Various history journals are now releasing spring issues and I’ve been having fun going through them. One which caught my eye was a piece on Elizabeth Isham by Isaac Stephens in the Historical Journal. Elizabeth was already known through an existing vade mecum document that survived in Northamptonshire. However, the recent discovery of Elizabeth’s spiritual autobiography at Princeton University Library in 2004 has prompted a reassessment of her life. The article focuses on her proposed marriage to John Dryden in 1630, which eventually came to nothing. It has previously been assumed that it failed because of the failure to settle the right financial conditions for the match. However, Stephens uses the new discovery to assert the importance to Elizabeth of love and family honour, and the proposed match’s failure to meet these concerns. He also looks at the subsequent impact on Elizabeth in terms of a religiously-inspired rejection of marriage.
There is a lot more about Elizabeth available online. Isaac Stephens’s transcript of her autobiography is available online here. A wider project, Constructing Elizabeth Isham, is underway at Warwick University, to make available a unified web edition of her two surviving works. This includes links to papers given at a conference in September 2007.
- Isaac Stephens, ‘The Courtship and Singlehood of Elizabeth Isham, 1630-1634’, The Historical Journal, 51 (2008), pp. 1-25.