Milton Now pp 195-214 | Cite as

Shades of Representation: Lucy Hutchinson’s Ghost and the Politics of the Representative

  • Katharine Gillespie
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


In their preface to Re-Membering Milton, editors Mary Nyquist and Margaret Ferguson write that “much remains to be done in the way of situating Milton’s presentation of gender relations historically, including, now, in relation to the various women writers of the period who have recently been discovered.”1 Nyquist’s contribution compares Milton’s treatment of gender in Genesis with interpretations offered by two of his female contemporaries, Rachel Speght and Mary Astell; she does so in order to advance the third wave feminist “attack” on “Western bourgeois” liberalism.2 While some liberal feminists posit that Milton’s epic presages gender equality by providing Eve with a “dominion” over the ordering and naming of plants that is symmetrical to Adam’s dominion over animals, Nyquist argues that this technique of “formal balance and harmonious pairing” merely “neutralizes” differences that are “ordered hierarchically and ideologically.”3 In contrast, Nyquist continues, Speght asserts that “all” are equally “serviceable” unto God, including Eve—God’s “last work and therefore the best”—while Astell interrogates the contradiction between Milton’s radical republicanism and his conservative gender politics: “how much soever Arbitrary Power may be dislik’d on a throne, Not Milton himself wou’d cry up Liberty to poor Female Slaves, or plead for the Lawfulness of Resisting a Private Tyranny.”4 Shannon Miller also contextualizes Milton’s liberalism within a broader and diverse range of women’s perspectives, confirming Nyquist’s finding that Milton’s gender politics are “distinctive and motivated” rather than ideologically neutral.5


Woman Writer Paradise Lost Reality Principle Liberal Feminist Public Peace 
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  1. 1.
    Mary Nyquist and Margaret W. Ferguson, eds., Re-Membering Milton: Essays on the Texts and Traditions (London: Methuen, 1998): xv.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Ibid., 109. Shannon Miller, Engenderingthe Fall: John Milton and Seventeenth-Century Women Writers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    The essay collection, Milton and Gender, ed. Catherine Gimelli Martin, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) has also proven pivotal for placing Milton’s gender politics into dialogue with his contemporaries, including women, and for pointing out the sometimes productive instabilities in Milton’s own logic on gender.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Rebecca Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Clement Fatovic, “The Anti-Catholic Roots of Liberal and Republican Conceptions of Freedom in English Political Thought,” Journal of the History of Ideas 66 (2005): 37–58; 49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 17.
    One of the first critics to take the measure of Lucy Hutchinson’s ghost was N. H. Keeble [“But the Colonel’s Shadow’: Lucy Hutchinson, Women’s Writing, and the Civil War,” in Literature and the English Civil War, ed. Thomas Healy and Jonathan Sawday (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 227–47]. Keeble ascribes her ghostly sense of self to her self-subordination as a Puritan goodwife: As the “Colonel’s Shadow,” it is only natural that, after her husband died, she would experience herself as a wraith. In “Lucy Hutchinson’s ‘Elegies’ and the Situation of the Republican Woman Writer,” English Literary Renaissance 27 (1997): 468–521, David Norbrook counters that Hutchinson’s “haunting” act of “self-suppression reaches beyond “personal loss” and “partakes of the political trauma experienced by republicans [when their] God seemed to have deserted them” (474). Susan Wiseman’s Conspiracy and Virtue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) concurs but adds that Hutchinson’s sense of defeat was so monumental that she could not create “an operative political poetic vocabulary” (218) capable of reviving the republic rather than merely commemorating it. It is for this reason that Hutchinson leaves herself an “unredeemed ghost” (219). In this essay, I suggest that, in both her elegies and the Memoirs, Hutchinson is able to deploy an “operative political poetic vocabulary” precisely because she imagines herself as an “unredeemed ghost.”Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Jonathan Goldberg, “Lucy Hutchinson Writing Matter,” English Literary History 73 (2006): 275–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 21.
    David Norbrook, Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric, and Politics 1627–1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 140–58.Google Scholar
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    John Milton, A Treatise of Civil Power, in The Riverside Milton, ed. Roy Flannagan (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 1119–33. Subsequent references to Milton’s work are to this edition and will be made parenthetically. Prose will be cited by page number and poetry by book and line.Google Scholar
  10. 34.
    N. H. Keeble, The Restoration: England in the 1660s (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Lucy Hutchinson, Order and Disorder (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001); Norbrook, “Lucy Hutchinson’s Elegies,” 468–521;Google Scholar
  12. Lucy Hutchinson, Memoirs of the Life of Colonel John Hutchinson (London: Everyman, 1995).Google Scholar
  13. 48.
    Stephen Greenblatt, Hamlet in Purgatory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
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    Lucy Hutchinson, De verum natura (London: Duckworth, 1996).Google Scholar
  15. 94.
    Wick Broomall, Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, ed. Everett F. Harrison, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1960). As this explains: “A type is a shadow cast on the pages of Old Testament history by a truth whose full embodiment or antitype is found in the New Testament revelation” (533).Google Scholar

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© Catharine Gray and Erin Murphy 2014

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  • Katharine Gillespie

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