The First Edition. A Fine Copy in a Contemporary Binding

Chudleigh, Mary Lee, Lady (bap. 1656- d. 1710)

Poems on several occasions. Together with The song of the three children paraphras’d. By the Lady Chudleigh

London: printed by W[illiam]. B[owyer]. for Bernard Lintott at the Middle Temple Gate in Fleetstreet, 1703


Octavo: 19.5 x 12 cm. [16], 125, [17], 73, [1] pp. Collation: A-O8, P4


Bound in contemporary sprinkled calf, blind-ruled in panels, with floral ornaments on the boards and a gilt label on the spine. Discreet repairs to spine. A fine copy with very light soiling to the title and a few small ink spots.

Mary Chudleigh was a friend of Elizabeth Thomas and an admirer of Mary Astell, with whom she corresponded and whose ‘Defence of the Female Sex’ she tried to emulate. Dedicated to Queen Anne, her ‘Poems on Several Occasions’ was widely noticed, achieving a second edition in 1709. The poems include a wide range of subjects, from lyrics and satires of the age of Dryden, to philosophical and more contemplative verse in keeping with the solitary and often melancholy life that she led in Devon. Her marriage to Sir George Chudleigh was not a happy one and she sought consolation in writing poetry and in her female friendships.

‘The following Poems were written at several Times, and on several Subjects: If the Ladies, for whom they are chiefly design’d, and to whose Service they are entirely devoted, happen to meet with any thing in them that is entertaining, I have all I am at.”(Preface, p. vii.)

‘Mary Chudleigh was apparently part of a small circle of respectable literary-minded women… Her poetry, which often uses the uneven Pindaric stanza form made popular by Cowley, is assured, lively, and polished, with occasional lapses into sentimental piety; as she claims, it gives ‘a Picture of my Mind, my Sentiments all laid open to their View; they’ll sometimes see me cheerful, pleas’d, sedate and quiet; at other times griev’d, complaining, struggling with my Passions, blaming myself, endeavouring to pay an homage to my reason.’(Ruth Perry in ‘A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers, p. 84)

Perhaps the most important poem in the collection is ‘To the Ladies’ (p. 40), inspired by Astell’s ‘Some Reflections Upon Marriage’ (1700), in which Chudleigh starkly describes the oppression of the married woman: ‘Wife and Servant are the same, But only differ in the Name: For when that fatal Knot is ty’d Which nothing, nothing can divide: When she the word obey has said, And Man by Law supreme has made, Then all that’s kind is laid aside, And nothing left but State and Pride: Fierce as an Eastern Prince he grows, And all his innate Rigor shows… Him still must serve, him still obey, And nothing act, and nothing say, But what her haughty Lord thinks fit, Who with the Pow’r, has all the Wit. Then shun, oh! Shun that wretched State, And all the fawning flatt’rers hate: Value your selves, and Men despise, You must be proud, if you’ll be wise.’

Foxon p. 121; ESTC t97275; Maslen and Lancaster, Bowyer ledgers, D36