The love sonnets of Lady Mary Wroth : a critical introduction



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Lady Mary Wroth's sonnets, written in the early years of the seventeenth century, circulated in manuscript among a coterie of courtiers of King James and professional writers such as Ben Jonson, were published in 1621, appended to Lady Mary's prose romance. The Countess of Mountgomeries Urania. Lady Mary, as friend to Queen Anne and niece of Sir Philip Sidney, was in a position to know and to be influenced by the leading poets of the era. She was an eclectic writer whose sonnets reveal the influence of classical models, of her uncle and other earlier English sonneteers, of contemporary writers who were creating a kind of poetry later to be known as metaphysical, and of the courtly attitude of her family and associates. Her sonnets display careful and complex craftsmanship, adhering to the conventional sonnet form, exercising the use of rhetorical devices and indicating multi-level construction. Lady Mary Wroth, though neglected by critics through the centuries, wrote sonnets which not only vividly demonstrate the multiple poetic forces which characterize her era but afford intriguing reading in their own right.