Details & Cataloguing

English Literature, History, Children's Books & Illustrations


Carey, Mary
an introductory epistle ("To my Most loving and dearly beloved Husband George Payler") explaining that she wrote the following dialogue "apprehending I should dye on my fourth Child; and undoubtedly expecting a Combate with Satan att last", signed and dated 17 October 1653, 13 pages; "A Dialogue betwixt the Soule and the Bodie", dated 11 February 1649, incorporating twenty-one "Assurances of Salvation", 145 pages with an additional 20 pages on 10 slips of paper tipped in, signed at the end, with a touching postscript ("I have now buried fower sonnes & a daughter. God hath my all of Children; I have his all (beloved Christ) a sweet Change: in greatest sorrows Content; & happy: M.C.") dated 14 May 1652; three poems on the deaths of two of her children in infancy ("wretten by my deare Husband att the death of our 4th (att that tyme) only Child Robert Payler", "wretten by me att the same tyme", both dated Covent Garden, 8 December 1650, and "Wretten by me att the death of my 4th sonne and 5th Child Perigrene Payler", dated Grove Street, 12 May 1652), 4 pages; "A Meditation; Or Commemoration of the love of God the father sonne & holy Ghost", 16 pages; "A Meditation; Or Commemoration of the love of Christ", 8 pages; "A Meditation or Commemoration of the Love of the holy Ghost", 6 pages; 92 line poem entitled "Upon the sight of my abortive birth the 31 of december 1657", 7 pages, signed and dated 12 January 1657/58; altogether 234 pages, of which 201 have contemporary numeration, ruled in red, including 22 leaves inserted during the composition process on different paper stock and lacking the red rules, plus blanks, 8vo (145 x 90 mm), in nineteenth century blue velvet, two leaves loose, final five pages with unrelated later notes and calculations in ink and pencil
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Everard Meynell (d. 1925); Sir Francis and Dame Alix Meynell

Catalogue Note

"My lord hath called for my sonne
my hart breth's forth; thy will be done:
my all; that mercy hath made mine
frely's surrendered to be thine..."

A highly significant manuscript giving voice to a mother's "hart terrifieing sorrow" at the death of her infant children and her reconciliation of loss with religious faith. The death of young children was a central fact of family life in the seventeenth century (and, of course, beyond) but there are few other literary witnesses that express maternal grief with the poignancy and grace of Mary Carey.

Mary Carey (1614-1690) was the daughter of Sir Robert Jackson of Berwick upon Tweed. Her first husband, Sir Pelham Carey, younger son of the Earl of Dover, died in September 1642 but she kept his name even after her second marriage to George Payler, officer of the Ordnance in London and paymaster to the Parliamentary garrison in Berwick, in 1643. During the Civil War she led an itinerant life accompanying her husband from garrison to garrison and her surviving works were written in the late 1640s and 1650s, during which time her husband held a number of positions of authority under the Commonwealth. Mary and Payler had seven children, of whom five died in infancy, and Mary suffered at least one miscarriage, about which she wrote in her most important poem, "Upon the sight of my abortive birth".

The current manuscript contains all of Carey's known literary works except a letter to Sir Thomas Pelham from July 1644 (BL MS Add. 33,084) and an elegy for the wife of her neighbour Sir Thomas Fairfax (Bodleian MS Fairfax 40, f. 596). Her spiritual dialogues are fine examples of the highly self-reflective prose encouraged by the Puritan theology of the Commonwealth period and contain much autobiographical detail, from the spiritual self-awakening that drew her away from a youth of "carding; dice; dancing masking; dressing; vaine-companie; going to plays; following the fashion; and the like" (p.19), to her gratitude at having been "brought up in a tyme when the Gospell hath lyberty" (p.164), having had "tenderly loving Parents [and] good husbands" (p.165), and the many other good fortunes that she records as having blessed her life. Mary Carey's poems have been published, most notably in the influential anthology Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women's Verse (1988), ed. Greer et al., but the prose works have never been printed in full, although extensive extracts were published by Francis Meynell in a limited edition as Meditations from the Note Book of Mary Carey, 1649-1657 (London: Romney Street Press, 1918).

English Literature, History, Children's Books & Illustrations