A godly Sybilla, an erudite wife and a burdensome sister: the formation and representation of women’s reputations within the Hartlib Circle 1641-1661
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This thesis analyses the formation and representation of the reputations of three women: Katherine Jones, Viscountess Ranelagh (1615-1691); Dorothy Moore Dury (c.1612-1664); and Jean Appelius (fl.1638-1648), whose connection to the Hartlib circle has been undervalued. This circle was an intellectual correspondence network that was formed in London around 1641, centred around Samuel Hartlib, John Dury and Jan Amos Kaminski. It was mainly active between 1641 and 1661 and included well-known figures such as Robert Boyle, Henry Oldenburg, Benjamin Worsley and the Boate Brothers. As shown by Mark Greengrass and others, the Hartlib circle’s overarching aim was universal knowledge; thus members corresponded on various topics including politics, religious conversion, educational reform, science and medicine. The thesis shows that Katherine Jones and Dorothy Moore were active members in their own right, examining how they negotiated their participation in various activities through the use of effective epistolary management. It also explores how these women, alongside Jean Appelius, were perceived by other members of the network and how this affected their reputations. The thesis develops an interdisciplinary methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative methods. Using network analysis, it proves computationally that that these women were central to the inner working of the network. Through close reading, it brings attention to the complexity of their epistolary strategies, and critiques how representations of their participation bring attention to the intersection between gender politics and class/economic status in the early modern period. The analysis of Moore and Ranelagh’s letters illuminates how they participated in the intellectual culture of the 1640s and 1650s and how they attempted to build rapport with their correspondents in order to facilitate successful dissemination of their ideas. By contrasting these women’s letters with the reception evidence in the Hartlib Papers archive, it shows that they were praised for their thinking and participation, but that issues of class and economics could bring attention to a woman’s gender and had the potential to damage her reputation.
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