|Died||2 October 1636|
Anne Southwell (1574 – 1636) [née Harris], later called Anne, Lady Southwell, was a poet. Her commonplace book includes a variety of works including political poems, sonnets, occasional verse, and letters to friends.
Southwell was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Harris of Cornworthy, Devon, where she was christened on 22 August 1574. Her brother was the prominent Irish judge Sir Edward Harris. Anne and her first husband moved to Ireland in the early seventeenth century, but little is known of their life there.
On 24 June 1594, she married Thomas Southwell of Norfolk at St Clement Danes in London; they had two daughters. She became Anne, Lady Southwell, when Thomas was knighted in 1603. Her work suggests that she had some familiarity with the Court of James I of England, but apart from the knighthood, her husband received no preferment there.
Some time after her first husband's death in 1626, she married Captain Henry Sibthorpe, who was an army officer then serving in Ireland. For social reasons, she retained the name Southwell for the remainder of her life. They went to live at Clerkenwell in London and then moved in 1631 to a house they rented from the composer Robert Johnson. They both worked together to create a book that contained Anne's works and examples of texts by other writers. Southwell died in Acton in 1636.
Southwell’s poetry typically involved contemplating theological concepts. For example, she devoted some poems to meditations on the Ten Commandments.
"An Elegie written by the Lady A: S: to the Countesse of London Derrye supposeinge hir to be dead by hir longe silence"
Southwell wrote this poem in 1626 to the Countess of Londonderry, Cicely MacWilliams. As a mock elegy, Southwell dedicates 120 lines to explorations of MacWilliams’ physical body, the state of her soul, the Ptolemaic and Platonic heavens, and religious devotion. The poem echoes John Donne’s Second Anniversaire: The Progress of the Soule as the speaker follows MacWilliams’ soul into the heavenly spheres. Her internal colloquy begins in a specific address to MacWilliams’ bodily and spiritual experience, before she develops a broader description of heavens and Catholic religious practices. As a metaphysical elegy, Southwell creates an image of a Ptolemaic and Platonic universe in which prayer should be dedicated to the Holy Trinity instead of Catholic saints. Overall, this poem mocks MacWilliams for her lapse in correspondence and Southwell uses MacWilliams’ body and soul as vehicles for her heavenly and religious explorations. This poem deserves particular attention for its broad discussion of topics: Southwell discusses MacWilliams’ own afterlife, but she also broaches the debate concerning transubstantiation as well as Neoplatonism and devotional practices.
Death and legacy
Southwell was apparently buried at St Mary's Church, Acton and a plaque was mounted on the back wall. Two major manuscripts of her work survive, the collected folio in the Folger Shakespeare Library and one set of poems in the British Library. The folio is dated 20 December 1626 although it has been proposed that the book was started after Southwell's husband. It does appear to have been added to after her death. It is thought that it was presented to the Southwell family as a goodwill gesture by her second husband. The folio continued in the Southwell library until it was sold in 1834.
Of Southwell's daughters, Elizabeth, who married firstly Sir John Dowdall, and secondly Donough O'Brien, a younger son of the 1st Viscount Clare, is known for the spirited account she gave of her defence of Kilfinny Castle during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. A second daughter Frances was said to have married William Lenthal of Latchford in Oxfordshire, and been mother to William Lenthal, Speaker of Parliament during the Long Parliament. However, this identification is not compatible with the Speaker having been born in 1591.
- Farrell, edited by Kirby; Hageman, Elizabeth H.; Kinney, Arthur F. (1988). Women in the Renaissance: Selections from English Literary Renaisssance. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 175. ISBN 9780870237270.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Gillian Wright (18 April 2013). Producing Women's Poetry, 1600-1730: Text and Paratext, Manuscript and Print. Cambridge University Press. pp. 27–55. ISBN 978-1-107-03792-2.
- Jane Stevenson; Peter Davidson (2001). Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700): An Anthology. Oxford University Press. pp. 119–125. ISBN 978-0-19-924257-3.
- A. Southwell and H. Sibthorpe, The Southwell–Sibthorpe commonplace book: Folger MS.V.b.198, ed. J. Klene (1997)
- Andrew Carpenter, ed., Verse in English from Tudor & Stuart Ireland (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2003), 166.
- Ms Jennifer Heller (28 May 2013). The Mother's Legacy in Early Modern England. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 7, 31, 118–122. ISBN 978-1-4094-7871-3.
- Jean Klene, ‘Southwell , Anne, Lady Southwell (bap. 1574, d. 1636)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 12 Oct 2017
- Wright p.30
- Wright p.29
- Carpenter, 166.
- Helen Gardner, The Metaphysical Poets (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), 130.
- The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature: A-F. John Wiley & Sons. 2012. pp. 898–900. ISBN 978-1-4051-9449-5.
- John Lodge (1754), The Peerage of Ireland; Or, a Genealogical History of the Present Nobility of that Kingdom, vol.4 p.228
John Lodge and Mervyn Archdall (1789), The peerage of Ireland : or, A genealogical history of the present nobility of that kingdom (2e), vol 6, p. 7
- Klene, Jean (ed.). The Southwell-Sibthorpe Commonplace Book: Folger Ms. V. B. 198 - Primary Source Edition.
- "Miscellany of Lady Anne Southwell". Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
- Beal, Peter. "Anne, Lady Southwell". Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts, 1450-1700. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
- Clarke, Elizabeth. "Anne Lady Southwell". EN921: Women and the Literary Establishment. University of Warwick. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
- Marie-Louise Coolahan (2019), Dowdall (née Southwell), Elizabeth, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed 2020-02-14.
- cf Stephen K. Roberts (2004), Lenthall, William, appointed Lord Lenthall under the protectorate, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16467
- cf also Victoria E. Burke (2002) "Medium and meaning in the manuscripts of Anne, Lady Southwell" in George L. Justice, Nathan Tinker (eds), Women's Writing and the Circulation of Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 115 n.17 as to whether Southwell in fact had more than one grown-up daughter.