London: Printed by William Bentley, and are to be sold by Thomas Heath, near the Pyazza of the Coven-Garden. Anno Dom. 1651.
Octavo: 13.3 x 8.7 cm. [xvi], 199, pp. Collation: ¶8, A-M8, N4
Bound in excellent early eighteenth-century gilt-ruled, sprinkled calf, unlettered. Some mild browning throughout, somewhat heavier in gatherings K-M due to variable paper quality. Complete with the initial leaf, blank except for an oval printer’s crest bearing the motto “Deus est nobis sol et scutum” (“God is a sun and shield to us”), title-page printed within a typographic frame.
[Bound with:] Gerbier D’Ouvilly, George. The False Favourit Disgrac’d. And, the Reward of Loyalty. A Tragi-Comedy. London: Printed by Wil. Wilson, for Robert Crofts, 1657. [iv], 44, 47-94, 75-112, pp. Complete and in the first state, with the title-leaf uncancelled. A-H8, I4 (I4 blank).
First edition, a rare and early example of women’s literature in England, where only a handful of such works were published before the Restoration, a large percentage of them by the Duchess of Newcastle. Anna Weamys, like her predecessor Mary Wroth (“The Countesse of Mountgomeries Urania”, 1621) drew her inspiration for publishing - and excused her presumption for doing so - by relying on Sidney’s “Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia”, one of the recreational books most often read by women in the century after its publication.
Although Anna Weamys continually hides her own genius behind Sidney’s - in one passage about King Evarchus she declares that “A large and rare theme might be chronicled of his wisely governed passions; but that is too pregnant a virtue for my dull capacity” - one of the commendatory verses to this volume takes a different view. It is by “F. Vaughan”, almost certainly Frances Vaughan, Countess of Carberry, a patroness of literature who must have written her poem shortly before she died in October 1650:
Lay by your Needles, Ladies, Take the Pen,
The onely difference ’twixt you and Men.
’Tis Tyrannie to keep your sex in aw,
And make wit suffer by a Salick Law.
Good Wine does need no Bush, pure Wit no Beard,
Since all Souls equal are, let all be heard. . .
So when in Sydney’s death Wit ebb’d in Men,
It hath its Spring-tide in a Female Pen. . . .
The work itself is full of female perspectives, with Queen Helena shown as a rational and responsible ruler, and Mopsa the servant, a caricature of ugliness in Sidney’s Arcadia who is not permitted to tell her story, here narrates a romance of reciprocal love in which a maiden saves her beloved knight.
“Anna Weamys’s text is important both for understanding the reception of Sidney by women readers and for tracing the development of prose fiction as it evolved towards the novel. Furthermore, its female heroines illustrate a real concern with how women might navigate the straits of female behaviour in a judgmental and partisan society. That it was written, published, and taken up by other readers, male and female, attests to the burgeoning interest in prose fiction beyond an elite audience and to the development of a broader and more varied market of readers.
“Weamys’s ‘Continuation’ contributes to what Blair Worden refers to as ‘the afterlives’ of Sir Philip Sidney’s works. In this regard, it is ironic that in a time when the full texts of Sidney’s own Arcadias are rarely read outside of specialist academic circles, interest in them may be renewed and expanded through consideration of their adaptations, continuations and modernizations. Weamys’s text, then, is part of a rich field of reworkings that began with Sidney’s own revisions that his sister modified and incorporated in the Arcadia of 1593 and that include work by Gervase Markham (1607 and 1613), Lady Mary Wroth (1621), [and] Richard Bellings (1624)…
“These reworkings raise significant questions, such as how gender, class, and changing cultural values affect what subsequent writers choose to pick up from Sidney’s work and what is of lesser interest to them. Each reworking can be seen both as a reading and interpretation of Sidney’s original and as significant in its own right. Weamys, as Cullen notes, chooses to focus on marriage as a celebratory ritual and as an affirmation of female agency made possible through the romance’s narrative. She rewrites the tragic ending of Sidney’s story of Amphialus and Helena, reuniting them happily. Although Bellings similarly brings this couple together and has them produce ‘Haleamphilus’ in Sidneian fashion, the two versions are part of quite different patternings that would bear further investigation. Weamys also develops the character Urania, as Wroth too had done in 1621. As Anne Shaver and Bi-Qi Beatrice Lei argue, Weamys’s revision reconsiders women’s roles in Sidney’s Arcadia and thus contributes to a history of cultural production and reproduction, notably of the roles of women as readers and writers.”(Mitchell)
The second work in this volume was written by George Gerbier D'Ouvilly, soldier, playwright and translator, “whose literary works differed in genre, reputation, and success. In 1657 his tragi-comedy The False Favourite Disgrac'd. And the Reward of Virtue was printed in London, but remained unacted. Set in Florence, the plot revolves around a series of misunderstandings which are ultimately resolved in the closing scene when concord, hierarchy, and true vision are re-established within the court.”(DNB).
The two works in this volume are, respectively, Wing, Short-Title Catalogue, 1641-1700, W1189 and G584.