First published in 1998, this collection of letters, presented with scholarly introduction, notes and glosses, enters the debate on women and gender in early modern England as documents for the case of Elizabeth Wiseman, a wealthy widow. The letters and first-person narrative accounts relate to the courtship of Wiseman (neé North) by Robert Spencer in 1686-87. Widowed at the age of 37 in 1684 on the death of Robert Wiseman, she was left with a fortune of £20,000 and disliked Spencer so significantly that she made every effort to avoid him. These documents provide evidence for the circumstances and degree of agency over one’s marital circumstances which could be expected and exercised by wealthy, late 17th century widowed women. Historians are provided here with a glimpse of the rich and complex texture of social life in the period. The participants were people of influence and social standing in London at the time, some with strong interest in the outcome of the discussion, and the letters provide an almost complete correspondence on the issue of courtship and marriage.
Part 1. Introduction. 1. The Story and its Significance. 2. The Documents as Historical Data. 3. Marriage and the Law in the 1680s. 4. The Documents as Evidence and as Story. 5. Editorial. Part 2. Documents. 1. 1686 The Journall of the Bussiness of Spencer as it Happened in Time. 2. Mr Chute’s Relation. 3. Lady Wiseman’s Letter to Sir D. North Sept. 27 ’86. 4. Lord North’s Letter to Lady Wiseman 1 Oct. 1686. 5. 11. Oct. 1686. Memoriall Concerning Sister Wiseman A Relation of what hath passed within my knowledg and observation concerning the pretences of Mr Spencer to my Sister, the Lady Wiseman. 11 Oct. 1686. 6. Lord North’s Letter to Lady Wiseman 13 October 1686. 7. Letter to Sister Wiseman about Sir Jo. Thorold 14 Oct. 1686. 8. Message from Sir Jo. Thorold 16 Oct 1686. 9. Memorandum of Sir John Thorold’s Visit. 19 Oct. 1686. 10. Narrative of Sir D. North Relating to the Lady Wiseman 22 October 1686. 11. Copy of a Letter to Sir G. Weneev, about Sr. Wiseman. 12. The Lady Wiseman’s Relation Concerning Mr Spencer. Oct. . 13. Copy of Our First Letter to Sister Wiseman at Brettenham,  Oct. 1686. (also 14). 15. From Lady Wiseman 2 Nov. 1686. 16. Letter to Lady Wiseman 6 Nov. 1686. 17. Sis. W’s Letter. Nov. 10 1686 Received. 18. Discours Concerning Lady W. 8 Nov. 1686. 19. 10 Oct [i.e. Nov.] 1686 Discourse with Lord North about Sister Wiseman. 20. Letter from Roger North to Elizabeth Wiseman 10 November 1686. 21. Letter to Mr Oliver from John Fortescue 11 November 1686. 22. Letter to Elizabeth Wiseman from Dudley North, Mountague North and Roger North 12 November 1686. 23. Robert Foley Somewhat Touching Lady W. Nov.  1686. 24. Lady Wiseman’s Letter to DN 8 [i.e. 15] Nov. 1686. 25. Copy of Sis. Wiseman’s Letter to Lord N. Nov. 1686. 26. Copy of Lord N.’s Letter to Sir Hen. North 16 Nov. 1686. 27. For the Honourable Lady Wiseman at Sir Georg Weneev’s Hous in Brettenham 18 Nov. 1686. 28. Narrative Upon Delivery of the Letter to the Lord North 19 Nov. 1686. 29. Letter to Lady W. 20 Nov. 86. 30. Lord North’s Letter 20 Nov. 1686. 31. Robert Foley, Somewhat Touching Lady W. Nov.  1686. 32. Lady Wiseman to Us 22 Nov. 1686. 33. Leter to Lady W 23. Nov. 1686. 34. Letter to Lady W. 25 November 1686. 35. An Account of What Past Between Me and Mr Spencer, and Between Mr Spencer and Mr Chute as I had the Same upon Discours with him Afterwards the Same Day viz., Thursday Nov.  1686. 36. Letter from Sister Wiseman 29 Nov. 1686. 37. Letter for Lady Wiseman 2 Dec. 86. 38. 2 Letters from an Unknowne Freind [Letter 1, 4 December 1686]. 39. M.N.’s Account of His Visit 5 Dec. 1686. 40. The Second Letter [6 December 1686]. 41. Letter from Elizabeth Wiseman to Roger, Dudley and Mountague North, 6 December 1686. 42. Letter from Roger North to Elizabeth Wiseman 9 December 1686. 43. Letter to Lady Wiseman 9 December 1686. 44. Lady Wiseman 14 December 1686. 45. Letter from Dudley North, Mountague North and Roger North to Elizabeth Wiseman  December 1686. 46. Letter from Elizabeth Wiseman 21 December 1686. 47. Mr White Dec. 29 [i.e. 26] 1686. 48. Oxenbridges Note 7 Apr. 1687. 49. Letter to the Earl of Yarmouth from Charles North 3 May 1687 (also 50). 51. The Passage at Lord Yarmouth’s with Lord North 8 May 1687. 52. Sir H. Beddingfeild May 1687. 53. Bond of Mr Spencer to the E. of Y. 54. Spencer’s Releas to Mr P. and Mr R. 55. Sir H. Beddingfeild 16 June 1687. 56. Letter to the Earl of Yarmouth from Robert Spencer 7 January 1689. 57. Lord Yarmouth, Jan. 1689.
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