Lucy Hutchinson, Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson (1664 / 1806 pub.)

Genre: a memoir, a form of autobiography which aristocratic and upper-middle-class men and women wrote when their careers were largely over to recall the people and deeds of their past which may have become important to the nation at large.

Form: prose

Characters: King Charles I, Queen Henrietta, assorted courtiers, some dissolute and some respectable, "puritans" (persecuted) and Catholics (persecuting), and a sense of Destiny you could cut with a knife.  Hovering behind the scenes is Lucy Hutchinson, our narrator, describing the events at court with the authoritative voice of "History."  (Remember your Sidney--even "history" is fiction that "affirmeth" it knows the truth.)

Summary: Hutchinson, writing long after her husband's death in prison after the Restoration, seeks to justify the Parliamentary revolt against the Monarchy by describing the changed court culture after the king's marriage to the French princess, Henrietta, and her importation of Continental notions of sexuality, religion (Catholicism) and culture.

Issues and Research Sources:

  1.  Though Hutchinson represents this summary of events as indubitably true, do you see any patterns in her rhetoric which reveal her historical biases?
  2. How would you compare Hutchinson's writing style with Lady Anne Halkett's, as representative Parliamentarian and Royalist memoirists?
  3. How does LH's description of the pre- and post-Henrietta court construct a sense of Englishness and Frenchness which she uses to argue for the propriety of the former and the corruption of the latter?  What does this indicate what has happened to the people's perception of the monarchy in the 54 years since 1588, the Armada Year?
  4. Hutchinson, like all the Puritans, believed firmly that God inspired and protected their cause.  Given the turn of events which led to the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, how do you read her continued assertions that this is the case?
  5. Given the social strains we see in Halkett's memoir and in Hutchinson's, how do you expect the culture to react when, after the Restoration in 1660, royalists and Parliamentarians once more are expected to interact without cannon and sword?
  6. Is there anything which obviously explains the emergence of Halkett and Hutchinson as memoirists at this time?  Keep in mind that records of individuals' lives, especially the lives of non-nobles, only rarely made it into print.  How do these women get educated, and how does it affect the course of their lives?
  7. The Norton 8th edition, like the 7th edition, locates this reading among the Cavalier poets and centrists like Marvell who were writing during the period when the events described by Hutchinson were taking place.  But this work is not the product of the Civil War era, but rather of late in the Restoration, having been begun by Lucy Hutchinson after the death in prison of her husband, the colonel, in 1664.  Should you read a memoir for its historical content, only, or for its prose style and literary craft?  What are the editors implying about their opinion of Hutchinson, and do you agree?  How might Hutchinson's Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson, like Aphra Behn's Oroonoko and Lady Anne Halkett's Memoirs , also reveal the effects of an acceptance of change and novel ideas that transformed English people's  tradition-governed mentality into one we might call "modern"?
  8. To read a modern print edition of Hutchinson's complete Memoir, see the Julia Rogers Library copy.  Especially if you are moved to write a paper about her work, look at the complete edition to discover the context from which the Norton edition extracts the debate with Lord Newark, and to determine how that passage's style compares with the style of the majority of the narrative.
  9. Other sites which offer scholarly editions of previously unpublished works by women who wrote during the Renaissance, Restoration, and 18th century include the Brown University Women Writers Project, and the Emory Women Writers Resource Project at Emory University's Lewis H. Beck Center.  The Brown site has an exceptionally large text base of edited Renaissance women writers, and the Emory site's strength is its unedited (as in previously unpublished) texts.  These are being used as part of Emory's graduate program to teach editing practices.  To see Professor Sheila Cavanagh's very well-explained set of instructions for how a scholarly edition is prepared, and a well-equipped set of scholarly tools (paper and online), click here.

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