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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

6 - The transfiguration of Colonel Hutchinson in Lucy Hutchinson's elegies


Lucy Hutchinson would disagree heartily with the title of this chapter. ‘I that am under a command not to grieve at the common rate of desolate women’, as she insists in her biography of her husband, would never allow herself to be grouped with those ‘who dote on mortal excellencies’ and view their loved ones as ‘adored idols’. Lucy, a devout and scholarly Puritan, knew the difference between human objects of desire and the God that had formed them: ‘What shall I write of him is but a copy of [him]’, she asserts of her husband. ‘The original of all excellence is God him[self] and God alone’.

This sentence creates a hierarchy with God himself at the apex, John Hutchinson below and Lucy Hutchinson decidedly near the bottom, creating a copy of a copy. Not surprisingly, such language of copies and originals, mirrors and reflections has caused difficulties for feminist critics. A woman who wrote that her husband ‘soon made her more equal to him than he found her, for she was a very faithful mirror, reflecting truly, though but dimly, his own glories upon him’ would seem to fit easily into the category of victimised, submissive wives. The previous chapters of this book have demonstrated that it was possible for women to conform to such conventional models of wifely inferiority and submission and yet still develop an outspoken voice. Lucy Hutchinson is a particularly compelling example of this seeming conundrum.

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