” must “examine their people in their houses whether they can repeate the lords prayer or noe the creede and the ten commandements and in som measure understand and give a reason of them” (250). Ministers and masters—and mothers, Ann Montagu argues—lay the foundation of “knowlidg” from which “practis” proceeds. Like her mother-in-law’s book of gold, Ann Montagu’s “Letters, Prayers, and Poems” exploits literary culture as a mode of cross-­ generational communication, using the matter of the book to forge ties between generations and to transmit the author’s rule and presence to 6  Montagu adapts Hall; Attersoll, esp. 3:202–395; and Andrews. I am indebted to Paula McQuade for her identification of Hall as source.



posterity. Ann Montagu’s inscribed act of writing becomes a model for imitation by readers of her text. The adaptation of printed works to her instructional manuscript may be intended to lend authority to a woman’s work, but, more significantly, it also demonstrates the internalization of godly teaching that is her theme and purpose. This composite text calls itself to a stop repeatedly only to resume its meditation in a different genre or register. Her penultimate poem summarizes this formal strategy and encapsulates the fits and starts of Puritan meditation: I · see · the · best · the · more · accurst · To · like · the · best · and · doe · the · worst ·      … I · see · the · best · the · more · fault · mine · That · to · the · worst · doe · still · incline · (258, ll. 1–2, 11–12)

Reworking the same idea in six slightly different couplets, the speaker continually tries and fails to achieve a godly state—impossible without God’s saving grace—while the poem’s form embodies the same stalemate. The punctuation between each word imitates the halting, stilted movement of the speaker’s spiritual dilemma and forces the reader to experience the same impasse. Through deliberative, progressive acts of reading, writing, and re-writing, Ann Montagu—author, subject, and reader—embodies the fluid texture of godly teaching in her person and in her text. “Letters, Poems, and Prayers” is a palimpsest through which the exemplary maternal body teaches the Montagu children how to craft the godly self.

Adams Children At the heart of the “culture of Puritanism” uniting members of the Montagu circle are exchanges, shared reading, and shared writing of books (Durston and Eales; Cambers). Among these are works which, like Elizabeth Montagu’s book of gold, blend dynastic and devotional identities. Ann Montagu’s idea that “religion … hath been ever helde to be the trewest honour” informs the manuscripts that circulated between the Montagu, Sidney, and Harington households. The descent of these works through generations prompted both reading and writing; exercises that afforded practical instruction in literacy while promoting ancestral values and spiritual lessons. As literary legacies, manuscripts are material



s­ urrogates for the absent dead, and their pedagogical and memorial purposes are incarnated in their fabric. The vellum cover of the Bright manuscript, for example, is stamped with the arms of Charles Montagu, Elizabeth Montagu’s great-grandson, who joined this textual community more than a century after the miscellany was compiled.7 Marking the book as an heirloom of the house, Charles’s emblazoned arms assert inclusion and possession, while also reflecting “a desire to leave a record of the distinctly ephemeral act of reading” (D’Addario, 87). The Bright manuscript provides evidence of transformations of young readers into young writers as well. As Mary Ellen Lamb has argued, three holograph poems in the manuscript (12r-v), written and heavily revised by an inexpert italic hand, appear to be the work of a young woman; a new poet in the Sidney circle whose identity, Lamb concedes, is not likely to be recovered. There are suggestions, moreover, that this young woman’s act of composition may be, in part, a product of pedagogy: the first line of the first poem is probably a donnée, provided to the writer to begin an exercise in versification, while all three poems show corrections in a mature, probably male, secretary hand (Lamb, 194–226). The Bright manuscript is one of three extant manuscript copies of Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, all emanating from the Harington circle, and the text is generally thought to be the most accurate version of the twenty-­ six poems from the sequence that it contains (Ringler, 538–9). Yet, as Lamb has argued, the young female author adding her poems to those of her celebrated predecessor was “able to write according to the aesthetic of Sidney and Shakespeare, [but] actively discarded it for the aesthetic of Turberville and Googe” (206–7). The works of this young poet are didactic and morally instructive in sense and purpose. They reflect, I maintain, a pedagogical approach to literary legacies, one inflected by gender, surely; exercises that merge literate pleasures with the hard work of learning to read and write. In the Montagu archive, the manuscript page is a classroom, where children learn the material practices of writing, and encounters with the soul of the text occur by means of its body. The Hill Manuscript provides additional cases of the transformation of young readers into writers.8 On the second folio, the signature, 7  See BL Add MS 15232; hereafter cited parenthetically by folio. The arms date from 1710–1714, while the manuscript was compiled in the 1580s. See Woudhuysen, 362–3; and 406–8 for a detailed analysis of the manuscript. 8  BL Add MS 36529, hereafter cited parenthetically by folio.



“R  Montague”—Ralph, Elizabeth Montagu’s great-grandson, born in 1638—appears written vertically in the middle of the page in a childish hand. A primary source for the poetry of Wyatt and Surrey, the manuscript may have emerged from the household of Elizabeth Montagu’s brother James Harington of Ridlington: the dominant secretary hand in Hill “very closely resembles” that exhibited in a manuscript of metrical translations of the Psalms which bears the signature, “Iames Harington” on the fly-­ leaf.9 The Hill manuscript stands in a dependent relationship to the Arundel Harington manuscript, a 228-folio anthology of works by John Harington of Stepney, his son Sir John Harington (courtier-poet and translator of Ariosto), and illustrious members of their circles.10 If Ralph Montagu’s childish signature marks his passage as a reader and an accidental writer through the manuscript, two other signatures, “ffrancis Harryington” and “Ellina Harrington” (29v), belong to children whose literate skills were more honed and whose texts were more deliberate. Thirteen poems by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey are transcribed by Sir John Harington’s daughters Ellina and Frances, the grand-nieces of Elizabeth Montagu.11 An “inexperienced amanuensis,” as Hughey calls her, Ellina was given the task of copying Surrey’s metrical paraphrases of Ecclesiastes (58v–62v) from the script in the Arundel manuscript (Hughey 1960, 2: 113). “I Salamon Davids sonne,” Ellina writes, “Kinge of Ierusalem Chosen by god to teache the Iewes … /Confesse vnder the Sonne/that every thing is vayne” (Hill 58v). Solomon’s foundational role as a teacher once again places his texts at the center of Puritan pedagogy: copying Solomon’s words, Ellina learns that as “Adams Children [we] draw toward our decaye/Our Children fill our place awhyle/and then they fade awaye” (lines 5–8). The young writer scripting this memento mori is engaged “in a kind of exercise” in transcription, or perhaps in “a dictation exercise,” a spelling bee of words derived from the Word (Hughey 1934/5, 413, n3).12 Ellina’s corrections of the script indicate that she consulted the Arundel 9  OSU Spec Rare MS Eng. 19. Hughey (1960), 1: 41, n50, attributes the hand to James Harington of Ridlington (d. 1613) based on its “old-fashioned character.” 10  Duke of Norfolk, Arundel HrJ337; ed. Hughey (1960). Subsequent citations are to Hughey’s edition by folio. 11  Frances (b. 1584) and Ellina (or Helena) (b. 1591) were the daughters of Sir John Harington. 12  Hughey (1934/5) identifies Francis and Ellina as Sir John’s younger siblings, a view she corrects in Hughey (1960).



text—either while copying or after the dictation was finished—and changed the Hill text to conform to the source. The Hill manuscript thus represents, at least in part, a school copybook; one where the Harington children, through practice and knowledge, absorb the religious and cultural values of their elders as literary cultures, as they learn to read and write. Ellina’s reading and rewriting of Ecclesiastes was an engagement not only with Solomon but also with Surrey, a supporter of Protestantism who could be claimed as an early martyr for the true faith. Frances’s writing lesson in the Hill manuscript, accordingly, consists of Surrey’s four metrical paraphrases of and two verse prologues to the Psalms (62v–65v). It is possible that Elizabeth Montagu’s brother James, whose hand figures prominently in the manuscript, may have overseen Frances’s transcription. If so, the paraphrases allude not only to Surrey but also to the translations of the Psalms by James’s cousins, Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert.13 In the Hill transcription, the short sequence ends with Psalm 55, Surrey’s most profound expression of despair during his final imprisonment. Surrey’s internalization of David’s desolation is poignant and moving: Care pearceth my entrayles, and traveileth my spirit the greeslye feare of death, envyroneth my brest A tremblinge colde of dread, cleane overwhealm’the my hart O thinck I, had I winges lyke to the symple dove this perill might I flye, and seeke some place of rest. (65r, ll. 4–8)

Rough and unpolished, the poem leaves its last lines untranslated: “but in the other psalme of david fynd I ease/Iacta curam tuam super dum et ipse te enutriet” (65v, ll. 47–48). Frances’s youthful transcription suggests that she was not competent in Latin, and that she may not have understood the sense of the poem more broadly. Her tutor, perhaps James Harington, has corrected her many errors; a direct instructional intervention that was unnecessary in the case of Ellina’s transcription of Ecclesiastes. Hughey speculates that Frances was “given the exercise of copying this poem from an original in so rough a state that it was difficult to decipher” (2: 108). The obfuscation of form and content meant that the tutor’s instruction was essential to the success or failure of this pedagogical  Lucy Sidney, James Harington’s mother, was Philip and Mary Sidney’s aunt.




e­ xercise. Unable to cope with the linguistic aspects of the verse, it is easy to imagine that the child Frances could not have understood the depths of emotion in the piece. While Frances’s hand is absent from the Arundel manuscript, Ellina’s appears twice. On folio 16v, she scripts in secretary a sestet rehearsing the proverbial wisdom concerning a man’s choice of a wife: “The good and evill fortune of all a mans liff/Consistesth in Choise of his good or evill wif” (ll. 1–2). Several features of this otherwise mundane entry are worth noting. The poem is the first of a pair. It is immediately followed by a sestet that applies the observation to a woman’s choice of husband: “the good and bad hap that some women haue had/haue stand ^in the Choise of good housband or bad” (ll. 1–2). Ellina’s slip of the pen, writing “ba[d]” for “evill” in the first poem, seems slight. Yet it becomes meaningful in light of the second sestet, where husbands are consistently “bad”—that is, poor stewards—rather than “evill.” Not so much a slip of the pen as a change of mind occurs in the penultimate line of the second poem. The closing couplet reads: who lives with housband in anger and in awe in yokes not evin payred vneaselie do drawe. (ll. 5–6)

Ellina departs from the poem’s meter to make the change from “Iarrs” to “anger,” subtly shifting the responsibility for domestic strife from mutual disputes to an anger that resides solely in the wife. These two unassuming poems gain greater significance, and greater mystery, when Ellina crosses them out and rewrites them with minor changes on the next folio (17v). The most intriguing emendation occurs again in the closing couplet of the second poem: Who lives wth bad howsband in anger & awe in yokes not euen payred vneaselie do[th]e drawe. (ll. 5–6)

This elision of wifely fear of her husband again, and more forcefully, shifts responsibility from the threatening husband to the ill-tempered wife. These companion pieces that meditate on companionate coupling in both metrical and marital terms are unattributed: “Some one,” Hughey comments, “perhaps a Harington, has put into verse” this proverbial wisdom (2: 10). It is certainly possible that the first, cancelled drafts of these



poems represent Ellina’s initial attempt to copy a text given to her. Like the scriptures of Solomon assigned to the Harington daughters as writing exercises, advice on the choice of a wife was a staple of early modern paternal teaching. It thus seems appropriate that Ellina would practice her writing skills while imbibing this instructional commonplace; more so, given the addition of a second poem on a woman’s choice of a husband. Yet the subtle changes in the language of these revisions—indeed, the fact of their erasure and rewriting a page later—register Ellina’s active engagement with the gendering of the subject matter, whether as a resistant pupil or more likely, I argue, as a young woman and a young poet making her way through the tangled lines of wifely unease and uneven yokes; of marital innocence and blame, from jars, to fear, to anger. The Montagu archive offers tantalizing suggestions of women’s literate practices, and implies their teaching of sons and daughters. Three extant letters to Elizabeth Montagu from her sister Mabel Noel attest to the highly literate Sidney-Harington household in which this generation of Montagu women was raised (NRO Montagu MS B2; and NRO Montagu MS 191, loose sheets). Lady Montagu’s will, as well as her correspondence, suggests her care for and training of young women in her home, most prominently Paulina Pepys, her maidservant, witness to her will, and future wife of Lady Montagu’s youngest son, Sidney (426r-v). Ann Montagu’s “Catechisme” reminds us that mothers usually bore responsibility for children’s alphabetic literacy, as their sons and daughters learned the core beliefs of Protestantism along with their ABCs. Given the anonymity of many of the poems in the Hill, Bright, and Arundel manuscripts, however, we can only speculate as to women’s participation in the pedagogical project attending these works. Certainly the powerful model of the Sidney women as authors and patrons would have influenced their female kin; thus we may imagine that Elizabeth Harington, like her brother James, instructed her grand-nieces in the arts of reading and writing. Yet if the Montagu, Harington, and Sidney women contributed works to the miscellanies through which their offspring entered both spiritual and literary cultures, their authorship is remarkable in its absence. Seven of Mary Sidney Herbert’s translations of the Psalms were once copied on the now-missing folios 120–7 of the Arundel manuscript. While they must have been known to the Harington daughters, they passed from the immediate, familial to public readership, first in manuscript circulation and, in 1775, in print (Hughey 1960, 1: 25). An autograph letter from the Countess of Pembroke to her daughter-in-law Barbara was tipped into the



Bright manuscript in the nineteenth century, probably to argue that the volume originated at Wilton House, but the countess’s hand is otherwise not present (Ringler, 538–9). Yet the ghostly remainders of women’s passage through these texts—as well as their passage of them from sister to brother, mother to daughter, kin to kin—sometimes rise to the surface and take shape in the words they write. In these quite literal palimpsests, the figurative trace of maternal teaching lies behind the reader’s and writer’s involvement with the material practices of literacy. Recalling the imbrication of maternal teaching with the material body invites us to see an alternative literacy behind the advanced instruction of fathers and tutors; a literacy other than alphabetic, one that acknowledges the mind’s inevitable involvement with the body; the marriage of knowledge and practice. On the final page of the Hill manuscript, beneath an account of the “gilt words” spoken by Puritan Edward Dering on his deathbed, the words that end this book of gold come from Ellina. She signs her name in clear italics, not as the writer of this passage, but as a reader (82v); or rather, as both reader and writer, able to leave the material legacy of her transient passage through this scene to hear the last words of this lost saint. Reading—for Elizabeth Montagu, for Ann Montagu, and for Ellina and Frances Harington—joins disembodied knowledge with embodied practice; a potent coupling that joins body to soul, and pen to script. In this site rooted in matter, the godly comes to know herself. In this last gesture of fellowship, inclusion, and possession, Ellina witnesses her educated awareness of membership in the society of saints.

Bibliography Manuscripts BL Add MS 15232, “Poems by Sir Philip Sidney” (the Bright Manuscript). BL Add MS 36529, “Poems of Surrey, Wyatt and Others” (the Hill Manuscript). Duke of Norfolk, Arundel Castle MSS (Special Press), HrJ337, “Arundel Harrington MS. Temp. Eliz.” Northampton Record Office [NRO]. Montagu MS 3, fols. 73r–v. Edward Montague to Elizabeth Montagu, June 19, 1600. NRO Montagu MS 3, fols. 180r–181r, Edward Montagu to James Montagu, August 10, 1616. ———, pp. 235–259. Ann Montagu, “Letters, Prayers, and Poems,” 1637.



NRO Montagu MS 186, fols. 1r–1v, Edward Montagu’s “Directions ffor his Sonne,” January 12, 1621. NRO Montagu MS 191 (unbound), Lady Noel to Elizabeth Montagu, December 4, 1599. ———, Lady Noel to Elizabeth Montagu, n.d. NRO Montagu MS B2, fol. 37, Lady Noel to Elizabeth Montagu, October 23, 1599. Ohio State University [OSU]. Spec Rare MS Eng. 19, James Harington, “King David’s Psalms.” TNA PROB 11/131/760, Will of Elizabeth Harington Montagu, March 20, 1616. TNA PROB 11/196/404, Will of Edward Mountagu of Boughton, January 20, 1644.

Primary Works Andrewes, John. 1623. Andrewes Humble Petition Unto Almighty God, declaring His Repentance. London: John Wright. Attersoll, William. 1606. Badges of Christianity. London: W. Jaggard. Bentham, Joseph. 1630. Societie of the Saints. London: George Miller. Hall, Joseph. 1625. A Briefe Summe of the Principles of Religion. In Works, 799–800. London: Thomas Pavier, Miles Flesher, and John Haviland.

Secondary Works Cambers, Andrew. 2007. “Reading, the Godly, and Self-Writing, 1580–1720.” Journal of British Studies 46 (4, Oct.): 796–825. Cope, Esther S. 1981. The Life of a Public Man: Edward, First Baron Montagu of Boughton, 1562–1644. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. D’Addario, Christopher. 2012. “Echo Chambers and Paper Memorials: Mid- and Late-Seventeenth-Century Book-Bindings and the Practices of Early Modern Reading.” Textual Cultures 7 (2): 73–97. Durston, Christopher, and Jacqueline Eales, eds. 1996. The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560–1700. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Green, Ian. 1996. The Christian’s ABC: Catechisms and Catechizing in England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hodgson, Elizabeth M. 2011. “Alma Mater.” In Performing Pedagogy in Early Modern England: Gender, Instruction, and Performance, ed. Kathryn M. Moncrief and Kathryn McPherson, 159–176. Aldershot: Ashgate. Hughey, Ruth. June 1934–Mar 1935. “The Harington Manuscript at Arundel Castle and Related Documents.” Library 15 : 388–444.



———, ed. 1960. The Arundel Harington Manuscript of Tudor Poetry. 2 vols. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Lake, Peter. 1982. Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lake, Peter, and Isaac Stephens. 2015. Scandal and Religious Identity in Early Stuart England: A Northamptonshire Maid’s Tragedy. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. Lamb, Mary Ellen. 1990. Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. McQuade, Paula. 2008. Catechisms Written for Mothers, Schoolmistresses, and Children, 1575–1750. Aldershot: Ashgate. Ringler, William. 1962. Poems of Sir Philip Sidney. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Stone, Lawrence. 1958. “Lord Montague’s ‘Directions for His Son’.” Northamptonshire Past and Present 2 (5): 221–223. Trubowitz, Rachel. 2012. Nation and Nurture in Seventeenth-Century English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Woudhuysen, H.R. 1996. Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558–1640. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Coda: Fictionalizing Literary Cultures for Children


Coming of Age as a Viking: Historical Children’s Books and Gender Katherine Langrish

I first encountered Henry Treece’s1 books about the Vikings when I was ten, and they made an indelible impression on me. I loved historical fiction, but Treece stood out among many excellent contemporaries such as Rosemary Sutcliff and Geoffrey Trease for what seemed his stark, unflinching realism, and a readiness unusual in children’s fiction of the time to engage imaginatively with the violence of the past. He began his literary career as a poet, and a spare intense power infuses his writing for children. I still possess my childhood copies of his books, including Viking’s Dawn (1955) and its sequels The Road to Miklagard and Viking’s Sunset, along with Hounds of the King, set at the time of the Battle of Hastings. Reading Treece as a child in the 1960s, however, I had mentally to become a boy: it was so clearly boys he was talking to, and exhorting to imitate the heroism of their forebears. All important relationships are male: he ignores sexual maturity as any real part of “coming of age” and his  Henry Treece (1911–1966).


