Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Anne Clifford’s Autobiographical Writings 1590-1675 edited by Jessica L. Malay. Manchester University Press. £19.99.
In 1643, Lady Anne Clifford was 53. She had buried one husband, Richard Sackville, the third earl of Dorset, by whom she had had three sons and two daughters. Only the daughters survived to adulthood. She had married the wealthy and powerful Philip Henry, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery in 1630, but at the age of 53, she inherited the lands which she saw as rightly hers across the north of England. Six years later, after the turmoil of the Civil War, she travelled north and “began a rebuilding and restructuring campaign that is still visible in the landscape today”.
After the death of her second husband in 1650, she began work. She was a woman with great wealth, an income of over £8,000 a year, and she was determined to use it well. In Appleby Castle she “helped to lay the foundation stone in the middle wall” of Caesar’s Tower which had been roofless since 1569. In April she was laying the foundation stone of the almshouses in Appleby. She was comfortable in the three great castles she had restored: Skipton, Appleby and Brougham. As she wrote: “I do more and more fall in love with the contentments and innocent pleasures of country life.”
She was also a grandmother. Her writings record the comings and goings of her widely spread family throughout the years. In 1672, for instance, when Lady Anne was 82, she wrote: “On the 30th Day of July, this year being Tuesday, whilst I lay in Brough Castle, as aforesaid, did my daughter Margaret, Countess Dowager of Thanet and her youngest child the Lady Anne Tufton and second son Mr John Tufton and their servants, come from their journey in Thanet House in Aldersgate Street at London, and the last night from the inn at Greta Bridge in Yorkshire and over Stainmore into Brough Castle in Westmorland, and so into my chamber in Clifford’s Tower there to me, where I kissed them with great satisfaction and joy, I having not seen my said dear daughter, nor grandchild Lady Anne, since 13th August, 1669. They stayed for “seven nights together” and left on “Tuesday 6th of the month following, in the morning I having kissed them in my said chamber, as taking my leave of them.” They returned to London, “whither they came, safe and well (I thank God).”
So much of the writing lists the incidents of the passing years with the details of title and lists of places, but behind the listing and the formal expression, one sees the feelings that an aristocratic lady of the seventeenth century shares with everyone today.
Only five feet tall, Lady Anne Clifford was one of the most formidable ladies in northern history, a woman who fought long legal battles for her inheritance with extraordinary determination and dedicated her life to restoring her vast estates in Yorkshire and Westmorland. She left her mark in the restored castles of Brougham, Brough, and Pendragon – all now ruins – and in Appleby and Skipton Castle. She built and restored churches, most notably in Appleby and at Ninekirks and built almshouses for the poor.
Her autobiographical writings reveal a woman who was also possessed of ordinary human emotions and concerns.
They have been very ably edited by Professor Jessica L. Malay. They present “a vivid picture of Lady Anne Clifford’s life as it moves between moments of domestic joy, conflict, content and misery to the great political events of her time”.
Anne Clifford’s Autobiographical Writings are available from Bookends, 19 Castle Street, Carlisle, and 66 Main Street, Keswick, and from www.bookscumbria.com.