We’re delighted that Ashgate books received two of the annual awards from the SSEMW this year.
Margaret P. Hannay’s Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth won the Book award.
From the SSEMW website:
Margaret P. Hannay’s study is the first book-length critical biography of one of early modern England’s most significant female writers. A deftly woven synthesis of historical, archival, and literary materials, Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth marks an important milestone in scholarship on early modern women. Working with a wide range of sources, sketching the numerous characters in Wroth’s life story, and untangling Wroth’s own inclusion of autobiographical details in her prose romance, Urania, Hannay weaves a prodigious amount of information into a compelling and engaging scholarly narrative. Her discussion extends into multiple aspects of early seventeenth-century English literary production, society, and politics, providing crucial context for a wide range of readers. The author has also made a significant number of factual discoveries, on the basis of which she meticulously and generously corrects errors and assumptions found in earlier scholarship. At the same time, her book remains open-ended: she allows for the possibility and indeed the hope that further discoveries about Wroth may be made. Hannay’s citation and evaluation of so much of the bibliography on Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth augments the usefulness of this important study.
The Josephine A. Roberts Scholarly Edition award went to The Correspondence (c. 1626-1659) of Dorothy Percy Sidney, Countess of Leicester (edited by Michael G. Brennan, Noel J. Kinnamon, and Margaret P. Hannay).
It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive, meticulously researched, and minutely detailed edition than this one of the correspondence of Dorothy Percy Sidney, Countess of Leicester, from the early reign of Charles I through to her death on the eve of the Stuart restoration in 1659, by the experienced editorial team of Brennan, Kinnamon, and Hannay (editors of writings by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, as well as by Robert Sidney, first Earl of Leicester, and Barbara Gamage Sidney, Countess of Leicester). The substantial introduction is divided into major chronological and thematic sections—childhood and family, courtship, early married life and family connections, 1620s court politics, 1630s/40s royal service, an invaluable thematic outline Dorothy Percy Sidney’s writings, and a detailed portrait of the Sidney complex fortunes during the English Civil Wars and Commonwealth (with moving commentary by her husband, brother, and son at the time of her death). At least as useful, however, are the numerous aids to readers, both early (family trees, chronology, and an amusingly helpful note on the impossibility of keeping family names straight) and late (a list of persons and places, Dorothy’s biblical notes, and a catalogue of her library), above and beyond the immaculately presented letters themselves, which are fully contextualized with dates, authors, recipients, manuscript identifications, and explanatory notes. All of which makes the letters themselves a rich and entirely accessible trove of information about individuals in pivotal positions in England and Ireland throughout the mid-seventeenth century, most especially during the contentious 1640s and 1650s. As the editors themselves note in a rare departure from their strict policy of editorial assistance-without-interference, scholars have discussed Dorothy’s son Algernon Sidney’s complicity in the 1683 Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother James for 300 years—yet “hardly any attention has been paid to the role of his mother in forming his earliest political perspectives. This is because very little has previously been known about her increasingly important role from the 1630s onward in her family’s domestic and political life. We hope that this collection of her correspondence will go some way towards addressing this significant omission in Sidney studies and political history.” We hope so too.