K. Langrish (*) Oxford, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




Viking novels exclude women to a degree remarkable from a man who read, loved and modelled his prose style on the Icelandic sagas, which are crowded with forceful women. Treece’s perhaps unconscious assumption appears to be that only schoolboys read his books—schoolboys he further assumes to have no interest at all in girls. Swords are only “good enough for boys and women,” says Cynwulf to Beornoth in Hounds of the King, preferring the axe (43). And “I would like to see the girl who could take the knocks we gave today!” says Beornoth to his friend Finn (54). The culture was gradually changing. Geoffrey Trease usually teamed his heroes with an adventurous girl, and Rosemary Sutcliff sometimes threw in a significant female character such as the fierce child Regina in “Dawn Wind” (Sutcliff)—but the default option for historical children’s fiction remained male and it sometimes seemed as if the most exciting thing that ever happened to a girl in all of history had been when Flora MacDonald rowed Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea to Skye. You couldn’t have adventures in a skirt. There are other forms of identity than gender, of course. British historical fiction has always been fascinated with the arrival on these shores of the early invaders, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans,2 who after initial conflict settle down and eventually become English. Once domesticated, they are seen as bringers of good things: civilization, laws, freedom of speech. Thus Treece explains to his readers that though the Vikings are “often described as bloodthirsty pirates … when they had settled in this country they became some of its most law-abiding inhabitants” (Treece 1967b, 7) and specifically claims them as our direct ancestors, who created a great sea tradition which we British have inherited from them, for the blood of Aun and Harald and Thorkell runs in our veins too. (Treece 1967b, 8)

This appeal to national identity was emotionally accessible to me: I could take pride in being British. Really though, at the age of ten I just accepted whatever I read. I was used to having to step sideways into the author’s line of sight and did not resent it, or not much; I simply sank into the story and became Harald Sigurdson, Treece’s young, handsome, golden-haired hero. Years later though, I would refigure this type of hero in my own fiction. 2

 Vide the stories in Rudyard Kipling’s love song to England, Puck of Pook’s Hill, 1906.



Like Treece, Kevin Crossley-Holland3 is a poet, and one of Britain’s most distinguished contemporary writers for children, winner of the Carnegie Medal (1985) and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (2001). His knowledge of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons is attested by his translations of Anglo-Saxon poetry as well as his retellings of Norse myths. His first story for children was published in 1966, the year of Treece’s death, but I did not discover his books for myself until I was grown up: in his two recent Viking novels, Bracelet of Bones (2011) and Scramasax (2012), I find echoes of Treece’s earlier work—striking similarities and equally striking differences. Both writers tell of youthful protagonists who set out across the sea and come of age through experiences of hardship, suffering and war: but where Treece’s heroes are boys, Crossley-Holland’s main character is a girl. Writing with the Second World War a recent memory, Treece’s Nordic warriors come of age by matching themselves to a strict heroic template. Crossley-Holland’s representation of Viking society is more fluid and complex, offering his heroine Solveig the freedom to explore beyond gender roles. Both writers offer recognisably “authentic” constructions of the Viking Age which engage imaginatively with its violence and hardship, but they are very different in affect. Between them lies a half-century of literary and cultural change. “I abhor violence and distrust victory,” Treece wrote. “I see war as something horrid and usually inglorious. When I use violence and victory and glory, they are often means to my end of illustrating that it doesn’t really work out” (Treece 1972, 13). Nevertheless he was conflicted. As an intelligence officer in Bomber Command he had witnessed the devastation war could bring, yet a decade later was still moved by the courage of the boys in their late teens and early twenties whom he had witnessed coming of age in the RAF: Britain seems to have a talent for breeding them—they stood among the arrow-hail at Agincourt, and on the sombre field of Culloden cheering their golden-haired Prince; they leapt into Spitfires and Hurricanes and soared off into the blue skies of summer. (Treece 1955, 130)

This deeply romantic picture of youthful heroism belies the gritty realism with which Treece claims to approach war. Much of his writing remains


 Kevin Crossley-Holland (1941–).



recognisably within what might be termed the G.A. Henty4 genre of patriotic adventure5: brave boys go to sea with heroes like Nelson or Drake and come of age through experiences of battle and conquest. For Henty the Empire loomed large, war was glorious and women were invisible: his titles were still in circulation when I was a child and I read many of them. Where Treece differs from Henty—apart from being an incomparably better writer—is that he takes violence seriously, transforming the genre into something more nuanced and much darker. For him, war is inevitable but wasteful, a terrible necessity to which the warrior sacrifices himself in a kind of murderous innocence. Viking’s Dawn, The Road to Miklagard and Viking’s Sunset follow the fortunes of young Harald Sigurdson whom we meet in the first book as a boy of perhaps fourteen, setting out with a band of Vikings in the ship Nameless to raid the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Their leader is the charismatic Thorkell Fairhair—almost a fantasy hero: Those who noted only the many glittering rings that circled his long slim fingers, the thick arm-bands that clasped his arms, the gold gorget at his throat, would have been deceived … This was no maid, this was Thorkell, call him by whatever name you cared or dared, but Thorkell. (Treece 1967b, 19)

Thorkell is the type of man Harald aspires to become: strong, flamboyant, dangerous, a warrior through and through. The voyage is a hard one. At one point, captives of an Irish pirate, young Harald and his friends are subjected to a brutal flogging. One Viking, huge Aun Doorback, yells defiance until “the man who whipped him staggered with exhaustion” and the dragon tattoo on his back has disappeared. In his own time Treece “was blamed for writing stories of ‘almost unmitigated savagery and brutality’” (Fisher et al., 78). This last touch now seems unsettlingly sadistic. Aged ten I was merely thrilled by the Vikings’ exhibition of courage and self-sacrifice; the most memorable image in the book is when at the expense of his life, this same Aun Doorback holds up the stonework of a collapsing arch so his comrades can escape. At the end Harald is washed ashore, sole survivor of the Nameless with nothing to show for his voyage. Here you might think Treece demonstrates the futility of the enterprise. 4 5

 G.A. Henty, 1832–1902.  Treece was “hailed as ‘a modern Henty’”: Fisher et al. 78.



Yet in the epilogue we are shown how Harald’s adventures have won him great respect. This teenager is now “a raw-boned young man … talking gravely and with quiet confidence. The old men nodded as he spoke.” Thorn, the old headman, reproves his daughter Asa for not offering Harald the first drink. “‘Give it to the viking, girl,’ he said testily. ‘Give it to Harald Sigurdson. He has been where none of us will ever go’” (174). The message is clear: those who stay behind are lesser men. In The Road to Miklagard Harald is “a tall, golden-haired boy” who embarks on a treasure-hunt to Ireland. Disasters ensue: the treasure is lost, the ship sunk off Gibraltar. Enslaved by a Moorish merchant, Harald earns his freedom and is improbably entrusted with the sole care of the merchant’s daughter Marriba on a voyage. But the wily Marriba has other plans. Still more improbably, this Muslim girl is secretly betrothed to the boy Emperor of Byzantium (“Miklagard” to the Norse), and having sworn to obey her lightest word, Harald is forced to take her there. Here he joins the famous Varangian Guard, rescues Marriba from the consequences of her folly, and departs for Norway with his Irish friend Grummoch. Arriving home Harald pours out “a stream of precious stones, of all colours and sizes” which he has cannily retained (221). The Road to Miklagard is the lightest and most optimistic of the trilogy, and the last page even hints at a domestic solution to Harald’s wanderings—though such is Treece’s lack of interest in romance, Harald marries Asa in between books. In Viking’s Sunset, Harald is a grown man with a family. When his village is attacked and his young sons injured by Haakon Red-eye’s crew of raiders, Harald and Grummoch go after them in the ship Long Snake, bent on revenge. On the way, Harald refuses to rescue a man Red-eye has thrown upon the rocks, but his cruelty is reproved by a visionary “Shield-­ maiden” who brings a message of doom in a voice “like the swishing that the gannet makes as he falls out of the cold sky” (24). Bad turns to worse. A storm wrecks Red-eye’s ship, robbing Harald of his revenge, and the Long Snake is driven on “to a land no man has ever spoken of before” (41), the coasts of Greenland and of North America or “Vinland.”6 Here they encounter the Innuit [sic] and the Native American Beothuk and sail far up the St Lawrence River to the Great Lakes, where Harald dies fighting the treacherous Beothuk cripple, Heome. The ending of Viking’s Sunset is unashamedly romantic as Harald’s last two companions lay his body in the longship and set it alight: 6

 Treece’s version of pre-Columbian North America is highly unreliable.



And then, still flaring like a great furnace, Long Snake slipped below the surface of the lake, just as the distant sun fell from sight below the hills. Thorgeif said softly to Grummoch, ‘I have sailed with Harald Sigurdson since he was a lad—by North Sea, White Sea and Middle Sea. But I never thought to see him sail away and leave me in a strange land, among foreign men.’ (175)

“The Germanic warrior was a member of a comitatus, a warrior-band. Life was a struggle against insuperable odds, against the inevitable doom decreed by a meaningless fate. The great love of heroic literature is that of man for man … the loyalty of warrior to warrior and of warrior to lord,” Kevin Crossley-Holland wrote in 1966, introducing his translation of the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon (12, 15). This poem was a touchstone for Treece. In Hounds of the King we meet Beornoth, a cheerful, tousled-­haired village lad whose life is changed when he joins the housecarles of Harold Godwinson’s comitatus, depicted by Treece as a fighting machine of exaggerated machismo. Close to the end of the story, as Harold’s housecarles make their last stand at the Battle of Hastings, they spontaneously chant lines from The Battle of Maldon7: Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener, Courage the greater, as our strength faileth. Here lies our leader in the dust of his greatness, Who leaves him now, be damned for ever. We who are old now shall not leave this battle, But lie at his feet, in the dust with our leader! (177)

In book after book Treece returns to these lines. Though they are extraordinarily stirring, they project a daunting image of manhood. In Treece’s construction of the Viking era, coming of age is a process which involves (in Churchill’s words) “blood, toil, tears and sweat.” A boy, and it is always a boy, sets out into the world in the company of fighting men, learns to suffer and endure, offers unswerving loyalty to his leader and demands it of his own followers. Treece offers no alternatives to heroism even for societies far removed from Northern Europe. In Viking’s Sunset he draws explicit parallels between Heome the crippled Beothuk boy and 7  This fictional incident is modelled on one cited by medieval chroniclers including Matthew Paris of a trouvère, Taillefer, who chanted lines from the Chanson de Roland at the Battle of Hastings before the Norman charge.



blind Hoder of Norse mythology who brings about his brother Balder’s death. Not only do Heome’s crippled hands prevent his initiation as “a brave” and “a full man” (95), his whole nature is warped. The boy who cannot be a warrior can only be a coward and traitor. It’s a bleak message. “There is some ambiguity,” John Rowe Townsend comments, “in writing so consistently about things one hates—does it not also imply a kind of love?” (Townsend, 222). Shortly before his death in 1966, Treece wrote that the two principal themes in his writing had been “the Father seeking the Son (or the Son the Father) and the theme of the Distracted Woman, the woman drawn away from gentleness and mercy into other, perhaps more sinister paths; the Maenad, the Bacchante” (Fisher et al., 91). Many of his lone Viking boys do team up with an older fighting companion or mentor who shows them how to behave, but his comment about women is illuminating. In Treece’s books women are either wives and mothers who support and nurture their men, or else unnatural forces of destruction like Boudicca in The Queen’s Brooch and the murdering Freydis in Vinland the Good. There’s little for girl readers to aspire to. (What if you don’t want to be a battlegoddess, murderess, mother or nurse? No wonder I pretended to be a boy.) For Treece the sexes are out of balance: one can only be strong when the other is weak; in his later work, though, he is sometimes clear that the men are emotionally and morally crippled. In The Black Longship, a short story I did not come across until recently, Aase, a Christian woman, is finally allowed a voice. Confronting a band of desperate raiders who have a wounded boy with them, she berates their leader with plain, bitter sense. Ships go down into the sea and swords fall to rust, Dane. They are nothing when all comes to all. But one’s children are everything. This boy is everything to you for he is all you have. When death takes you this boy will remember you, so you will live on in a way. That will be your Valhalla, heathen… Now get out of my way while I look after this boy. He will not last the night out unless someone takes pity on him. (68)

With these words Aase demolishes the heroic ideal. This squalid, bungled attack ends with the death of all the Vikings except the boy who will—one may hope—live on in a different and less dangerous world, his Viking heritage only a memory. Reflexively, The Black Longship positions the young reader as heir to the past, to whom the story, the memory, has



now been handed on. It is one of Treece’s bleakest and most successful stories. Between 2004 and 2007 I published a Viking trilogy of my own. Troll Fell, Troll Mill and Troll Blood are set in a Viking Age that-never-was, a fairytale world which my characters share with trolls, nixies and other creatures from Scandinavian folklore. I didn’t want to write about a hero with a sword. Instead I told the coming of age story of a boy with no wish to be a warrior. Peer Ulfsson, whom I named after the Norwegian folkhero Peer Gynt, is a shy, self-doubting Cinder-lad, armed only with determination and a good heart. Paired with him is the confident, adventurous girl Hilde. In the first two books their adventures are domestic, based around the farmstead and local mountains. I wasn’t trying to imitate Henry Treece’s gritty sagas, but they were in my mind; I could always feel his presence behind me. So at last in Troll Blood I sent Peer and Hilde sailing across the Atlantic to Vinland, as Harald Sigurdson does in Viking’s Sunset. I remembered Harald and Thorkell and Harold Godwinson, and wondered how my quiet hero would fare if he had to deal with a real “Viking warrior”? From this was born Peer’s antagonist, the handsome young killer Harald Silkenhair—talented, quarrelsome, charismatic and deadly. The Icelandic sagas are full of men like him, men you wouldn’t want living next door. I wanted my readers to feel Harald’s glamour to the full, and still detest him. I was trying to respond to Treece’s conundrum: how can you survive in a violent era without employing violence yourself? In Troll Blood neither Peer nor Hilde picks up a sword (unless rapidly to drop it), but both still have agency. Peer summons the moral strength to challenge Harald. And towards the end of the story Hilde and another girl stop a fight by throwing clothes over Harald Silkenhair’s blade. I didn’t invent this, it’s a woman’s trick I read about in Eyrbyggja Saga (Pálsson and Edwards, 51). After all, it turns out you can have adventures wearing a skirt. In Bracelet of Bones and Scramasax, Kevin Crossley-Holland’s heroine Solveig does just that, rivalling Harald in The Road to Miklagard as she sets out alone from her fjord-side home and travels all the way to Byzantium. Bracelet of Bones begins on a battlefield, Solveig walking with her father Halfdan over the field of Stiklestad8 where five years earlier


 Battle of Stiklestad, 1028, in which King Olav Haraldsson was killed.



Halfdan fought beside his friend Harald Sigurdsson9 (later King Harald Hardrada of Norway). Thrilling to the tale of the fight, Solveig picks up a human bone “stripped by sea-eagles, bleached by frost, sharpened by time”. Halfdan took the bone and inspected it. ‘Poor sod!’ he said. ‘His shoulderblade. One of us? One of them?’ Solveig closed her eyes. ‘Any of them,’ she murmured, and she gently shook her head. (5)

The futility of violence is thus concisely established: those who died in the battle are now indistinguishable one from another. But Halfdan is about to desert his daughter. He is going to join Harald Hardrada in far-­off Miklagard, breaking his promise to take Solveig with him. After all, she’s a girl: “You’ll be wanting to marry before long.” (8). Left behind and increasingly unhappy, Solveig sets off after him in the family rowing boat. Fellow-travellers befriend her on the long journey. She joins a Baltic trading ship heading for Ladoga and on to Kiev, a month’s journey via rivers and lakes. Women are important members of the crew. There’s Edith, Christian slave of the ship-master Red Ottar; Odindisa the seer and her two little children; heavy-set Bergdis with the ominous bracelet of finger-bones, who acts as the group’s priestess and cook. Solveig works her passage. She sells carvings, helps haul the ship over rapids, meets new people with new gods, is bitten by dogs, loses shipmates to accident and death. In this working environment, women and men are comrades. This doesn’t mean they are equal. At the climax of the story Red Ottar is killed and Bergdis insists the pregnant Edith must be sacrificed on his pyre. In this crisis Bergdis is more powerful than any of the men: they are swept along by her iron conviction of what must be done, and Crossley-­ Holland provides disturbing hints of the rite’s attendant horrors.10 At the last moment Edith is saved by the intervention of her countryman and fellow-Christian, Edwin, but Solveig is deeply shaken. Finally the remnant of the party crosses the Black Sea to arrive in Byzantium where Solveig is reunited with her father. In the sequel Scramasax, Solveig’s foster-brother Harald Hardrada, head of the Varangian Guard, finds her a place as companion to the 9  The historical Harald Sigurdsson (1015–1066) has no connection with Treece’s fictional hero. 10  Based on Ibn Fadlān’s account of a Viking funeral: Jesch 121.



Empress’ niece Maria, but the shut-in, secret life of the palace is not for Solveig. When the Varangian Guard sails to attack Sicily, Solveig goes with them. She’s a follower not a fighter, but Harald Hardrada gives her a foot-­ long scramasax—“Sharper than a sword. Deadlier than an axe”—with which to defend herself. On board ship Solveig falls sweetly in love with one of the young Vikings, but she is sickened when, in a sea fight, the Vikings decapitate a young pirate and play games with the head. Worse follows when her father Halfdan helps hang an old man and two little children outside a Sicilian town. Solveig begged, she implored, she accused, she kicked at the gallows frame, she clutched Halfdan’s right arm until, impatiently, he shrugged her off. ‘You’re not my father!’ she cried. ‘Two children. An old man.’ (151)

The children are hanged. Shocked and alienated, Solveig runs into the scorching hills. She almost dies of thirst, but is saved by a simple mountain community where Muslims worship peacefully with Christians and Jews. Solveig realises she must return to her father and her young lover Tamas, but during an attack on a town is herself caught up in the violence, ­stabbing a woman to death while Tamas is killed defending her. Still grieving, back in Byzantium Solveig is tricked into helping Harald ­ Hardrada kidnap her friend the Princess Maria. When she learns that Harald wants Maria for a hostage not a wife, she confronts him furiously. ‘You’re a monster! A man without a heart!’ Then Solveig shrieked and threw herself at Harald Sigurdsson. She reached up and clawed at his face and tried to gouge his eyes out. (241)

Harold knocks her down, but her passionate outburst affects him and he lets Maria go. It’s not a moment of triumph—Maria is terrified and humiliated—but Solveig has accomplished something, mitigated some part of the cruelty of this world of men. Resolving to “live life to the utmost” in honour of the lover who died for her, she will go home to Norway. Bracelet of Bones and Scramasax share many elements with Henry Treece’s Viking books—sea-voyages, overland journeys, battles, encounters with strange races, the exotic destination of Miklagard/Byzantium and the famous Varangian Guard. These are all obvious components of



Viking history, though as an avowed admirer of Treece’s work,11 Crossley-­ Holland may also be paying a little graceful homage. Like Treece, he engages with the violence of the Viking Age; he even goes further. Treece’s vikings pillage but never rape. Crossley-Holland makes no secret of the fact that Solveig is safe nowhere without men to protect her, and that Edith was taken violently from her English village and is expected to sleep with Red Ottar and bear his child. Nowhere in Treece’s novels is there anything as horrifying as the near-sacrifice of Edith on Red Ottar’s pyre or Harald Hardrada’s summary hangings. Still, the heft of the books is quite different. Solveig’s refusal to conform to gender norms opens up choice and self-agency: the treasure she gathers on her journey is not gold or silver but richness of experience. Treece’s young heroes are trapped within the heroic imperative, their actions governed by the requirement to fight, plunder and seek revenge. Harald Sigurdson is not without self-doubt, but he worries mostly about whether he can measure up to the warrior standard. “He has seen too much and suffered too much since we set out,” says one of his ­shipmates as the boy collapses with a fever. Thorkell their captain responds, “Yet he shapes well. He will make a good viking yet” (Treece 1967b, 107). When Harald wakes, ashamed of the tears of weakness in his eyes, he is comforted by Thorkell’s gift of a beautiful sword with a hilt of ebony, silver and crystal. It’s a moment of tender solicitude between man and boy, but this desirable object confers Thorkell’s approval of Harald as a potential killer. In Hounds of the King, Beornoth is afraid his ordeals may have left him too weak to complete his oath of allegiance, “and that, he knew, would be the end of his hopes” (63). Treece offers no solution to the violence of his characters’ lives other than some hope for a change in the zeitgeist—Christianity, or the Norman conquest and the rule of law. His boy heroes remain largely uninfluenced by other faiths and cultures: in Viking’s Dawn a monk, John, gives his life to save the young Harald from drowning. Later, in The Road to Miklagard, Harald refuses to plunder a Christian church as a mark of gratitude, but John’s example of gentleness and forgiveness does not change his own view of life. The Northmen’s interaction with the Inuit “trolls” of Viking’s Sunset is a comic interlude which neither author nor characters take seriously, and the Native American Beothuk are simply brown-skinned vikings: “Wawasha … would one day be a great war-leader as fine as any man of the  “Treece was one of my heroes”, Crossley-Holland: personal communication.




