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Elizabeth I: Collected Works
University Of Chicago Press, 2000
470 pp., $50.00
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner
Long Live the Queen
For the past two decades, scholars interested in cultural studies have been actively seeking, recovering, and publishing texts written by women of the early modern period, thus putting to rest Virginia Woolf's contention that women in the 16th and 17th centuries did not write because they were not allowed to. Woolf imagined Shakespeare's sister abused and ultimately driven to suicide because she tried to follow in her brother's footsteps, a direction prohibited to women. But with the rediscovery and publication of works by Aemilia Lanyer, Anne Askew, Martha Moulsworth, Katherine Philips, and many other authors, that scenario is no longer credible.
For the most part, editors and authors have chosen to preserve original spellings and punctuation in these texts. While understandable from a scholarly standpoint, this approach has had the unfortunate result of discouraging general readers from approaching the works at all. (Consider the obstacles that would face the non-academic reader of Shakespeare if editors were interested only in preserving the original texts as they appeared in folio or quarto editions replete with errors, textual corruptions, unfamiliar spellings, and inconsistent punctuation.) Hence the recovered texts that were supposed to rattle and ultimately widen the canon end up never entering it.
Fortunately, the splendid new edition of the collected works of Elizabeth I does not have this problem. Up to now it has been difficult to find more than a handful of Elizabeth's works in any one place. In this representative collection of Elizabeth I's speeches, letters, prayers, and poems, the editors have chosen to modernize spelling and punctuation, and to provide English translations when necessary. (An ancillary volume, Elizabeth I: Autograph Compositions and Foreign Language Originals, provides original texts for those with scholarly interests.)
The sheer magnitude of works that bear the imprint of Elizabeth's hand and thinking makes it impossible to collect all ...