The Politics of Withdrawal: Lady Mary Wroth’s Pamphilia to Amphilanthus and Lindamira’s Complaint

  • Rosalind Smith
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)


Josephine Roberts’ edition of the poems of Lady Mary Wroth has allowed the widespread dissemination of the sequences Pamphilia to Amphilanthus and Lindamira’s Complaint, and has been instrumental in establishing Wroth as both a primary example of the Renaissance woman poet and the major woman sonneteer of the English Renaissance. Coupled with the text of Wroth’s poems is Roberts’ account of the history of reception of the text. It is a narrative of women’s limited textual agency and constraint in the public sphere, which has received almost unquestioning acceptance and which has been disseminated as representative of the limitations placed on all Renaissance women’s publication of poetry.1 A key example of Roberts’ approach is provided in her construction of the Urania as a roman à clef, in which she indicates that one episode, outlining the violent and coercive behaviour of the characters of Seralius and his father-in-law, was read by Edward Denny as an attack upon himself and his family. Denny responded with two letters and a poem of revenge, ‘To Pamphilia from the father-in-law of Seralius’, which begins by accusing Wroth of being a ‘Hermophradite in show’ and concludes by encouraging women’s textual silence and confinement to religious activity: ‘Work o th’ Workes leave idle bookes alone/For wise and worthyer women have writte none.’


Public Sphere Woman Writer Utopian Vision Lyric Agency Textual Practice 
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© Rosalind Smith 2005

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  • Rosalind Smith

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