Northland” (99). Even halfway across the world, the same narrow standard applies. There is nothing to learn. Solveig learns all the time. On her journey through Europe she encounters a multiplicity of peoples, religions and cultures: Swedes and Icelanders, a female shaman on the banks of the Dnieper, Christian English and Rus, Slavs and Armenians, Bulgarians and Saracens. Naïve, ardent, brave, she is ready to try anything, and learns both from her mistakes and her youthful openness to those she meets. “[T]he driving force of Scramasax is Solveig’s expectation that she can easily fit into the hard-bitten, masculine world of a Viking army” (256), Crossley-Holland explains. She finds she can’t, and protests the cruelty of war. “This is how armies are,” Harald tells her. “You begged to come, and I allowed it. Now you must do as we do” (147). For one of Treece’s Viking boys this would be enough but, “How can I accept without questioning?” Solveig responds, and judges Harald and her father for their callousness. “Words, words, words,” grumbles Red Ottar to the English messenger Edwin. “They get you nowhere”. But Edwin replies that they do: “Words are bridges. With words we discuss, argue, pray, talk to ourselves, we reach understandings and make wills and write letters; with words men sell their merchandise” (Crossley-Holland 2011, 127). Words will end the days of private vengeance: words are the future. Poised on the brink of a pan-­European, Christian, literary culture, Solveig questions herself, her people and her faith. In Bracelet of Bones she witnesses an astonishing moment when Edith confronts Bergdis: Your gods, they’re nothing to me. Less than nothing. ‘Your beliefs, they’re violent and cruel.’ Edith paused. ‘And yet… the way you believe, Bergdis! The way you believe. Not like a lily-liver, but with all your heart and head. With such a passion!’ (219)

It’s neither forgiveness nor admiration; Crossley-Holland calls it “awe”— but in this acknowledgement of the strength of another’s faith, however misplaced, Solveig finds much to ponder. “Bergdis and I pray to the same gods, but I can’t believe in such a sacrifice. It’s so violent. So unjust” (ibid.). Solveig aims to find her father but has another motive too: in Scramasax she admits to Harald Hardrada that she is “out-eager” (17); she desires to see the world. Viking women did travel, did accompany men on trading ships, though probably not single, unmarried girls. Still, historical fiction is fiction: stories are about “what ifs?”. Solveig’s lone venture is convincing because of the emotional authenticity of her ardent, optimistic character



and Crossley-Holland’s powerful evocation of the vivid, tactile world she travels through. A strange world too, brimming with the numinous, from the ghosts of Stiklestad swimming in the fjord to the vision of the Otherworld conjured by Bergdis as she makes the ritual for Edith’s sacrifice. Towards the end of Scramasax when Solveig and Maria make a sorrowful leave-taking, the prose slides into alliterative verse: Around them on the chilly beach, the sand shimmered like wild silk. Silver-­ gold sheets swept across the strand. Njord, god of winds, opened his mouth and bellowed. The veil of sand sidled, it swayed and lifted, it gagged the two girls. Grit grazed their sweet faces. (245)

When writing historical fiction for children, authors keep one eye on the period and one on the reader. Our job is to interpret the past as faithfully as possible, while softening or excising elements considered unsuitable for a young audience: if the past seems too strange it may alienate. Would a real Solveig have been shocked by Bergdis, or by Harald’s hangings? Possibly not, but her horror and pity is necessary, if anachronistic, in order to bridge the abysm of time and open a dialogue between then and now. Authors may wish to teach as well as entertain, but for a child historical fiction is not a lesson but full immersion in a vividly realised past, experienced (while reading) as coeval with the present. It is both formative and normative: children take what they read as gospel, not realising writers project contemporary values on to the past, values that are culture-­ dependent and change through time. Since parents give children the books they once enjoyed themselves, the literary culture to which children are actually exposed may span decades of social change. The discouraging implication of much of the historical fiction available when I was ten was that girls were dull, soft and silly: to be interesting meant being like a boy, “as good as a boy.” But, though children may be naive readers, they are not passive; they’re good at dodging unwelcome messages. My strategy, shared I suspect by other girls, of reading as if I were a boy meant the message about girls missed its mark. The ability to put self aside and identify with a very different Other is surely the basic requirement of fiction; it is interesting that boys, still largely excused from reading books about girls, are reportedly less skilful readers. My generation had a lot of catching-up to do, though, and to some extent still has. Look at the numbers of sword-­ wielding heroines in recent fiction. They’re brave and active, certainly: but



is an aggressive, traditionally male behaviour the only one we value? The only one that can get us noticed? Are we still trying to be like boys? Writing within a decade of the end of the Second World War, Treece sees coming of age as a rite of passage, an initiation into a warrior discipline which insists upon faithfulness and the ability to suffer and endure. Harald Sigurdson and Beornoth follow without question the example of rôlemodels such as Thorkell and Harold Godwinson. Yet in the epilogue to Hounds of the King, Beornoth returns to his village terribly damaged, covered in scars and “red and blue tattoo marks which gave that thin face a hard, almost savage look” (183). On being reminded that he is now “a thegn and a man of property” he shrugs, for it means nothing: “He had gone beyond such things.” There is a clear sense that he is suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress, and his final words are a wish for peace and a prayer for mothers who have lost their sons. Though he underwent painful ordeals in order to be accepted into the fighting brotherhood of the housecarles, Beornoth truly comes of age as he renounces violence. He has learned something that Harald Sigurdson never did, but his wisdom has been dearly bought. Must it always be gained through trauma? Treece was a ground-breaking writer. His books fixed the Vikings in my imagination and prompted my own re-evaluation of the warrior “hero.” Kevin Crossley-Holland’s achievement is to expand the boundaries of Treece’s world, opening it up to include the women it so obviously always contained: a world in which women have the power to act as well as react. Literary cultures shape notions of the possible for young readers: as a Viking Age heroine, Solveig is a credible, adventurous young woman, confident in her gender and without the slightest wish to be a boy. Sometimes the men in her company regard her with irritation as a problem, a difficulty. Usually though, they treat her with affection and respect, request and listen to her opinion, talk with her. There is a place for Solveig, among peaceful traders if not among warriors. Coming of age for Solveig is a process by which she learns gradually to understand herself and others, choosing her way in a world in which there is suffering and horror, but also joy: and joy is somehow missing from Treece’s work. Beornoth and Harald joke—but when are they happy? Treece’s books retain their power, but his construction of the Viking Age is narrower, darker and more pessimistic than Crossley-Holland’s. Ultimately there are fewer possibilities for his young heroes than there are for Peer, for Hilde or for Solveig.



Bibliography Crossley-Holland, Kevin, trans. 1966. The Battle of Maldon and Other Old English Poems. London: Macmillan. ———. 2011. Bracelet of Bones. London: Quercus. ———. 2012. Scramasax. London: Quercus. Fisher, Margery, Roger Lancelyn Green, and Marcus Crouch. 1969. Three Bodley Head Monographs: Henry Treece, C.S.  Lewis, Beatrix Potter. London: The Bodley Head. Jesch, Judith. 1991. Women in the Viking Age. Bury St Edmonds: The Boydell Press. Langrish, Katherine. 2004. Troll Fell. London: HarperCollins. ———. 2005. Troll Mill. London: HarperCollins. ———. 2007. Troll Blood. London: HarperCollins. Pálsson, Hermann, and Paul Edwards, trans. 1989. Eyrbyggja Saga. London: Penguin. Sutcliff, Rosemary. 1961. Dawn Wind. London: Oxford University Press. Townsend, John Rowe. 1976. Written For Children, an Outline of English-­ Language Children’s Literature. Harmondsworth: Pelican. Treece, Henry. 1955. Ask For King Billy. London: Faber and Faber. ———. 1966. The Queen’s Brooch. London: Hamish Hamilton. ———. 1967a. Hounds of the King. Leicester: Knight Books; first published London: The Bodley Head, 1955. ———. 1967b. Viking’s Dawn. Harmondsworth: Puffin Books; first published London: The Bodley Head, 1955. ———. 1967c. The Road to Miklagard. Harmondsworth: Puffin Books; first published London: The Bodley Head, 1957. ———. 1967d. Viking’s Sunset. Harmondsworth: Puffin Books; first published London: The Bodley Head, 1960. ———. 1967e. Vinland the Good. London: The Bodley Head. ———. 1972. “The Black Longship.” In The Invaders. Leicester: Brockhampton Press.


Warm Pants and Wild Places: Domestic Anxieties in Malory’s Morte Darthur and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King Elly McCausland

As the young Arthur of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and his brother Kay prepare to journey towards London for Kay’s knighting ceremony, their fastidious nurse spends “the whole time constructing new warm pants for everybody, on the principle that the climate of any place outside the Forest Sauvage must be treacherous to the extreme.” “Those were lawless days,” White’s narrator remarks, “and it was not safe to leave your house—or even go to sleep in it—unless you were certain that it was impregnable” (White 1996, 215–16). The impregnable home is at the heart of White’s Arthurian tetralogy, a narrative preoccupied with the relationships between safety and treachery, domesticity and adventure, warm pants and wild places. Dramatising these dichotomies is the figure of the child, around whom White shaped his creative vision and through whom he negotiated his own troubled relationship with childhood, family and the home. Both a wish-fulfilment fantasy of the paradisal childhood White never had, and a bitter examination of youthful vulnerability, White’s depiction of the Arthurian child encapsulates the complex and

E. McCausland (*) University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




often paradoxical ways in which adults relate to children through fiction; what Karin Lesnik-Oberstein terms “efforts to remain in touch with, and deal with, the anxieties of ignorance and knowledge, of being and becoming, of presence and absence” (Lesnik-Oberstein, 75). Although actual children are rare in White’s source, Thomas Malory’s fifteenth-century Morte Darthur, its ambivalent portraits of domesticity and the centrality of familial conflict to the narrative render childhood a conspicuously absent subtext, a possible means of attributing coherence to the disparate strands of the Arthurian story. White perceived the Morte as a text haunted by the spectres of unhappy children and perilous upbringings; its narrative gaps, I will argue, offered scope to explore the multiple childhoods behind the complex value system of Camelot and, furthermore, for White to consider the blank spaces of Malory’s childhoods through the lens of his own fraught upbringing. This chapter first examines rare appearances of the child in Malory’s Morte Darthur, and how they can illuminate the ambivalent relationship between domesticity and the knightly enterprise. It then considers how White maps these tensions onto his own portrait of the Arthurian child, harnessing such frictions to explore the difficulties of fictionalising childhood subjectivity, the protean multiplicity of the childhood “self”, and the complex connections between adults, children, narrative and memory.1

Dangers at Bed and Board: Domestic Trappings in Malory’s Morte The contradictory pressures of domesticity upon the knights of Camelot perhaps explains why Malory’s text has been so frequently adapted for children from the nineteenth century onwards, despite containing few child characters. Emphasising the pleasures and rewards of adventure while simultaneously insisting that these escapades achieve validation only through a social and domestic framework, the Morte effectively dramatizes one of the central tensions at the heart of fictionalising childhood: what F. J. Harvey Darton terms the “battle between instruction and amusement, between restraint and freedom, between hesitant morality and spontaneous 1  This chapter will focus primarily on the first book of White’s Arthuriad, The Sword in the Stone, because it features the most detailed depictions of childhood. I will refer both to the first edition (1938) and the revised version in the 1958 combined Once and Future King tetralogy.



happiness” (Darton, vii). Where the Morte does, sparingly, consider children, it is concerned only with boys, and with the transitions between childhood and adulthood. The process by which a child becomes a man, or knight—for Malory these are largely one and the same—is noticeably marked by an eschewal of domesticity, represented either by mothers or wives, or by domestic spaces. Arthur, considered a “berdles boye” by many of his fellow kings, cannot simply rely on the word of Igrayne, Merlin or Sir Ector—his domestic guardians—to verify his heritage and birthright to the throne, but instead must prove himself in battle. Only once Arthur has validated himself through deeds of arms can he return to the maternal embrace, as king rather than child: “and therewith kyng Arthure toke his modir, quene Igrayne, in hys armys and kyssed her, and eythir wepte uppon other” (Malory, 38). The young Torre acquires knighthood through distancing himself from the domestic “labour” on the family farm that governs the childhood of his half-brothers (Malory, 78). Malory’s Gareth appears at Camelot as a “yonge muche man,” a “fayre son.” The subject of epithets that hint at youth and inexperience, Gareth is immediately termed a “boy of the kychyn” by Kay and thus associated with domestic space. In order to challenge these associations, he accepts the quest to save the lady Lyonesse, and uses his “fayre handys”—an insult from Kay that aligns Gareth with a lady—for fighting purposes to gain worship and escape the connection with domestic stasis; Kay warns that the kitchen will make him “as fatte… as a porke hog” (Malory, 223–5). Later, when Morgause reprimands Arthur for putting her “yonge son” to work in the kitchen, Arthur replies that Gareth is “preved to be a man of worshyp” (Malory, 266–7, my italics). By throwing off the trappings of domesticity—renouncing the household of his mother, abandoning the “gold and silver plenté” with which she adorned him—Gareth leaves youth behind to become an honourable man. Interestingly, it was this dynamic that Alfred Tennyson chose to emphasise in his nineteenth-century reworking of Malory, the Idylls of the King (1885). His young Gareth bemoans how, in his “good mother’s hall,” he “linger[s] with vacillating obedience/Prisoned, and kept and coaxed and whistled to/Since the good mother holds me still a child!” Longing to be “discaged to sweep/In ever-highering eagle-circles up/To the great Sun of Glory,” Tennyson’s Gareth is acutely aware of the stifling nature of domesticity upon aspiring knights (Tennyson, 36). The story of Tristram, too, illustrates the need for boys to escape domesticity if they are to achieve knightly masculinity. While her husband



is held prisoner in a castle by an infatuated enchantress, Tristram’s mother gives birth to the boy in a forest, and with her dying breath addresses the child: “A, my lytyll son, thou haste murtherd thy modir! And therefore I suppose thou that arte a murtherer so yonge, thow arte full lykly to be a manly man in thyne ayge” (Malory, 290). By “murdering” his mother, Tristram performs—albeit unconsciously—the ultimate dissociation of himself from domestic relations, and is therefore immediately likened to a “manly man”, rather than a child. The threat of the domestic continues to haunt the young boy, with his home a categorically unsafe space, corrupted by the threat of his stepmother and the perversion of familial bonds when she accidentally poisons her own son and, nearly, her husband. Domestic dangers “at bedde and at bourde” see the young Tristram leaving home for France. Upon his return, distanced from domesticity, Tristram has acquired the status of “jantylman”; grown in “myght and strength”, he is every inch the “manly man” that his mother predicted (Malory, 293). The rare appearance of the Malorian child, then, offers us a way of mapping the ethical and social system by which Camelot is governed, the “separations” and “anxieties of ignorance and knowledge” that the child represents signifying the tacit ideologies and literary cultures that dictate the terms of knighthood and worship. Yet, despite the threat of domesticity for the growing boy, Malory’s Morte is structured around the centripetal activities of questing knights, repeatedly drawn back to the court at Camelot. It is telling that Malory ends Lancelot’s eponymous book by telling us how he “[came] home two days before the feste of Pentecoste,” positing Camelot as the ultimate domestic sanctuary for adventurous knights (Malory, 221, my italics). Gawain is “sworne to telle of hys adventure” when he accidentally beheads a lady; knightly adventures carry the implicit rule that they must be presented to the court, and to Guinevere, for judgement (Malory, 86). This domestic space and its inhabitants validate the knightly existence; furthermore, worshipful knights who complete their quests are frequently rewarded with marriage. Although the Morte is structured around the adventures of knights who must flee the restrictions of domesticity in order to forgo youth and gain worship, it is only through return to the domestic—both spatially and as represented by the feminine—that these adventures acquire meaning. Inspired by his engagement with Malory as an undergraduate at Cambridge and prompted by a rereading of the text in later life, T. H. White’s unique adaptation of the Morte has this conflict at its heart, the figure of the medieval child crystallising the frictions that



White perceived at play in Malory’s work and expressing the author’s own troubled relationship with domesticity and the maternal.

