Isabella Whitney: A Bibliography

By Natalie Bennett

Isabella Whitney was the first woman to have original secular verse published in English, and arguably the first professional woman writer in England. She wrote The Copy of a Letter, lately written in meeter by a yonge Gentilwoman: to her unconstant lover (1567) and A Sweet Nosegay, or Pleasant Posy: Containing a Hundred and Ten Philosophical Flowers (1573).

This is a collection of resources about Whitney, which assumes that you already know something about her. If not, one of the better (open access) net introductions is at There is also quite a lot of material on closed access webpages, usually only available from large libraries and institutions.

It took a lot of shoe leather and some frustration to get the material below together, and I thought: why should someone else have to repeat that? You are consequently welcome to make of this any use you like, although a link would be preferable to wholesale copying. Also, if you do find it useful, but identify items that I have missed, I would appreciate it if you emailed them to me.

I obtained all of these references either through the British Library or the Women’s Library in London.


The British Library has the one extant original “Sweet Nosegay”. The Bodleian, Oxford, has the only “Copy”.

“Sweet Nosegay” can be found at as above.

The oldest reproduction of which I am aware is in J.P. Collier (ed) Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature, London, privately printed, 1864, which has parts of the “Letter”, but unattributed, and the introduction suggests, unattributable. (And it is not very complimentary!)

Letter is also printed in E. Arber (ed), An English Garner, published in the 1890s. This is an eight-volume work and Whitney is in Vol 8, the one that is missing at the BL!

Clarke, D. (ed) Renaissance Women Poets: Isabella Whitney, Mary Sidney and Aemilia Lanyer, Penguin, London, 2000. (Prefaces and some letters from “Sweet Nosegay”, but not the main work, Copy of a Letter (“her” letters), and Gruffith lamentation)

Travitsky, B. (ed) “The ‘Wyll and testament of Isabella Whitney,'” English Literary Renaissance, 10, Winter 1981.

Woods, S., Travitsky, S and Cullen, P. The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Fascimile Library of Essential Works, Series I, Printed Works, 1500-1640, Part 2.

Wynne-Davies, M. (ed) Women Poets of the Renaissance, JM Dent, London, 1998. “Will” only


“The Lady Beloued exclaymeth of the great vntruth of her louer”, in A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions. I found the H.E. Rollins (ed), Harvard Uni Press edition of 1926, pp. 28-29.

“The complaint of a woman Louer”, in A Handful of Pleasant Delights, 1584, by Clement Robinson and Divers Others; I found the H.E. Rollins (ed) Harvard Uni Press, 1924, pp. 50-51.

Aenaes and Isabella: a website, with texts, that suggests more of Whitney’s work is contained in a publication of 1600.


I have concentrated on works that cover what I consider to be original ground. There are a number of other sources that effectively summarise the material below.

Bartlett, J.L. “Lady bountiful or fallen woman? Conflicting poetic narratives in Whitney’s ‘Will and Testament”

Bell, I. “Women in the lyric dialogue of courtship: Whitney’s Admonitio to al young Gentilwomen and Donne’s The Legacie,” in Summers, C.J. and Pebworth, T.L. Representing Women in Renaissance England, Uni of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1997.

Berry, B.M. ‘We are not all alyke nor of complexion one’: truism and Isabella Whitney’s multiple readers,” in Renaissance Papers 2000, T.H. Howard-Hill and Rollinson, P. (eds) Cruden House, for the Southeastern Renaissance Conference.

Brace, P. “Isabella Whitney, A Sweet Nosegay”, in A. Pacheo (ed) A Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing, Blackwell, Oxford, 2002.

Burke, M.E., Donawerth, J., Dove, LL and Nelson, K (eds) Women Writing and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain, Syracuse University Press, 2000.

Clare, J. “Trangressing Boundaries: Women’s Writing in the Renaissance and Reformation,” Renaissance Forum, Vol 1, No 1, March 1996

Fehrenback, R.J. ‘Isabella Whitney and the popular miscellanies of Richard Jones,’ Cahiers Elisabethains, No 19, April 1981.

Fehrenbach, R.J. “Isabella Whitney, Sir Hugh Plat, Geoffrey Whitney, and ‘Sister Eldershae’, in English Language Notes, Vol XXI, Sept 1983, No 1.

Frye, S and Robertson, K. Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women’s Alliances in Early Modern England, Oxford Uni Press, 1999.

Hutson, L. The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth Century England, Routledge, London, 1994.

