Lady Mary Carey (c. 1609-c. 1680) wrote verse and prose meditations. She was the daughter of Sir John Jackson of Berwick upon Tweed. Her first husband, Pelham Carey, was knighted in 1633 and died in 1642/3. In 1643 Mary Carey married the Parliamentarian officer, George Payler, but throughout her life she kept the title and name from her first marriage. During the civil wars Carey accompanied Payler on military campaigns and after the Restoration she and her husband retired to Nun Monkton in Yorkshire.
Twenty-first-century readers of Carey’s writings will be excited to hear that the autograph manuscript of Carey’s works (which was held by the Meynell family until July 2013) has been acquired by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC. Details about the Sotheby’s sale of this manuscript can be found here: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2013/english-literature-history-l13404/lot.260.html
Carey’s autograph manuscript (now Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V. a. 628) was compiled in circa 1649-58. It includes Carey’s elegies on her children and her (now well-known) poem about miscarriage, ‘Vpon the Sight of my abortiue birth the 31 of december: 1657’. Folger MS V. a. 628 also contains Carey’s religious meditations and the conversion narrative, ‘A Dialogue betwext the Soule and the Bodie’, which gives an account of Carey’s adolescence, her illness at 18, and subsequent salvation. The manuscript is an octavo fair copy. As the Sotheby’s cataloguer point out, the manuscript comprises of 234 pages in total of which 201 have seventeenth-century numeration, ruled in red, including 22 leaves inserted during the composition process on different paper stock and lacking the red rules.
Evidence survives to suggest Carey’s autograph works from Folger MS V. a. 628 were read and circulated during the seventeenth century. In 1681 Charles Hutton copied all of the works from Carey’s autograph manuscript into a miscellany, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Rawlinson D. 1308. Hutton’s miscellany is arranged in two sections: the first section includes Carey’s works (transcribed in the same order as Folger MS V. a. 628) and one poem by Carey’s husband, Payler (also in Folger MS V. a. 628); the second section contains memoirs of the Parliamentarian general, Lord Fairfax, followed by the Duke of Buckingham’s elegy on Fairfax.
According to the editors of the Perdita Project, Hutton’s miscellany uses the texts of Carey and Fairfax to present exemplary models of piety and Parliamentarianism, both male and female. The editors of Perdita go on to argue that Carey’s supposedly private texts – her elegies on the deaths of her children and records of religious experience – are transcribed by Hutton for the ‘public construction of female spirituality and political ideology’. Hutton’s miscellany provides crucial evidence for the circulation of Carey’s writings within seventeenth-century Parliamentarian coterie circles.
Another of Mary Carey’s poems that was circulating in manuscript during the seventeenth century was her elegy on Lord Fairfax’s wife, Anne Vere Fairfax. This elegy was probably written in circa 1665 after Anne Fairfax’s death. Although no autograph copy of this elegy survives, two seventeenth-century transcriptions of it are extant: the first is in Bodleian Library, MS Fairfax 40, a miscellany compiled by Lord Fairfax in circa 1660-70, at his country house, Nun Appleton in Yorkshire; the second is in Bodleian Library, MS Fairfax 38, which seems to be a copy of MS Fairfax 40 compiled by Lord Fairfax’s cousin, Henry Fairfax, in circa 1665. As far as I know, Carey’s elegy on Anne Fairfax has never been printed so today I thought I would provide a transcription of this poem taken from Lord Fairfax’s copy in MS Fairfax 40:
The Lady Caryes
Elogy [sic] on my deare Wife
O Fatal fall might not those heapes suffice
This summer captiu’d but thou must surprize
The best of Nobels this soe great good Lady
A Vere A Fairfax Honours – Honour, shee
Did grace her Birth Sex Relate & Degree
& Shee a non-parell for Piety
Vers’t in the theory of Godliness
The which she did in conference express
Its Practick part her life to life did shew
Each way but most excellinge in all vew
Was Faith Submission unweared pleasantnes
With uniuersal weaknes, Paine sickness
Many longe lasting Great few euer sence
Soe followed Job in suffringe Patience
But she is now most gloriously exalted
Wher sin & sorrow neuer entred
To Mount Zion heauenly Jerusalem
The City of God to sperits of Just men
To Church of the first borne to Angels blest
To God to Jesus this Compleats the rest
Her Faith saw this which made her smile att death
And with much Joy surrendred vp her breath
Her Body deare her All thats out of Heauen
To Billbrough church as a riche Treasure’s giuen
Bilbrough church-yeard daine me a little roome
That after death my graue waite on her Tombe
As you can see, Carey’s elegy honours Anne Fairfax for being ‘Vers’t in the theory of Godliness’ (line 7). Carey’s speaker then expresses a desire to wait on Anne Fairfax’s tomb after her own death (line 26).