“Sin coming home to roost” in T. H. White’s The Once and Future King “Thus bred without security/Whom dared I love, whom did not flee?” White wrote in his diary, aged thirty-two (Warner, 21). It was a sentiment that was to define his life and work. Born to “parents [who] loathed each other,” White’s early childhood in India was “not a safe kind of childhood.” He recalled his parents struggling over his cot for control of a pistol, “each claiming that he or she was going to shoot the other and himself or herself, but in any case beginning with me” (Warner, 27). His father, Garrick, was a violent alcoholic; his mother, Constance, was “strongwilled, imaginative, selfish, beautiful, malingering,” and exerted a damaging hold over White throughout his life. “It was my love that she extracted, not hers that she gave,” he observed (Warner, 28). Aged six, White was left in the care of his grandparents, a period of respite during which he “grew straight and rampaged and was protected,” brought up alongside three cousins with his “own lovely playroom on the top floor (chock-full of soldiers, guns, forts, and zeppelins on strings)” (Warner, 28–9). The space captured his imagination: he later wrote in his memoirs, “Blessed and beautiful grandparents… you made a paradise for one little boy in any case, which lasted long and was lovely” (qtd. Sprague, 177). Aged fourteen, White was sent to Cheltenham College and subjected to a sadistic regime of corporal punishment. However, “the school was not so bad,” he recalled: the “real harm” had been “done long before, when I was a baby” (qtd. Sprague, 174). Having experienced both domestic “paradise” as a boy, and a home life of violence, emotional manipulation and shame, White maintained an ambivalent relationship with the domestic for the rest of his life. For his first house, White “spent a hundred pounds on carpets and curtains, bought mirrors and a highly ornate second-hand bed and laid in a stock of tinned foods and madeira” (Warner, 90). He enjoyed gardening, cooking, and home life with his dogs, but was also repeatedly drawn towards isolation. He spent several days camping on the remote islands of Inniskea and Burhou, remarking that he loved the “holy solitude” provided by such places, and later in life chose to live in remote locations far from human company (Warner, 342). “The fact is that when I am alone with my books



and dogs we are the best company in the world, and, if it were not for shopping, I would stay up here all day and every day and be content,” he wrote in 1945 of his home atop a Yorkshire hill, “living alone in a stone haybarn with two dogs and having to carry our rations over stone walls up 1000 feet in 1/4 mile, because there is no road…. My only neighbours are grouse.” White declared he was “simply ravished with joy at being Robinson Crusoe at last” (Warner, 224). The allusion to Crusoe is revealing, however. It suggests a man torn between joyful, self-sufficient solitude away from humankind and the simultaneous desire to make such solitude a little more like home. It combines a longing for escapism and adventure with the awareness that such adventure can only exist as a departure from a familiar point of fixity. In many ways, this mirrors White’s ambivalent portrayal of domesticity in The Once and Future King. Andrew O’Malley, examining children’s adaptations of the Crusoe story, has noted that “the seemingly contradictory concerns of adventure and conquest and of domesticity and home-life are negotiated and even sustain each other” in Robinsonnades for young readers (O’Malley, 49). For White, these two impulses exist in a similar dialogue, but one that is fractious and mutable. Central to White’s tetralogy is the vulnerable child, a figure inspired by his own experience of psychoanalysis and his conviction that the enduring “harm” of his life stemmed from childhood trauma.2 “It is so fatally easy to make young children believe that they are horrible,” the narrator muses in The Ill-Made Knight, the third book of the tetralogy and named after Lancelot, whose adult conflicts are frequently linked to some mysterious “deficiency” in his upbringing. Juxtaposed with this damaged, Freudian child, however, is an optimistic vision of childhood adventure, particularly in the first book of the tetralogy. White referred to The Sword in the Stone as “a kind [of] wish-­ fulfilment of the kind of things I should like to have happened to me when I was a boy” (Warner, 98). Perry Nodelman identifies this “wish-fulfilment stance” as one side of a dichotomy in the way we perceive children, the other being a didactic stance that “implies that children are weak or fallible or somehow mistaken,” that they require “correction” to attain acceptable adulthood. We tend to think about children in these two contradictory ways, Nodelman suggests, “often at the same time.” As didactic fables, children’s texts “want to urge children to stop being childish and learn to 2  White underwent psychoanalysis on several occasions, beginning in 1935, and in 1936 wrote to David Garnett praising the practice. See Garnett, 19.



be better and different. As wish-fulfilment fantasies, they want children to stay exactly as they so wonderfully are” (Nodelman, 2). White indulges in the fantasized happy childhood that he was denied through his vision of the adventurous Arthur, yet simultaneously exposes the weakness of the child in the face of malevolent influences. At the heart of this vision is the domestic, represented both by the home and by the maternal feminine. O’Malley identifies “one of the central contradictions of the construction of childhood subjectivity: that children must be made self-sufficient while at the same time their dependence on and obedience to adults must be asserted” (O’Malley, 19). The Sword in the Stone is a text that celebrates the self-sufficiency of children, their need to “run wild,” but also reflects White’s poignant adult awareness that joyful independent adventure can only exist as a departure from the familiar safety of domestic dependence. “Education is experience, and the essence of experience is self-reliance,” Merlyn tells Arthur during his first “lesson,” in which he is turned into a fish and allowed to explore the castle moat (White 1996, 43). This comment is paradoxical; Arthur can only achieve self-reliance through Merlyn’s guidance and is thus dependent on the wizard for independence. Arthur observes that there is “something magical about the time and space commanded by Merlyn;” most of the wizard’s lessons involve Arthur assuming the form of animals, transitions into non-human forms constituting the very subject of Arthur’s instruction rather than simply its context (White 1996, 180). The spatial dimension of the lessons is significant: they place the young Arthur in jeopardy—at risk from the snapping jaws of a pike, or the talons of a falcon—but always in an alternate world that is juxtaposed with, and followed by, a return to home, a structure traditionally adopted by children’s tales and fairy stories. Like the adventures of knights errant in Malory’s Morte, Arthur must go “through with this ordeal to earn his education,” to achieve self-sufficiency (White 1996, 83). As with Malory’s knights, these trials are always accompanied by a return to domestic space—the castle—which gives them their ultimate meaning. Early in The Sword in the Stone, the narrator remarks of the Castle of the Forest Sauvage that it was “more like a town or a village than any one man’s home,” a space of refuge during war and a communal space for prayer and festivities in peace time (White 1996, 37). This communal aspect is crucial; the castle, in Malory’s Morte and White’s Once and Future King, has a dual function as both home and “town,” as a domestic sanctuary but also as a centre of the community, where the most important social rites occur. After his “quest” to find Merlyn in the



dangerous forest, Arthur notes that “it was such a pleasure to be back home again with all his friends, and everything achieved” (White 1996, 34). This moment of achievement, of relaying his quest to his family and friends, is of equal importance as the quest itself; Arthur’s independence is validated through domestic dependence, confirmed in the space of the castle that is both home and village. It also constitutes a moment of filial pride that White himself was never permitted to experience as a child, his interactions with his mother being wholly associated with pain and humiliation.3 Maria Nikolajeva has likened this pattern of magical adventures and domestic return, common in children’s books, to the Bakhtinian carnivalesque, which presupposes a temporal limitation: The necessary condition of carnival is the reestablishment of the original order, that is, return to normal life. Carnival is always a temporary, transitional phenomenon—so is childhood. Like the carnivalesque fool, the child can temporarily, by means of magic or his own imagination, become strong, beautiful, wise, learn to fly, trick the adults, and win over enemies. (Nikolajeva, 136–7)

White’s narrative performs a similar equation of childhood with magic, and, crucially, with a magic that is temporary. John Gillis has suggested that adults construct “mythical landscapes that sustain childhood in its idealized forms, even when it is no longer sustainable in the real world.” These landscapes “constitute a kind of parallel universe, one that bears a similarity to physical geography but has the virtue of being invulnerable to both temporal and spatial changes that are constantly transforming the real world” (Gillis, 317). By referring to the magical time and space commanded by Merlyn, White portrays Arthur’s childhood adventures as both eternal and transient: they can always be accessed implicitly through Merlyn’s magic of the imagination, but must always be followed by a return to reality. Childhood is thus “islanded” as complete and self-­ contained, yet can only be accessed through dependence on an adult facilitator of magic. This encapsulates the contradiction at the heart of 3  White’s mother commented on a photograph of him as a child that his lips were “growing sensual,” and that he was “to hold them in, with [his] teeth if necessary.” This seems like an attempt to deny White’s adolescence and stifle his growth and independence (Sprague, 178). Later, he wrote that “every time I have to write to her even, it is like being mildly crucified” (Garnett, 85).



White’s “wish-fulfilment” narrative: the attempt to recapture childhood is ­performed by an adult whose own childhood has left lasting scars, and thus can never be “islanded” or completely freed from bitter memories; even when “at home” in the sanctuary of the Castle Sauvage, the Wart is an outsider, of no blood relation to his father Sir Ector and brother Kay. The magic of childhood is always susceptible to, and even manipulated by, adult influences, which become increasingly malign as the tetralogy progresses. If childhood magic, as Nikolajeva suggests, consists of learning to “trick the adults, and win over enemies,” White’s fantasy ultimately fails to access this magic. Within the tragic narrative of The Once and Future King—particularly the chilling second installment, The Queen of Air and Darkness—adults and enemies are one and the same, associated with a threatening domesticity that finally overpowers the vulnerable child.4 The carnivalesque transitions from home to adventure and back again follow a more complex pattern than the Bakhtinian model described by Nikolajeva. Instead, the very notion of “normal life” is irreparably compromised by the intrusion of pernicious domestic forces, in the face of which childhood magic is impotent. In 1941, White’s friend David Garnett commented of The Sword in the Stone that “it is poetry: it is for children & we are all children & happiest when anyone can make [us] believe we are” (Garnett, 83). Yet Garnett’s assertion that “we are all children” is undermined by the implication that we must be made to believe such a thing. Lesnik-Oberstein observes that “by defining and discussing the nature of children adults are expressing, formulating and projecting ideals and ideas about themselves and the not-­ themselves” (Lesnik-Oberstein, 25–6). If White envisions an idealized childhood in The Sword in the Stone, based around liberating adventure tempered by the security of a safe home, the text is also shaped by an adult awareness of the inadequacy of his actual childhood. At several points, the escapist vision is shattered, the enterprise of making the reader believe that they are a child corrupted by the intrusion of White’s adult bitterness regarding the perils of home. Like Malory’s Gareth, Arthur—his true birthright unknown at the time—is linked with the kitchen, an association that hints at oppressive domesticity. Realising that the extent of his future is “being a second-rate squire and holding Kay’s extra spears for him,” Arthur identifies himself as a “Cinderella,” placing himself within a fairytale 4  The second book was originally published as The Witch in the Wood, but this chapter refers to the revised 1958 version, The Queen of Air and Darkness.



narrative whereby only the marginalized are rewarded with eventual ­success and upward mobility. He “looked round the busy kitchen, which was coloured by the flames till it looked like hell.” The comparison reflects Arthur’s mood, stifled by the constraints of his domestic role: “to lay the tables with three cloths and a carpet, and to bring meat from the kitchen, and to serve Sir Ector or his guests on bended knee” (White 1996, 190). Like Gareth, Arthur can only achieve self-actualization by escaping the hellish confines of domesticity. Just as the kitchen becomes threatening, associated not with nourishment and comfort but with evil, hellish domesticity is also represented in The Once and Future King through the malevolent female, whose traditional role of maternal nourishment is horribly parodied through grotesque depictions of food and consumption. “My God, how difficult it is to write about women,” White complained in 1940, a struggle he again attributed to his mother, who “managed to bitch up my loving women” (Warner, 101; 28) “I dislike the shape of women very much and can scarcely bring myself to draw it,” he had written in 1939 (Warner, 152). Once again, White’s writing exhibits a curious tension: he is both repulsed by feminine sexuality, and fascinated by it, devoting pages of his journals to analysing the characters of Morgause and Guinevere. The contradictions of Malory’s Morte are played out in White’s text through focus on the vulnerable child: women are a source of comfort and solace, but also threaten the integrity—bodily or psychological—of the child. Kurth Sprague identifies this dynamic early on in The Sword in the Stone, as Sir Ector’s wife, who in the Morte nourishes Arthur with “her owne pappe,” is excised and replaced in White’s text with a mad governess who raps Arthur’s knuckles and has “some mysterious wound from which she derived a lot of prestige by showing it to all the women of the castle, behind closed doors.” Eventually “she offered to show it to Sir Ector… had hysterics and went away. They found out afterwards that she had been in a lunatic hospital for three years” (White 1996, 3). With this alteration, “White induces the reader to associate women with instability, with unpredictability, with capriciousness; the view received is a particularly strong one when the reader sees, as here, through the eye of childhood. The female figure is in a position of authority, able to wield absolute powers of pleasure and pain” (Sprague, 78). One of the main ways in which these absolute powers manifest is through association with food. The absence of maternal nourishment from Sir Ector’s wife is, I would argue, even more significant than Sprague suggests, for it is



replaced in White’s text with corruptions of this most fundamental role. As in Malory’s story of Tristram, “bedde and bourde” are the sites not of natural relations between mother and child, but instead of struggle and jeopardy. Madame Mim is the first of several grotesque parodies of motherhood that appear in White’s tetralogy, although she was omitted from the 1958 version of The Sword in the Stone, possibly because, as Elisabeth Brewer speculates, the reinvented Morgause of the revised Queen of Air and Darkness became the final embodiment of all White’s “evil and hostile mother-figures” (Brewer, 34). Mim is entirely White’s own invention. Addressed as “mother” by her pet carrion crow, Madame Mim plots to cook and eat Arthur and Kay after she captures them in her parlour. The parlour itself is a mockery of homemaking, adorned with trinkets such as “the Lord’s Prayer written backwards and hung upside-down”, broomsticks, cauldrons and a “needle-case in the shape of a heart with A Present from Camelot written on it” (White 2008, 88). While Madame Mim busies herself “cleaning pots, gathering plants for the stuffing, sharpening knives and cleavers, boiling water,” she sings aloud the recipe with which she will cook the boys: “two spoons of sherry/Three oz. of yeast/Half a pound of unicorn/And God bless the feast” (White 2008, 91). The tableau is a domestic scene horribly tainted with the prospect of cannibalism and infanticide. Later, Arthur and Kay encounter Morgan Le Fay, whose castle is made entirely out of inedible, repulsive food, atop which perches another carrion crow. The castle “rose from its lake of milk in a mystic light of its own—in a greasy, buttery glow.” The mother’s milk of Sir Ector’s wife has been further supplanted by a repulsive gastronomy associated with death and decay and presided over by an evil matriarch. Morgan herself is freighted with these gluttonous associations: she is found “stretched upon her bed of glorious lard,” a depiction that also suggests a visceral, fleshly sexuality (White 1996, 114–15). White extends this portrait of the feminine at length in The Queen of Air and Darkness, a study of Morgause inspired by his own mother. Morgause is both an “exquisite creature” with “deep, big eyes,” hair “glinting with dark lustre” and a “full body,” and associated with a perversion of the traditional maternal role: her children “starved for her love” and seek “mental nourishment” from a hermit, “resort[ing] to him like hungry puppies anxious for any kind of eatable, when their mother had cast them out” (White 1996, 230; 267). From the nurse at the Castle Sauvage, who frets over a bruised Arthur until he is “disgusted by the fuss,” and commands him to “come along of me to the



kitchen,” to the more menacing threats presented by Madame Mim and Morgan Le Fay, the comforting associations of kitchen and food quickly assume a sinister resonance in The Once and Future King, suggesting not just a stifling of childhood freedom but a literal entrapment of it (White 1996, 88). Although these threats are undercut with bathos—Morgan Le Fay is easily slain and left writhing “in her lard like a slug” before her whole castle collapses with a smell of dirty milk, while Madame Mim is defeated in a duel as Merlyn turns himself into a virus—the dangers posed by domesticity for Arthur are confirmed in the final episode of The Queen of Air and Darkness. Musing alone on “the joys of peace, of being married himself one day as Merlyn had prophesied, and of having a home,” the adult Arthur falls asleep. Upon waking, he is faced with the beautiful and seductive Morgause, who “took him between wind and water” and nine months later gives birth to Mordred. Morgause is the most sinister embodiment of the threat posed by corrupt domesticities to the developing child. A vain, emotional manipulator of her children, she brings them up “perhaps through indifference or through laziness or even through some kind of possessive cruelty… with an imperfect sense of right and wrong,” and “knowing too much about cruelty to be surprised by it” (White 1996, 225; 256). Yet she also holds the delusion that “she was the best mother to them in the world! Her heart ached for them, her maternal bosom swelled.” The narrator describes her ironically as “every inch the homebody,” after she places a bunch of heather, a present from her adoring son Gareth, “dramatically in a cup with no water” (White 1996, 290–1). The parody of the maternal represented by Morgause, with her denial of liquid nourishment and tendency to hold her children hostage emotionally, has its most damaging effects on the young Mordred, who is described as “confused between the loves and hatreds of his frightful home” (White 1996, 568). With these juxtapositions, White illustrates the complexities of the domestic space for the child; as in Malory’s Morte, it is a place of refuge and community, but it is this same dependence on the domestic that opens up potential for repression and pain, particularly for the child who must escape these threats in order to forge his own personal and social identity. At the end of The Once and Future King, the narrator remarks that it is the mother’s not the lover’s lust that rots the mind. It is that which condemns the tragic character to his walking death. It is Jocasta, not Juliet,



who dwells in the inner chamber…. The heart of tragedy does not lie in stealing or taking away. Any feather-pated girl can steal a heart. It lies in giving, in putting on, in smothering without the pillows. Desdemona robbed of life or honour is nothing to a Mordred, robbed of himself—his soul stolen, overlaid, wizened, while the mother-character lives in triumph, superfluously and with stifling love endowed on him, seemingly innocent of ill-intention. (White 1996, 666)

Mordred, left alone with Morgause for twenty years, becomes her “living larder;” she existed in him “like the vampire” even after her death. Here again is a troubling reversal of the maternal role: Morgause starves the young Mordred—he becomes “robbed,” “stolen,” “wizened”—only to feed herself on his life and soul. The narrator’s aside here moves between fiction and reality, discussing the characters of the Arthurian story while simultaneously offering metafictional references to “the tragic character,” “the mother-character,” implying the universality of this tragic pattern and the threat of the malignant maternal and the inadequate home. The child here is both fictional (Mordred), a generalized tragic symbol, and a focal point for White’s poignant reflections upon his own life, an existence haunted by the “stifling love” and “triumph” of Constance White. Shakespearean and classical tragedies are re-imagined through the prism of the neglected and tormented Arthurian child, a child who is both White himself and represents the collapse of White’s fantasy of idealized childhood. Kurth Sprague has suggested that “the only positive relationship clearly approved of by White… is the one between the old wise man and the young, naive boy: the senex and the puer aeternus” (Sprague, 166). It is no coincidence that Merlyn’s home is the least ambiguous in White’s entire novel, a “marvellous” cottage where Arthur finds “the most perfect breakfast” laid out: melons, strawberries and cream, “brown trout piping hot,” “best chocolate made with cream in large cups” (there is, significantly, an abundance of dairy), and a walking mustard-pot. It is a stark contrast to the unpalatable excesses of Morgan’s castle or Madame Mim’s cannibalistic feast (White 1996, 29). If Arthur, in this interaction with Merlyn, indeed represents the puer aeternus, a Jungian archetype carrying the promise of future development and a complete picture of the self, we can read this aspect of White’s narrative as a form of Jungian myth-making, in which “an individual mind attempts, sometimes desperately, to respond adequately to pressures from the world and from the collective unconscious” (Walker, 95).



As wish-fulfilment, White’s narrative depicts a malleable child whose care at the hands of Merlyn carries the promise of future happiness and completion; White’s present, adult self, however, continually frustrates this fantasy through the insertion of the malevolent maternal. It is significant that White ends his Arthuriad with the explanation that the seduction of Arthur by Morgause is “the Aristotelian and comprehensive tragedy” of the Morte Darthur, “of sin coming home to roost” (White 1996, 333–5). His use of the word “home” is surely not accidental; the true tragedy of the Morte, in White’s reimagining, is what his biographer Sylvia Townsend Warner terms “the maternal rape on the child” (Warner, 130). It stems from the beautiful and cruel “homebody” Morgause, from her exploitation of child dependence and her denial of maternal nourishment. In the ultimate perversion of domestic and familial sanctuary, Morgause seduces her younger brother and births a child who will murder his uncle. Domesticity, the site of fraught struggles between dependence and escape, serves in The Once and Future King to illustrate the complex and contradictory ways in which adults relate to their past, present and future selves, and the elusive and protean nature of the child. Bookended by the mad governess and the incestuous mother/sister, Arthur’s story is both fantasy and nightmare, an exploration of joyful childhood adventure tainted by the bitterness of adulthood and a deeply personal examination of the complex connections between “the adult and child without and the adult and child within” (Lesnik-Oberstein, 35). Wish-fulfilment fantasy; revisitation of a painful past; bleak vision of a fundamental human vulnerability: the absent medieval children of the Morte Darthur are here transposed into a new, introspective literary culture increasingly aware of the deep connections between youth, memory and trauma, refracted through the authorial consciousness of a man who perceived Malory’s Morte as a pertinent vehicle for his troubled, multivalent perceptions of childhood, home and maternal relations.