Jones, A.R. “Nets and bridles: early modern conduct books and sixteenth-century women’s lyrics,” in Armstrong, N. and Tennenhouse, L. (eds) The Ideology of Conduct: Essays on Literature and the History of Sexuality, Metheun, London, 1987.

Jones, A.R. The Currency of Eros, Women’s Love Lyric in Europe, 1540-1620, Indiana University Press, 1990.

Jones, A.R. “Apostrophes to cities: urban rhetorics in Isabella Whitney and Moderata Fonte,’ in Attending to Early Modern Women, S.D. Amussen and A. Seef, University of Delaware Press, Newark, 1998.

Kothe, A. “Modest incursions: the production of writers and their readers in the early modern prefaces of Isabella Whitney and Margaret Tyler,” English Language Notes, Vol XXXVII, No 1, Sept 1999.

Martin, R. “Isabella Whitney’s ‘Lamentation upon the death of William Gruffuth,’ Early Modern Literary Studies, Vol 3, 1 ,

Marquis, P. “Oppositional ideologies of gender in Isabella Whitney’s Copy of a Letter,” in The Modern Language Review, Vol 90, Part 2, April 1995.

Schleiner, L. Tudor and Stuart Women Writers, Indiana Uni Press, Bloomington, 1994.

Travitsky, B. “The lady doth protest: protest in the popular writings of Renaissance Englishwomen,” English Literary Renaissance, Autumn 1984, Vol 14, No 3.

Woods, S. and Hannay, M.P. (eds) Teaching Tudor and Stuart Women Writers, The Modern Language Association, New York, 2000. (which has a lot of general information and discussion on Whitney, going far beyond its title)

ON GEFFREY WHITNEY (her brother)

(Just things that I found relevant to Isabella)

Whitney’s Choice of Emblemes

Daly, P.M. and Silcox, M.V. The English Emblem: Bibliography of Secondary Literature, K.B. Saur, Munchen, 1990.

Green, H. (ed) Whitney’s “Choice of Emblemes”: A Fascimile Reprint, London, Lovell Reeve, 1866. (This also prints Geffrey’s will, and has an excellent discussion of it.)

Hunter, K. “Geoffrey Whitney’s ‘To Richard Cotton esq’: an early English countryhouse poem.’ The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol XXVIII, Oxford, 1977.

Leisher, J.F. “Geoffrey Whitney’s A Choise of Emblemes and its relations to the emblematic vogue in Tudor England,’ Garland, New York, 1987. (The reprinting of a Seventies thesis that is very good on the family and their relations.)

Manning, J. “Whitney’s Choice of Emblemes: a reassessment,” in Renaissance Studies, Vol 4, No 2, 1990.


(A far from extensive list)
Elliott, V.B. “Single women in the London marriage market: age, status and mobility, 1598-1619, in R.B. Outhwaite (ed) Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage, Europa, London, 1982.

Ezell, M. Writing Women’s Literary History, John Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Feather, J. A History of British Publishing, Croom Helm, London, 1988.

Gowing, L. Domestic Dangers: Women, Words and Sex in Early Modern London, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996.

Hogrefe, P. Tudor Women: Commoners and Queens, Iowa State Uni Press, 1975.

Hutson, L. (ed) Feminism and Renaissance Studies, Oxford Uni Press, 1999.

Plowden, A. Tudor Women: Queens and Commoners, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1979.

Rappaport, S. Worlds Within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century England, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Secara, M. Life in Elizabethan England

Sim, A. Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England, Sutton, Phoenix Mill, 1999. (good chapter on reading in particular)

Spufford, M. “First steps in literacy: the reading and writing experiences of the humblest seventeenth century autobiographers,” Social History, 4, 1979.

Update: items added November 2004

(Found by Google scholar)

Anderson, R.L. Metaphors of the Book as Garden in the English Renaissance The Yearbook of English Studies, 1 January 2003, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 248-261(14)

Edwards, Jess. “Review of Rhonda Lemke Sanford. Maps and Memory in Early Modern England: A Sense of Place.” Early Modern Literary Studies 9.1 (May, 2003): 16.1-11

Foster, G.A. Troping the Body: Gender, Etiquette, and Performance, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000

Heale, E “Misogyny and the Complete Gentleman in Early Elizabethan Printed Miscellanies” The Yearbook of English Studies, 1 January 2003, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 233-247(15)

McGrath, L. Subjectivity and Women’s Poetry in Early Modern England: Why on the Ridge Should She Desire to Go? Aldershot, Hants; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002

No details on author: Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography, Volume 56, Number 1 January 2004, pp. 94 – 106

This content was last updated on November 19, 2004


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