Sunday, February 14, 2010

Diary of a Puritan Noblewoman

Lady Margaret Hoby (née Dakins) (1571-1633) was married three times - first, in 1589 to Walter Deverux, who died in the seige of Rouen in 1591; secondly, in 1591 to Thomas Sidney (who died in 1595), brother of the poet Sir Philip Sidney; and third, in August 1595 to Sir Thomas Posthumous Hoby. On the third anniversary of her marriage to her third husband (in 1599) she commenced writing a spiritual diary, the first known diary written by an Englishwoman, and continued writing in it until at least 1605. She cared for the sick in her area as a nurse; her diary entries mention her labors in this regard, and in the management of her estate, as well as her private and public spiritual exercises. She was childless, except for a young female relative, who came to live with her, and her husband was absent often due to official duties and travel, but she oversaw the spiritual welfare of her servants as well. She mentions in her diary that she often (almost exclusively) sang psalms: for example, she "talked and song psalmes with divers that was with me"; and she "sang a psalme with some of the servants"; and in her husband's absence, she "practiced [her] voyce in the singing of psalms," likely from the Sterhold & Hopkins edition. She often read Scripture, wrote notes on her Bible reading, repeated sermons and lectures heard by the chaplain of the manor and at church twice on the Lord's Day, catechized her servants, and engaged in family and private devotions. She read the works of Puritans Richard Greenham and Nicholas Bownde, was a friend of William Perkins, and a patron of Nicholas Byfield.

Here are two representative extracts from her diary, which was not written for the public, but centuries later provides a window into the life of a Puritan noblewoman:

Tuesday, August 28, 1599

In the morning, after private prayer, I read of the Bible, and then wrought [embroidered] till 8 o'clock, and then I ate my breakfast; after which done, I walked into the fields till 10 o'clock, then I prayed, and not long after I went to dinner; and about one o'clock I gathered my apples till 4; then I came home, and wrought till almost 6, and then I went to private prayer and examination, in which it pleased the Lord to bless me; and beseeched the Lord, for Christ his sake, to increase the power of this spirit in me daily, Amen, Amen; till supper time I heard Mr. Rhodes read of [a book by the Puritan scholar Thomas] Cartwright, and soon after supper, I went to prayers, after which I wrote to Master Hoby, and so to bed.

The Lord's Day, November 18, 1599

After private prayer I went to Church, and when I came home, I praised God for his mercies there offered me. After I dined, I went to church again and heard catechizing and sermon; then I talked and sang psalms with divers that was with me, and after that I prayed privately and examined myself with what intergrity I had spent the day, and then went to supper; after that, to public examination and prayers, and so to bed.

1 comment:

  1. What a woman of God! I need to start keeping a diary. I have been thinking of that quite a bit lately. The two diary entries you posted were great, Andrew. They demonstrate a woman who loved our Lord and saw to it that she redeemed the time. Thanks!