Bibliography Brewer, Elisabeth. 1993. T.  H. White’s The Once and Future King. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Darton, F.J. Harvey. 1932. Children’s Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Garnett, David, ed. 1968. The White/Garnett Letters. London: Jonathan Cape.



Gillis, John. 2003. “The Islanding of Children—Reshaping the Mythical Landscapes of Childhood.” In Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children, ed. Marta Gutman and Ning de ConinckSmith. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Lesnik-Oberstein, Karin. 1994. Children’s Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Malory, Thomas. 2013. Le Morte Darthur. Edited by P.J.C.  Field, Vol. 1. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Nikolajeva, Maria. 2000. From Mythic to Linear: Time in Children’s Literature. London: Scarecrow Press. Nodelman, Perry. 2000. “Pleasure and Genre: Speculations on the Characteristics of Children’s Fiction.” Children’s Literature 28: 1–14. O’Malley, Andrew. 2012. Children’s Literature, Popular Culture, and Robinson Crusoe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Sprague, Kurth. 2007. T.  H. White’s Troubled Heart: Women in The Once and Future King. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Tennyson, Alfred. 1983. “Gareth and Lynette.” In Idylls of the King. London: Penguin. Walker, Steven F. 2002. Jung and the Jungians on Myth. New York: Routledge. Warner, Sylvia Townsend. 1989. T.  H. White: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. White, T.H. 1996. The Once and Future King. London: HarperCollins. [Complete edition of the tetralogy, first published 1958]. ———. 2008. The Sword in the Stone. London: HarperCollins. [First published 1938].


Through the Mists of Time: Reflections on Recreating Medieval and Early Modern Literary Texts for Children of Today Marcia Williams

I have reimagined several Medieval and Early Modern literary texts for children, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare’s Plays. Albeit a challenge, it is also a delight and something I embark on with eager anticipation. It is always exciting to journey into unfamiliar worlds, meeting new characters and recognising old familiar ones, and then share this experience with a new, young audience. While I believe that in reimagining a classic literary text I should make it my own and attempt to bring a freshness to it that will make it accessible to a contemporary reader, it is also my wish to maintain a strong link to the original. I am keenly aware that I will often be asking my young reader to follow me into worlds that they may feel unfamiliar and alien. Some young readers may not have the information to make sense of, or find a connection with, many of these ancient characters let alone their unfamiliar life events. A popular book for babies and toddlers is an illustrated catalogue of baby items—everything from bath ducks to nappies. Babies love this because

M. Williams (*) London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




the items are either familiar or have some significance even to a pre-verbal child. The child holds a visual memory of the items and so is predisposed to engage with the pictures. Later, at about two years old, toddlers have more experience of the world and so fantasy and pretend play begin to emerge, usually based on the familiar, such as mums and dads, the naughty baby sister, et cetera, and their interest in storytelling develops accordingly. It is not until children are five years or more that they can fully grasp the difference between fantasy and reality, which opens up a world of whole new possibilities both in terms of role play and interacting with literature. However, young children still have a limited experience of the world at large, its history and its fable. As we grow older we develop a memory bank that enables us to attach a deeper and extended significance to the world about us, to events and to our imagined worlds. This in turn extends our ability to engage in literature of different genres through the ages. Without a rich memory bank young people may not always have images for the words on the page, making it impossible to conjure them in their mind’s eyes. These images are, as we will all recognise, an integral part of reading and its joys. A modern child reading one of Chaucer’s tales or a Shakespeare play, can be like a travel writer trying to comprehend a country he has just arrived in, but doesn’t yet have the right words for. If the writer hasn’t learned the names of the flora and fauna, the garments worn or the tools used, he or she cannot write about them. In the same way, how can a young child imagine the sheltering arms of an oak tree, if she has never seen or heard of one? Even with their amazing imaginations, I would argue that young readers may often need visual support and accessible texts to fully enjoy these tales of old. So my question to myself when I start reimagining Medieval and Early Modern texts is: where is the space for the modern child reader? How can I engage them and excite them with a text that they may consider outdated and irrelevant? Most of my books are for children of seven years and upwards, so will often be a child’s first experience of these classic tales, and I am keenly aware of the responsibility of this. I see my books as stepping stones to the originals, and hope that they will encourage the reader to seek out original texts when they are older. So as well as looking for storylines and characters that young people can relate to and find the words and images for, l also look at atmosphere and placement. I seek to give my reader a foothold in the original author’s world and at the same time edge them towards taking a leap into the unknown.



Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales can be very challenging to a young reader. Firstly, there is the language, then there are the multiple layers, with stories within stories and all within another story! The humour is often bawdy and archaic and the characters’ belief in the supernatural and the power of religion can feel unreal to a modern reader. Although I chose to retell the story in comic-strip form, my Chaucer book begins with a single double page illustration of Chaucer and the other pilgrims arriving in London. This gives me a chance to introduce Chaucer himself, who greets the reader and introduces the other pilgrims who will be travelling with him the 120 miles from London to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket, in Canterbury. When you turn the first page, you see the pilgrims making merry together at the Tabard Inn where they will spend the first night. They are wondering how to pass the long days of their pilgrimage and agree that the best way would be if each pilgrim would tell a story. So the next morning they draw lots to see who will recount the first story. The lot falls to the knight, and as you turn the page he and the other pilgrims proceed on their journey along the bottom of the page, while the tale the knight tells takes over the centre stage. I hope that this device might help give some context to the stories, and encourage readers to suspend their disbelief. Right from the start the reader has had the chance to meet and engage with this motley band of pilgrims, each determined to outdo the other with their story and so claim the free meal in Canterbury! The reader may also be drawn in by the element of competition, wondering which story will win and if it will be their own favourite. As the pilgrims’ tales unfold, the reader can see the teller of the tale in the animated strip at the bottom of the page, and watch the antics of the other pilgrims as the days and nights pass. Another way to have included the stories of the pilgrims and their tales might have been to introduce the teller of each tale just before their story. However, I felt that this would have broken the flow of the book and given little sense of the pilgrims’ long and arduous journey. This layout also serves to remind the reader that these tales where written at a time when pilgrimages were not coach journeys, but long, uncomfortable walks or pony rides, fully exposed to the elements. The pilgrims talk to each other in snippets of Middle English, taken from Chaucer’s texts, which also helps to give the story its place in time, while being balanced by the modern approach to the storyline and illustrations. As the last pilgrim finishes his tale, the reader turns the page to find that the pilgrims have again taken centre stage in a double illustrated spread.



We see that they have arrived at their destination, so there is no more time for storytelling. Chaucer’s own voice returns to the body text as he bids the reader farewell. This mimics the personal approach of Chaucer and I hope gives the reader the feeling that he or she is not just an onlooker, but has travelled across time and shared the journey and the stories with the pilgrims. I find that incorporating language from the original literary texts in new contexts helps to rescue them from perceptions of being “outdated.” In rewriting Shakespeare’s plays this search for a foothold for the reader led me to try and create an Elizabethan theatre on the page. I have placed Shakespeare’s plays centre stage, but while they perform the plays, a rather anarchic and rowdy audience comments from the borders. The world may still be unknown, but children can usually engage with bad behaviour, humour, eating, pickpocketing, et cetera, all of which give a context, and light relief from the main event when needed. It is my hope that this activity on the margins leads even the reluctant reader to look and see what’s happening “on stage” or in this case, in the comic-strip boxes. The bubble text is declaimed by the actors in Shakespeare’s own words, carefully chosen in terms of meaning, humour and relevance to the reader. The storyline underneath the comic strip is written in my words. I would never try to dumb down Shakespeare, or any other author; I just try to make these classics accessible and relevant to a new young audience. It is interesting to speculate how different the experience of Chaucer’s and Shakespeare’s literary texts would have been for a child living in their times. Most children would have been illiterate and untravelled, with only a narrow grasp of the world beyond their village or settlement. They too might never have seen an oak tree, and been wonderfully bemused by the talking hens and foxes in Chaucer, or the strange island life of Shakespeare’s Prospero and Miranda. Would they be able to enter these worlds any more completely than a modern child? If Medieval or Elizabethan children heard these tales at all, they would have heard them from story-tellers, minstrels or groups of travelling actors—so one could argue that they would have been as dependent as any modern child on the skill of the story-teller. For although written by contemporary authors, many of the tales would have been far removed from most children’s experience. The animation of the Medieval or Elizabethan story-teller, minstrel or travelling actor is very akin to modern comic strips. Maybe we have now come full-circle and as children read less and view more literary texts on screen or on stage, including the comic-strip stage, they are relating more closely to the oral tradition experienced by children of the original literary period.



I have been asked many times: Why Chaucer and Shakespeare? Neither is a natural choice for recreating or reimagining for a young contemporary reader—who not unreasonably might consider them well past their sell-by date and lacking in child protagonists! Yet if we want to keep our culture alive and enrich young people’s literary experience, reimagining classic texts is exactly what authors and illustrators should be doing. In this global world the chance to discover and understand oneself and develop empathy for others, regardless of background or origin, through the safety of imaginative play and stories, has become ever more important. Both Chaucer and Shakespeare offer wonderfully compassionate takes on the universal frailties of mankind, and we still have much to learn from these literary giants—be we young or old!

Bibliography Williams, Marcia. 1998. Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays. London: Walker Books. ———. 2000. Bravo, Mr. William Shakespeare. London: Walker Books. ———. 2004. God and His Creations. London: Walker Books. ———. 2007. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. London: Walker Books. ———. 2010. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. London: Walker Books.


Ballad Land Ellen Kushner

Between Chaucer and Shakespeare in school poetry texts lies Anonymous. That’s where we found the magic. It is a magic full of women turning into swans, of riddling Elf knights and monster brides and fairy bargains…. These rhyming tales are not just poems; they are lyrics to songs: long, sung traditional narratives called ballads. My generation of women writers were steeped in old magic: first as children hearing and reading fairy tales set in that faraway land I called “the Olden Days,” when costumes were splendid, foes were cruel, forests were deep, courage was rewarded, and transformation waited around every bend… and rules, once established, were broken at great cost. Even those of us who retained a sneaking fondness for fairy tales as teens knew well enough to keep those old books hidden. But just when it was time to put away childish things, the ballads appeared to us. They appeared in print and on LPs, even on the radio, in a pop folk revival that stretched from the dulcet acoustics of Joan Baez to the rocking rhythms of SteelEye Span. The ballads seemed like an extension of those magic tales, odder, more adult, more piquant and strange, welcoming us into a world where

E. Kushner (*) New York City, NY, USA © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




the magic was still real, but the rules—and certainly the language—could be very different. We listened, we read … and we paid attention. Fantasy lovers seek another world complete in itself. Ballads provide not just spells and enchantments, but a language like none other. Whaaaaa does yer braaaaaand sae drrrrrrrrip with bloooooood??? My best friend and I would wail to each other, giggling and snorting as only two fourteen-year-olds can when they think they’re being clever. We were making fun of our English poetry textbook—but the sound of the vowels, the rhythms of the verses, already had hold of us and would not let go.    She’s kilted up her petticoats a little above her knee    And she’s away to the gay greenwood as fast as go can she    He mounted her on the milk white steed and himself on the dapple gray    Up then spoke the Fairy Queen and an angry queen was she

Ballads are made up of language and obscurity. More than fairy tales, ballads hold corners of mystery, swathes of understanding clearly consistent within themselves and opaque to us until we engage with them. Like fairy tales, the ballads ultimately tell the truth of the human heart—but they tell it through narratives so lacking in what a modern reader recognizes as characterization that it is almost impossible not to be tempted to fill in the gaps. And so I am not the only writer of my generation to base a fantasy novel on a traditional ballad. Even ballads without any apparent magic have that delicious, appealing strangeness to offer. In “Barbara Allen,” young William, dying of love for her, once “drank a toast to the ladies all/But he slighted Barbara Allen.” Why? Who can say? Maybe in its original context the answer was obvious to the listener; maybe explanatory verses have just been lost—but the song is still sung, and the question still tantalizes. “Barbara Allen” is not the only ballad in which heartsick lovers tell their mothers to make their beds soft and narrow, that they may lie down, turn their faces to the wall, and expire. (This does not happen in fairy tales!) When the two lovers are buried next to each other in the old churchyard, “the red rose and the briar” grow, one from each of their graves, and rise and intertwine (Bronson, 2: 351). It’s the magic of Ballad Land, straddling the spaces between the real, the possible, and the metaphoric. It



caught me in childhood—when my parents sang it to me from the classic Fireside Book of Folksongs—and made me wonder what else was possible there in that strange land. In my teens I encountered “Tam Lin,” performed by the group Fairport Convention on their 1969 album “Liege and Lief.” Glorious guitar and fiddling by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, haunting vocals by Sandy Denny, all great luminaries of the English Folk Revival then in its fullest flower—its second flower, really: the authentically rescued, recorded and performed originals from the British countrysides (A.L. Lloyd’s & Ewan MacColl’s among them) taken up by musicians and audiences who also wanted rock’n’roll. Up in my bedroom, I wore out the album’s grooves on my little stereo. I, a kid who hadn’t even really liked the Beatles, stuck out the fierce electric sounds because the songs promised magic. Through Fairport’s bass-­heavy arrangement, a story came through.

A willful girl, accosted by a man, a battle of words for territory, then coupling on the grass. True, Tam Lin “never asked her leave,” but Janet’s subsequent devotion—not to mention the pair’s initial badinage—made it clear that this man out of faerie was the dream lover young girls desire with a great desiring: the one who sees her, knows her to her core, and wants her.

He is worth fighting for—and fight she does, even at the Elfin chimes of midnight on a dark road, even in the face of the sovereign power of Faerie. Janet fights, and wins—and when Tam Lin shivers, naked and helpless, she folds him in her cloak and laughs in the Fairy Queen’s face. Splendid lady! fighting for a man who truly needs rescuing and redeeming: his body from the Elfin “tithe to hell,” his soul from the glamour of their Queen. Tam Lin is feminized: passive, helpless in the grip of enchantment. It’s up to Janet to be the active one. Such heroines were not thick on the ground in my youth.1 1  Nor are they necessarily now: contemporary fantasy heroines in the madly proliferating fantasy in the Young Adult field can be just as disappointing as their literary antecedents. As Twitter’s satirical @BroodingYAHero tells us: “My book’s heroine will dedicate her narrative arc to healing my issues. I won’t reciprocate. Emotional labor is something only girls do” (@broodingYAhero, 2017a). And A good female protagonist has:

–– A mysterious power explained by a man –– Skills taught to her by a man –– A soft side, shown by her loving a man (@broodingYAhero, 2017b.



But so many of the fairy tales and ballads are women’s stories, probably created, and certainly passed on, by female tellers. Most of my childhood favorite fairy tales were concerned with the fate, and even the heroism, of women. There was a plethora to choose from: “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty,” yes, but also “The White Bear” and “The Seven Swans,” in which girls show their mettle by undertaking trials and accomplishing tasks that call for character as well as courage. In these days it is fashionable to point to all the ways such stories preach a traditional role; but whatever unlovely messages the old tales may contain, I, as a child, was drawn to the simple fact that they were about girls! Whether passive or active, it was the women’s fates that were at stake; the men were just auxiliaries to that; objects, if you will, to the heroine’s desires. As a women’s story, “Tam Lin” does present its difficulties. In order not to read his and Janet’s initial coupling as rape, you have to want not to read it as rape, mapping onto the bare bones of the verses a psychological, even mythopoeic sense that “that’s just not what it is.” Something in that story seized the imaginations of so many mid-twentieth century fantasists, women unlikely to endorse a true rape narrative, including Diana Wynne Jones, Pamela Dean, Lucy Sussex, Patricia A.  McKillip and Elizabeth Marie Pope, and more recently Kat Howard, Kelly Link and Jane Nickerson…, a desire to go to the heart of the tale, to draw out its true meaning and make it sing. Nearly all of these women set the tale in the present, however, allowing current mores to preserve Tam’s mysterious, wounded sexiness without making his seduction of Janet a rape. Much as I loved the Tam Lin ballad, it never occurred to me to write about it. My heart was already given to another Tom: True Thomas the Rhymer of Ercildoune. A friend in my early teens was passionate about the ballad “Thomas the Rhymer.” I’m not sure how she’d discovered the text, but it held a magical place in her life, and therefore in mine. A man meets a strange woman on the hillside. There is another battle of words for territory, and this one the woman wins, to their mutual satisfaction. And no wonder: she is the Queen of Faerie. Some people conflate Thomas the Rhymer with Tam Lin, but I’m not having it: there is no Janet to redeem this Tom, nor is he pledged to hell on the Elves’ behalf. The Rhymer is a professional minstrel, a mature and sexual man, not some noble’s little son who fell off his horse and was captured by Elfhame. This Thomas serves out his seven years in Elfland, and returns to our world with the Elf Queen’s blessing, not her curse. No



mortal woman is needed to ransom him in the ballad—though in my 1987 novel Thomas the Rhymer I gave him an old love, Elspeth, to bring him whole-hearted back from his time with the Elf Queen and into a mature, human, lasting marriage. Teens make magic for themselves. One night, I dreamed of a man on a Scottish hillside, speaking to a shepherd in the rain. (Did I even tell my friend that? Or was I afraid she’d think I was stealing her special ballad?) I always remembered the dream—and when, finally, I had the chance to visit the Scottish Borderlands shortly before my book was published, I shivered when I recognized that very hillside as we passed it in Jane Yolen’s car.2) At university, I took a playwriting class. Struggling for a subject for my first one-act, I thought up “The Homecoming of True Thomas the Rhymer,” which picks up where the ballad lets off. Newly-released from Elfland, a man walks into the home of the people he knew before he followed the Queen into Faerie: an old couple who are his foster parents, and the girl he left behind him. Thomas remained an icon for me: “the King Arthur of poets,” I called him; the man who kissed the very lips of Faerie and returned from there with his artistic powers doubled. I was too young, I knew, untested and untried, to take upon my pen that great and wondrous tale … until I learned that someone else was planning to write it in a possible series of novels based on ballads.3 And so, at 28 years old, I took up my notebook, a huge stack of ballad LPs, and the thought that, since I’d invented most of the characters for my play already, it wouldn’t be too hard to write my second novel quickly. I was not wrong. Plot is challenging for me; but every single one of the novel’s plot devices, both great and small, come from balladry. With 305 traditional ballads collected by nineteenth century scholar Francis James Child, they’re not hard to find; indeed, I was spoilt for choice!4 While my novel uses place names of the Scottish Border, and references from the historical period when Thomas of Ercildoune really lived, I chose 2  The American writer Jane Yolen, who lives part-time in Scotland, was kind enough to offer to drive me around the Eildon Hills that day. What we found there is another story for another time; it included The Rhymer’s Tower café in Earlston, and a bushy-browed man dozing by an electric fire, who lifted his head and said, “You’ve come about the Rhymer, then!” 3  To be edited by Terri Windling, whose “Fairy Tale” series was doing well for first Ace and then Tor Books. 4  See Bronson, and Child.



to set my Thomas the Rhymer in Ballad Land. Two of my four narrators— the broadly-drawn characters of Tom’s foster parents, the gruff old shepherd Gavin and his canny goodwife Meg—are right out of story. Any lover of fairy tale and “olden days” fantasy will recognize them at once. Their language, though, is the language of Ballad Land. Writing the book in any kind of dialect never even occurred to me. But the cadences of balladry came ready to my hand. “Is this a children’s book?” people ask me, seeing the faerie harp on the cover. Alas, no, not remotely so. Whatever takes place between the Elf Queen’s carrying Thomas off to Elfland for seven years, and her returning him to mortal lands, are missing in the ballad verses; but her teasing seduction of the Rhymer on that Scottish hillside makes it pretty clear what she wants him for. The ballads’ lacunae, however, make it easy to recast these alluring tales for the nursery. Both “Tam Lin” and “Thomas the Rhymer” have found their way into children’s folk- and fairy tale collections, and even been done as picture books (often with Tam and Janet as long-lost childhood friends). Tam Lin is the easiest to adapt, with a clear beginning, middle and end, and a bonus Halloween component. Both deal with fairies, long thought suitable for children. But this is a particular kind of fairy, as far as you can get from the French conte de fées’ stand-ins for seventeenth century noble patronesses. The fairies of British balladry are dangerous, alluring, craving human company, yet ultimately very, very bad for us. The world is full of magic, the ballads and fairy tales tell us, rich and strange and not without its pleasures. But there are rules to be strictly observed. And, as with a child’s life, true faith and love lie not in Elfhame, but in the gritty, earthbound, messily complex world of home. Both Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin are stories of departure and return. Both men embrace that return fully, along with the changes it brings to their mortal lives, with never a look back to Elfland. Whatever strange adventures there befell them, here they are safe. All children grow up, it seems … even those who’ve been to Elfland.

