chapter  2
16 Pages

Witches, Lamenting Women, and Cautionary Tales: Tracing “The Ladies Fall” in Early Modern English Broadside Balladry and Popular Song

BySarah F. Williams

The contingent nature of Mary Sidney's prominence illustrates the difficulty, for women, of negotiating secure, recognized positions for themselves and their works in the literary world of the late sixteenth century. The social position of Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, bears little obvious resemblance to that of the convert poet Richard Crashaw. While the text of the Sidney-Pembroke Psalmes remained unpublished until 1823, Mary Sidney prepared a presentation copy in anticipation of Queen Elizabeth's expected visit to Wilton House in 1599 that contained two original dedicatory poems: To the Angel Spirit of the Most Excellent Sir Philip Sidney and Even now that care. While Mary Sidney's poetic agenda seems necessarily connected to her sex, Crashaw had no personal stake in the attempts of female authors to achieve literary renown. Richard Crashaw was among the male authors who made use of this vocabulary, though not precisely for the purpose of self-assertion.