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8 - The Travails of Agnes Beaumont

from Part III - Women's Voices and Women's Spaces

Bernard Capp
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
Bronach Kane
Affiliation:
Bath Spa University
Fiona Williamson
Affiliation:
National University of Malaysia
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Summary

Agnes Beaumont, baptized in 1652, was the daughter of a Bedfordshire yeoman farmer, the youngest of his four children to survive infancy. She lived a generally uneventful life, except for one dramatic episode in 1674, which she later recounted in a vivid and highly emotional narrative. First published in 1760, it was to become a popular text within the nonconformist community, and had passed through ten editions by 1842. Agnes had no doubt told her story many times before writing it down. While the language is fresh and immediate, she ends with the throwaway remark, ‘I wish I was as well in my soul as I was then’ (l. 224), which suggests that the narrative, at least in its present form, was written long after the events it describes.

In the early 1670s, Agnes was still living at home with her father. Her mother had died, and her older siblings had married and left. Agnes remained at home, acting as housekeeper for her father, John. Semi-retired, he had made over much of his estate to his eldest son (also John), who now ran a much larger farm close by, in Edworth, about ten miles south-east of Bedford. Her father still raised cattle, while Agnes ran the house.

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Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

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