Bibliography Boni, Margaret Bradford, ed. 1947. Fireside Book of Folk Songs. New York: Simon and Schuster. Bronson, Bertrand Harris. 1959–1972. The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. 4 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press.



@broodingYAhero. 2017a. “My Book’s Heroine Will Dedicate Her Narrative Arc to Healing My Issues.” Twitter, April 23, 7:19 p.m. broodingYAhero/status/856331700007292928. ———. 2017b. “A Good Female Protagonist Has.” Twitter, April 21, 3:02 a.m. Child, Francis James. 1886 -1898. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Dean, Pamela. 2006. Tam Lin. New York: Firebird. DiRisio, Carrie. 2017. Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me. New York: Sky Pony Press. Fairport Convention. 1969. “Tam Lin.” Liege & Lief, A&M. Howard, Kat. 2016. Roses and Rot. Saga. Jones, Diana Wynne. 1985. Fire and Hemlock. London: Methuen. Kushner, Ellen. 1990. Thomas the Rhymer. New York: William Morrow. Link, Kelly. 2014. “The Lady and the Fox.” In My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, ed. Stephanie Perkins, 23–49. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. McKillip, Patricia A. 1996. Winter Rose. New York: Ace Books. Nickerson, Jane. 2014. Mirk and the Midnight Hour. New York: Knopf. Pope, Elizabeth Marie. 1974. The Perilous Gard. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Sussex, Lucy. 1994. Deersnake. Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton.


Sewing the Nettle Shirt, Pulling the Sword Jane Yolen

The first two mythic tales I remember reading by myself were both in The Book of Knowledge, a multi-volume quasi-encyclopedia which was more storied than historic. But because the tales recounted were in alphabetical order, I came upon Arthur before Christ. I was a Jewish child in New York during World War II. It filled my mind and heart. Though we had no near relatives in the actual Holocaust, my father was wounded in the buzz bombs in London while uncles and older cousins sustained injuries both seen and unseen in various odd-sounding countries. At that time, my three favorite picture books had already sealed my interest in good wars/bad wars/anti-wars. They were Ferdinand, The Pleasant Pirate, and Millions of Cats. But it was my favorites in the first volume of The Book of Knowledge that were to set me on a path that would resound as well in my later writing and my growing interest in folklore. The King Arthur tales were as heroic and romantic, as protean as any stories I had read before (and since). They filled me with awe—that marvelous old Biblical word so compromised now—as well as a sense of

J. Yolen (*) Hatfield, MA, USA © The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




duty to the common people, and to the idea of a myth as a place, an ideal that I still carry with me today. To me, the story of the birth of Christ was a different kind of marvel. I didn’t read it as religious. In fact it would be years before I connected the lovely story of that innocent child born in a manger to any real religion, and when I did, I was positively horrified at the outcome and brutality of that tale. When I first read it, it was merely the story of the Undiscovered Prince, a not uncommon folk motif. What I took from it was that we are all born glorious in our mothers’ eyes. How if we are lucky, our birth is attended by foreign dignitaries, odd presents, singing angels—and animals. The animals impressed me the most. But it was the mother and father who—even in the meanest of places—made a home for the baby. Having just come back from a three-year exile in Virginia with our grandparents during the war, my brother and I were readjusting to life in New  York City. So home and how it can be anywhere you make it, was thematically important to me. As I grew, I read many books that had those same trio of ideas—peace out of chaos, keeping hold of one’s ideals through rough passages, and lending a helping hand to those less fortunate—high on my list of the honorable things to do as a grownup. I hold them still. I read these same ideals—sometimes artfully coded, sometimes spoken right out straight—in the mythos of Alice in Wonderland and Oz, in Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden, and in as many versions of the life of King Arthur as I could find (all the Lanier/Wyeth versions and T. H. White’s Sword in the Stone being my favorites). But I also found comfort, succor, and ideals in folktales. I became an addict of folk stories, fairy tales, thanks to Andrew Lang, Joseph Jacobs, the Brothers Grimm, and others. I knew that to be a successful grown up, I would need to be kind to old women in the woods, feed and rescue animal helpers, be brave in the face of overwhelming odds. I needed to help the poor, speak truth to power even if it turned me to stone, weave nettle shirts for my enchanted siblings, and save my brother even if he be turned into a trembling fawn. Or especially then. I didn’t understand metaphor at first, but slowly I came to understand that I’d been taught first and best by it. To this day, I write not in cursive but in folklore. I am drenched in mythos and it comes out as story. I live in the what if and spend much of



my day talking to invisible friends of all colors, shapes, sizes, gender preferences, animal instincts, tails and talons. And I tell their stories. The rest of the time I write political poems and screeds about injustice, stand on vigil lines, or march arm-in-arm with women and men to ding down the walls of intolerance, because that’s what the old stories told me to do. And I believe that to be true. However I also know that just as I found ideals and ideas in the old stories, I also found a myriad of tales that still carry the cultural dyad of Us Against Them. By that I mean—We are good, They are evil. Whether it’s Rumpleststiltskin or Puss in Boots or other such tales, I know enough now to sort through the wonder and magic to get to the cultural biases that sometimes overload, over-lard, and over-lord the tales. What do I mean by this? First think: “Puss in Boots.” In that story, the troll/dragon has lived many years as the king’s neighbor with never a harsh word between them (or at least none we are made aware of in the story). He is an employer of the local peasantry, none of whom seem to curse his name. Indeed, his fields are well tended, his people well looked after as far as we can tell from the story. Along comes Puss who has decided to help his young master to a large slice of the noble pie and, like President Trump, he disposes of the troll/ dragon then takes over the family business. And we all applaud Puss’s ingenuity and his courage, not because the troll/dragon has been demonstrably wicked or evil. After all, unlike some of his cousins, he hasn’t been devouring the local gentry. However, the troll/dragon is fair game for Puss simply because he is The Other. In fairy tale terms, he is a red shirt; he is disposable, and everyone considers the trickster Puss to be a genius. As for the troll/dragon, nobody mourns him. Now think: “Rumplestiltskin.” A miller tells the king’s messenger his daughter can spin straw into gold. He lies—and he knows he is lying. His daughter is complicitous in the lie. She knows he is lying and now she is lying too. The king wants the girl because he wants the gold. If she does not produce the gold, he will kill her. If she does produce the gold, he will marry her. The perfect wife with an ongoing dowry. The king locks the girl into a room in a tower. She has till dawn to do the deed, to prove that she is worthy to be married to the king, worthy to live another day, worthy to keep supplying the kingdom with gold.



Do we like any of these folks? Not really. They are liars, greedyguts, narcissists all. But wait… The miller’s daughter sits weeping by a spinning wheel in the small room, surrounded by piles and piles of straw, certain that in the morning she will die because she knows that spinning straw into gold is well above her pay grade. And because her father lied about it. A little man enters. An odd little man. Not at all like the girl who is also very beautiful. We are in a fairytale. Of course she is beautiful. This is a little man with a big nose and an unpronounceable name who lives outside the walls of the city. He tells her that he can save her because he can do what she is incapable of—supplying the king with the gold he desires. Desperate, she offers him her first-born child though it will be years, a lifetime perhaps, before she can do what she promises. Certainly, if she is dead in the morning, the promise of a child will be moot. Then the little man sits down at the spinning wheel and he does what he promised. He did not lie. He can do the miraculous as if it is an everyday event—and for him it is. It’s his job. The only one he’s allowed. Now, who does this remind you of—this little man, with his large nose, his foreign, unpronounceable name. This little ugly manikin who can supply the kingdom’s gold, though he is not allowed to live within the kingdom’s walls, but only somewhere out there, away from the real, true folk, somewhere out of sight. And how is it the new queen can renege on her promise when she actually has that child? Could it be because… though we have no actual evidence of it within the story…because this little man wants her child for some unspeakable blood rites? It’s certainly not too big a leap to realize that Rumplestiltskin is a fairy tale stand-in for the Jew. Interesting to note that in a variant of Rumplestiltskin in England—called “Tom Tit Tot”—the little man is a little black imp. In a variant in Eastern Europe, he is a gypsy. That trio of perfect medieval victims: Jew, black, gypsy. Still perfect victims one might add, well into this middle of the twentieth century, perhaps beyond. That our stories are mirrors of our time, reflecting prevalent prejudices and class hatreds should not surprise us. The tellers, as well as the re-tellers, and even the originators of art tales do not live in a vacuum but in specific communities. Our stories are part of our tribal mentality, even for those of us who like to think that our tribe is global. We can try to escape



small-­mindedness, prejudice, hatred, but the verdict of future historians, scholars, and readers will task us for our biases, our judgments, our laws. And yet—and yet—I still believe in wonder tales, in fighting for the ideals of honor and justice for all, for the right to be a good Samaritan, to take care of the least of my brothers and sisters, sew the nettle coats, stand up against power when it’s improperly wielded. I write such things in my stories, often encoded like fairytales. In Sleeping Ugly, I turn the story of Sleeping Beauty on its head and it’s the homely girl who marries the prince. In my middle grade novel Curse of the Thirteenth Fey, it is the king and his court who are the villains, not the fairy who stumbles into a curse on the baby and by doing so frees the fey folk from their indentured servitude to the royal family. In my picture book Encounter, the tale of heroic Columbus is told instead by a boy of the Taino people and it’s a very different story indeed, the alternative side of the tale. In my YA novel Mapping the Bones, I hang a difficult YA/Adult novel of the Holocaust on the armature of Hansel and Gretel. In my short verse novel Finding Baba Yaga, a modern girl running away from an abusive religious fanatic of a father stumbles into a wood-surrounded meadow where she finds the Russian witch Baba Yaga in her little house on chicken legs and becomes—after a series of adventures—the next Baba Yaga. Critics call such turn-arounds “fractured” fairy tales. But I think of them as “rescue tales”, where we look at the old stories through the corrected lenses of today’s eyes. As later tellers will do to our tales. This is not something new. The Jewish folktale of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, is a story found as midrash in the third to fifth century Babylonian Talmud, But the character of Lilith takes both its name and its power from earlier tales of Babylonian female demons mentioned in the Gilgamesh appendix. The Christians hijacked fairy folktales and other pagan stories, interleaving them with tales of the Christian martyred and resurrected saints. The early collectors such as the Grimm Brothers rewrote many of their stories to make them more suitable for German women’s ears. Perrault’s peasant tales were cleaned up for high society. Hans Christian Andersen incorporated folk tales he’d first heard as a child from his illiterate mother, retelling them as his own stories. We are drawn to such tales because they speak deeply if metaphorically to the human condition, though few of us these days actually believe in magic, or the fey folk. But as the poetry group Poetry Alive likes to say: “Metaphors be with you!”



Still… if one day, on a Scottish loch, not far from my summer home, I see a hand come out of the lake with a sword of burnished steel, trust me. I won’t hesitate for a moment. I will wade in and take it, even though at 80 I might have trouble lifting anything that heavy. Holding it aloft, I’ll swear allegiance to kindness, honor, truth, compassion—and do what I can to follow the ideals that the tales of magic and wonder instilled in me all those many years ago.

Bibliography of Books by Jane Yolen B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy) with Adam Stemple. 2013. New York: Dutton [Golem]. Boots and the Seven Leaguers. 2000. San Diego: Harcourt [Trolls]. Briar Rose. 1992. New York: Tor Books [Sleeping Beauty]. Centaur Rising. 2014. New York: Holt [Centaurs]. Curse of the Thirteenth Fey. 2012. New York: Philomel [Sleeping Beauty]. The Dragon’s Boy. 1990. New York: HarperCollins [King Arthur]. Except the Queen, with Midori Snyder. 2010. New York: NAL/ROC Books [Baba Yaga, Faerie Queen, Seelie and Unseelie Courts]. Finding Baba Yaga. 2018. New York: Publishing. [Baba Yaga, Firebird, Kostchai the Deathless]. The Last Tsar’s Dragons with Adam Temple. 2019. San Francisco: Tachyon books [Dragons]. The Magic Three of Solatia. 1974. New York: T. Y. Crowell [Mermaids]. Mapping the Bones. 2018. New York: Philomel [Hansel & Gretel]. The Mermaid’s Three Wisdoms. 1978. New York: Philomel [Merfolk]. Pay the Piper. with Adam Stemple. 2006. New  York: Starscape/Tor Books [Pied Piper]. A Plague of Unicorns. 2015. Grand Rapids, MI: ZonderKidz/Harper [Unicorns]. The Seaman. 1998. New York: Philomel [Merfolk]. The SeelieWars Trilogy. 2013. New  York: Viking Books [Seelie and Unseelie Courts, Drows, Dwarves, Trolls]. Book One: The Hostage Prince, 2013; Book Two: The Last Changeling, 2015; Book Three: The Seelie King’s War, 2016. Snow in Summer. 2011. New York: Philomel [Snow White]. Sword of the Rightful King. 2003. San Diego: Harcourt [King Arthur]. Troll Bridge with Adam Stemple. 2006. New York: Starscape/Tor Books [Trolls]. The Wild Hunt. 1995. San Diego and New  York: Harcourt Brace/Scholastic [Wild Hunt, White Queen, Herne the Hunter]. Wizard’s Hall. 1991. San Diego: Harcourt Brace/Scholastic/Harcourt’s Magic Carpet [Wizards, Magic Education]. Young Merlin Trilogy. 1996. San Diego: Harcourt: [Arthurian mythos]. 1. Passager; 2. Hobby, 1996; 3. Merlin, 1997.


A Abadie, Jeannette d’, 43 Abbot, Robert Milk for babes, 227 Acheson, Katherine O., 224n7 Acting companies, see Playing companies Actors, see Child players Adam and Eve as children, 206 Adolescence, 297 in Anglo-Saxon England, 250–252 early modern female, xxxii, 188 Adolescents, see Boys; Girls Advisory writing, xxix, 3–18 Aelfric, 23, 33 Colloquy, 23, 25, 33 Aesop, xxix, 53, 58, 61, 65 Fables, 225, 226, 228–230, 233 fables in Tudor England, 56–59 in print, 60 Æthelbert, 244

Æthelstan, 251 Aethelwold, 23 Age dissonance, 129 Agency, xxvii, xxxi–xxxii, 70, 72, 81, 108, 157, 200, 226, 332 authorial, 188 of children, xxv, xxvi of children as authors, 189 See also Figural agency Alexander the Great, 5 as literary character, 14–18 Alexandre-Bidon, Danièle, 6 Alfred, King, 244, 249 Amis and Amiloun, xxxi–xxxii, 153–167 Ancrene Wisse, 88 Andersen, Hans Christian, 375 Andrews, Frances, xxxii, 180, 182 “Sweet Lady Jane,” 180–181 Andrews, Richard, 180 Anglo-Saxon England, xxxiii, 243–255 Anne, Queen, 173

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2019 N. J. Miller, D. Purkiss (eds.), Literary Cultures and Medieval and Early Modern Childhoods, Literary Cultures and Childhoods,




Anonymous, 363 Antichrist and child substitution, 97 Anti-Semitism, 119 Archaeology, xxxiii, 244, 247 Archetypes Jungian, 353 Ariès, Philippe, xxv, 6, 6n4, 261, 271 Aristotle as literary character, 14–18 Artefacts in burial, 244, 252, 254 Artese, Charlotte, 63 Arthour and Merlin, Of (Middle English romance), 89, 94–96 Arthur, Prince of Wales, 60, 277–279, 281, 285, 288 Arthurian legends, 341–354, 371 Arundel Harington manuscript, 315, 317–318 Ashley, Kathleen, 92 Atkins, Craig, 250 Augustine, Bishop, 253 Authority, 14, 72, 110, 188, 200, 204, 210, 313 Avery, Gillian, 71 B “Babes in the Wood,” 296 Baden-Powell, Robert, 3 Scouting for Boys, 3–4 Baez, Joan, 363 Bailey, Anne, 265, 266 Baily, John, 80–81 Baker, Richard, 276, 278, 279, 282, 284–286 Baldwin, T. W., 55–57 Ballads, xxxvi, 63, 363–368 Baptism, 253–255, 262 of Elizabeth I, 283–284 “Barbara Allen,” 364 Barish, Jonas A., 120

Barron, Oswald, 299–300, 302, 303 Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter, 262 Bartolomeo, Martino di, 92 Bata, Aelfric, 25 Colloquies of, 23, 33 Battle of Maldon, 330 Baum, L. Frank Wizard of Oz, 372 Beards, 113, 127n9, 129–131 Beatles, The, 365 Beaufort, Margaret, 280 Beaumont, Francis, 173 Knight of the Burning Pestle, 108–109, 126n6 Woman Hater, The, 116 Becket, Thomas, 87, 262, 264, 266 Bede, 245, 253 Bell, Kimberly K., 153 Belsey, Catherine, xxix–xxx, 53–65 Ben Amos, Ilana Krausman, 193 Benedict of Peterborough, 263, 264 Bennett, Alexandra G., 178 Bennett, H. S., 65 Bentham, Joseph, 311 Bernstein, Robin, 121n3, 131 Bérulle, Pierre de, 204 Bess of Hardwick, 174 Bhabha, Homi, xxiii Bible, The, 190–192 See also individual book titles, and under Literacy Bicks, Caroline, 173 Biography, xxx of children, 69–82 as instruction, 75 Biological Time, 298 Biondi, Sir Giovanni Francesco, 277, 278, 281, 285 History of the Civil Wars, 275–276 Bisson, Douglas R., 249 Bitten, music master, 172 Blackness, 197–200 Blécourt, Willem de, 46n19


