To her Cousin, F.W., Isabella Whitney
edited by Erin M. Harper
Isabella Whitney was born in the late 1540s in Cheshire, England.
She is thought to be the first professional female poet in England and
was the first woman to author a collection of original poetry. Unlike
most other female poets of the mid-Tudor period Whitney was not a
noblewoman, but was of the middle class. Little more is actually known
about her life. Much of her poetry was quite risky for the times, as she
often wrote about gender issues and the liberation of women from the
power of the male patriarchy. Her other poetry is typically light,
good-humored and optimistic. Whitney's books, The Copy of a Letter,
Lately Written in Meter by a Young Gentlewoman: to her Unconstant
Lover and A Sweet Nosegay or Pleasant Posy: Containing a Hundred
and Ten Philosophical Flowers, were published in 1567 and 1573,
respectively. So little is known about Whitney's history and personal
life that many of her poems cannot be explained in relation to her own
life; in fact, nothing is known about the cousin, F.W., to whom she
addressed this poem.
Good cousin mine, I hope in health
and safety you abide.
And sore I long to hear if yet
you are to wedlock tied.
If so you be, God grant that well 5
both you and she it spend.
If not when s'ere it haps, I wish
that God much joy you send.
And when you to the country come
or thither chance to send, 10
Let me you see, or have some scroll,
that shall of you be penned.
And this account as nature binds
and merits yours deserve:
I cousin am, and faithful friend, 15
not minding you to swerve.
So wishing you as happy health,
as ever man possessed:
I end, and you commit to him
that evermore is blessed. 20
Your poor Kinswoman, Is. W.
1.sore] eagerly, earnestly; with great desire or intensity.
7.when s'ere] whenever.
10.thither] until then.
13.this account] the fact that the two are relatives.
16.not minding ] without intent or purpose. swerve]
to be disloyal to.