This elegy certainly spoke to Lord Fairfax. Not only does Lord Fairfax copy Carey’s poem in his own hand, but he in turn writes an encomium to Mary Carey and places this encomium immediately after his transcription of Carey’s elegy:
To the Lady Cary
Upon her verses on my deare wife
Could I a Tr[i]bute of my thanks express
As you haue done in Loue & purer verse
On my best selfe then I might Justly raise
your Elogy [sic] t’Encomiums of your Prayse
And soe forgett the subiect that did moue
Me to a thankfulnes as’t did you to Loue
O t’were to great a Crime but pray allow
Wher I fall short but you haue reached to
Makinge that Good Wisest of Kings hath said
Th’ Liuing’s ^not soe^ Prayse-worthy then the dead
I thinke the Reason’s this itts grounded on
’Cause Mercys are not priz’d till they are gone
O had not hopes surpast my grosser sence
My Loss could not haue had a recompence
yett such an Influence hath your happy straine
To bring my buried Joyes to life againe
Virtue Goodnes ^Loue^ things Immortalize
The better part when as the other dies
True, soules in Bodyes haue ther being here
But loues in soules haue ther ther proper sphere
Then is true Loue Compo’sd of nobler fyers
Then to extinguish when the Life expires
Butt to Conclude Madam me think you ’aspire
In humblest Thoughts to raise your Trophys ^higher^
Then Her’s you would attend in gelid Mould
Which for her Friend the lodging seemes too ^could^
But were itt soe itt [sic] my good happ might bee
To lye next Her, To you our Quire is free
Lord Fairfax in his encomium praises Mary Carey for the ‘Influence’ of her ‘happy straine’ which brings his ‘buried Joyes to life againe’ (lines 15-16). These lines imply that Carey’s elegy provided Lord Fairfax with consolation during mourning. Mary Carey’s poem seems to be appreciated by Lord Fairfax on two levels: it is esteemed both aesthetically and in terms of its usefulness as an aid to grief.
RECIRC is recording on its database not only transcriptions and adaptations of female-authored items, but also works about women authors such as Lord Fairfax’s encomium to Mary Carey. These works about women authors are another way in which female authorial reputations were gaining traction in the early modern period.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Fairfax 38.
Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Fairfax 40.
Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Rawlinson D. 1308.
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, MS V. a. 628.
Printed and Electronic Sources
Adcock, Rachel. 2013. ‘‘In order to spirituall good the body often afflicted’: Bodily Affliction in Lady Mary Carey’s Conversion Narrative (1649-57)’. The Glass 25: 18-29.
Adcock, Rachel, Sara Read and Anna Ziomek, eds. 2014. Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Writing. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Anselment, Raymond A. 1997. ‘‘A heart terrifying Sorrow’: An Occasional Piece on Poetry of Miscarriage’. Papers on Language and Literature 33.1: 13-46.
Clarke, Elizabeth. 2000. ‘‘A heart terrifying Sorrow’: The Deaths of Children in Seventeenth-Century Women’s Manuscript Journals’. In Representations of Childhood Death, edited by Gillian Avery and Kimberley Reynolds. 65-86. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Dowd, Michelle M. 2012. ‘Genealogical Counternarratives in the Writings of Mary Carey’. Modern Philology 109.4: 440-62.
Eales, Jacqueline. 2004. ‘Fairfax, Anne, Lady Fairfax (1617/18-1665)’, Oxford Dictionary of Nation Biography <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/66848> [accessed 24 Oct 2016].
Greer, Germaine, and others, eds. 1988. Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Verse. London: Virago.
Hammons, Pamela. 1999. ‘Despised Creatures: The Illusion of Maternal Self-Effacement in Seventeenth-Century Child Loss Poetry’. English Literary History 66.1: 25-49.
Hamnet: Folger Shakespeare Library Online Catalogue. <http://hamnet.folger.edu/> [accessed 10 April 2017].
Long, Donna J. 2001. ‘‘It is a lovely bonne I make to thee’: Mary Carey’s ‘abortive Birth’ as Recuperative Religious Lyric’. In Discovering and (Re)Covering the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric, edited by Eugene R. Cunnar and Jeffrey Johnson, 248-72. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
Mendelson, Sara H. 2004. ‘Carey, Mary, Lady Carey (b. c. 1609, d. in or after 1680)’, Oxford Dictionary of Nation Biography <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/45811> [accessed 22 July 2016].
The Perdita Project. 2004. <https://web.warwick.ac.uk/english/perdita/html/> [accessed 10 April 2017].
Phillippy, Patricia. 2002. Women, Death and Literature in Post-Reformation England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schnell, Lisa J. 2010. ‘‘Let me Not Pyne for Poverty’: Maternal Elegy in Early Modern England’. In The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy, edited by Karen Weisman, 481-97. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stevenson, Jane, and Peter Davidson, eds. 2001. Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700): An Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.