Blount, Elizabeth children of, 285–286 Blount, Gertrude, Dowager Marchioness of Dorset and Exeter, 283 Boddington, Andy, 253 Bodies, see under Child players of children, 89, 90, 92–93 maternal, 309 Bodin, Jean De la démonomanie des sorciers, 38–39 Boleyn, Anne, 288 children of, 283–284 Book of Knowledge, The, 371 Book of the Ordre of Chyualry, The, see Caxton, William Books, xxv, xxxiii, 12, 15, 31 of devotions, xxxiv, 305 illustrated, xxxvi, 61 Book trade, 221, 222, 234 in America, 77–79 Boswell, John, 291–292, 297, 298 Botein, Stephen, 78 Bouvet, Honoré, 7 Bownde, Nicholas, 63 Boyhood, 308 Boy players, see Child players Boys as readership group, 5–7 See also under Protagonists Brackley, Elizabeth, 171 Brandon, Charles, Duke of Suffolk, 281 Brewer, Elizabeth, 351 Bright Manuscript, 314 Brooke, Ralph, 276, 278, 279, 282, 284–286 Brusle, James, 231 Buck, Heather Mitchell, 91 Bugenhagen, Johann, 209, 214 Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede, The, see Hay, Gilbert Bunyan, John, 226 Few Sighs from Hell, A, 223 Burial, see Inhumation


Burnett, Frances Hodgson Secret Garden, The, 372 Burrow, Colin, 65 Busse, Claire, 105, 108, 114 C Calvin, John, 227 Cangun/conjeoun, 88, 89 Canonization, 170 Capell, Bess (Elizabeth), 305, 309 Capell, Sir Henry, 305 Capell, Theodosia Montagu, 305 Carnivalesque, 348 Carrel, Alexis, 298 Carroll, Lewis Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 221, 372 Carthy, Martin, 365 Cary, Elizabeth, Lady Falkland, xxxii, 182–183, 223–224 Cary, Henry, Earl of Monmouth, 276 Catechisms, 227, 312 Caughey, Anna, xxix, 3–18 Cavanagh, Sheila T., xxxiv, 291–303 Cavendish, Elizabeth, 178–180, 193 Cavendish, Frances, 178–180, 193 Cavendish, Jane, xxxii, 171, 178–180, 182, 193 Cavendish, Margaret, xxxii, xxxiii, 193, 204 on childhood and child development, 216 on education, 212–216 Female Academy, The, 213 Natures Pictures, 213–216 Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, 212 Philosophical and Physical Opinions, 211–214 Philosophical Letters, 211 “Youth’s Glory and Death’s Banquet,” 223 Cavendish, William, 178



Caxton, William, 5, 6, 8–9, 18 Book of the Ordre of Chyualry, xxix, 9–15 Histories of Jason, The, 60 Historyes and Fables of Esope, 60, 61 Reynard the Fox, 61, 225, 226 Cemetaries in Anglo-Saxon England, 245–248, 252–255 Cerling, Rebecca King, xxix, 21–33 Changeling, see Child substitution definition and use of, 88 Chanson de Roland, 330n7 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 280, 282 Chaucer, Geoffrey, 53 adapting for young readers, 359–361 Canterbury Tales, The, xxxvi, 6, 61 Cheare, Abraham Looking Glass for Children, A, 189 Chedgzoy, Kate, xxxii, 187–200 Cheke, Sir John, 55 Chester Mystery Cycle, xxx, 87–98 Childbirth cesarean, 284 Child characters, see Child protagonists Child development, xxxvi, 203, 205, 210 on stage, 115–116 Child, Francis James, 367 Childhood aesthetics of, 128–132 in Anglo-Saxon England, xxxiii, 245, 255 constructions of, xxiii, xxvii, xxx– xxxi, 87, 97–98, 103–107, 120, 189, 203, 245, 291, 295, 301, 302, 349 during World War II, 371 gendered, xxxv history of, xxxvii and magic, 348

as metaphor, 90 in the Middle Ages, 5–6, 27 naturalistic representations of, 155 philosophical views of, xxxii–xxxiii as pre-identity state, 155 Puritan, 69–82 Puritan attitudes to, 120 representations of, xxxvii Romantic, xxiv and self-sufficiency, 347 spiritual significance of, 189 structuralist models of, xxxiv, 291–293, 295–296, 300, 303 subaltern, xxiii–xxiv subjectivity, 342, 347 Childhood studies, xxiv, 87, 131 Child mortality, xxvii, xxx, xxxi, xxxiii–xxxiv, 70, 75, 78, 80, 114–115, 135–148, 245–247, 255, 261–272, 281, 282 literature of, xxxiii–xxxiv rates of, 263 Child players, xxvi, xxx–xxxi, 103–116 agency of, 108 bodies of, 122, 125–126 construction of, 116, 123 contemporary, 111–112 stereotypes of, 110 Child protagonists, xxxi–xxxii, 154–156, 226–227, 325–338 as Christ figures, 164–166 Child readers, 222, 227–229 Children abandonment of, 297, 298 as inherently evil, 204 loss and recovery of, 147–148, 291, 292, 296, 299 offered to Satan, 39–43 as readers, 78, 79 See also Royal children Children in the Wood, 226 Children of Paul’s, 103, 127n11


Children of the Blackfriars, xxxi, 126–128, 126n7 Children of the Chapel, 106, 115, 125n6 Children of the Queens Revels, 123 Children’s companies, xxxi Children’s literature, xxvii–xxx, xxxii, xxxiii, xxxv–xxxvii, 5, 11, 189 adapted from Medieval and Early Modern texts, 342, 357–361, 366–368 in America, 70, 74 anachronism in, 337 chivalric texts as, 6–7 gender in, 325–338 history of, 219–237 national identity in, 326 in Tudor England, 53–65 Child sacrifice, 163 Child servants, xxvi Child substitution, xxvii, xxx, 87–98, 287 Chivalry, xxix, 3, 4, 9–15, 155, 166 Christianity, xxviii in Anglo-Saxon England, 244, 253–254 Chronicles of English history, xxxiv, 275–288 Clarke, Danielle, 200 Clarke, Ted, 112 Class, xxvii, 5 Clement V, Pope, 263 Clifford, Anne, xxxii, 62, 174, 175, 223–224, 224n7 Clifford, George, 174 Clifton, Nicole, 154n2, 160n6, 165 Climate change, 245 Cognition, xxxii–xxxiii, 203–216 Coleman, Joyce, 61 Colloquies, xxix, 21–33 Comenius, Johann Amos Orbis sensualium pictus, 229


Comic strips, 359, 360 Coming of age, xxxv, 192–193, 249, 325, 327 in Anglo-Saxon England, 251–252 in a fictional Viking era, 330, 338 in Malory’s Morte Darthur, 342–345 Companies, see Playing companies Conversation, see Colloquies Conversion, 70, 80 Conversion narratives, 190 Cooper, Helen, 62 Cooper, Thomas, 276, 278 Coteries, 171 Cotton, John Milk for Babes, 227 Couch, Julie Nelson, xxxi–xxxii, 153–167 Coudert, Allison P., 204 Courtrooms children in, xxvi Cowley, Abraham, 62 Cox, Captain, 62, 63 Cox, Richard, 55 Craig-Atkins, Elizabeth, 253 Crain, Patricia, 71 Crane, Susan, 164, 165 Cranmer, Thomas, 283 Crawford, Julie, 223n6 Crawford, Patricia, 136 Crawford, Sally, 6, 245, 251, 253–255 Cremation, 244, 249–251 Crespin, Jean, 227 Cressey, David, 172, 172n3, 303 Crossley-Holland, Kevin, xxxv, 327 Battle of Maldon (translator), 330 Bracelet of Bones, 332–333, 336 coming of age in the fiction of, 338 female protagonists in the fiction of, 332–337 Scramasax, 333–336 violence in the fiction of, 334–335



Crow, Andrea, 125 Crucifixion, see under Lyrics Cuckoldry, see Illegitimacy D D’Addario, Christopher, 314 Dancing, 172–175 Darton, F. J. Harvey, 7, 221, 342 Children’s Books in England, 220 Davenant, William, 173 Davies, Thorne Reginald, 263, 269 Dawson, Anthony, 127n11 Day, John Isle of Gulls, 110, 115, 116 de Spalding, Adam, 268 Dean, Pamela, 366 Death, see Child mortality; Maternal mortality Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe, 346 Deleuze, Gilles theories of “becoming,” 121 Delight, 221, 225, 227, 236 Delights for Young Men and Maids, 226 Demers, Patricia, 220n2 Demography of Anglo-Saxon cemetaries, 245–248 Demonologies, 50 See also under Literature Denny, Sandy, 365 Dering, Edward, 319 Descartes, René, xxxii, 203, 206–208, 211, 216 on childhood and knowledge, 204–206 Devil, the, see Satan Devotion, xxxiv–xxxv Dialogues, see Colloquies Diensberg, Bernhard, 88

Dillinger, Johannes, 46 Dinah the Blackmore, xxxii, 189, 197–200 Disguise, 129 Djordjevic, Ivana, 155n4 Domesticity, xxv, xxxv, 272, 294 See also under Malory, Thomas; White, T. H. Donne, John, 180 Drake, Edith, 264 Drayton, Michael, 59 Dreams, 194–197 Duane, Anna Mae, 70, 72 Dudley, Robert, Earl of Leicester, 57 Duffy, Eamon, xxiii Dulwich College production of Antonio and Mellida, 105 Dunstan, 23 Dury, John, 204 E Eadmer, 25, 33 Eadric, 244, 251 Eberwein, Jane Donahue, 76 Ecclesiastes, 311, 315, 316 Eckert, Ken, 154 Education, xxiv–xxvi, xxix–xxx, xxxiii, 5, 204, 208, 210, 212 in America, 74 of girls, 172–173 of girls and boys, 54 Latin, xxv Margaret Cavendish on, 212–216 in monasteries, 21–33 in Tudor England, 53–65 Edward, Prince, 60 Edward III, King, 281 Edward IV, King, 277, 281 Edward V, King, 281


Edward VI, King, 55, 57, 281, 284–286, 288 Edward’s Boys (King Edward VI School), 111–112, 116 Elizabeth, Princess, 171, 176 Elizabeth of York children of, 277–281 Elizabeth I, Queen, xxxii, 57, 177, 281, 283–284, 288 Ellina, Harington, 306 Elves, 91–92 Embroidery, 307 Empathy, xxxvi English Folk Revival, 365 Enterline, Lynn, 64 Epistemology, xxvii, xxxii–xxxiii, 204, 205, 211, 228 Espagnet, Jean d, 39 Esto quod es, 24, 27, 30, 33 Estrin, Barbara L., 292–293, 298–300 Eucharist, 165 Euripedes Iphigenia at Aulis, 175 Evelyn, Mary, 178 Eyrbyggja Saga, 332 Ezell, Margaret, 169, 171n2 F Fables, 56–59 See also Aesop Fabyan, Robert, 276, 278 Fairport Convention, 365 Fairy tales, xxxvi–xxxvii, 220, 363, 373–376 as women’s stories, 366 See also Oral storytelling Fallon, Stephen M., 204 Fallows, Noel, 10 Familiars, 41 Family nuclear, xxv


Family trees, 294–295 Fane, Rachel, xxxii, 173–175 May Masque, 173 Fane, Sir Francis, 173 Fantasy, xxviii–xxx, xxxvi, 358 brooding male heroes in Young Adult fiction, 365n1 Faust, Drew Gilpin, 75 Feret, Francois, 183 Fèvre, Raoul le, 60 Fictionalization, xxviii, xxxvii Field, Nathan, 115, 122 Figural agency, 154 Figures, see Figural agency Filmer, Robert Patriarcha, 210 Finucane, Ronald, 6, 265 Fireside Book of Folksongs, 365 Fischer-Lichte, Erika, 125, 125n5 Fisher, Margery, 328 Fisher, Will, 113, 127n9 Fitzroy, Henry, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, 285–286 Fletcher, John, 145, 173 Woman Hater, The, 116 Folklore, xxxvi–xxxvii, 91, 92, 301, 332, 372–373 Jewish, 375 Folktales, see Folklore Food and maternity, 351 Ford, John C., 164 Forman, Simon, 56 Foster, Donald, 178 Foundlings, 292, 293, 297 Fox, John, 233 Foxe, John, 276, 278, 280, 282–285, 287 Acts and Monuments, 222, 276 Franklin, Benjamin, 77 Franklin, Jeremy, 112 Freeman, Jane, 104



Friendship, 153–167 Frier and the Boy, The, 226 Frye, Susan, 175 Funerary customs, xxxiii in Anglo-Saxon England, 243–255 G Gag, Wanda Millions of Cats, 371 Gardiner, Dorothy, 172–173 Garnett, David, 349 Gender, xxvii, xxxii, xxxiv, 5, 114, 170, 198, 204, 213, 255, 291 in burial, 249 and cognition, 208, 209 constructions of, 126–127 distinctions in Anglo-Saxon England, 249 and education, 209 and manuscript circulation, 307, 313–319 and royal children, 276, 280, 282 as a young reader, 337 Genealogy, xxxiv, 294–295, 297–301, 303 Genesis, 199 Ghost stories, 64 Gilgamesh, 375 Gillespie, Katharine, 198 Gillis, John, 348 Girlhood, 187–200 constructions of, 170 literary representation of, xxxii, 366 and race, 197–200 Girls Early Modern literary culture of, xxxii, 169–184, 313–319 early modern relationships of, xxxii, 187–200 writing by, xxxii, 169–184, 314–319 Godwin, Francis, 284

Goldberg, Jonathan, 183 Good Death, 75 Goodey, C. F., 92 Goodland, Catherine, 142 Goodwin, Francis, 276 Goodwin, John B. L. Pleasant Pirate, The, 371 Goody, Jack, 253 Googe, Barnabe, 314 Gossett, Suzanne, 123, 129 Gowing, Laura, 136 Grafton, Richard, 277–279, 281, 283, 285 Grainier, Jean, 42 Grammar schools, 54–56, 64 Gramsci, Antonio, xxiii Gray, Catharine, 188 Greene, Robert Pandosto, 145 Green, Ian, 312 Green, Richard Firth, 88 Gregory I, Pope Saint, 253 Grenby, Mathew, 221 Grenier, Jean, 49 Greteman, Blaine, 126n7, 128, 206, 215, 216n4 Grief, xxvii, xxxi, 135–148 maternal, xxxiii–xxxiv, 261–272 Griego, Danielle, xxxiii–xxxiv, 261–272 Grimm, the Brothers, 372, 375 Growing sideways, 115 Growing up, see Child development Gubar, Marah, 127n10 Guilt maternal, xxxiii–xxxiv, 261–272 Guy, Hannah, 189, 194–197 H Habib, Imtiaz, 197 Hahn, Cynthia, 95


Haj, Joseph, 144 Hall, Alaric, 92 Hall, Edward Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York, 277–279, 281, 283, 285 Hall, Joseph, 312 Hall, Kim, 198 Hanawalt, Barbara, 6, 265, 269 Handmaids, 191–192 Handwriting, 174–178 Hardyng, John, 278, 279, 281 Harington, Ellina (Helena), 314–319 Harington, Frances, 306, 314–319 Harington, Lucy Sidney, 306 Harington, Sir John, 315 Harington of Exton, Sir James, 306 Harington of Ridlington, James, 315 Harington of Stepney, John, 315 Härke, Heinrich, 249 Harwilerin, Johanna, 42 presented to the Devil by her mother, 38–39 Haslem, Lori Schroeder, 120n2 Haught, Leah, 153, 154, 161 Hawkes, Terence, 295 Hay, Gilbert, 5, 6, 8 Buik of King Alexander Þe Conquerour, 18 Buke of the Gouernaunce of Princis, 7, 14–16 Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede, xxix, 5, 9–15 Heirlooms, 305–319 Heirs apparent, 277, 281, 282, 288, 294 Heng, Geraldine, 154n3, 156, 159 Henry, Duke of Cornwall, 281 Henry, Duke of Orleans, 282 Henry, Prince, 136 Henry I, King, 252 Henry VI, King, 263, 267–268


Henry VII, King children of, 277–286 Henry VIII, King, 278–279, 288 Henslowe, Philip, 123 Henty, G. A., 328 Herbert, George “The Bunch of Grapes,” 182 Herbert, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, 316, 318 Heroes children as, xxxi–xxxii, 154 See also Protagonists Heroism, xxxv, 366 See also under Treece, Henry Hickman, Elisabeth, xxxii, 177 Hidden adult, see Nodelman, Perry Higginbotham, Jennifer, xxxii, 169–184, 191 Hillebrand, H. N., 64 Hill Manuscript, 314–317 Hlothere, 244, 251 Hobbes, Thomas, xxxii, 203, 204, 208 on childhood, 210–211 on cognition, 205–207 Hodgkin, Katharine, 190 Hodgson, Elizabeth M., 306 Hoffer, Peter Charles, 76 Holbein, Hans Images of the Old Testament, 229 Holinshed, Raphael Chronicles, 275, 277–279, 281, 286 Homza, Lu Ann, 39, 40, 41n14 Horace, 220 Howard, Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, 283 Howard, Henry, Earl of Surrey, see Surrey, Henry Howard, Earl of Howard, Kat, 366 Howard, Mary, 286 Hughey, Ruth, 315–317 Hutton, Ronald, 88n2, 92 Hyland, Peter, 126n8



I Icelandic sagas, 326, 332 Identity, xxix, xxxvii, 28, 31, 76, 124 and occupation, 24 Ideology, xxv, 183, 236 Puritan, 70, 73 Illegitimacy, xxx, 94–96, 282, 284, 285 Illustrations, 228–230 Imagination, xxvi, xxxvi, 56, 148, 173, 205, 210, 216, 338, 345, 348, 358, 366 Immel, Andrea, 220n3 Improvisation, see Scripted improvisation Inductions, xxx–xxxi, 104–106, 116, 125, 125n6, 128 Ine, 244, 252, 254, 255 Ingelend, Thomas Disobedient Child, The, 55 Inheritance, xxxiv, 249 See also Genealogy; Heirlooms Inhumation, 244, 248, 250, 254 Innocence, 27, 61, 64, 70, 115, 155, 236, 328 Insults, 88–91, 93 Intimacy, 80, 192–193, 270, 309, 311 J Jacobs, Joseph, 372 James I, King, 136, 307 James IV, King of Scotland, 280 James V, King of Scotland, 282 Janeway, James Token for Children, A, 77–80, 189, 227, 233; influence of, 81–82; printing of, 77–79; reception of, 69–74 Jessey, Henry, xxxii Exceeding Riches of Grace, The, xxxii, 187–200

Jesus Christ, xxviii, 269–271 and child substitution motif, 95–97 as folklore, 372 as infant, 89–91, 97–98 Johnson, Richard Famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom, 226 Johnson, Tolu, 105 Jones, Anne Rosalind, 175 Jonson, Ben, xxxi, 112, 136, 148, 173 Bartholomew Fair, xxxi, 119–124, 126, 128–132 Cynthia’s Revels, 107, 108, 110, 111 Epicoene, xxxi, 122, 126–128 “Epitaph on Salomon Pavy,” 114–115 “On My First Daughter,” 138–139 “On My First Son,” 136–137 Volpone, 58 Jordan, Thomas, 115 K Katherine of Aragon, 278, 279, 288 children of, 281–283 Kathman, David, 128 Keenan, Siobhan, 123n4 Kelliher, Hilton, 180 Kettnich, Karen, 104 King Horn, 166 King, Margaret L., 120n1 King, Peter, 210 King’s Men, 125n6 Kinship, 252 Kirkwood, James New Family Book, 228 Kirwan, Peter, 112 Knighthood, 9–15 Krupp, Anthony, 204, 205 Kuefler, Mathew S., 253 Kushner, Ellen, xxxvi, 363–368


