Pebworth and Summers 1997

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Parrish, Paul A. "Richard Crashaw, Mary Collet, and the 'Arminian Nunnery' of Little Gidding." In Representing Women in Renaissance England, eds. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), pp. 187-200.

Crashaw's treatment of women -- many figures, but often "distant from the poet or reader, a distance -- or detachment -- realized through a process of idealization or elevation above the passion and immediacy of living" (188)

"The absent lover or mother -- indeed, the absent feminine -- more aptly characterizes Crashaw's experiences than does the immediate presence of powerful feminine models." (188)

"Among its other engaging features, LG was a community of men and women, boys and girls, in which women played decisive and transforming roles. To say it differently, women were prominent figures at Little Gidding and, further, were represented -- or represented themselves -- to each other and to a larger world through defined roles and attributes. This is not to suggest that Little Gidding was a 17c feminist community. The religious boundaries of LG were strictly and approvingly observe,d and there is ample evidence that the most significant spiritual and family leader was NIcholas Ferrar. Although he was not the elder son, all of the family recognized his role in establishing LG and continued to look to him for guidance. That said, it must also be noted that women and girls far outnumbered men and boys at LG and gave the affairs of the community a distinctly feminine cast. In this residence set apart from the patriarchy of government, society, and the churhc, women conducted much of the daily business of LG and directed the affairs of the community as equal, if not dominant, partners. NF wrote to his niece Mary as a brother to the 'sister of my soule,' and if we would argue that the preeminent position of NF casts LG itself into a patriarchal mold, the presence and authority of Mary Ferrar and Mary Collet suggest a measurable matriarchal counterweight. Much made of the accusation of detractors that the community of LG was Roman in ritual and ceremony, that it was, as the 1641 pamphlet puts it, an 'Arminian nunnery.' Such an accusation, whether just or not, also tells us that both the religious practices (Arminianism) and the prominence of women (a 'nunnery') were, to some, cause for alarm." (189)

places LG in context of utopianism

"in both the world of their experiences and the world of their imagination, a citizen of the 16 and 17c in England viewed the authority of the patriarchal elder as right, proper, and inevitable. Such an observer might well have seen LG as troubling, if not dangerously revolutionary." (191)

NF would in normal circumstances have deferred to his older siblings, e.g. John

"in spite of its association with the otherwise patriarchal monastic model, LG openly and forcefully provided just such a subversion of roles and authority." (192)

Mary Collet taking the lead on making and furnishing a surgery; women responsible for household duties

mealtime readings turned into the Little Academy

"There is no doubt that the duties and attributes signified by their titles put the women in a dominant role during the course of the converations, though as with all things at LG the situation defies easy interpretation" (194)

points out that Mary Collet was closer in age to her uncles than to her cousins -- "important role as a link between generations" (194)

"Crashaw saw in this very real woman the strong and determined yet nurturing figure who populates so much of his verse" (195)

Crashaw's letter -- pain of 3rd separation from his virgin "mother"

that Mary became mother of the community "clearly resulted from achievement, not a family circumstance"; also "confirm the community's association with a convent, with Mary, the committed virgin, enacting the role of mother superior to her brood of (mainly female) aspirants" (198)

"In a very real and powerful sense, the separation and dislocation from the virgin Mary Collet, the very best of the women Crashaw knew during his life, led him ultimately to devotion to the Virgin Mary, the 'gratious mother' from whom 'exclusion and compleat excomunicacion' will not be possible." (199)