Thomas the Rhymer, xxxvi, 367–368 Kuuliala, Jenni, 88n1 L Lady Elizabeth’s Men, xxxi, 122–126, 128–132 Lake, Peter, 312 Lamb, Edel, 103, 105, 115, 123 Lamb, Mary Ellen, 314 Lancre, Pierre de Rostéguy, Sieur de, 39–43, 39n8, 49 Lang, Andrew, 372 Langham, Robert, 62, 63 Langrish, Katherine, xxxv, 325–338 Troll Blood, 332 Latin language acquisition, 22, 23, 26, 33, 54, 56, 225, 316 Law codes Anglo-Saxon, 244, 249, 251–254 Le Saux, Françoise, 162 Leaf, Munro Ferdinand, 371 Lecompte du Noüy, P., 298 Lee, Christina, 254 Legalism, religious, 164–166 Leicester, Earl of, see Dudley, Robert, Earl of Leicester Leprosy, 164–166 Lerer, Seth, 6, 7, 9 Lesnik-Oberstein, Karin, 342, 354 L’Estrange, Roger, 228–229 Letter vs. spirit, see Legalism, religious Letter writing, 174–175 Levin, Carole, xxxiv, 275–288 Lewalski, Barbara Keifer, 170, 171 Lineage, see Genealogy Link, Kelly, 366 Literacy, xxv, 74, 170, 172, 183 Biblical, 188, 191–194, 196 girls, 172


of women, 313–319 Literary culture, xxvii, xxxiii modern, xxviii, xxxv, 337, 354, 357–358 See also Children’s literature Literature of girlhood, xxxii of mind, 204, 206–209 of the supernatural, 37 See also Children’s literature Littleness, 120, 122, 132, 191 Little Pretty Pocket-book, A, 219, 228 Liturgy, 22–24, 32 Llibre de l’ordre de cavalleria, see Lull, Ramon Lloyd, A. L., 365 Locke, John, xxxiii Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 222, 225–226, 228, 229 London, 124, 129, 188, 196, 287, 371 Louis XII, King of France, 281 Lovelace, Richard, 58 Luke, Gospel of, 270 Lull, Ramon, 9 Llibre de l’ordre de cavalleria, 4, 5 Lullabies of the Nativity, 263, 269–271 Lumley, Jane, 171 Lycanthropy, xxix, 37, 49 Lydgate, John, 9 Lyly, John, 127n11 Lynch, Kathleen, 188, 196 Lyrics of the Passion, 263, 270–271 See also Lullabies M MacColl, Ewan, 365 MacLehose, William F., 90, 98



Magdalena possessed by Satan, 43–45 Magic, xxix, 348, 363, 367, 375 Maids, 188, 191–192, 199 Malory, Thomas Morte Darthur, 62, 347, 350; domesticity in, 342–345; lack of children in, 342 Malt, Isabell, 287 Mantuan, 59 Manuscript culture, xxxii, xxxiv–xxxv, 169, 171, 305–319 Marcus, Leonard, 70, 74, 78, 81 Marginalia by children, 230–234 Mark, Gospel of, 190, 194 Marlowe, Christopher, xxv Dido, Queen of Carthage, 56, 60 Hero and Leander, 59 Jew of Malta, 64 Marriage negotiations royal, 282–283 Marston, John Antonio and Mellida, 103, 105, 113 Antonio’s Revenge, 113; Edward’s Boys production of, 113 inductions in, 125n6 Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image, 59 Martyn, William, 278, 279, 286 Marvels, 158–161 Mary, Mother of Jesus, 138, 269–271 as a child, xxviii Mary, Queen, 281–283, 287, 288 Masculinity, 27, 107, 113, 130, 343 Masques, 173–174 Material culture, 305–319 Maternal mortality, 142, 279, 284 Maternal responsibilities, 261–262, 265–269, 272, 306, 308, 318 Mather, Cotton, xxx, 74–77 as historian, 73

Magnalia Christi Americana, 76–77 Token for the Children of New England, A, xxx, 77, 79–81; influence of, 81–82; printing of, 77–79; reception of, 69–74 Mather, Creasy, 74 Mather, Jerusha, 75 Mather, Katy, 75 Mather, Liza, 75 Mather, Nathanael, 80 Matthew, Gospel of, 25n11 Matthews, Gareth, 203 Matts, George, 112 May, Todd, 121 McCausland, Elly, xxxv–xxxvi, 341–354 McGrath, Leslie, 219n1 McKillip, Patricia A., 366 McKinley, Jacqueline I., 246–248 McLuskie, Kathleen, 123 McManus, Clare, 173 McQuade, Paula, 312 Medieval drama, xxx Mehl, Dieter, 155 Memory, xxvi–xxvii, 26, 80, 142, 331, 358 Meres, Francis, 59 Metatheatricality, xxx–xxxi, 104, 107–109, 116, 120, 121, 125 Middle English romance, see under Romance Middleton, Thomas Mad World, My Masters, A, 113–114 Mildmay, Lady Grace, 173 Mildmay, Lady Mary, 173 Milles, Thomas, 276, 278, 279 Mills, Perry, 111 Mills-Bampoe, Paapa, 105 Milton, John, xxxii, xxxiii, 204, 211 on childhood, 210 on cognition, 206–209 Of Education, 207, 209


Paradise Lost, 60, 206–209, 212, 215, 216 Samson Agonistes, 209 Mind, see Cognition; see under Literature; Philosophy Miracle stories, xxxiii–xxxiv, 262–269, 272 Miracula, see Miracle stories Monaghan, E. Jennifer, 70, 71, 74 Monasteries, xxix, 21–33 daily life in, 25 education in, 22 renewal of, 23 Moncrief, Kathryn, xxxi, 135–148 Monks, see Monasteries Montagu, Ann, 306, 309–313, 318 Montagu, Bess, xxxiv Montagu, Charles, 314 Montagu, Elizabeth Harington, xxxiv, 305–309, 318 Montagu, Henry, 309 Montagu, James, 307, 316 Montagu, Ralph, 315 Montagu, Sidney, 309 Montagu family, xxxiv–xxxv, 305–319 Montagu of Boughton, Edward, 1st Baron, 306–313 Montagu of Boughton, Edward, 2nd Baron, 307, 309 Montaigne, Michel de, 59 More, Henry, 204 Mothers, xxxiii–xxxiv, 261–272 writing by, xxxi Mother Shipton, 225 Mourning, 135–148 Munro, Lucy, 105, 110n3 Musters, Lady Jane, 137 Mythos, 372 N Narratology, 301 National Ballet of Canada, 147


Nativity lullabies, see Lullabies Needlework, 174–178, 183 Nelson, Karen, 174 Newbery, John, 219, 228 New England culture of, xxx, 69–82 Nice Wanton, 55 Nichols, Andrea, xxxiv, 275–288 Nickerson, Jane, 366 Nikolajeva, Maria, 348, 349 Nodelman, Perry, xxiii, 7, 7n7, 11, 17, 18, 346 “hidden adult,” 4 Noel, Mabel, 318 Norse culture, xxxv Novel rise of, 222 N-Town Cycle, 96 O Oberstein, Lesnik, 349 Oblates, 22, 24 O’Brien O’Keeffe, Katherine, 24 O’Connor, Marion, 173 Old wives tales, see Oral storytelling Oliver, Lisi, 249 O’Malley, Andrew, 346, 347 Oral storytelling, 62–64 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 144 Orme, Nicholas, 5, 7, 9, 226, 263 Ortelius, Abraham Le Miroir du Monde, 182 Osbern, 25, 33 Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, 224 Oswald, 23 Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso), xxix, 27, 53 Metamorphoses, 229 in Tudor England, 59–60



Owen, John Immoderate Mourning for the Dead, 137 Ozouf, Jacques, 183 P Packard, Bethany, xxx–xxxi, 103–116 Paine, Thomas Common Sense, 72 Paracosm, xxiv, xxvi See also Fantasy; Imagination Parenting, see under Pedagogy Parker, Henry, 276 Parker, Roszika, 175 Parks, Brooke, 144 Parr, Katherine Mirror of the Sinful Soul, The, 176 Passion lyrics, see Lyrics Paster, Gail Kern, 121 Paternal responsibilities, 307, 308 Paternity, xxxiv, 291, 299, 303 See also Illegitimacy Patton, Elizabeth, 174 Paul’s Boys, 106, 115 Pavy, Salomon, 114–115, 122 Pedagogy, xxxiv–xxxv, 306 and gender, 306–319 maternal, 309–313, 318–319 and religion, 313 paternal, 307–313, 318 Peele, George Old Wives Tale, 62–63 Pelham, Bess, 172, 173 Pelham, Phillis, 172, 173 Pelham, Sir Thomas, 172, 173 Pender, Patricia, 171n1 Pepys, Paulina, 318 Performance, xxxvii, 103–116, 119–132, 142, 148, 194 Perrault, Charles, 220, 221, 375 Peterborough Manuscript, The, 245

Philip II, King of Spain, 286 Philippy, Patricia, xxxiv–xxxv, 305–319 Philips, Katherine, 148 “Epitaph On Hector Philips At St. Sith’s Church,” 139–141 “On the Death of my First and Dearest Child,” 138–139 Philosophy of mind, 204–206, 228 Plague, 140, 246 Plane, Ann Marie, 196 Plato, 205, 205n1 Play, xxvi, xxxvi, 32, 223, 227 Players, see Child players Playing companies, 124–125 Pliny, 251 Poetry, see Ballads; Lullabies; Lyrics Poetry Alive, 375 Poirier, Marguerite attacked by werewolf, 46 Pomey, François, 226 Pope, Elizabeth Marie, 366 Porter, Henry Two Angry Women of Abington, 125 Possession satanic, 37, 43–45 Pregnancy humoral theory of, 121–122 phantom, 287 Print culture, 223 Printing, see Book trade Propp, Vladimir, 301, 302 Protagonists boys as, xxxv, 327 girls as, xxxv, 327, 332–335 See also Child protagonists Proverbs, 30, 56 Psalms, 316, 318 Pseudo-Callisthenes, 15 Psychoanalysis, 346 Puberty, 27, 42 Publishing, see Book trade


Pugh, Tison, 155, 163 Punishment, 24, 55, 345 Puppet plays, 119 Purgatory, 142 Puritanism, 120, 120n1, 227, 306, 307, 309–313 See also under Childhood; Ideology Puss in Boots, 373 Puttenham, George Art of English Poesy, The, 57 R Race, xxvii, xxxii, 197–200, 374 Raven, James, 78 Readers, see Child readers Reading, xxv, xxvii, xxxiv–xxxv, 72, 319 instructive, xxxiii, 3, 9, 14, 53, 74, 220, 227, 236, 262, 306, 311 recreational, xxxiii, 9, 53, 220, 221, 224 Reading practices of children, 224 Redford, John Wit and Science, 55 Reeves, Margaret, xxxiii, 219–237 Regularis Concordia, 23, 28, 31, 32 Religion, xxxiv–xxxv, 288, 309–313, 359, 372 and childhood, xxvii–xxviii, 187–200 Resurrection, 142, 147, 148, 194 Reynard the Fox, see under Caxton, William Rhetorica ad Herennium, 26 Richard III, King, 9 Richards, Julian D., 251 Riché, Pierre, 6 Ringler, William, 314 Roberts, Clayton, 249 Roberts, David, 249


Robin Hood, 225 Robinson, H. Scholae Wintoniensis, 233 Robinson, Lillian S., 170 Romance, 9, 10, 62, 301 Middle English, xxxi–xxxii, 94–95, 153–167 Roper, Lyndal, 38, 41n13 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, xxiv Royal Ballet, 147 Royal children, xxxiv in Tudor chronicles, 275–288 Royal marriage negotiations, see Marriage negotiations Rule of Benedict, 22, 23, 28, 31 Rumplestiltskin, 373–375 S Saints’ lives, 155 Saint Stephen, Life of, 93 Saltmarsh, John, 188, 197 Satan, 37–50 children offered to, 39–43 copulation with, 40, 43 Satanic possession, see under Possession Saupe, Karen, 269 Sawyer, Rose Alice, xxx, 87–98 Scots, Older (language), 8 Scouting for Boys, see Baden-Powell, Robert Scripted improvisation, xxx–xxxi, 104–106 Scriptive thing, 121n3 “Second Shepherds’ Play”, 91, 96 Seiler, Tobias, 44 Sensory perception, 205–208 Servants, xxxii See also Child servants Sexuality, xxiii, 27, 193, 198, 350



Seymour, Jane children of, 284–286 Shahar, Shulamith, 6, 297 Shakespeare, William, xxv, xxxi, xxxvi, 60, 61, 65, 193, 296, 314 adapting for young readers, 359–361 As You Like It, 55 child mortality in, 141–142 genealogies in, 301 Hamlet, 57 King Lear, 57 Macbeth, 141, 293 Merry Wives of Windsor, The, 54–55 Midsummer Night’s Dream, A, 53, 58 oral storytelling in, 63–64 Pericles, 141–145, 143n9, 148 Rape of Lucrece, 59 Richard II, 56 Tempest, The, 146, 299, 301 3 Henry VI, 57, 60 Titus Andronicus, 59, 61 Winter’s Tale, The, xxxiv, 135, 141, 147–148, 291–294, 296–299, 303 Shapiro, Michael, 105 Sidney, Philip, 193, 306, 316 Astrophel and Stella, 314 Defence of Poesy, 57, 62 Simpson, Anna-Claire, xxxi, 119–132 Sinclair, William, third earl of Orkney and Caithness, 7 Slatyer, William, 278 Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past, 255 Song of Songs, 197–200 Spaces, xxiv, xxvi, xxxiii, xxxv, 9, 120, 121, 142, 155, 158, 159, 161, 193, 343, 347, 364 Speech of children, xxvi monastic patterns of, xxix, 21–33 (lack of) restraint in, 30

Speght, Rachel A Mouzell for Melastomus, 171 Spenser, Edmund, 57, 296 Faerie Queene, The, 60, 62, 303 Sprague, Kurth, 350, 353 Spufford, Francis, xxv, 63 Squires, Kirsty, xxxiii, 243–255 Stabell, Ivy, xxx, 69–82 Stainton, Tim, 92 Steedman, Carolyn, 189 SteelEye Span, 363 Stephen, Saint, 93 Stephen of Bourbon, 92 Stevens, Martin, 89, 96, 97 Stockton, Kathryn Bond, 115 Stone, Lawrence, 136 Storytellers, 360 Stow, John, 276–279, 285, 286, 286n5 Structural analysis, see Structuralism Structuralism, 295, 301–303 See also under Childhood Stuart, Arbella, xxxii, 174, 175, 182 Subaltern, see under Childhood Subjectivity, see under Childhood Succession, xxxiv, 95, 275–288 Surrey, Henry Howard, Earl of, 306, 315, 316 Sussex, Lucy, 366 Sutcliff, Rosemary, 325, 326 Swaddling, 267–268 Swarbrick, Dave, 365 “Sweet Lady Jane” text and authorship question, 180–181 Swetnam, Joseph Araignment of Lewde, idle, forward, and unconstant women, 171 T Tacitus, 251, 254 Talbot, Thomas, 278


Tales, see Oral storytelling “Tam Lin,” 364–366, 368 Tarlton, Richard, 129 Tennyson, Alfred Idylls of the King, 343 Thomas, Isaiah, 78 Thomas, Keith, xxiv, 121 Thomas of Cantilupe, 263, 264, 268 Thomas of Ercildoune, 367 “Thomas the Rhymer,” 367–368 Thompson, Ann, 61 Toads, 41, 43, 43n16 Tom Thumb, 226 Townsend, John Rowe, 220, 222, 331 Translation, 5, 54, 64–65, 175, 183, 199, 233, 314–318 Trapnel, Anna, 193 Cry of a Stone, The, 192 Travers, P. L. Mary Poppins, 372 Trease, Geoffrey, 325, 326 Treece, Henry, xxxv, 325–327 Black Longship, The, 331 coming of age in the fiction of, 335–336, 338 Hounds of the King, 330, 338 Road to Miklagard, The, 329 Viking’s Dawn, 328–329 Viking’s Sunset, 329–331 violence and heroism in the fiction of, 327–331 women in the fiction of, 331–332 Trivaler, Alice, 268 Trothplight, 154, 158–161, 165 Tudor, Edmund (son of Henry VII), 279 Tudor, Elizabeth (daughter of Henry VII), 279 Tudor, Katherine (daughter of Henry VII), 279 Tudor, Margaret (daughter of Henry VII), 279, 280


Tudor, Mary (daughter of Henry VII), 279, 281 Turberville, George, 314 Turner, Susan, 203 Tuttle, Leslie, 196 Tyndale, William, 225 U Udall, Nicholas Floures for Latin Speaking, 233 V Vergil, Polydore, 276, 278, 279, 285 Vikings, xxxv in historical fiction, 325–338 Vines, Amy, 269, 270 Violence, 163, 327, 335, 345 to children, 89, 92–93 Virgil, 59 Eclogues, 59 Vitry, Jacques de, 88 Vives, Juan Luis Instruction of a Christian Woman, The, 214 W Wallington, Nehemiah, 140–142 Walsham, Alexandra, 63 Walters, Lisa, xxxii–xxxiii, 203–216 Warner, Sylvia Townsend, 345, 354 Watt, Ian, 222 Watts, Isaac, 226 Webster, John induction to The Malcontent, 125n6 Weikle-Mills, Courtney, 72, 74 Weil, François, 294–296, 300, 303 Weiss, Adrian, 112 Werewolves, see Lycanthropy Wet nursing, 253



Weyer, Johan, 48 Wheale, Nigel, 171 Wheelon, Christopher, 148 White, Constance, 353 White, Robert Cupid’s Banishment, 173 White, T. H., 348n3 childhood of, 345 and domesticity, 345–347 Once and Future King, The, 341, 346, 354; domesticity in, 349–352; magic in, 348–349; women and mothers in, 350–353 Sword in the Stone, The, 351, 372; self-sufficiency of children in, 347–348 White, Thomas Little Book for Little Children, 227 Manual for Parents, 233 Wight, Mary, 195 Wight, Sarah, xxxii, 187–200 Wonderful Pleasant and Profitable Letter, A, 190 Wilkins, George, 143n9 William of Canterbury, 87, 263, 264, 266 Williams, Deanne, 59, 173 Williams, Gerhild Scholz, xxix, 37–50 Williams, Marcia, xxxvi, 357–361 Windling, Terri, 367n3 Wiseman, Susan, 188 Wish-fulfilment, 142, 341, 346, 349, 354 Witchcraft, xxix, 37–50, 37n1 Witches

children as, 39–40 Witches’ mark, 42–43, 47 Witch’s sabbath, xxix, 37, 39 Women reading and writing practices of, 305–319 Wooden, Warren, 222 Woolfe, Rosemary, 263 Wordsworth, William, xxiii, xxiv, 81 World and the Child, 55 World War II childhood during, 371 Worthen, William, 142 Writing, xxxiv–xxxv, 313 See also under Girls Wroth, Lady Mary, 296 Love’s Victory, 174 Urania, 299 Wyatt, Sir Thomas, 306, 315 Wynne Jones, Diana, 366 Y Yeandle, Laetitia, 173 Yolen, Jane, xxxvi–xxxvii, 367, 367n2, 371–376 Curse of the Thirteenth Fey, 375 Encounter, 375 Finding Baba Yaga, 375 Mapping the Bones, 375 Sleeping Ugly, 375 Yoon, Ju Ok, 164n15 Z Zucker, Adam, 129